New Home, New Maintenance Routines

A male hand is holding a shovel to excavate the humus soil in a garden.

Just because you buy a new home doesn't mean you're 100 percent free of home maintenance. Here are some tips to keep your home in great condition throughout its lifetime.

One of the pleasures of buying a newly built home is the freedom from joyless tasks like scraping old paint from your windowsills.

But just because renovations and repairs are not required, that doesn’t mean you’re entirely off the hook for making sure your new homes stays in good condition. To keep your new home looking fresh and operating at its optimal level of efficiency and safety, experts suggest you keep up with a handful of home maintenance tasks.

“As the first owner of a new home, it’s a great time to form good habits that will pay off down the road and ensure the full longevity of your appliances and systems,” says Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List, a source for consumer reviews and advice based in Indianapolis. 

Getting Organized

When you do your final walkthrough, your builder may hand you a binder or perhaps even a CD with all of your appliance manuals and warranties bundled together. If that information hasn’t already been prepared for you, Hicks says moving in offers a great opportunity to get organized.

“It’s smart planning to know how long your warranty is on everything in your home and to know what to expect in terms of the lifespan of each appliance,” says Marianne Cusato, a housing expert with HomeAdvisor and a professor at University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. “You should also make sure you understand how the systems in your home work.”

Apps such as HomeZada or BrightNest can help you keep track of home maintenance chores.

“Even if your home is under warranty, you may want to look into the benefits of a maintenance contract on your heating and air conditioning system to keep on track with two inspections per year and to benefit from special pricing,” says Hicks. 

Exterior Maintenance Tasks

“There’s no ‘check-engine’ light in a home the way there is on a car, so you should do at least an annual tour of the outside and inside of your house to make sure everything looks right,” says Frank Lesh, executive director of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and founder of the Home Sweet Home Inspection Company in Chicago.

There are also a few routine jobs outside you need to do to keep your home in excellent shape.

“The most critically important task, particularly in the fall, is to clean your gutters and downspouts to make sure they’re not clogged or blocked,” says Lesh. “If your gutters are clogged, then rain or snow can freeze and create an ice dam, which then causes water damage inside your home.”

Lesh says you should also check to make sure the extensions on your downspout discharges away from your home.

“The number one cause of basement flooding is from water flowing back into your house instead of draining away,” says Lesh.

Hicks says that whether your landscaping has been provided by your builder or you have added landscaping yourself, make sure to keep the grade sloping down so that water flows away. 

One more outdoor task Hicks recommends is to clean your exterior dryer vent annually to prevent a fire. 

Interior Maintenance Tasks

Inside, your home maintenance chores are mostly about keeping your home dry, your air quality good and staying safe. If you have a sump pump, you should check it annually to be sure it will be effective if you need it, says Hicks. 

Cusato suggests checking on your heating and air conditioning filter as soon as you move in. After that, check your filter monthly to see if it needs replacing. You can keep a note on your calendar or follow Hicks’ suggestion to check it when you pay your monthly utility bill.

“Your bill should be a trigger to check your filter since a clean filter can keep your energy bills lower,” says Hicks. 

If you have a fireplace, Cusato recommends having it checked and cleaned annually as well if you use it frequently. 

While you usually need to hire a chimney inspector for that task, a simple DIY project is to take care of your water heater once per year, says Hicks.

“You should drain about one gallon of water from your water heater each year to pull out the sediment,” says Hicks. “If you don’t do it, you’re effectively shrinking your water heater’s capacity over time.”

Hicks also recommends vacuuming your refrigerator coils to keep it running at optimal efficiency and checking your laundry hoses to make sure they’re not leaking. 

For safety, Lesh says you should check your smoke, carbon monoxide and radon gas detectors’ batteries twice a year when you change your clocks in the spring and fall.

You may be less aware that you should also be checking your GFCI-protected outlets monthly to make sure they’re functioning appropriately, says Lesh. 

Lesh offers one final piece of advice for new homeowners as they near the end of their first anniversary in their new home.

“Hire a home inspector to check out your home again before your one-year warranty ends,” says Lesh.

Michele Lerner is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and author who has been writing about real estate, personal finance and business topics for more than two decades. You can find her on Google+.

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