For first time homeowners, all the details of caring for your home seem overwhelming. You see your neighbors doing things like aerating their lawns or washing their roofs, and wonder, should I be doing that? If you have a sense you're missing something, use the following checklist to keep track. It can seem overwhelming, but most items only take a few minutes, and they don't need to be done all at once. Since every home is different, you may not need to do some of these, and there might be some items missing. Think about special details about your home: a pool, a well, or community guidelines, that you might need to take care of.
Septic Tank Check sludge level in septic tank. When sludge reaches 1/3 the tank's depth, have a professional pump out the tank to clean it. (Frequency of service depends on the size of the tank and household use. Tanks for houses in which there is a garbage disposal need more frequent service.
Roof Check roof and around vents, skylights and chimneys for leaks. Inspect flashing around chimneys, vent stalks, and roof edges. Repair as necessary. Cut back any trees or branches that are touching the siding or roof.
Gutters Clean gutters and drain pipes so leaves won't clog them and be sure they drain away from the house.
Wood Decks If you have wood decks, check them for signs of wear or deterioration. Repair or replace as needed. If you have nails popping up, consider replacing them with galvanized screws instead. Clean and seal decks.
Driveways and Walks Check driveways and walks for cracks/breaks, or erosion that may cause damage.
Landscaping Check fences, gates, and retaining walls for condition of structure and material.
Smoke Alarms Clean smoke alarms by pulling cover steadily downward. Remove the power cell. Vacuum any accumulated dust from the sensing-chamber openings. Wash cover with soap and water, dry, and replace. Press test switch. Ensure that all carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers are in good working order. Replace batteries in appropriate devices as needed, or at least twice each year.
Bathrooms Check all joints, ceramic tiles, and laminated plastics. Check caulking around sinks, bathtubs, and showers. Regrout if necessary. Add sealer to finish.
Floors Inspect floors for wear and damage. Check particularly where one type of flooring material meets another, such as carpet joining wood or tile.
Attic If there is no ridge vent, keep gable vents open year-round to ensure proper ventilation.
Faucets Check driveways and walks for cracks/breaks, or erosion that may cause damage.
Filters Check for leaks. Replace washers to prevent dripping. Cover outside faucets to prevent freezing.
Windows and Doors Seal drafty doors and windows. If you added up all of the small cracks where heating and cooling escapes from a home, it would be the same as having a window open. Replace seals as needed. Fall Take down screens (if removable type) and replace with storm windows. Spring Remove, clean, and store storm windows. Clean tracks and lubricate hinges. Check and patch all door and window screens. Put screens up.
Basement Check basement walls and floor for dampness. Be sure to clean dehumidifier regularly, if you have one.
Small Items Wander the house with a screwdriver. Tighten screws on drawers, doors, and furniture. Make a list of broken electrical face plates, missing pulls or knobs, locks that need lubrication, and spots that need caulking around sinks and tubs. Go to the home improvement store and buy everything you need to make all of your little repairs at once.
Appliances and Systems
Electric Water Heater Drain tank completely to flush out scale, rust, and sediment. (Attach garden hose from open draincock to yard or open drain.) Remove heating elements. Soak them in vinegar solution (1 cup vinegar to each gallon of water) and scrape off mineral deposits. Be sure to cut off power to the heater at the fuse box or circuit breaker before you begin.
Furnace Lubricate heater blower motor and fan with one or two drops of 20-weight oil. (Do not use too much oil.) Clean gas space heaters. Be sure lines are clear. Clean electric space heater. Be sure dust and dirt are not on heating coils.
Air Conditioner Clean entire unit of room air conditioner: Vacuum dust and lint from condenser and evaporator. Use soap and water to wipe dirt and grime from compressor, tubing, motor, and blade. Clean leaves and debris from outside. Straighten any bent metal fins. Scrape off any rust, then reprime and paint.
Refrigerator Make sure your refrigerator door seals are airtight. Test them by closing the door over a dollar bill. If you can pull the bill out easily, the latch may need to be adjusted or the seal may need to be replaced. In addition, if you have a coil-back refrigerator, vacuum the coils at least twice each year. Your refrigerator will run more efficiently with clean coils. Also, stock up! A full refrigerator uses less energy than an empty one.
Fireplace Clean fireplace of ashes. Fall Check chimney for loose or missing mortar. Have chimney professionally cleaned. Make sure damper closes tightly. Spring Leave damper open for improved ventilation if the home is not air-conditioned.
Energy Call the utility company to do an energy audit. While you´re at it, ask the utility if they can also test for radon gas.