Home Maintenance Calendar
I'm not sure why Spring is designated as the time to clean your house and do needed repairs. I guess because in many areas the weather is more agreeable, although that isn't always the case!
Let's face it, in most areas when the weather is cold with snow and ice, people really don't feel like having to deal with extra trash to take out to the curb. One of my friends broke her leg badly in Illinois when falling on ice while taking her trash can out.
But if it's just interior cleaning, even painting, winter might be the best time to do certain things. We're stuck in our homes more in the winter (even without a pandemic), so I'm not sure why it wasn't called "Winter cleaning."
Keeping up with your home isn't just to make it comfortable for you to live in. You need to tackle repairs throughout the year so they don't get out-of-hand. Keeping your home clean and safe doesn't always cost a lot of money. You can do some things yourself - it just takes time and some DIY know-how.
Following is a guide to give you some ideas of what to do each season:
Some people say spring is their favorite season. I like spring when it warms up a little bit. But once it does, we can enjoy the outdoors without freezing. We can watch flowers coming up and trees and bushes bloom again.
Annual Spring Cleaning -This is the perfect time to clean the dirt and dust off of your fan blades (which you might start using soon, depending on where you live - we'll be using our fans any day now in Arizona). Other things that have gotten dirty over the winter months, sometimes from gas heat, are baseboards. I'm not sure if everybody thinks about dusting off or giving blinds a good cleaning. Not that you should only clean your appliances once a year, but the spring season of the new year is a great time to give them a really good cleaning. You might be switching up your warmer clothing, so get rid of clothes you haven't worn this past winter.
Heating System - I've lived in Illinois (southwest Chicago suburbs) and now Arizona. We had gas heat in IL and both of our Arizona homes (Scottsdale and Cave Creek) are fully electric. We've never had to actually shut off our gas furnace, but some people might. I remember some cold spring seasons so it might not be quite the time to turn your heat off on the thermostat.
Get a Head Start on the Air Conditioning - You'll want to make sure your a/c is in proper working condition before it gets too hot out. But you shouldn't run it until temps get at least 60 degrees for a few days in a row. If you're buying a home right now, your home inspector won't turn on the unit if it's still too cold out. If you own a window unit, check it out when it gets warm enough, and you might want to clean it up inside.
Plumbing - Most people don't call a plumber until something happens. The reason for that is unless we can hear water (or a toilet) running when it shouldn't be, or can see leaks and moisture, we just don't know enough about plumbing to do much of an "inspection." But maybe you've noticed a leaky faucet and haven't tried to fix or replace it. Is your showerhead due to be cleaned? You can do some small plumbing fixes yourself.
Test or Change Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors - Did you know that you should change the batteries in your detectors every six months? Or do you wait until they start chirping? Did you also know that it is recommended that you purchase new units every decade? Many people still have separate smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors - maybe it's time to get new combo units.
Take a Walk Around Your House - You want to check for everything outside in your yard and on your house. This is the time to check for foundation cracks, peeling paint, and rotting wood. If you're a handyman, you can take care of painting and even replacing wood. But for cracks in the foundation, you might want to hire out.
Spring Clean the Outside - Once it's warm enough to spend some time outside, you can clean and repair windows, trim, and screens. You might be opening windows soon to let the fresh air in and you don't want torn screens to let bugs in. This might also be time to clean siding if necessary, but be careful of using power washers on aluminum or vinyl siding.
Gutters and Downspouts - I've seen interior damage from gutters that were not cleaned out. Gutters should be cleaned out twice a year, possibly more if you have trees near or over the roof and gutters. This might be the year that you purchase some kind of gutter guard if you do have a lot of tall trees nearby.
Rake Leaves - Again - You might have raked your leaves last Fall, but sometimes you don't get them all, especially if there was early autumn snow. Depending on where you live, any remaining leaves might still be too wet and heavy to rake. So do it when it warms up outside and the leaves have dried out.
Lawn Care - When you did your exterior walk-around, you should have checked out your lawn. Do you need to reseed or put in sod? There are better times to do this, and Spring is the best. Don't lose this window of opportunity to get a nice, healthy green lawn.
Weed Care - If your grass looks like it won't need seeding or sod, you might want to spray weed killer in the Spring. Doing it now could keep those weeds away for a while, and you won't have to keep manually weeding your yard or garden.
Get Your Gardens Going - You probably did some deadheading last Fall, but after winter your garden might need some sprucing up. Do you like bulb plants that are planted in the Spring? Do you want to start some perennials that you never planted before? Maybe you want to get a start on some of your favorite annuals.
Put Mulch Down - this is a good time to freshen up any mulch or stones around your house. You might even want to switch up what you've used in the past and start fresh.
Fertilize the Lawn - Some people do it themselves, other hire professionals. Whatever you do, this is the first time of the year to do it. You can usually get a fertilizer that is combined with weed killer.
Check Out Your Lawn Mower - Most people don't get their lawnmowers looked at unless they're broken. But if you can sharpen the blades yourself, this is a good time to do that. And you might want to make sure the mower works before the grass really starts growing.
Have Your Sprinkler System Checked Out and/or Turned On - When we lived in Illinois, we had a guy come out in the Spring to turn our sprinkler system on. In Arizona, it is on year-round. Since we recently moved into our current home, there are a few sprinklers we've changed out because they weren't working.
Inspect Your Deck - The joys of having to work on the deck! Fixing rotten wood, cleaning, scraping, staining/painting. We have a small deck in our new place that we have to rip out completely and start from scratch. We're definitely using one of the maintenance-free deck materials.
Get the Pool Ready - Pool water should be changed every 2-3 years. Since we moved into our house recently, we already drained and cleaned our in-ground pool and filled it back up, and we want to convert it to a saltwater pool. We also had to fix some of the tiles that were loose. Husband Jimmy's mother had a built-in pool in Illinois and every year he had to repaint and fix tiles (it was an old pool, so needed a lot of spring maintenance).
Many people feel that summer is their favorite season. I'm like my Dad, I like the heat. There is still home maintenance needed during the summer months.
Ceiling Fan Blades - I don't think I ever switched my ceiling fan blades from winter to spring to summer. Because I'm always cold, I don't use any fans in the winter months, nor on cooler Spring and Fall days. But just so you know, the blades should be running counter-clockwise to make it cool inside. Running fans to cool your house down vs. the a/c will save you money.
Switch Out Out Those Dirty Filters - Did you know filters should be changed on a monthly basis (especially when running the a/c a lot)? Changing the filters will allow your a/c unit to run more efficiently.
Don't Forget the Dryer Vent - We bought a house that we flipped where it was obvious that the dryer vent had never been cleaned out. In fact, it was just blowing in a crawlspace! I'm surprised they never had a fire. I've seen stuff like this multiple times during home inspections. Summer is a great time to clean that vent out and keep your home and family safe.
Weather Stripping - Summer is also a perfect time to make sure any weather stripping is functioning properly. If it's dried out and not doing its job any longer, then you need to replace it. It will help in summer and winter to keep you more comfortable and to save you money.
Keep Your Lawn Mowed - Many people have lawn service and don't have to worry about this. But if you mow your own lawn, don't mow it too short, even though it might be tempting so you don't have to mow for a while. But it's best to keep it a little longer to protect your lawn from drying out and allowing weeds to grow.
Keep the Watering Up - Depending on where you live, you might have certain times that you're allowed to water your lawn. Our sprinkler system here in Arizona is timed to go on several times a day for a short period of time. Unless you live in an area of drought where you just can't water, don't let your grass die out because it wasn't watered properly.
Get Rid of Those Weeds - Even if you've used a weed killer, weeds will still appear in your grass and garden, especially if you don't use a professional lawn maintenance company. Get those weeds out, and from the root. Do it weekly if possible so you can stay on top of it.
Check for Pests - if you have ants inside the house, they're coming in from the outside. We've been able to handle our ant problems in our multiple homes ourselves. Termites were in both of the states I've lived in, so you have to be aware of the damage they can cause and what the damage they do looks like so you can handle it immediately. We have fruit trees and make sure any fallen fruit is picked up quickly so we don't attract rats and other unwanted critters. Don't leave piles of wood near the house, and leaves fall in the summer, so keep leaves and debris cleaned up during the summer.
Some of my friends say fall is their favorite season. I like it in Arizona, but it didn't last long enough in Illinois. This is the season where we need to shut down the summer season and get ready for winter.
Get Your Furnace Serviced - You're supposed to get an annual furnace service, and some people have a contract with their favorite HVAC contractor. But most people don't do this and I see it at most home inspections. A lot of sellers are surprised when the inspector suggests that a new furnace is needed. It happened to us at our last house. It worked fine (so we thought), but we had it inspected before we put our house on the market. We had to get a new furnace, which we advertised in our listing. We knew a buyer's home inspector would find the same thing, so we took care of it in advance.
Prepare Your A/C for the Winter - This would be the time that you have it inspected/serviced when you get your annual furnace check done, although most people don't do that. Some homeowners cover their a/c units to keep the snow and cold out of the exterior unit. If you have window or wall units, you can remove them (especially the window units), and cover up units that are left in the wall.
Have Your Chimney and Fireplace Checked Out - It is suggested that you get your chimney and fireplace/chimney checked out on an annual basis. Chimneys needing repair are another item I see on inspection reports.
Maintain and Weatherproof Windows and Doors - Make sure there aren't any drafts coming in, especially if you didn't check weatherstripping in the spring season. You might not feel warm or hot air seeping in during the summer months, but you can feel it in the winter, so now is the time to make sure everything is sealed up properly.
It's Time to Replace the Batteries on the Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors - Didn't you just do this? About 6 months ago! Time to do it again. OK, most of us wait for the obnoxious chirping but make sure to test your alarms to make sure they still give you that warning.
Plant Some More - Wait, shouldn't you be done planting for the year? Fall is the time to plant anything that you want to bloom next spring. This is also a time to plant some perennials to give your garden that autumn look. This could be a great time to tend to your lawn before winter starts by reseeding any needed areas.
Keep Up with Falling Leaves - I just read something about leaving your leaves vs. raking them in the fall. That doesn't really sound like such a good idea to me and I've also read the opposite. Leaving a clump of leaves over your grass that gets wet and frozen during the winter can cause issues with your lawn come spring. You can have fun raking the grass in piles for the kids and pets to jump into, or you can use mulching blades on your lawnmower.
Fertilize Again in the Fall - This will be the last time of the year to once again fertilize your lawn. It is recommended that you aerate the lawn first for best results.
Clean Out the Gutters Before Winter - If you have tall trees you'll most likely need to clean out your gutters before winter. I mentioned before that I've seen interior damage because of gutters that collect water, snow, and ice because of too much debris. While you're checking the gutters, try to give your roof a once over.
Turn Off Your Sprinkler System - When we lived in Illinois, our sprinkler guy would call us to tell us when he was coming over. In cold areas you need the sprinkler system shut off so you don't have freezing issues. If you can't turn it off yourself, it will be worth it to hire a contractor that can.
Close Up the Pool - In Arizona, most people leave their pools open year-round. But my friends in Illinois have to clean up and close down their pools for the winter. They don't usually drain them completely, but they might remove some of the water, and then they use a pool cover.
Home maintenance is year-round! Sometimes, it makes you wonder if you should go back to renting and let the landlord take care of everything. Nah! Basic maintenance helps you save money down the road for major catastrophes.
Make Sure Your Heating System is Working Properly - Some people have their annual furnace check in the spring after the furnace has worked through the winter. Others prefer to do it at the beginning of the cold weather so they can be assured it's working and they hopefully won't have any surprises when it's freezing out. This is also a good time to change your filters.
Check to See if Your Generator Works - If you have a generator, don't wait until you need it, test it out and make sure it's working properly.
Insulate Pipes - I've been through frozen pipes when I owned my first house and an apartment building in Chicago - an old building. The pipes froze on both of those properties and the apartment was a very expensive repair. On our house, the expense was the huge water bill we received after everything thawed out. We fought it as we felt someone should have contacted us from the village once they saw that our water usage was excessively high. We got hundreds knocked off that bill. It was a house on a crawlspace, so we didn't realize we had a leak. We learned the hard way to keep the pipes insulated so it wouldn't happen again. With the apartment building, we had to contact our tenants to make sure they let the water trickle from faucets on days that were very cold.
Take Care of Exterior Faucets - There are insulated exterior faucet covers available in local hardware stores, and they're not expensive. But they can help with an expensive repair later. Before you cover your faucets, make sure you drain them first.
Take Your Window Screens Off - This also depends on where you live. In Arizona, we don't remove our screens over the winter. For the most part, we did remove them when we lived in Illinois, but I'm not sure we removed all of them. Winter can cause extra damage to screens, and by removing them, you can let some extra sunlight into the house to help keep it warm.
Make Sure Your Snowblower is Working- Although you don't want your lawnmower to break while your grass keeps growing, it's a bit different with a snowblower. When you need it, you need it now! Sure, you can shovel the snow if your snowblower isn't working, but some people rely on a snowblower since shoveling takes so much effort, especially with heavier snow. Thankfully, if it does snow in Arizona, it's usually not much and doesn't last long. The pics below show 2 little piles of snow we got this winter.
Have Salt on Hand to Melt Icy Walks - Don't wait until you need it, get some bags of rock salt or ice melt to have on hand. If you have pets, find brands that are safe for them. Thankfully, we've never needed this in Arizona.
Ice Dams Cause Roof and Interior Damage - Most people don't do anything in advance to prevent ice dams, and many don't even know what they are. They are what they sound like, ice ridges that build-up, usually along the eaves. They can cause exterior and interior damage. Some people think they have bad shingles or need a new roof, or the problem was caused by their gutters, but it could be ice dams. I have seen active ceiling leaks due to ice dams. One more thing we don't have to worry about since our move from Illinois to Arizona.
Watch for Snow on Trees - This is another thing homeowners don't tend to think about. Heavy snow can damage trees and cause tree limbs to break. It's dangerous if those tree limbs are hanging over your roof. You can simply use a broom or rake to try to sweep off some of the snow.
You might be able to think of more things than are listed here. This is just a quick guide that will hopefully keep you prepared in the future. As I've mentioned multiple times, it also depends where you live.
One last tip is to keep a record of your maintenance and save your receipts if you had to hire a contractor. I used to give clients a receipt and maintenance record-keeping folder to my clients at closing. Now you can find programs online - and you don't have to necessarily save your receipts if you've photographed or scanned them and uploaded them on your computer. But beware, both my husband and I had computer issues where we lost some data, so either save and store those original receipts and records or store them in more places on the Internet. You can store things on your computer but you should also have some kind of cloud storage. And we should all back-up our computers more than most of us do.
I hope these tips can help you keep your home maintained, and if this is your first home I hope it has educated you on basic home maintenance. Much of this is like "a stitch in time saves nine." Maintain so you don't have to pay for costly repairs before they should be necessary.
If you're thinking of selling your home in the next year, this list can also help you get your house market-ready. It's not always best to wait until the buyer's inspection, which can bring up surprises for sellers. Having to make repairs can also require the closing date to be pushed farther back.
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