Caring for your home is a massive undertaking. Just about when you’ve repaired the washing machine, the garage lift breaks or you notice a plumbing leak. Your gutters, which you cleared out in the spring, fill up again after fall leaf drop. Your fickle lawn seems to require more attention than a newborn baby. Welcome to homeownership!
To compound the fun, every time you neglect or postpone handling issues with your property that crop up, you lose money. It’s estimated that every dollar of deferred maintenance results in $4 in future repairs. Bottom line? General home repair and maintenance is a pain, but it’s so, so worth it to stay ahead of any issues and anticipate what your home needs. You’ll be grateful you did when you’re ready to sell your home to the next lucky set of owners.
How can you keep up with it all, though? First, download HomeLight’s home maintenance schedule to your Google calendar. Then consult this list of 13 common mistakes homeowners make when it comes to taking basic care of their homes.
1. You forget to clean these easy-to-miss spots.
The typical house-cleaning routine focuses on high-traffic areas of the house: wipe down the kitchen countertops, disinfect bathroom fixtures, mop your floors, vacuum your carpets. Every once in awhile, though, you need to rotate in some of these tricky spots of the house that often get skipped for being out-of-sight, out-of-mind:
Dust your ceiling fans.
The tops of your ceiling fan blades will grow thick with dust over time, especially if you don’t run your fans very frequently. To clean them without creating a huge mess, slip an old pillowcase over one of the blades, wipe it down, and capture the dust bunnies inside the pillowcase. Repeat for each blade.
Wipe down your baseboards.
Your baseboards collect dirt, grime, and kitchen grease splatter. But you can easily dust and then deep clean them with a rag, some dish soap, and a bucket of warm water.
Clean your door frames.
Use a microfiber telescoping duster to wipe off the dirt and dust that accumulates in these high-up, hard-to-reach surfaces.
Disinfect the area behind the toilet.
Spray it down with a disinfectant, then thoroughly wipe down every nook and cranny with a paper towel or rag.
Vacuum your air vents.
Your air vents are filled with dust particles, allergens, and pollen that reduce your home’s air quality. Clean your grilles and ducts with this guide from HowStuffWorks — all you need is a screwdriver, a powerful vacuum, a cleaning brush, and a broom to reach any ceiling vents.
2. You neglect stains on the walls or ceiling.
Stains and water marks on your ceiling typically indicate that there’s a pipe leak somewhere in the house, an issue with your roof, or old caulking in high-moisture areas like your bathrooms that’s allowing water to seep through where it shouldn’t be. If you notice any discoloration of your drywall, don’t ignore the problem or allow the stain to keep growing unchecked. Call in a plumber to investigate the root cause right away because it’s not going to disappear on its own.
Once you’ve tracked down the source of the stain and fixed it with the help of a professional, you can treat the stain, starting with a round of bleach to eliminate any mold or mildew. Next, apply a coat of primer (preferably a stain blocking variety), followed by a shade of paint that matches the rest of the wall or ceiling. If you’re worried about botching the job, you can also hire a contractor with experience in drywall repair.
3. You go into the next season with clogged gutters.
When your gutters fill up, they fail to redirect water away from your home’s foundation, which over time may result in structural damage to your home. Clogged gutters can also allow ice dams to form on the eaves of your roof, which causes water to build up under your shingles — a recipe for roof leaks and water intrusion.
A new roof can cost $10,000 or more, while the national average cost to repair a home’s foundation is around $4,000 (and can get much pricier). But cleaning out your gutters takes only a ladder and an afternoon. Prevent gutter issues by cleaning them out every spring and fall. The DIY pros at Lowe’s, one of the country’s largest hardware stores, have an easy to follow gutter cleaning guide for novices. Pro tip: Use a telescoping gutter cleaning wand for those tough-to-reach spots. Finally, make sure your downspouts drain away properly from your foundation.
4. You’re too aggressive with the powerwasher.
You can rent a pressure washer for just $41 a day to clean the grime off the exterior of your home. However, you run the risk that the high pressure will damage your siding. High pressure water sprays can dent aluminum siding, crumble stucco, and even shred bricks.
If you are going to pressure wash, take the proper safety measures. Consumer Reports recommends a 40° angle or a low-pressure nozzle for easily-damaged surfaces like wood or stucco. Experts also advise keeping the nozzle at least six inches away from the surface.
5. You fail to address peeling paint right away.
When the exterior paint of your home is in great shape, it not only adds curb appeal but actually protects the house material underneath from wood rot and other structural issues. Peeling or chipped paint may look minor but is a serious risk and shouldn’t be ignored. It’s like the first layer of skin guarding your home from the elements.
Exterior paint lasts around 5 to 10 years but if it’s starting to look faded or warped in several areas, hiring professional house painters to repaint the entire exterior can add over $4,000 in resale value to your home, HomeLight’s research shows. If you can get away with paint touch-ups, that alone may boost your home’s value by 2%-5% and help you avoid raising red flags with a home appraiser. Doing a small touch-up yourself can cost less than $100 in some cases, but if it’s a challenging surface, hire a handyman to take care of it (and perhaps a few other small odd jobs) in an afternoon.
6. You don’t explore your attic and crawlspace.
“We always suggest that if you have a crawl space, that you check it regularly,” says Patrick Goswitz who’s sold 81% more single-family homes than the average agents in his Knoxville market.
“Crawl spaces and attics have always been the surprise. You definitely don’t want water in the crawl space.”
Do a thorough sweep of your crawlspace or attic at least twice a year, especially after heavy rains. Look for signs of water damage including moisture, stains, smells, or mold on the walls, ceilings or floor.
7. You think your appliances will just keep running smoothly.
If your idea of appliance maintenance is unplugging something then plugging it back in when it’s acting up, you’ll need to step up your maintenance game. Incorporate these tips into your maintenance schedule to keep everything running as it should:
Refrigerator maintenance (twice a year):
- Check the door seals to make sure they still keep cold air in.
- Remove the front grille and vacuum the coils to keep it running efficiently.
Oven maintenance (annually)
- Recalibrate your oven’s temperature settings at least once a year. Use an oven thermometer and follow your oven’s manual to match heating settings and keep your appliance in top shape.
- Use a vacuum to clean the filter screen, or clean and scrub it using wish soap and warm water. You can usually find the filter below the lower rack.
- Clean the dishwasher with a vinegar cycle. Place a cup of vinegar on the top rack of your dishwasher and run a cycle with the washer empty. This can remove hard water, scum, and rust stains.
8. You aren’t careful with how or where you put up your wall hangings.
Hanging an item wrong won’t only damage the piece if it comes crashing down, but it can also rip out portions of the wall, leading to some hefty repair costs. Ensuring something stays in drywall safety is a matter of factoring in weight and the right fasteners. If something is heavy enough, like a TV or antique mirror, it may require multiple wall attachments or a specialty hanging frame. This Old House has a guide to the right fasteners for each object, starting with hangings as light as 10 pounds.
9. Your cleaning supplies are damaging your home’s materials.
Using these products in the wrong places could permanently damage fixtures and surfaces in your home:
- Vinegar: People prefer using vinegar to clean their homes because it’s cheap and natural, but it can’t be used to clean all surfaces in your home. Using vinegar on surfaces like marble and limestone will dull it. Similarly, cleaning hardwood with vinegar can damage the finish. Do your research before scrubbing everything with a homemade vinegar solution.
- Liquid drain cleaner: Liquid drain cleaners can be a godsend when it comes to pesky clogs, but it must be used sparingly. If your home has older pipes or pipes made of PVC, there’s a chance the cleaner will eat through those as well, leading to expensive leaks and repairs.
- Magic erasers: These handy sponges are perfect for removing scuff marks from walls, but scrubbing them on the wrong surfaces will magically remove sealants and finishes. Avoid using them on stone surfaces, stainless steel, hardwoods, and screens in your home.
10. You didn’t get a permit for that remodeling project.
Selling your home with unpermitted improvements can be tricky, but even some small repair and maintenance projects require permits from the city. Simple things like new paint, floors, or minor electrical repairs don’t need a permit, but projects like adding or replacing a window, installing a fence, or adding new electrical outlets to your home may require paperwork. A good rule of thumb when it comes to permitting is if it requires a licensed professional, you should double-check if a permit is required.
11. You’re not worried about safety.
Going DIY on a project might save you a few bucks, but you should never take on a project that’s out of your comfort zone or requires special training or licensing. When in doubt, calling in a home repair contractor for a job will ensure the project is done well and safely. As an inexperienced homeowner, you generally shouldn’t plan on going any of the below on your own:
- Repairing or replacing gas appliances
- Structural repairs
- Repairs including toxic materials (mold, asbestos, etc.)
12. You rarely change your AC/furnace air filters.
Replacing your air filters regularly can lower your HVAC’s energy consumption by 5%-15%. That means your system doesn’t have to work as hard to keep the house warm or cold, extending its life, and you’ll pay lower electric bills each month.
You should plan to clean or replace your filter every one to two months to keep the HVAC running efficiently. It’s an easy task, that’s even easier to forget. Set a calendar reminder on your home, or use a smart thermostat that’ll remind you every few months.
13. You neglect the windows.
In Goswitz’s experience, homeowners tend to ignore the condition of their windows: “Check the windows, that’s something that always comes up on the home inspection,” he advises.
Old, leaky windows aren’t only energy inefficient, but they’re also likely to be flagged in a home inspection for repair. Some lenders have very strict standards for window condition, and if you neglect your windows long enough, you might end up having to replace them entirely post-inspection.
Instead of letting it go that long, regularly check on the state of your windows. If you struggle to open them, notice rot on the ledge, or get the chills every time you’re near one, it might be time for a repair. If they’re not too far gone, a repair can salvage the window and save you the cost of replacement.
Bonus tip: Don’t forget about your lawn!
If your property has a nice spacious yard, you’ll benefit from having easy access to a little slice of nature right outside your door. True, lawns can be a lot of work to maintain, but they’re also a boon to your home value if you take care of yours well. Data from HomeLight shows that basic lawn care adds an average $1,200 to your resale value. Mow the grass, pull up any weeds, and fertilize the yard seasonally. If you’re dealing with bare patches, grubs, brown spots, consult our guide to taking care of a struggling lawn.
Avoid these general home repair and maintenance mistakes to preserve your home’s value
When you bought a house, you made the biggest investment of a lifetime — but your work didn’t stop at the closing table. Use calendars, reminders, and a Saturday afternoon to knock out these simple repairs, and avoid the common mistakes that only lead to more problems. You can rest easy knowing it’ll save you money and many headaches in the future.
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