Top Home Maintenance Tips for First Time Home Buyers
Since an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, we’ve listed some maintenance tips for first time home buyers to help you prepare for the costs of homeownership. Buying your first home is a major financial investment in your future. Follow these maintenance tips to ensure you protect your home, family and investment from costly repairs.
Table of Contents
Monthly Home Maintenance Tips
Prevent everything from leaks to fires. Follow these home maintenance tips every month to protect your home and your family from disaster.
Clean gas fireplaces
Gas fireplaces are popular features for many first time home buyers. They offer an excellent aesthetic while providing extra warmth to living spaces in the winter months. If you have a log fireplace, you can check this video out to learn more about log fireplace maintenance.
The first step to cleaning your gas fireplace is to open the upper and lower grates. Once you open the grates, you should see a knob for the pilot light underneath the fireplace. Turn off the pilot light and turn off the valve to the gas supply for safety.
Next, take a shop vacuum and clean out these upper and lower chambers of the fireplace. Then you will locate the latches that hold the glass in place underneath the fireplace. Undo these clasps and open up the front of the fireplace. Remove this glass if possible.
Now you need to remove the logs and rock wool inside the fireplace. Before you do, snap a picture of the logs so that you can put them back the way you found them. Clean any excess debris and wipe down the interior of the fireplace.
Spray glass cleaner on the interior and exterior of the fireplace glass. Scrub the glass with a non-abrasive cloth and make sure it is nice and clean. Once finished, replace the rock wool and logs in the fireplace, using the picture you took for reference. Make sure you place the rock wool close behind the flame output so that the flames touch the wool, giving the fire it’s ember.
Once everything is back in place, replace the glass and lock the clasps into place. Remember to turn the gas and pilot lights back on. Wipe down the grate covers before putting them back, and you’re all set. Check out this quick video for a better visual understanding of how to clean your gas fireplace.
Check fire extinguishers
As a first time home buyer, you need to make sure that you buy brand new fire extinguishers for your house. Place extinguishers in areas such as the kitchen and close to the room where your furnace is will ensure easy access if needed. Having fire extinguishers close to where they’re needed can save lives as well as your new home.
Check your fire extinguishers each month or have them tested at the local fire department. The needle on the pressure gauge should fall within the green area marked. Make sure that the locking pin is intact and if there is a tamper seal that it remains unbroken. Replace the extinguisher if there are any visible signs of damage like leaking or corrosion.
Test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors
Ensuring that your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are working can save your life and the lives of your loved ones. Since carbon monoxide has no smell, it is extremely dangerous and lead to death if undetected. Test these alarms every month to ensure they are working. If not, check the batteries or replace the detector with a new one.
Check your water bill
Checking your monthly water bill may not sound like a home maintenance tip, but this simple home hack can save you thousands of dollars. Regularly monitoring how much you spend on water can reveal when there is an unexpected problem. If you have a sudden unexpected increase in your water bill, there may be a leak somewhere in your home.
The longer you leak into your home, the more damage it will cause. Leaks tend to worsen over time making it crucial to catch them before they become a large, more costly problem. Checking your water bill each month may alert you to a problem so you can have it repaired before it becomes more serious.
Quarterly Home Maintenance Tips
These quarterly home maintenance tips can help you save money, improve the air quality and protect your home from fire and water damage.
Replace furnace filters
Your furnace contains two main chambers. These chambers are the return air and the supply air chamber. The area where these two components link together is where your furnace filter is located.
When you replace your furnace filter, the new filter will have an arrow on its edge. This arrow indicates the direction the air flows through the filter. Ensure that the arrow is pointing away from the return chamber and towards the supply chamber. For instructions on how to replace your furnace filter, you can check out this video from Liberty Homes.
Clean lint traps and vents
If you don’t clean your dryer lint vent on a seasonal basis, now is the time to start. As lint clogs up the vent, heat produced by the dryer can’t escape. Flammable lint clogging the exhaust can lead to a fire. You worked very hard to buy your first home, don’t lose it because you skipped this simple home maintenance tip.
Besides being a fire hazard, a clogged lint vent reduces the performance of your dryer. A clogged vent will increase the time required to dry your clothes. The reduction in its efficiency can increase your electricity bill, costing you more money in the long run.
To clean your lint vent, disconnect the vent and use a shop vacuum to clean the external vent as well as the tube connecting the vent to your dryer. Don’t forget to clean the exhaust vent from your dryer as well. You can use a (clean) toilet brush to work out any hardened bits of lint stuck to the edges of the vent. Once complete, reconnect your tubing to the dryer and external vent.
Reduce the amount of lint buildup by ensuring that you empty the lint trap every time you do a load of laundry. You can check out this How-to article from The Home Depot.
Check for frayed electrical cords
If you're like most first time home buyers, you have several electronic devices installed throughout the home. Make sure you replace frayed electrical cords at the first sign of damage otherwise these cords can become fire hazards.
Also, ensure that you don’t plug too many cords into a single outlet. Overloading an electrical outlet can lead to sparks, which can start a fire. Even if there is no fire caused, you may still damage your devices if your electrical circuits short out due to overloading.
Replace the washers on your washers
Every new season have a look at the intake hoses on your washing machine and dishwasher. These hoses have a small washer to help form a stronger seal preventing leaks. This washer looks like a rubber quarter with a hole in it for water to pass through.
Start by turning off the water access or the main water line in your home. Next, unscrew the hose attached to the back of your washing machine. Inside the attachment, you will see the rubber washer. Look for cracks or leaking, and if you find any, replace the washer immediately. This part costs less than a dollar and can save you hundreds of dollars by preventing damages from leaks.
Inspect caulking around sinks, toilets and showers
Caulking is a waterproof filler that seals materials together. It is usually a white putty-like substance that dries and has a rubbery feel. You should see this around your sinks, toilet, bathtubs and showers. You’ll also find caulking around window frames and external vents. iScraper.com has a great video on YouTube showing you how this process works.
Every few months, make a visual inspection of the caulking around your bathroom to ensure that there are no leaks. If you find cracks in this filling, you can find caulk at the local hardware store. You’ll also want a specialized knife that helps to remove the old caulking.
Start by using the knife to cut out the old caulking. Once complete, scrub the surface with a dry scouring pad. Make sure you use a pad that isn’t abrasive as it could damage the surface which you are sealing.
Next, clean off any residue, dry the surface you’re caulking and tape off any areas you don’t want to get caulking on, such as the wall and countertops. Using a caulking gun, lay down a thin strip where the two surfaces you wish to seal meet. Once you’ve laid down the caulking, use a damp paper towel to smooth out the surface.
Remove the tape from the caulked edges carefully as you don’t want it touching the fresh sealant. Use a damp paper towel again to smooth out any edges left by the tape. Let the sealant dry for at least 30 minutes. It will take a full 24 hours before the caulk has cured.
Spring & Fall Home Maintenance Tips
Home buyer tips so nice we thought you should do them twice! Time your spring and fall maintenance with the changing of the clocks. These home maintenance tips will help you inside and outside your first home.
Replace batteries on smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
Now that you’re following our home maintenance tips, you’re checking your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors every month. Change the batteries regularly whether they’re working or not. Every six months, or when you change the clocks in spring and fall, change the batteries on your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Make sure these devices don’t fail because they can be the difference between life and death.
Check roof surface and flashings
The roof on your first home can be a source of major financial strain if you don’t look after it. Depending on the type of shingles on your home, the roof can last anywhere from 15 - 50 years. This home maintenance tip can help you extend the life of your roof to ensure it protects your home from leaks and other damages.
Each spring and fall, ensure you do a full visual inspection of your roof. Clear any debris and look for wear on your shingles. Replace any torn or curled up shingles immediately. If there is a lot of wear and tear on your roof, call a professional roofing company to determine whether replacing the shingles or the entire roof is necessary.
Clean gutters and downspouts
This home maintenance tip shares the same importance as maintaining your roof. As a first time home buyer, you need to clean gutters and downspouts each spring and fall. Using a sturdy ladder - we recommend having a partner hold the base of the ladder to provide stability - climb up and inspect the gutters and remove leaves and debris.
Look for leaks where your downspouts connect to your gutters. Replace any damaged or leaking downspouts. Ensure that the water from downspouts carries water away from the foundation of your home. If water flows towards your foundation, your basement can leak, or worse ice can form, which can cause separation and lead to cracking or sinking foundations.
Check outdoor faucets and hoses
Every spring and fall, you should do an external checkup and make sure that you care for your exterior faucets and hoses properly. Make sure that the faucets aren’t leaking, and you shut them off correctly. If you notice a leak, repair or replace the faucet immediately, ensuring you turn off the water as you do.
In the fall, gather up all your hoses and store them indoors. If you keep them in an outdoor shed, empty them of any water first. If you forget to drain these hoses and you let water sit in them over the winter, freezing can cause them to crack and leak when you get them out next spring.
Annual Home Maintenance Tips
Make sure you perform a quick check of these items every year and inspect for damages or potential problems.
Check exterior windows and doors
The windows and doors of your first home are key places to prevent energy loss in your home. Energy efficiency is essential not only for your budget but also for combating global warming. Inspect exterior windows and doors each season. There must be no cracks or gaps which can cause drafts.
It should go without saying that you need to repair or replace any internal or external damage immediately. Damages may include cracked or broken window panes, broken or seized hinges, cracked weather stripping and caulking and broken locks, knobs and fasteners. If you have to replace weather stripping, you can find a great video on how to weather strip doors by The Green Dream Group.
Like the home maintenance tip for sinks, toilets and showers, you’ll want to ensure there are no cracks in the caulking between the frame and the door or window. You can similarly replace the caulking as detailed above. Make sure you use caulking that is appropriate for exterior use when caulking exterior windows and doors.
Finally, care for the moving parts on your windows and doors. If your door is creaking or your windows are difficult to slide and latch, they may need some TLC. You can use a silicone spray on window tracks and other hardware to help lubricate them and ensure they slide, open and latch more easily.
Repair exterior caulking and siding
Home maintenance tips extend to the entire property, not only the interior. Exterior maintenance helps upkeep the look of your home, which protects its market value. This maintenance also helps maintain the energy efficiency of your home by preventing heating and cooling loss.
Check the joints between the bricks for cracked or missing caulk. If you find cracked joints, you need to clean out the old mortar and apply fresh mortar caulk in the joint. Mr. Handyman has a great video on how to do this.
Be careful to avoid mortar vents. There should be gaps in your brickwork that are meant to be there. These allow moisture to drain out from the structure behind your brickwork, preventing mould.
You should inspect vinyl and wood siding for damages. You can clean these easily with a hose and brush. Make sure you don’t allow mould and mildew to grow on your siding as it is not only unsightly, but it can stain and damage the surface over time.
Septic tank maintenance
Septic tanks can last for 25 - 30 years if cared for properly. How do you care for a septic system? By using less water. Period. This tip is not only good for your septic tank but also for your wallet and the environment. Use high-efficiency toilets, fix all leaks and running taps and toilets promptly.
Water softeners can also harm septic systems, so you should avoid using them at all costs. Water softeners send excess salt into your holding tank, which disrupts soil dispersal of the system. This disruption leads to an excess buildup of waste that can overload or damage your system.
If cared for properly, you’ll only need to empty your septic system every three to five years. Only a professional should empty your septic tank. Not only does this require special equipment, but the gasses contained within your septic system can be dangerous and explosive.
Clean outdoor air conditioner units
The ac unit outside your first home will need regular maintenance to ensure it operates correctly and efficiently. Energy efficiency helps you save money on electricity, but also helps you do your part to combat global warming.
Before performing any maintenance on your air conditioner unit, make sure you turn the power off first. You can switch the master power off from your circuit breaker located inside your home.
Once your power is turned off, remove the fan cage from the top of your condenser unit. Clean any debris around the top or inside the unit itself. The external metal coils, called fins, can be cleaned using a hose to spray from inside the unit outwards. Fix any bent fins by gently using a butter knife to straighten them out, which helps improve air-flow.
Clean any debris away from your air conditioner unit and replace the fan and fan cage. After you turn the power back on, check to see that the ac is working properly. Do this by lowering the internal temperature of your home and make sure the condenser turns on. To learn more about air conditioner maintenance, The DIY Network has a great article to get you started.
It costs a lot of money to buy your first home. Make sure you follow these maintenance tips to protect that investment and condition of your home. Performing regular monthly and seasonal maintenance will help you save money in the long run by preventing problems before they occur.