Regular maintenance can feel like a regular pain, but overlooking small repairs can add up to big bills later. It's estimated that every dollar spent on regular maintenance saves you $100 in repairs costs later1.
Here are 10 tasks to add to your spring cleaning checklist to make sure your home stays in great shape for as long as possible.
- Inspect your roof and chimney (if you're comfortable climbing up there); hire someone if you're not. A single missing shingle can result in a big leak if a large storm sweeps through. Clear loose debris like branches and leaves; remove moss and mold; and inspect chimneys, vent pipes and skylights for cracks. Look for loose, broken, lifted or missing shingles and inspect the rest for wear. You can often see signs of leaking water in your attic or other interior ceilings. Repairing a larger roof issue can cost up to $1,000, while fixing a few shingles can be as little as $150. A cracked chimney crown, if left untreated, can degrade quickly and cost upward of $3,000 to repair.
- Check and clean gutters. Loose leaves and accumulated detritus can clog gutters, hide holes, and camouflage bird nests, all of which can cause problems. Losing the ability to draw water away from your roof and home can turn into water damage that you don't see until it's too late. Check that all parts of your gutters are in good condition, especially the downspouts that direct water away from the house. The average cost to have a professional clean your gutters will run between $117 and $226, according to Home Advisor, but repairing a foundation that's been damaged from leaking water can cost up to $10,000! Leaking water can also encourage mold growth and drywall damage; and overweighted gutters can eventually tear away from your roof, which would require even more extensive repairs.
- Service your air-conditioning system. Lack of maintenance shortens the life of your unit by 10 to 15 years, and decreases the efficiency by five percent, according to Fixr; that adds up to higher electricity bills. An annual maintenance check up will run between $70 and $100. But if ignored, a new air conditioner will run between $500 and $4,000; an entire HVAC system will cost you between $6,000 and $12,000. With this in mind, a $70 checkup doesn't sound too bad.
- Examine and treat outdoor woodwork and structures. All outdoor wood – trim, decks, fences, railings, trellises, play sets, etc. – will last longer and stay in better condition if they're repaired and treated every year or two. Damage to outside trim can provide an opening for water, insects, birds, and vermin, but it can mean costly energy loss too. Check and repair the trim around windows, doors and on decks, porches and play structures. Stain or reseal and clean them with a pressure washer once you've made any repairs.
- Clean clothes dryer vent. Keeping a dryer vent clean is essential, as it can become a fire hazard. Not only that, a clogged venting system can add up to $24 a month to your electrical costs, increase carbon monoxide in your home, and can damage your clothes. It's not too hard to clean a vent, but you can hire a professional for around $150, though the price can increase if you need additional services. Not keeping up with this simple task could cost you a new dryer or your entire house if a fire breaks out.
- Drain your hot water heater. Sediment can form from naturally-occurring minerals in water, but it can also come from plumbing and outside water sources. When it to build up, your water heater has to work harder to heat the water, which can result in cooler water coming out of your tap and an increase in your electric bill. Not cleaning the sediment periodically can end up damaging your tank. It's possible to drain the tank yourself, though there is a risk of scalding. A professional will charge around $100.
- Clean refrigerator coils. Dusty coils make your fridge's condenser work harder and use more electricity – as much as $10 a month worth. Dirty coils also increase the chances that your fridge will break down. Family Handyman magazine says spending 30 minutes on simple maintenance can prevent almost 100 percent of refrigerator breakdowns. Cleaning the coils is often as easy as dragging your vacuum out and running the wand over them. While you're there, change the water filters and wipe down the door gasket. It can save you $70 an hour plus parts if you need a repairman.
- Mend cracks in walkways and driveways. For those in colder climates, winter can be especially harsh, as ice expands and transforms small cracks into large gorges. Relatively simple fixes like filling small cracks annually and sealing the surface every few years can save you thousands in repairs later.
- Look chipped or peeling paint. Exterior paint keeps moisture from seeping into your home and prevents damage to the structural integrity. Flaking, chipped or worn paint is generally easy to spot and fix, just be sure to prep the surfaces first to make sure the new paint or stain adheres.
- Check your sump pump. In many parts of the country, the chance of basement damage goes up as spring showers draw near. Water from under or around your home drains into a sump pump pit and is then sent out of your house and away your foundation. You may not think about your sump pump often, but I promise it will be top of mind when you need it, especially if it's not working. Yearly maintenance will cost around $200, if you hire a professional. A small flood can cost as little as $500 to clean up, but a larger problem can cost up to $10,000.