I Have to Pay for That?
First-time buyers may not know what it takes to maintain their home. Good thing they have you.
When they experience their first leaky faucet, cold blast of air, or foundation crack, many first-time home buyers panic. Help ward off regret by connecting them with specialists and giving them a rundown of important maintenance checks.
HVAC system. It should be cleaned and tested at the start of a season—furnace in the fall and central air (or units) in the spring. Shrubbery should be kept from the AC’s outside condenser unit, says contractor Michael Kozas. Boilers should also be cleaned and hot water heaters inspected, he says. Homeowners should change filters regularly.
Exterior water and foundation. Owners should drain hoses and turn off outside spigots before winter to avoid burst pipes. Speaking of water, snow, and ice, they all can cause foundation damage. Owners should conduct a yearly check. For an unfinished basement or crawl space, that means shining a flashlight on walls, creases, and floors, says Tim Tracy of Groundworks, foundation specialists. For a finished basement, it means checking drywall for cracks or stains. Outside, topsoil should be pitched away so water won’t collect and leak into the basement, Kozas says.
Gutters and downspouts. Most home experts recommend having them cleaned in the late fall after leaves have dropped and in the spring, Rarely is this a DIY project, since climbing on a roof can be precarious.
Roof and chimney. Experts should check a roof yearly for missing shingles or holes and around flashing. The goal is to stop water and animals from getting in. Chimney experts should check for cracks in mortar when they clean a flue.
Septic system and well. Be sure the septic tank is pumped every three years or so, depending on its size and how many people reside in the house. Wells should be inspected annually.
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers. All levels of a house should have these. The smoke and carbon dioxide detectors should be placed near each bedroom, and batteries should be replaced as needed. One fire extinguisher should go in the kitchen, and families should discuss a home fire escape plan that includes pets.
Pest control. Some homeowners like to be their own patrol service. Others want a professional to inspect every few months, both indoors and outside, since termites and carpenter ants are hard to detect, says Kozas. All owners should know what wildlife frequents their area. See illustrations of different animals’ footprints at almanac.com/content/animal-track-identification.