July Home Maintenance

Use the good weather to clean and repair asphalt, concrete and fences. Prune or remove problem trees and protect landscaping from deer. Conduct your own home-energy audit and put insulating foam jackets on hot-water pipes.

By Marilyn Lewis of MSN Real Estate

July home-maintenance checklist (© Ryan Smith/Somos Images/Corbis)

© Ryan Smith/Somos Images/Corbis


Take advantage of warm weather while playing or doing chores to also cast a protective eye on your home and landscaping. By paying attention, you’ll learn to spot deterioration or changes before they turn into problems.

Give your home an energy audit
Take an hour to walk around your home with a notepad in hand, taking inventory of gaps and cracks. Experts estimate that you can save 20% on heating and cooling bills by plugging leaks.

Start your inspection inside. Turn off the electricity at the circuit box, then remove switch-plate covers to look for gaps. (Replace them with insulated covers for $3 to $4 each or install foam inserts — also called gaskets — for about 49 cents each. Both can be purchased at hardware stores.) You can insulate phone-jack covers, too.

Next, check the junctures where windows meet walls, walls meet floors and pipes and wires enter the home, plugging gaps with caulk. Other leaky zones include fireplace dampers, mail slots, window-mounted (or wall-mounted) air conditioners, attic doors, baseboards and weather stripping surrounding doors. Look for daylight, feel for drafts and listen for rattles, all clues to escaping heat. Next, check the house from the outside, examining the places where pipes, vents or wiring enter. Examine siding for gaps or damage, paying particular attention to corners where the material joins and where it meets other materials, like chimneys, windows or the foundation.


June Home Maintenance

 Clean dryer vents
Although you probably know to remove lint from your clothes dryer's lint filter after each use (to prevent fires), you may not have heard that maintenance also includes cleaning the hose that pipes warm, moist air from the dryer to the outdoors. Use a long-handled brush, found in hardware stores. Also, clean the recess beneath the filter with a lint-trap brush. Make sure to purchase a brush that fits your dryer's particular lint-trap type. Read the dryer's manual for directions. Check vent hoses to ensure they fit tightly to each other, to the dryer and to the outside of the house. Pull out the dryer and vacuum accumulated lint under and around it

Sharpen mower blades
Proper cutting is key to a healthy lawn, and lawns cut with sharp blades need less watering (read 10 secrets to a perfect lawn). Also, hard work is made easier with sharp tools. Manufacturers recommend replacing mower blades yearly if the mower is used frequently. Check your blades’ effectiveness by examining the cut edge of the grass: If grass blades are ragged, the lawnmower blade is dull. You can extend the life of a mower blade by sharpening. Call a hardware store, garden supply store or lawn-mower dealer to learn where to get tools and blades sharpened (about $10 to $20) or purchase a sharpening tool (Dremel, for example, makes a head for rotary tools) or buy a whetstone or hand sharpener at a garden supply or hardware store. Before removing the blade from the mower to sharpen it, disconnect the spark plug wire (otherwise you could jump-start the engine by moving the blade). Also, wear safety goggles.


May Home Maintenance

Spiff up the front entry
Few things say "spring" like freshening up the front entrance of your home. Try any or all of these improvements:

  1. Remove the doormat and sweep and dust the entry and all the way around the door. Clean the threshold with soapy water and a rag and gently wipe down the door.
  2. Take a hard look at the flower pots, furniture, plant hangers, toys, boots, shovels, brooms and tools cluttering the entrance; remove and store or throw away all but the most essential items. Wipe down porch and patio furniture.
  3. Stand back from the entry and decide what simple steps will most improve its appearance. A fresh coat of paint for the front door? Installing new house numbers? Adding two tall pots to flank the entrance (in colors that match or contrast nicely with the door)? Also consider painting the porch ceiling — a traditional color is blue, for the sky — or floor.
  4.  Replace the doormat with a new one. Use mats inside and outside each door. They’re not just decorative; they protect your floors from damaging grit.
  5. Replace rusted or ugly exterior light fixtures. Get inspiration from this slide show: "Fix up your front entry in one weekend."
  6. As soon as the weather permits and the wood has dried, repaint front steps with deck paint or other surfacing made for heavy traffic. Ask paint store professionals for recommendations. Take care to choose a color for the steps that works well with the house color and front door.
  7. Wipe down railings; sand, prime and repaint flaked, chipped or bubbled paint.
  8. Add another note of color by planting spring annuals in pots at the door, at the top of the steps or marching down the steps.



April Home Maintenance

Repair or replace screen doors

Get ready for bug season by hanging screen doors. You can repair torn screens yourself:

  • Measure the screen opening. You’ll need overage, so add at least an inch to each side. Bring the measurements to a hardware store and purchase a new length of screen.
  • The screen is held in place by a flexible cord fitted into a channel that runs around the screen frame. Lift out the cord. If it is old and brittle, measure it and buy new cord at the hardware store.
  •  Place the new screen over the opening, fit it snugly in place by settling the cord in its channel around the entire opening (poke it in place with a screwdriver). Trim the excess screen with scissors or a box cutter.

If the door sags, see if you can tighten it by replacing missing or corroded hinge screws.  If that doesn’t work, or if the door is bent or battered, purchase and install a new aluminum screen door.



March Home-maintenance

Don't delay on these preventative measures—ones that will help you save on your utility bills and avoid big repairs later on.

By Gary Foreman

Hallelujah. Spring has arrived. For those of us who’ve been trapped inside our homes to stay out of the cold, we get to rediscover the outside world again. It’s also time for some home maintenance items that will help you avoid big repair bills later on.

Inspect your roof. Whether you have shingles, tin or even concrete tiles, your roof is your home's first line of defense against water damage. Now is the time to inspect and repair any water damage. If you delay, you could find yourself facing water damage inside your home, too.

Clean your gutters. Gutters direct rain away from your roof and home, protecting both in the process. Clogged gutters, meanwhile, open your home to water damage—and there's a good chance you won't notice the damage until you need an expensive repair.

Clean or replace your HVAC filters. You need to do this more often than once a year. A dirty filter forces your HVAC system to work harder, which in turn drains your wallet. It could also shorten the life of your blower motor.

Clean your dryer vent. Not all lint is caught in the lint trap; some makes its way into the dryer vent. A clear vent will save you money by reducing the time your dryer has to run. A plugged vent not only wastes money, but could also cause a house fire.

Check the washing machine fill hose. Look for cracks that could become leaks. A leaky hose under pressure can cause major damage in a short period of time.

Clean and repair your screens. Trying to reduce your electric bills this summer? In many parts of the country, you can keep your house cool (at least at night) by opening windows. Gently scrub on a flat surface with soapy water. Also, patch small holes, as needed.

Clean decks, driveways, fences and other outside surfaces. A pressure washer makes the work much easier. If you don't have one, borrow one from a neighbor or rent one from a home center. While you're cleaning, inspect for damage that needs mending.

Fix cracks in your walks, driveway and the outside of your home. Unlike the human body, cracks in asphalt, concrete or stucco don't heal themselves. Fortunately, most of these repairs are fairly easy if done immediately.

Repair any cracked or peeling paint. A good paint job makes your home look nice, while providing a protective barrier from the elements. Touchup painting is easy to do and inexpensive.

Vacuum your refrigerator coils. The coils you’ll find on the bottom or back of your refrigerator conduct the hot air from inside the unit. If they're coated with dust, they do the job less efficiently and cause your fridge to work harder. That means a higher electric bill for you. Use a vacuum cleaner hose or a brush to clean the coils.

Replace the batteries in your smoke detectors. You never know when you'll need them. Sometimes, it’s a matter of life or death, so take the time to change the batteries now.

Prepare your lawn mower for summer. Change the engine oil and sharpen the cutting blade. You'll lengthen the life of the mower and improve the look of your lawn.

Check seals around windows and doors. Winter weather can crack and harden caulk and other weather seals. Inspect them now and repair and replace as needed. You'll reduce your air-conditioning bill and could prevent water from entering your home and causing damage.

Clear vegetation around your AC compressor. To work efficiently, the compressor needs good airflow. Prune any plant growth that could block it.

Drain your water heater. Sediment builds up in your water heater tank. Use the spigot near the bottom of the heater to drain it. By doing so, you'll prolong its life and reduce your electric bill.

You'll probably need to dedicate a couple days to complete the list, but don't look at them as chores. View them as crucial preventative measures—ones that will help you save on your utility bills and avoid big repairs later on. It could be the highest paid work you'll do this week!


February home-maintenance

The transition between winter and spring is the time to get a jump on moisture damage and heat loss, make quick work of organizing storage areas and work in some garden prep before spring.

By Marilyn Lewis of MSN Real Estate

February home-maintenance checklist (© David Papazian/Corbis)

© David Papazian/Corbis


Don’t let winter slip away without using the cold, wet weather to help you detect where your home is leaking water and heat, giving you a chance to seal it up tight and develop a wish list for energy-saving improvements. Your first order of business inside your home is to make sure no water is getting in.

Carefully check every spot where condensation or water could enter your living areas and storage spaces. Take along a pad of paper and a pencil and take detailed notes as you scrutinize ceilings, under the roof, under the eaves and along window and door frames and ventilation seals. Be particularly careful to check under toilets, sinks, tubs and showers. Use a flashlight to check the crawl space or basement walls and floors and the underside of the first-story floor. You’re looking for visible moisture and for stains caused by moisture. When you find something, the remedy will depend on the source of the leak. You may just need to recaulk around a tub or window, or you may need to call a plumber to replace a leaking fixture.