Maintaining a home can be time consuming, but it is ultimately more efficient than making repairs. Problems always crop up, but with a regular preventative maintenance routine, expensive repairs can be avoided in these commonly overlooked areas:
Homeowners forget appliances are an integral part of the home, but neglected appliances can lead to problems like leaks, poor energy efficiency and in extreme cases, cause fire hazards.
● Dryers should be properly serviced on a regular basis. Clean lint from the dryer after each load to minimize clogging the vent pipe. Clean and/or replace the vent pipe on an annual basis as well. Once a month, use a vent brush to reach beyond the lint trap where lint will collect. Keeping vents clear will make clothes dry faster, as blocked vents do not allow humidity to escape.
● Dishwashers should be regularly cleaned by running them through a high temp cycle using one of several products available to eliminate hard-water buildup. Cloudy glasses despite the use of a rinse agent are a sure giveaway that it’s time to do this!
● Refrigerators have wheels for a reason. Move them out from the wall at least once every six months and vacuum the floor under them. Then, using a narrow-tipped accessory, remove dust and dirt in cracks and around coils. Dirt, dust and pet hair insulates coils causing the compressor to work overtime to maintain the temperature. Keeping the refrigerator clean will save money and extend the life of the appliance.
● Vents and Filters: Twice a year, clean venting fans in bathrooms, where dirt and bugs accumulate. Clean bathroom fans will do a better job of removing humidity and reduce the risk of mold in shower areas. Remove filters from stove vents and soak them in a solution of vinegar and baking soda to dissolve grease. A plugged-up range hood will do nothing to eliminate cooking odors! Air conditioners also need to have filters changed and/or cleaned each year, removing allergens and dirt and keeping them at peak performance.
Doors and Windows
Squeaky doors? Stuck windows? Petroleum jelly is a cheap lubricant and works miracles! Lubricate hinge pins to eliminate squeaking. Coating deadbolts lightly will make them slide smoothly past the strike plate. For slider doors and windows (especially those with old-fashioned storms), vacuum and clean out dirt from tracks, then lubricate so they slide side-to-side or up-and-down with ease. Door locks can be lubricated with graphite “grease” (a non-melting friction enhancer). Squirted into locks, it will stop the fight of turning the key in the door.
One of the best preventative maintenance tools to cut down on pricey plumbing emergencies is a “plumber’s snake” – a flexible wire auger that breaks up stubborn clogs caused by grease, hair and other debris. Use it once-a-month in showers and tubs where hair accumulates and blocks the drain. A big caveat with drain augers: Unless you are well-versed in plumbing, this move could be risky. "You must be real careful when using a snake for the tub. The older homes ... used lead pipes for the tub traps and they can be punched through quite fast when using a snake. And not knowing what type you have can put you at risk for an expensive repair," said Woodbridge Environmental in a recent discussion on Hometalk, a social network for those with home projects.
Basic maintenance for sink drains should include a weekly dose of ½ cup baking soda, ¼ cup of salt and 1 cup of vinegar – pour in drain, let stand for 15 minutes then run very hot water through the pipes for a minute or two. You can also use the drain cleaning mix to clean shower heads (rinse thoroughly).
Frequently forgotten, a hard-wired smoke alarm is not a guarantee of safety. Change out units more than ten years old. Alarms may become less sensitive with age and as fire technology improves so does safety. If not hard-wired, or if your model requires battery backup in case of power outages, remember to change batteries twice a year. If you need to replace your smoke alarms, you can get a basic model for a measly ten bucks from Kidde. It's the best ten bucks you'll ever spend.
Whether you heat with gas or oil, the heating system should be serviced annually by a certified HVAC professional. Have furnaces cleaned, including changing the filter at the oil tank. Doing so will help your system run at peak efficiency and make your home more comfortable.
Clean kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities with a mild soap to keep them free of dirt and drips that cause stains and ruin finishes. Wood cabinets can be coated with a high quality protective polish once or twice a year – several brands are available at most hardware and grocery stores. Line kitchen sink base cabinets with a waterproof shelf liner to protect against spills from chemical cleaners stored underneath. Or, place containers of heavy duty cleaners into plastic buckets to minimize leaks.
If you use your fireplace regularly, having the chimney cleaned at the end of the season is a must! According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, “an average of 25,100 chimney fires are responsible for 30 death and $126.1 million in property damage on average each year.” Though homeowners feel they can perform this annual maintenance themselves, the Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends hiring a certified chimney sweep. This organization notes that even a half inch of buildup can impede fireplace and chimney function, so it surely pays to maintain your fireplace.