This is one of those very important, yet not very exciting (you could almost say boring) topics. But it's a topic that every one of us as homeowners should pay some attention to. A little bit of routine maintenance here, and some spot checking there, can go a long ways towards making your home work better, last longer, look nicer, and all this while saving you big money. After all, it's a lot easier to fix a little problem now than it is to fix a big problem later. Now that we're near the end of summer (and the heat has probably done a number on your home's exterior), it's a good time to have a look around.
Here are some of the easiest things you can do to keep your home running smoothly:
A/C Filters - Your a/c unit has probably been running 24 hours a day for the last 2 months. I hope you remembered to change the filters! I try to change the filters on the first day of the month. Dirty filters reduce your unit's efficiency, and could allow dirt & dust to get into the coils, forcing a costly repair.
Service your A/C unit - This is one of those things that should be part of your spring cleaning list. Have someone come out and give your unit a check-up before the weather gets all the way hot. You might spend $35-$50, but you'll probably save yourself a large repair later that summer. If you didn't get a tune-up this spring, consider an after-season service call instead.
Water shut-off valves - Check the valves under your sinks and toilets occasionally, just to make sure they turn on and off. Many of the tract home builders use a less-expensive, plastic valve, which tends to "freeze up" after a few years. This could lead to a disaster, especially if you have a flooding-type emergency happening on the second floor and can't stop the water!
Caulking - Keep your eyes open for caulking that needs to be replaced. Over time it can get thin, dry, and even chip away, which then provides an entry point for moisture (or other things). A $5.00 tube of caulking is a lot cheaper than ripping out a bathtub and having mold remediated!
Exterior water leaks - I look for areas in my yard that either have moist soil (which I wouldn't expect to be there) or excessive weeds compared to the rest of the yard. These are signs there may be an underground leak in the sprinkler system, which can cause wasted water in the short term, and further sprinkler system damage, or even foundation damage, if left untreated.
Exterior cracking - Give the occasional once-over to your home's exterior paint, stucco, fence, roof, and fascia boards. Sealing cracks with caulking or stucco, and touching up with paint or other finish as needed can save you big money over time.
Give your home a little bit of attention more often, and you'll be rewarded with fewer requests for major attention down the road!
- Chris Butterworth