There’s something about homeownership you don’t realize until you’re a homeowner — there’s a lot to keep track of. That goes for regular maintenance, like the stuff you need to do every year that you might not even be noticing, to the big projects that only come due every few decades but still require you to keep an eye out to catch them in time and prevent damage.
To help make all this easier, we’ve put together a Homeowners Checklist of items big and small.
With our homes, just like our health, prevention is the best medicine. These tasks need seeing to on a regular basis to keep your property in good shape and prevent the kind of damage that results in costly repairs down the line.
GUTTER CLEANING — Leaves and other natural debris builds up in gutters and needs to be cleared out twice a year to allow your gutters to do their job of ushering water off your roof and away from your house. If they get clogged, water can build up causing leaks, damage and rot — even down into your foundation and basement. Gutters filled with debris can also get heavy, causing them to pull away from the house. And full gutter can also attract pests.
When: Twice per year, in fall and spring
AIR DUCT CLEANING — Cleaning air ducts improves the air quality in your home by removing dust, pollen and other allergens that have accumulated in the filters. Keeping air ducts clean can also offer energy savings, since clogged ducts are not able to work as efficiently as they should.
When: Yearly or every other year; also if you’ve completed a renovation that generated a lot of dust or had a problem with insects or vermin, it’s a good idea to have your air ducts cleaned
CHIMNEY CLEANING — Chimneys should be inspected and cleaned yearly to make sure that the flu is clear. Otherwise, smoke can get backed up into your home and even become a fire hazard.
When: Yearly, in fall before you want to start using it for the season
WINDOW WASHING — Clean windows aren’t just cosmetic. A thorough cleaning once or twice a year can help extend the life of your windows by removing dirt and grime that can corrode the surface. Also, cleaning around the sills and screens helps keep insects, including wasps, from moving in.
When: Once or twice per year; time of year is flexible, but a summer cleaning helps clear away insects before they become a problem
AERATION — If you want your lawn to stay thick and looking great, you really have to aerate. Aeration uses a piece of special lawn-care equipment to put a series of tiny holes in the soil, allowing air, water and nutrients to get down into the roots where it’s needed. Aeration also breaks up thatch, which is a layer of dead and living grass that builds up just above the soil and further blocks nutrients. Even if your lawn looks healthy, aeration at least once a year is a good idea, especially if you use overhead watering, like sprinklers, which can compact the soil over time.
When: Once or twice per year; spring and fall are good times, so your lawn has a chance to grow thicker in the cooler weather and without heavy rains that could wash away new seed if you’re adding that at the same time
GYPSUM, RESEEDING AND TOPDRESSING — Another step in good lawn care is the addition of gypsum and a fresh layer of seed to fill in and even out any patchiness or bare spots. Gypsum is a soil conditioner that adds calcium, which helps the grass grow. It also helps adhere new seed to your lawn, preventing run-off. Topdressing is a thin layer of topsoil that adds organic matter to nourish the grass.
When: Once or twice per year, this is best done at the same time as aeration; spring and fall are good times so your lawn has a chance to grow thicker in the cooler weather and without heavy rains that could wash away new seed if you’re adding that at the same time
For more, check out Lawn Care Basics, a Q&A with ezhome’s Abel Yanez
IRRIGATION CHECK AND REPAIRS — Make sure your lawn and planting beds are well irrigated for the season. In particular, you should look out for any dry areas, puddles, and leaks in your irrigation system. Or consider converting to drip irrigation for targeted areas, which is over 30% more efficient than sprinklers.
When: Yearly for a check, in spring or early summer before they will be needed most
MULCH — The benefits of mulch are greater than you might think. It keeps away weeds without chemicals, conserves water, improves the soil, and makes your yard look put together. It naturally decomposes over time and needs to be refreshed yearly.
When: Yearly, especially in spring to replace the mulch that has washed away or broken down into the soil over the winter
TREE PRUNING FOR FLOWERING AND FRUIT TREES — For ornamental, flowering and fruiting varieties, pruning is essential for best growth and productivity. Fruit trees in particular need to be pruned yearly to maintain the quality of the fruit. Using proper equipment, pruning removes dead, damaged and diseased branches to allow for healthy new growth. During winter, trees are in their dormant period (yes, even here in California), and because they’re not engaged in active growth, they are more receptive to pruning. Our wet winter weather also helps to reduce stress on the trees, avoiding shock.
When: Yearly for flowering and fruiting trees; winter is the time to take care of pruning these varieties to catch them when they are dormant
TREE PRUNING FOR LARGE TREES — Big trees can become dangerous if they aren’t pruned. Branches that are too close to your house, or your neighbor’s house, can block light and cause excess debris on the roof and in the gutters. If the center of the tree is too dense with vegetation, and debris is allowed to collect, that can lead to rot. Overly dense vegetation can also block the wind from safely passing through the branches, and that puts the tree at risk for being blown over by strong winds.
When: As needed; large trees can be pruned at any time when branches are in the way or becoming hazardous, or as they become too dense
To learn more about pruning, read Q&A on Winter Yard Care with ezhome Landscape Designer Samantha Bella
FENCE CLEAN AND SEAL — Pressure washing and a fresh coat of sealant can give a fence new life. Pressure washing first removes built-up dirt, grime, and moss. Then adding a sealant will protect the wood from rotting, which is especially helpful if your fence is exposed to a lot of sun and humidity. Because sealer is a preservative, it’ll dramatically increase the lifespan of your fence if applied every other year.
When: Every other year, spring to early summer is best; dirt and moss accumulate over the winter, and you’ll want your fence looking great when you’re outside using your yard the most. The fresh sealant will help it weather the heat of summer and winter rains.
HARDSCAPE PRESSURE WASHING — Pressure washing blasts away tough dirt, grime, moss and stains to leave your hardscape — like walkways, paths, patios and driveways — looking fresh and clean. Leaving the dirt where it is will actually lead to damage over time, making a more resource-intensive replacement necessary.
When: Yearly, spring is best since you’ll want to clear away the mess that accumulates over the winter
there’s something about homeownership you don’t realize until you’re a homeowner — there’s a lot to keep track of. ezhome can help
CARPET CLEANING — A professional deep clean for your carpets gets rid of built up dirt, dust, and pollen that regular vacuuming can’t get. It also removes odors and stains.
When: Yearly, or more frequently if you have particular stains to remove or have recently renovated and created lots of extra dust.
INTERIOR PAINTING — There’s no absolute answer to when you should paint inside your home. Depending on traffic and scuffs, you might be able to get by with just touch-ups if you want to keep the same colors. Depending on your ventilation, however, your bathroom might need more frequent attention. Keep an eye on bubbling or peeling paint, which needs to be scraped off and repainted. If you’re craving a new look, nothing transforms a room faster, or more economically, than a fresh coat of paint.
If you want to paint, but need a little more talking into it, see Top 3 Reasons to Repaint Your Rooms Right Now
When: Living rooms and bedrooms might not need repainting more than every 5 to 10 years. High traffic areas like doorways and hallways, and moisture-prone bathrooms, might require repainting every 2 to 5 years. Using high quality and washable paints will extend the time between paintings.
Even with the best regular maintenance, there are some parts of you home that have a natural lifespan and do require periodic reinvestment. Tending to them promptly when they come due can get ahead of any potential damage. Leaving them too long can make the project more extensive — and expensive — than it otherwise might be.
EXTERIOR PAINTING — When you have fading, chalking, bubbling, and peeling paint, you’ll need to paint the exterior of your house to protect it, and to improve curb appeal. You can find professional estimates on when you should paint your home ranging from every four to every fifteen years, and this range depends largely on your individual circumstances. Dark colors fade faster, as do different qualities of paint. Sides of your house with strong sun exposure or proximity to ocean humidity can wear faster too. When the paint is literally coming off by itself, your need for fresh paint is no longer in doubt. The wood or stucco underneath is then at risk for weather damage and rot, so you’ll want to get that seen to without delay. Even if you avoid damage, waiting until you hit this stage means that the amount of prep work needed — scraping, sanding, and priming — before the new paint job can begin will be extensive and drive up the cost.
For more, there’s Is it time to paint your house?
When: From every 4 to 10 years, depending on your circumstances, including color, paint quality and location
ROOF REPLACEMENT — A typical asphalt shingle roof lasts about 20 to 25 years. If yours is older than that, or you don’t know how old it is, it’s time to have it evaluated. There may be weaknesses that have developed that you can’t see, or improvements to be made that will save you money in the long run. Light colored shingles, and those with additional reflective coatings, deflect heat from the sun and make your home much easier to cool in hot weather. Significant energy savings could offset some of the cost of roof replacement, making it a good idea sooner rather than later.
For more, read The State of Your Roof: How strong is it?
When: Typically every 20 to 25 years for asphalt shingles; potential energy savings may make earlier replacement a smart move