Home maintenance is sweaty, sometimes complicated, always-takes-longer-than-you-think-it-will work. And who, exactly, can keep track of what needs to be done?
It's time to get your household on a schedule! Sounds boring--but it's the secret to a well-maintained home. And we did the work for you, putting together a concise maintenance schedule for even the busiest of homeowners. We break down a year’s worth of activities into monthly, quarterly, and annual maintenance tasks.
Use this list any way you want, but try not to stack everything on the weekend. Some of these tasks are so easy, you can get them down while you're waiting for the kids to get dressed, or for your tea water to boil! See something missing? Build your own from this starting template.
You can knock these out on a Saturday--or if you're feeling especially time-crunched, pick a day during the week to do your "once-a-month" tasks to spread them out over four weeks. For example: every Thursday, you pick a monthly task to knock out.
- Inspect and Change out HVAC Filters. Many experts will say to change the filters monthly, but that’s not always necessary. For smaller families without pets or allergies, you may be okay changing the filters every 2-3 months. If the filter is dirty, change it out; if not, inspect it again next month. If you don't have allergies, go with cheaper filters and replace them more often, versus going with the expensive filters. If you do have allergies, the expensive filters are probably worth the investment.
- Clean Kitchen Sink Disposal. When it comes to the sink disposal, the best all-around solution seems to be vinegar ice cubes. Put some vinegar in an ice tray and let it freeze. Once frozen, run the ice cubes through the disposal system. Not only will this freshen the system, but the ice will also actually help keep the blades sharp!
- Clean Range Hood Filters. If this is your first time cleaning your range, you’re in for a real, ah, treat when you get that filter off the hood. Don’t panic! Use a degreaser from an auto parts store mixed with hot water. Let the cleaner sit for a few minutes, rinse it off, and you’re good to go. Looking for an alternative cleaner? Go with vinegar! It may have to sit for longer, but it should get the job done.
- Inspect Your Fire Extinguisher(s). This one is simple: make sure your extinguisher is easily accessible (i.e., not blocked by a garbage can), check to see if the pressure on your gauge is adequate, make sure there are no visible signs of wear and tear.
Every Three Months
These are almost two easy to forget to do, but so important to remember! Tack them onto a specific date, like the first of every third month, or barrel through them on a single day.
- Test Smoke/Carbon Dioxide Detectors. Most detectors should have a ‘test’ button. If the alarm sounds, you’re good to go. If not, replace the batteries in the device immediately and test again. If it still doesn’t seem right, there may be corrosion on the battery terminal, preventing it from detecting new batteries. Clean it and try again; if it still doesn’t work, you’ll likely need a new detector.
- Test Garage Door Auto-Reverse Feature. In 1993, a new federal law required all garage doors to add this feature after multiple child deaths. Test your system every month by placing a 2×4 on the ground where the door would close. It should reverse after a second or so when the door hits the wood. You should also test the photo-electric sensors by placing an object in front of them. If the door doesn’t immediately go back up, it needs to be fixed or replaced.
- Run Water and Flush Toilets in Unused Spaces. This mostly applies to guest bathrooms or any other water sources you don’t use regularly, like utility sinks. Regularly running water through these systems will help prevent build-up and other issues.
- Check Your Water Softener. Every water softener is different, so refer to your operator's manual! This is a quick check that can really make a difference in your water quality.
Every Six Months
These tasks take a little more time, but the results are absolutely worth it.
- Test Your Water Heater’s Pressure Relief Valve. This will prevent mineral and corrosion buildup, which safeguards against leaks. It will also help your heater run more efficiently.
- Give Your House a Deep Clean. A deep clean means moving appliances, furniture, and anything else in the way of a fresh start. Cleaning should include appliances, windows (inside and outside), and those hard-to-get places you usually avoid (like the basement or the crawlspace). Stopping dirt/grime/dust from building up over years will save you a lot of time later.
- Replace Batteries in Smoke/Carbon Dioxide Detectors. You may be tempted to wait until your detector starts beeping to make a change. Change them out every six months! This is one preventative move we can't recommend enough.
- Vacuum Your Refrigerator Coils. The fridge can use up to 15 percent of your home’s total power, so you want it running as efficiently as possible. You can save up to $100 a year by keeping your coils clean.
- Check and Clean Dryer Vent. This is a big one, both in terms of preventing fires and increasing efficiency. Drag a rag or a duster through the vent to make sure it's running clean.
Once a Year (By Season)
There's no conceivable way to get these all done on the same weekend--so we broke it up by season. How you divide and conquer from there is up to you!
- Check the exterior drainage
- Clean out your gutters
- Clean exterior vents
- Get your air conditioning system ready for summer
- Repair/replace damaged window screens
- Clear dead plants/shrubs from the house
- Plant anything new for landscaping
- Check trees for interference with electric lines
- Make sure your pest control is on the right schedule for your home
- Check and repair tiles throughout your house
- Take care of any insect problems you may have
- Clean and repair deck/patio as needed
- Clean your garage
- Flush water heater and remove sediment
- Winterize air conditioning systems
- Get heating system ready for winter
- Flush outdoor water spigots and turn off
- Put away hoses
- Get chimney cleaned, if you have one
- Check driveway/pavement for cracks
- Tighten any handles or doorknobs
- Check all locks and deadbolts on your doors and windows
- Check caulking around showers and bathtubs
- Remove showerheads and clean sediment
Keep Home Maintenance on Track
A schedule may be the last thing you want to add to your already-full plate, but trust us--your future self will thank you. Getting your house on a regular maintenance schedule is the key to keeping it in tip-top shape, without having to devote weekends (or an entire week) to cleaning and repairs. Take our housekeeping cheat sheet and make it your own! Get started on creating your own household maintenance schedule today.