9 Maintenance Tips for First Time Homebuyers From A Home Inspector.
By Jonathan Moses
Licensed Home Inspector
NJ Lic #24GI00170700
You’ve just closed on your first house! Congratulations—that is so exciting. Maybe you’re standing in the empty living room of your new home waiting for the moving truck to pull up, awesome. Maybe a small panic is starting to set in as you look around and realize you now are responsible for the upkeep of this entire house, and you don’t know the first thing about maintaining a home.
Good news: Now is the perfect time to open up the calendar on your smart phone and set a few simple reminders for some annual maintenance tips that will keep your house running smoothly and save you money in the long run.
To start, here are two good tips to know before you even unpack that first box:
1. Change the locks: You just don’t know who has a key besides the previous owners. Dog walkers, old boyfriends, AirBnB creeps. This isn’t meant to scare you—chances are, nothing will happen even if you don’t. But, listen to just one true crime podcast and you’ll be glad to err on the side of safety.
2. Clean the vents and ducts: I can almost guarantee you the last people to own the home didn’t clean their vents, ever. Just twenty years of dust, fluff and hair lodged in there. So pop off the vent covers and borrow your dad’s shop vac. Two hours of work will have you breathing easier for years to come. If you bought the house from a cat lady you might want to hire a pro.
Let’s move on to the items you’ll want to keep up with annually or, if you can, even more frequently.
1. Change your furnace and HVAC filters: Air filters for these systems should be changed at least quarterly, monthly if you have pets. Clogged filters reduce the efficiency of the heating and cooling systems, making them work just a little bit harder and costing you a few more bucks every month. But more importantly, a clogged up air filters means there will be more dust and allergens floating around your home waiting you and your family to breath that stuff in. You grab a ten pack at Home Depot and leave them within a few feet of the furnace where you can find them.
2. Clean out your gutters: I like to do this at the end of the fall, or suggest doing it as you’re string up your holiday lights as the last relative clears out after Thanksgiving dinner. Water is your enemy. When gutters are doing their job they carry water away from the foundation of the house. Nine times out of ten when a basement is showing signs of water penetration it’s because the gutters are clogged, crimped shut or missing altogether. In colder climates, a clogged gutter can lead to ice and snow build up that can eventually find it’s way up underneath the shingles and cause leaks in your home.
3. Turn Off The Hose: Right around the same time as you’re clearing the gutters you should also turn off the water leading to any out door faucets or spigots. The valve is in the basement, usually a couple of feet from where the spigot is on the outside wall. Shut the valve off inside first and then go outside and open the spigot to bleed the line. Failure to do this could result in a frozen pipe, pipes can split when they freeze. You won’t know about it until it thaws, spraying water all over your basement.
4. Tree Trimming: Springtime is a great time to trim back any trees that might be growing over your roof. Over hanging branches can lessen the lifespan of a roof, because as the wind blows them back and forth they scrape the granules off the asphalt shingles. Of course, big branches can cause structural damage if they break during or after a big storm. Trimming back branches in the spring also means that don’t have to worry about them dumping leaves everywhere in the fall. You might not have to do this annually but it’s advisable to at least check.
5. Remove vegetation: In addition to cutting trees back from the roof line, you’ll also want to make sure to keep plants and other vegetation from growing up against the foundation. I like to see an 18-inch clearance myself. Left unchecked, these plants can grow up underneath the siding of the home providing a pathway for bugs and water to enter. If you see vines on your home, rip ‘em down: Vines are like termite super highways. That’s not to say if you vines you have termites, but why make it easy for them?
6. Check your windows: Was your first winter in the home a little drafty? Can’t afford to replace your windows? Me neither. Add some weather stripping to the bottom of the sash and re-caulk the outside. You’ll save a couple of bucks in energy costs and be a little cooler when it’s hot outside and warmer when it’s cold.
7. Inspect the deck: Does it need to be repainted or stained? Are there any boards that are loose or need to be replaced? Do it, it looks better and will give you a few more years on the back end.
Jonathan Moses is a licensed Home Inspector out of Red Bank NJ, that services Ocean, Monmouth, Middlesex, Union and Essex Counties.