How monthly home maintenance will save you big bucks

Without regular maintenance and care, your home will quickly lose its value. Here's a monthly checklist for keeping up with the biggest investment of your life.

Michael Spooneybarger/Reuters
Jason Preston, Jermaine McNair, and James Hayes put up shutters on a house as Hurricane Isaac approaches Gulfport, Miss., August 28, 2012. Hurricane or no, monthly home maintenance is a small time investment that can save save serious money in the long run.

Your home is one of the biggest investments you have. For most people, their first mortgage is the biggest financial commitment of their life compared to their net worth.

Just like everything else, your home needs maintenance and care. Sure, we all clean our houses and such, but there are a lot of little things that are easy to overlook in a home. The more things you overlook, the more it will cost you.

How will it cost you? Your heating and cooling bills will go up. Your unexpected repair costs will go up. Your house finishings and furnishings will wear down faster. You’ll run into countless little difficulties when something important comes up. Your home will have significantly less value when you go to sell it because all of the little neglects will show up.

All you have to do to combat all these things is spend a couple of hours during your free weekends doing some simple home maintenance tasks.

Personally, I use a home and auto maintenance checklist. Whenever I have a few free hours without much to do, I’ll usually turn on my headphones (if I’m home alone) or recruit a young helper (if the kids are home) and get to work on a few tasks.

Over five years ago, I posted a sample monthly home and auto maintenance checklist. I’ll quote it here, for reference’s sake. This is long, but don’t worry about it. I’ll explain how to make this very easy in a moment.

Check the tire pressure on all cars and air them up to the recommended maximum

Check the oil on the lawnmower and sharpen the blades – well-sharpened mower blades drastically reduce mowing time

Check, clean, and perhaps replace the air filter on all automobiles

Check the fluid levels in all automobiles and adjust as needed

Check and fill all gas cans for lawnmowers, etc.

Check for squeaky doors and oil them as needed

Check and clean range hood filters

Check and replace furnace filters

Check and replace other ventilation system filters

Check and replace humidifier filters

Remove grills on forced air system ducts and vacuum inside the ducts

Examine the foundation for any cracks

Examine exposed wood (attic, etc.) for insect damage and do any insect preventative maintenance that needs to happen

Test all ground fault circuit interrupters

Check all vents (inside and outside) and make sure there are no obstructions

Remove screens, clean window wells, and dry them

Examine all outdoor items and see whether any seasonal maintenance needs to be done

Drain off a pan full of water from the clean-out valve at the bottom of your hot water tank (removes sediment and maintains efficiency)

Check your sump pump for any issues

Test all fire/smoke/carbon monoxide detectors in the house

Check all window and door locks to ensure they’re all in working order

Check your fire escape plan and make sure that furniture additions haven’t changed this

Check all faucets for dripping water and change washers if needed

Run all sinks, toilets, baths, and showers to ensure no problems (mostly just the ones not used frequently)

Check the gauge on all fire extinguishers and replace if needed

Use a pipe cleaner and baking soda to clean all drains

Check all gutters for blockage and clean as needed (bird’s nests, leaves, etc.)

Check all visible pipes for leaks (don’t forget under sinks, etc.)

Check and clean refrigerator and freezer coils (we did this about once every six months, if I remember right)

Check all caulking and repair as needed

Clean all windows – remove the screens, clean the windowsills thoroughly, and also clean the windows thoroughly with Windex

Vacuum under all furniture – and vacuum all furniture, removing the cushions, etc.

Shampoo carpets as needed – this was usually done in a batch every few months

Scrub all non-carpeted floors – soap and brush on your hands and knees

Scour all sinks and tabletops

Sweep the garage floor

Put anything unused into storage (we had an annual “go through the storage” event, too)

Inventory all food staples (pantry, freezer, etc.), throw out what’s old, make a master list, and go to the store to replace what’s needed

Completely clean out refrigerator, thoroughly clean inside, then restock

That’s a lot of tasks. How does one manage it?

Simple. I just keep rotating through this list. Whenever I have an hour or two, I just go through the top few items on my list. Whenever I complete an item, I move it to the bottom of the list. When I’m tired of it or something else comes up, I just put the list aside until later.

Because of that, I get to each item on the list every month or so. Some of the items are done in just a few minutes. Others take an hour or two. If I put in a few hours a week on this list, then the house stays kept up.

(Of course, sometimes I fall behind. Life intervenes. However, if you’ve been doing these things regularly, periods of less activity on the list are tolerated much better by your home and automobile.)

What’s the reward for doing these things? Your house and automobile (and the components in them) have a much longer lifespan. You have far fewer emergency repairs. Your energy and fuel bills are lower. Your car has a longer lifespan. Your home has a larger resale value. It adds up – big time.

Take care of your biggest investments and they’ll take care of you.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere.

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