Buying a house can be a thrilling adventure. Staying on top of routine home maintenance? Thatâ€™s about as enjoyable as getting an annual physical. But like those doctor visits, having a maintenance plan is smart preventative care for your home â€” and your wallet.
A recent Bankrate survey found that the average homeowner drops $2,000 each year on home maintenance. Experts typically recommend that you put aside 1 percent of your homeâ€™s purchase price per year for maintenance expenses. For a $300,000 house, thatâ€™s $3,000.
Divvying up home maintenance tasks by season can help spread out costs and keep things more manageable so you donâ€™t get overwhelmed, says Dan DiClerico, home expert at HomeAdvisor, a home services platform that matches professionals to homeowners.
Hereâ€™s a handy checklist of home maintenance tasks for each season, as well as items to tackleÂ monthly. Keep in mind that if you live in a homeownerâ€™s association, you may have specific guidelines to follow for maintenance and improvements so consult your HOA rules for guidance.
Donâ€™t skip this one thing: Getting a furnace/heating tune-up
A heating system needs to be serviced once a year, typically at the start of the heating season. A qualified professional will change the filters and check for dangerous carbon monoxide leaks to keep it running at top shape, DiClerico says.
Potential savings: Replacing a furnace costs an average of $4,250; major repairs could run as high as $1,200. You might add $100 or so in higher heating bills during the winter if your furnace becomes inefficient, too.
Donâ€™t skip this one thing: Eliminating ice dams
Ice dams can cause serious roof damage, as the water works its way under the roof shingles and into soffit vents. Inadequate attic insulation is usually the culprit,Â allowing heated air to warm a roof and melt snow. With the spring thaw, the chance of serious leaks inside the house goes way up, DiClerico says.
Cost: $1,500 for full attic insulation, or a few hundred dollars to fill in minimal spots
Potential savings: Preventing ice dams can avoid replacing an entire roof, which costs an average of $7,500. It could also prevent water damage to interior ceilings and walls.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Donâ€™t skip this one thing: Cleaning the gutters and downspouts
Gutters and downspouts clogged with leaves and other debris can cause the rainwater to overflow â€” and that can lead costly repairs. Regularly cleaning the gutters can prevent water damage, DiClerico says. Ideally, you should clean the gutters and downspouts in the fall and spring, and check themÂ monthly.
Cost: $150 for professional gutter cleaning
Potential savings: Repairing a ceiling thatâ€™s been damaged by water can cost about $670. Runaway roof water can wear down foundation walls, and that repair can run as high as $4,000.
Donâ€™t skip this one thing: Dehumidifying your home
Keeping your homeâ€™s humidity to 30 to 50 percent consistently can keep the growth of moisture-loving dust mites and mold at bay. â€śA dehumidifier is the quickest defense, especially if you have a damp basement, which can harbor a lot of allergens,â€ť DiClerico says.
Cost: $1,300 to $2,800 to install a dehumidifier. Basement models average between $1,300 and $1,800, while crawl space units are $1,500 to $2,000. Whole-house versions range from about $1,500 to $2,800.
Potential savings: High humidity levels that lead to serious mold outbreaks require professional remediation, which costs an average of $7,500. Larger jobs may start at $10,000 and up.
All costs referenced above come from HomeAdvisorâ€™s True Cost Guide. You can plug in your project or service need and zip code online for a custom estimate.
If you donâ€™t have the expertise or time to handle these tasks, hiring a professional can help you stay on top of things. Here are quick tips on how to hire a contractor or service professional from Katherine Hutt, director of communications with the U.S. Better Business Bureau.
Ask friends and family for references. After you have some names to work with, look the providers up on your local BBB website to check their rating for complaints about the business. The more research you do, the more questions youâ€™ll know to ask â€” especially if online reviewers have called out specific issues, Hutt says.
Make sure you read bids and contracts thoroughly. Donâ€™t let anyone pressure you to sign on the spot. If you donâ€™t understand something, ask for clarification. The bigger the project, the more important to take your time to review contracts (or have your lawyer step do that).
Know the difference between an estimate and a contract. Ask for a spec sheet of what services or products you want so you can compare bids. When itâ€™s time to put things in writing, request a contract that details the providerâ€™s warranties, payment schedule, line item list of each service being performed, and a timeline of completion.
Donâ€™t pay for projects upfront. This is especially true of major remodeling projects. Hutt recommends that you structure payments in three parts: one-third upfront (as a deposit), one-third halfway through, and the final one-third after completion.
Protect yourself from subcontractors and suppliers. Add a clause in your contract requiring the contractor to pay all subcontractors and suppliers prior to completion. Otherwise, those companies or individuals may come after you (the homeowner) for payment and put a lien on your house, Hutt warns.