Home is where the heart is, but sometimes it’s also where the headache is. With home ownership comes commitment, of both time and money, and staying on top of regular home maintenance is the best way to save both since the most effective way to prevent an expensive repair is to take good care of the working components of your house. Since different areas of the home should be ritually inspected at different times, not only for appearance but for safety, this list of what to check and when will keep your home in the clear:
• Sink disposal. This potential black hole of horrid odors should be cleaned and disinfected once every three months. Many methods of disposal cleaning work, but one of the most efficient seems to be using vinegar ice cubes. Simply freeze vinegar in an ice tray then run the cubes through the disposal. The vinegar will freshen and disinfect while the ice will sharpen the disposal blades. Two birds, one ice cube.
• Range hood filters. The filter that lives in the hood of your range houses reminiscents of dinners past. When you remove the filter from the bottom of the hood, you’ll find a nightmarish display of grease and grime. Sometimes a light scrub with some good dish soap will do the trick, but if your filter is more demanding, mix a degreaser with hot water, saturate the filter, let it sit for about five minutes, and then rinse it off. It’s recommended to do this quarterly throughout the year.
• Refrigerator coils. Your refrigerator can become an energy hog; on average, it consumes more than 1400 kW per day, so maintaining its efficiency will save money and energy. The coils, usually located on the bottom of the unit behind the kickplate, need to be vacuumed biannually since dust and dirt accumulate there, forcing the refrigerator to work harder to cool, therefore draining more energy. Clearing the coils with a vacuum attachment will keep this from happening.
• Sinks and toilets. Three to four times a year, it’s a good idea to flush toilets and test sinks in any unused spaces in your home, usually a guest bathroom but also in the laundry room or basement. Running a small amount of water through scarcely-used plumbing can prevent grime and particle build-up that may become an issue later.
• Showerheads. Showerheads should be removed and cleaned in the winter. Removing any sediment deposits will prolong the life of the showerhead and will also improve the water pressure.
• Grout. The grout in the bathroom, as well as any other tiled surfaces in your home, should be examined for flaws during the summer when the weather is warm before the winter chill can cause cracks to spread. Catching cracks early will prevent the need to recaulk.
• Plumbing. One of the most expensive and potentially devastating repairs a homeowner can face is a plumbing failure. Also, an inspection best completed in the warm summer months, all plumbing components need to be scrutinized for leaks and all aerators on faucets cleaned. Poor water pressure could be an indicator that the aerator needs to be replaced, which is a simple task, but if it leaks, the solution may not be so simple. Your bathroom plumbing may be on the verge of failure. Depending on the leak and the age of the equipment, you may need a plumber or you may need a renovation. If renovations are the way to go, don’t call the first contractor that pops up in a Google search. Do your research first and investigate the cost of bathroom renovations.
• HVAC. Most experts recommend changing the filters on your heating, ventilation, and cooling unit monthly, but for couples or small families, that may be overkill. Every other month would be sufficient. On the other hand, large families, especially those with pets or allergies, may max out their filter’s capacity before 30 days. The frequency of replacement will depend on individual household needs.
• Detectors. Carbon dioxide and smoke detectors should be examined quarterly, about every three months. Most detectors come equipped with a “test” button. When you press the button, the alarm should briefly sound. If the alarm does not sound, replace the batteries post-haste and retest. If the alarm does not work then, check the battery terminal for corrosion. If the detector still does not sound after replacing the batteries and removing any corrosion, it’s likely you need a new detector.
By no means is this an exhaustive list, but focusing on the kitchen, bathroom, and house-wide components is an excellent place to begin your routine home maintenance. Dividing the list into monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly and annual tasks will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and detecting issues before they become mammoth problems will save you time and money. A proactive approach to household maintenance means you can keep the “heart” and lose the “headache” at home.