10 Home Maintenance Tasks You’re Probably Not Doing

© mrallen / Fotolia
© mrallen / Fotolia

With so many maintenance jobs that need to be done to keep your home in shape, it’s easy to overlook a few things. The consequences of neglecting certain jobs might not show up for a while, but eventually you could end up with costly damage to your home. To save yourself both trouble and expense, update your home maintenance checklist with these critical yet often forgotten jobs.

Change Your HVAC Filter

Changing HVAC Air Filter
© Serenethos / Fotolia

A dirty filter is among the most common causes of heating and cooling system breakdowns. A filter that’s clogged with dust and debris restricts the amount of air flowing into the system. That places strain on the fan motor and other components, leading to early wear and breakdowns. It also reduces the system’s energy efficiency by forcing the motor to work harder to move air, so your electricity bills will also rise.

Once a month, remove your filter and hold it up to a light source. If you can’t see light shining through the filter, it’s time to put in a new one. As a rule, standard 1-inch fiberglass filters should be replaced monthly during the heating and cooling seasons.

Drain the Water Heater Tank

Technician Checking Water Heater
© Minerva Studio / Fotolia

Over time, sediment and minerals, such as calcium and lime, settle on the bottom of your water heater tank. These impair your water heater’s efficiency and contribute to corrosion, which can cause the tank to leak.

To flush out this damaging sludge, start by turning off the water heater and letting the tank cool for several hours. Then attach one end of a hose to the tank’s drain cock and take the other end outdoors. Open the drain cock and let the water drain from the tank. Finally, turn on the water flow again until the water coming from the hose runs clear. In most locations, it’s enough to flush the tank once a year. If you have unusually hard water, though, flush your tank every six months.

Remove Lint from Your Clothes Dryer

Cleaning Dryer Lint Trap
© Serenethos / Fotolia

Cleaning your dryer lint screen after each load helps, but there’s more you need to do to keep your dryer running safely and efficiently. Just like the lint screen, the duct at the back of the dryer and the vent outside your house also collects dust.

This dust buildup blocks the outgoing flow of moist air, increasing drying times. It can also cause the dryer to overheat, so it poses a fire hazard. Clean the exterior vent by removing the cover and using a dryer vent lint brush. Then disconnect the sections of the dryer duct and brush out the inside of each section.

Clean Your Refrigerator Coils

Technician Checking Refrigerator
© Andrey Popov / Fotolia

For an appliance that sees daily use, the refrigerator is surprisingly likely to suffer neglect. The condenser coils on the back or bottom of the refrigerator collect dust, which acts like insulation and makes it harder for your refrigerator to expel warm air and cool its interior. This can cause the compressor to fail early.

To clean the coils, simply unplug the refrigerator and use your vacuum’s hose attachment to suck up the dust. Then use a soft paint brush to dislodge any remaining grime.

Clean Your Faucet Aerators

Collection of Faucet Aerators
© buFka / Fotolia

Do your faucets run slow or spit and spatter instead of providing a steady, smooth flow? If so, chances are your aerators are clogged with mineral deposits picked up from minerals naturally present in the water.

To clean the aerator, first remove it by wrapping it in a towel and using a pair of pliers to unscrew it from the faucet. Remove the washer and other parts inside the aerator. Scrub the outside with an old toothbrush to dislodge buildup. To remove more stubborn buildup, soak the aerator in white vinegar overnight, and then scrub it again.

Snake Your Sewer Line

Illustration Depicting Water Jetting of a Pipe
© John Takai / Fotolia

The drain that directs all the sewage and wastewater out of your home to the sewer is known as the sewer line or main drain. This line can become clogged with things that shouldn’t have been washed down the pipes, such as cooking fat or baby wipes. Tree roots growing into the line can also cause clogs.

When this drain has a minor clog, you might hear the toilet gurgling when you run the bathroom sink tap and see water coming from the shower drain when you flush the toilet. A major clog will cause the toilet to back up and overflow, leaving you with a smelly mess.

For a clog-free sewer line, once a year, call a professional to clean the line by snaking or high-pressure water jetting, depending on which is appropriate for your pipes.

Inspect Your Roof and Gutters

Carpenter Repairing Roof
© Кирилл Рыжов / Fotolia

Even small roof leaks can quickly cause serious damage to your home before you even notice. Leaks lead to mold and rot in your attic and, if left unchecked, can even rot the wood structure of your home. If water reaches your electrical wiring, the resulting electrical short can start a fire.

Before and after winter, and after storms, go up on your roof and check for damaged or missing shingles, damaged flashing, wear in the valleys, and debris buildup. Inspect your gutters, too. Damaged, loose or sagging gutters contribute to roof leaks and should be repaired.

Test Your Sump Pump

Inspecting a Sump Pump
© IcemanJ / Fotolia

Heavy rains can blow in when you least expect them, so your basement sump pump has to be ready for them at all times. Once every four to six weeks, clean out any debris that’s fallen into the sump pump pit.

Every three or four months, test the pump for correct operation by slowly pouring a bucket of water into it. The pump should start up, drain the water, then shut off. If it doesn’t, check for a stuck float ball or jammed impeller. If neither of these are the issue, you might need to replace the float switch.

Inspect Your Foundation

Damaged Brick Foundation
© Anatoliy Zavodskov / Fotolia

The elements take their toll on your foundation and eventually cracks can develop. In the winter, water can seep into these cracks during the day, then freeze overnight, causing the crack to expand. Before and after every winter, walk around your home and inspect the foundation for damage.

If you find deteriorating mortar or sealant, repair the damage with appropriate material. If you spot a crack between 1/8 to 1/4 inch wide, you can seal it yourself with vinyl concrete patcher. For any crack wider than 1/4 inch, call in a structural or civil engineer to have the foundation inspected. Cracks this size potentially compromise the structural integrity and safety of your whole house.

Seal Off Cracks and Gaps

Sealing a Window with Polyurethane Foam
© sociopat_empat / Fotolia

In the majority of homes, there are small cracks and gaps that provide an entryway for air pollutants, humidity, and pests such as mice and cockroaches. These cracks also reduce a home’s energy efficiency by letting out warm air in winter and letting in hot air in summer.

Once a year, inspect your home for these wasteful leaks and seal them with appropriate materials. Check the caulk and weatherstripping around your windows and doors and replace them if they’ve deteriorated. Inspect the caulk around penetrations for utility lines such as gas pipes and electrical wiring.

In addition to these more visible areas, your attic and basement also need some care. In the attic, make sure the access hatch, plumbing vent stack, and any dropped soffits are properly insulated and sealed. In the basement, check the sealing around the rim joist insulation.

Home maintenance isn’t necessarily difficult, but there are a lot of routine jobs to keep track of. When you have a clear idea of everything you need to do to keep a house in good repair, you can enjoy greater comfort and safety with few if any surprise repair issues.