Secrets to smart seasonal home maintenance

Michele Lerner | Improvement Center Columnist | February 13, 2013

Home maintenance chores are rarely on the top of a fun-things-to-do-this-weekend list, but like anything else, if you break down your list into small bites it can be easier to digest. While plenty of homeowners ignore routine maintenance, ignoring some of the basic quick inspections and fixing issues before they get worse can save you time, aggravation and, most important, money. Preventive care is as important for your home as it is for your body.

Seasonal home maintenance secrets

Make a note on your calendar to keep up with some maintenance tasks on a monthly basis, such as these:

  • Clean or replace your furnace filters. Not only will this keep your system functioning, but it can save money on your utility bills.
  • Make sure your vents are clean. Check your air vents inside and out to make sure they are aren't clogged.
  • Test the ground fault circuit interrupters on electrical outlets. Push the test button to make sure the reset button pops up.
  • Check for safety hazards. Take a quick tour to make sure you don't have a loose handrail or floorboard or nails that have popped out and can trip someone.
  • Check your smoke detectors. Check your detectors monthly to make sure they are working and change the batteries twice each year when the time changes.

Whether you live in an area with dramatic weather swings or one in which each season is pretty similar, you can use the changing time of year to organize your maintenance tasks.

In winter, stick to indoor tasks:

  • Caulk. A simple tube of caulk can save you hundreds of dollars in repairs and utility costs. Caulk your shower, bathtub and sinks to keep water from seeping into your walls. Seal your window frames and doors to keep cold air from leaking into your home.
  • Drain your water heater. Carefully drain a dishpan full of water from the clean-out valve of your hot water tank to keep it working efficiently.
  • Stop leaks. A dripping faucet can cause water damage or mold.

In spring, you can begin preparing for warmer weather:

  • Inspect your roof. You may need binoculars and a ladder, but you should make sure you don't have any loose shingles and that the flashing is tight to the house.
  • Hire a contractor to check your heating and air conditioning system. An annual or twice yearly inspection will keep your system running longer and more efficiently.
  • Examine your deck. As you clean up your deck, inspect it for loose boards or nail pops. After you make your repairs you can seal it.

In summer, spend time on exterior maintenance jobs:

  • Repair your steps and sidewalk. Check your driveway, steps and front walk for cracks and repair them before the cracks get any deeper. Check your railings, too, and fix any wobbles before they get worse.
  • Check your home's exterior for damage. Summer is a great time to power wash your siding and to check your wood trim to see if it needs painting.
  • Fix your grading. While you're enjoying your summer garden, be sure to check that the ground around your home slopes away from the foundation. This will prevent water draining into your basement.

In fall, prepare your home for the cold winter months:

  • Have your fireplace inspected. Depending on how often you use it, your chimney may need cleaning annually to prevent a built-up of creosote. Your chimney should be inspected for cracks and any obstruction such as a bird's nest.
  • Clear your gutters. Your gutters and downspouts should be emptied and cleaned to make sure they keep water from entering your home.
  • Check your sump pump. You may want to consider adding a battery back-up to your system to make sure you avoid a flood if the power goes out.

As you go about your seasonal tasks, keep a list of items that may need further work and of ideas for home improvement. The money you save by taking care of your home now may help you pay for a pet project later.

About the Author

Michele Lerner, author of "HOMEBUYING: Tough Times, First Time, Any Time," has been writing about personal finance and real estate for more than two decades for a variety of publications and websites including Investopedia, Insurance.com, HSH.com, SavingsAccount.com, National Real Estate Investor magazine, The Washington Times, Urban Land magazine, NAREIT's REIT magazine and numerous Realtor associations.