Take care of your home with these upkeep and maintenance tips

Want to know the secret of those happy homeowners who seem like they are on top of things? In many cases, it’s an effective home maintenance budget and plan. They’re proactive, not reactive: experienced homeowners know that a happy home takes work, but that preventative maintenance and upkeep can prevent major crises. Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or a seasoned homeowner, it’s time to take charge of your home. In this article, we’ll review the most important aspects of a home maintenance budget and checklist.

Building your home maintenance budget

Most realtors and home experts agree that homeowners should set aside between 1-2% of their home’s value annually as a budget for maintenance, upkeep, and repairs. The exact amount of that budget that you’ll use on a yearly basis is going to vary based on a number of factors, ranging from the climate you live in (both snow and sun present different challenges) to how old your home is (older homes generally require more care than new builds).

There are advantages to saving more than you need, however. Homeowners who build a rolling home maintenance fund have the cash-on-hand to address major repairs (such as fixing a cracked sewer line) or replacements (having a new furnace installed). Doing this helps you avoid having to pay for such projects with financing or a line of credit. Or, they have the option to reinvest a portion of the rolled-over savings back into the home and make value-boosting upgrades, such as remodeling their kitchen or bathroom.

Keep your HVAC systems running right

Now that you have established a home maintenance budget, you should allocate some of that money to preventative maintenance for different aspects of your home. Your HVAC systems—your air conditioner and furnace—are the largest investments in your home outside of the structure and the roof. They’re also essential to your comfort inside the home and have an outsized impact on your monthly energy bills. In other words, it’s imperative that you take care of your HVAC systems so that they can last longer, run better, and operate more efficiently.

Call a local HVAC company in your area and schedule a spring tune-up for your air conditioner and a fall tune-up for your heating system (if you have a heat pump that provides your home with both cooling and heating, have it looked at twice per year). A professional checkup helps ensure that your system is ready for the season ahead and that it is operating at maximum efficiency, which in turn reduces the wear-and-tear the unit experiences in the summer or winter.

Plumbing maintenance and upkeep

If you’re like most homeowners, you probably don’t give much thought to your home’s pipes and plumbing. They are just there. However, proactive homeowners should strive to stay on top of plumbing maintenance and upkeep.

One important place to direct your focus is your water heater. Generally speaking, water heaters last about 8-12 years. However, you can extend the life of your tank water heater by having a plumber replace the sacrificial anode rod about midway through the system’s lifespan. The anode rod attracts corrosion away from the interior tank walls but eventually is spent—replacing it is an inexpensive way to get more years out of the water heater.

While the plumber is there, have them show you how to check both the water temperature and pressure relief valve. Too high of water temperature wastes energy and puts additional stress on the tank, while a faulty relief valve can allow pressure to build up to unsafe levels—putting the water heater at risk of a flood-causing tank burst.

If you live in an area with hard water, talk to a plumber about your water softener options. Over time, hard water can shorten the life of appliances and even cause scaling to build up inside of your home’s pipes. A water softener is an upgrade that simultaneously boosts the value of the home and helps protect it against future plumbing issues.

Bring in the right professionals for the job

If you care about your home, make sure you hire the right people to work on it. Whether you are having shingles replaced or getting a new room added to your home, only trust true professionals who are licensed and certified in their respective fields. Too many home improvement and maintenance horror stories start with the homeowner not doing their homework on a “professional” or a company. The people you hire matter: read online reviews, ask the company for references, and talk to your neighbors about who they have worked with in the past.

There are many aspects of home maintenance and upkeep that you can take on yourself. Repainting interior walls or cleaning out gutters are perfect examples of agenda items homeowners can tackle on their own. But, know your own limits and—when in doubt—call in a professional. After all, that’s why you have a home maintenance budget.

For more home maintenance tips and tricks—as well as some further guidelines for establishing your home upkeep budget—check out this infographic.