Keeping up with the upkeep of your home is a like having a second full-time job. So, how is your second job going? Do you feel like you know what you need to maintain around your house (and when), especially for those things you reply on every day, like your appliances and home systems? If you could use a little help, this home maintenance checklist can make your job easier.
How Does a Home Maintenance Checklist Help?
As a homeowner, you have a lot to worry about. Our home maintenance checklist covers many of the tasks that need doing--and when to do them--for 23 different appliances and home systems. Chances are, you have many or most of them running in your home right now.
What’s in This Home Maintenance Checklist
This checklist includes helpful home maintenance practices and tasks that you can do yourself or with the help of a service professional. For each appliance or home system, you’ll find advice on when the maintenance should be done: monthly, quarterly, yearly, or somewhere in between.
You’ll also find tips for each appliance or system in this list to help you troubleshoot problems that can crop up from time to time. Think of this home maintenance checklist as your toolkit not only for maintaining appliances and systems, but also for keeping them running smoothly.
Attic and Exhaust Fans
- Clean attic exhaust fans every few years to keep dirt and grime from building up and to help prevent blade imbalance.
- Clean kitchen and bathroom exhaust fan blades once per year.
- Clean kitchen exhaust fan filter once every six months by removing and soaking it for an hour in vinegar cleaning solution. Then scrub off any remaining grease and grime, rinse, air dry, and replace.
- Run the bathroom exhaust fan for at least five minutes after each shower to prevent moisture damage and decrease buildup of mold.
- If unsure about a home's attic fan and roof ventilation generally, schedule a roof inspection and ask about the ventilation equipment in the attic.
- Clean the dust off the tops of the fan blades regularly to help prevent blade imbalance, which can be a safety hazard and lead to burnout of the fan motor.
- During colder months set your ceiling fans to run in a clockwise direction, which pushes warm air down from the ceiling to help keep your home warmer. In warm months, set fan to run in a counter-clockwise direction to create a cooling effect.
- Use a ceiling fan instead of the air conditioner in summer to decrease energy use and save money. On average, a ceiling fan uses only 60 watts of energy per day, whereas a central air conditioner uses 3,500 watts of energy per day.
Central Air Conditioning
- Schedule professional HVAC maintenance checks twice yearly--in early spring and/or early fall--to discover any problems before high usage months.
- Clear vegetation or debris from around the outside air conditioner condenser unit seasonally.
- If system is blowing hot air, replace the air filter. Regularly changing the filters ensures your indoor air is healthier for you and your family and also helps keep your system running efficiently. Dirty air filters mean your system has to work too hard.
- Replace disposable air filters monthly during high usage months. If your system uses a washable filter, clean it monthly during heavy use.
Central Vacuum System
- Empty the central vacuum system's dirt canister at least twice per year; more regularly with heavy use.
- Clean or change filters according to schedule in manufacturer’s guidelines to continue maintaining cleaner indoor air. Regular filter maintenance also benefits the system.
- Low suction may indicate it’s time to clean or change the filter and/or check and empty the dirt canister. If low suction persists, use a shop vacuum to clear blockages from hose outlets.
- Clean lint screen after every load.
- Wash the lint screen with warm, soapy water every few months to remove build-up from fabric softeners.
- Use a long-handled, narrow brush to remove excess lint from lint trap opening at least four times per year.
- Periodically, check for kinks in dryer exhaust duct or exterior vent to ensure dryer is venting effectively.
- Have a professional check and clean dryer vent and ducting every other year. If you are a DIYer, you can unplug dryer and remove vent ducting, then clean lint from rear of dryer and inside ducting and outside vent using a long-handled dryer vent brush.
- Do not overload a dryer – crammed loads can’t dry properly and waste a lot of energy.
- If dryer is taking a long time to dry laundry or not blowing hot air, check that drying cycle is set to heat; an “air dry cycle” only blows air and tumbles laundry but will not produce heat.
- Replace hoses every three to five years. A plumber can also inspect and replace hoses as needed.
- Periodically, check the balance of machine with a level. If it is off balance, adjust the feet and test again.
- If machine is not spinning or draining, check that the lid switch is engaging. If it is bent or broken, the lid will not close properly, which may cause unit to not complete its cycle. A broken belt can also keep a washer from draining.
- To check if the machine is out of balance, run a cycle without laundry. If unit thumps, a spring or shock may be broken.
- Run an empty cycle with a cup of vinegar every few months to deodorize and clear out old food particles.
- Clean the dishwasher trap and seals regularly to clear out any old food bits or clogs.
- Clean the rubber door gasket and the inside of dishwasher monthly to remove accumulated gunk and soap residue to help maintain a tight door seal.
- If the dishwasher is leaking or won’t drain, the door may not be sealing properly. Also, check to see if something may be jamming the “float” at the bottom of the dishwasher (it looks like the cap of a laundry detergent bottle).
- Push the Cancel or Drain button after every load completes to clear any sitting water from the drain hose. This cycle is also handy for testing that the dishwasher’s relay and pump are working correctly.
- Every three years, schedule a professional air duct cleaning service.
- Inspect exposed ducts and connections in the attic, basement, or crawl space yearly for potential leaks and, if found, use a sealant to plug them, or contact a professional.
- Remove the wall grates that cover the vents in every room once per year and clean the grates.
- For home with flexible ductwork, schedule an inspection yearly to ensure is the ductwork is maintaining its shape.
- Any time you notice that sockets appear to be loose when plugging in an electric device, contact an electrician as this can be a safety hazard.
- If any lights or outlets aren’t working, check the circuit breakers at the main electric panel to ensure they are in the “on” position and try turning them off, then back on again.
- If a GFCI outlet isn’t working, push the Test button followed by the Reset button and try the outlet again.
Garage Door Openers
- Periodically, lubricate the garage door’s chain the same way as a bicycle chain, by spraying a lubricant on the chain so it continues to move easily.
- Use a blower to clear dirt and debris from around the tracks on either side of the door seasonally.
- Inspect the door’s roller brackets and bolts every six months and tighten as needed using a socket wrench.
- Be sure to check that the safety feature that detects objects or people in the doorway as it closes is working properly.
- Once per month, clean the garbage disposal by filling the drain with ice cubes, adding a cup of salt, turning on the cold water, and running the disposal until it breaks up all the ice.
- Periodically, sanitize the disposal drain by pouring in a half cup of baking soda and a cup of white vinegar solution. Let the mixture fizz for a few minutes, then pour boiling water down the drain.
- Never put fibrous or starchy items, such as banana peels, potato peelings, rice, egg shells, poultry skins, celery, or coffee grounds in the garbage disposal.
- If the garbage disposal is not working, ensure it is plugged into the outlet securely, then push the “reset” button on the bottom of the disposal.
- Schedule an annual professional service before the cold season.
- At start of cooler weather, turn the thermostat to heat and listen for the furnace to turn on to be sure that the heating system is working properly.
- Check filters in forced-air heating systems once per month and change every three to six months depending on usage.
- Once every two years, hire a professional to bleed valves on hot-water radiators to increase heating efficiency by releasing air that may be trapped inside.
- Replace the furnace filter in regularly for maximum efficiency and improved indoor air quality.
- Review these simple troubleshooting tips when the central heat stops working.
- At least once per year, pull out the fridge, unplug it, and vacuum the condenser coils with a brush attachment to keep refrigerator running efficiently.
- Clean door gasket twice per year with a vinegar cleaning solution and an old toothbrush to help keep the door seal working well.
- Set refrigerator to between 37 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit and freezer at 0 degrees.
- If refrigerator isn’t cold enough, check that the condenser coils are free of dust.
- Schedule yearly checkups with a professional for routine maintenance of plumbing systems and water heater.
- Schedule a snake of sewer lines via home’s clean-out as needed to keep pipes free of clogs and buildup.
- Fix leaks and clogs immediately to avoid having simple repairs turn into expensive ones.
- Periodically, inspect exposed pipes for any signs of cracks or leaks, and if you detect problems, have affected pipes repaired immediately.
- If you live where temperatures reach freezing, wrap exterior and exposed plumbing pipes with heat tape and inspect them at start of colder months.
- Learn locations of all shutoff valves, including washing machine, sinks, toilets, and water heater, as well as all outside clean-outs, and water main shutoff valve.
- For leaks from plumbing fixtures, turn off the valve bringing water to the fixture, or turn off the home’s main water shutoff valve to prevent secondary water damage.
- Install properly fitting drain screens and sink stoppers to prevent food, hair, and other items from going down your drains.
- For minor clogs or slow drains, try pouring half a cup of salt down the drain followed by boiling water, then flush with hot water. If stubborn clog, try a non-toxic drain cleaner, such as a solution of baking soda and vinegar.
- Never pour fats, grease, cooking oils, or butter down the drain because they can harden in your pipes and cause clogs.
- Never flush cotton balls, swabs, hair, or wet wipes down a toilet. They don’t dissolve and can cause clogs.
- Hire a professional annually before summer to clean pool, change filters, and inspect the pool’s generator for potential problems.
- Clean leaves and debris daily from the pool storm drain and filter to prevent blockages.
- Skim debris from pool water daily.
- Keep the pool’s water level about halfway up the skimmer opening at all times.
- Before closing up the pool for winter, be sure to remove any standing water from the pool’s plumbing lines.
Range – Electric
- Regularly check the prongs of the burner and in the socket for charring and replace the socket if needed.
- Use only a solid-element or all-surface cleaner for solid surface, smooth-top, or solid metal burners without coils.
- For a non-working burner, try replacing it with one that does work to test the element.
- If all burners have stopped working, check that the range is plugged in, and/or check the circuit breaker to see if the one powering the range is flipped to “Off.”
Range – Gas
- Regularly clean gas stoves made with stainless steel tops with a degreasing cleaner and use only non-scratch pads.
- If cooktop burner doesn’t light, check that pilot light is lit. If it is out, follow the range manual’s instructions for relighting the pilot light.
- If pilot light won’t remain lit, be sure the burners are turned off and try using a small wire brush to clean out the pilot port.
- If you smell gas, be sure the burners are off and open doors and windows to air out the room. If the smell of gas persists, immediately call your local gas company, or 911.
- Learn where home’s gas shutoff valve is in case of emergency, and how to turn off gas at the valve.
- If you do turn off the gas, always contact your gas company to schedule a professional to come out and safely turn gas back on again.
Septic Tank Pumping/System
- Have septic system professionally inspected annually to determine a recommendation for scheduling regular septic tank pumping and maintenance.
- Have septic tank pumped out by a licensed professional. Regular pumping is vital to properly maintaining the system. This can be covered by a home warranty.
- Schedule sewer main snaking regularly to prevent main line stoppages, particularly in areas where tree roots cause problems.
- Learn location of septic tank and leech field. Keep a sketch of it with other service maintenance records in your Homeowner Manual.
- Keep records of repairs, pumping, inspections, permits issued, and maintenance.
- Keep septic tank cover accessible for pumping inspections and install risers if necessary.
Sewage Ejector Pump
- Schedule annual inspections and have the pump serviced regularly by a licensed professional.
- If possible, set up the sewer ejector pump on its own circuit breaker to ensure continuous power and avoid having to share power with other household systems.
- Consider having a professional install a backup generator in event of power outages.
- If it’s time to replace a sewer ejector pump, consider installing a model equipped with sensors that provide an alarm for problems.
- Check manufacturer’s guidelines for when you should replace the filter in trash compactors that feature one.
- Replace a charcoal air filter at least once per year to control odors.
- To keep bacteria from food and garbage from building up, unplug the compactor and clean the inside every six months with a vinegar solution, then thoroughly wipe dry.
- Once per year, hire a professional to flush the water heater tank to remove sediment and check the pressure relief valve to make sure it’s in proper working order. Sediments can cause the water heater to work harder and take longer to heat water.
- Set the temperature between 115 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit to reduce energy costs and protect the tank from overheating.
- The anode rod protects the water heater from corrosion and should be replaced every few years, or according to manufacturer’s guidelines.
- If there is no hot water and the water heater uses gas, check the pilot light. If it is out, contact the gas company to relight it.
- If the water heater uses electricity, check that the circuit breaker is flipped to “On.”
- Have the well pump cleaned and inspected once per year in spring or before cold weather arrives and be sure to have the inspector test the water quality as well.
- Consider having a professional install a backup generator for the well pump in event of power outages.
Other Tasks to Include on Your Home Maintenance Checklist
You may want to include other important and time-sensitive tasks as part of your regular home maintenance routine as well. Here are tips for these tasks that need at least annual or twice yearly upkeep:
- cleaning out the gutters
- inspecting your roof
- changing smoke detector batteries
- replacing water filters
- cleaning the fireplace
It’s also important not to feel overwhelmed by the amount of things around your home that need maintenance. A simple idea that can help is to create your own homeowner’s maintenance manual. Using a simple binder, you can store in one place all of your maintenance, repair, and service records—both the ones you take care of yourself, and the ones you hire a service pro to complete.
Another great tool to help make your homeownership job easier, which can also complete your maintenance toolkit, is a home maintenance log. Use it to log dates and information on when home maintenance and repairs were done, when service is needed, and the age of your appliances and systems.
How Does a Home Warranty Fit in?
There’s one more great way to eliminate worries as a homeowner—with a First American home warranty. Having a home warranty can protect your budget from unexpected home appliance repair and the worries that involve how to pay for a repair, knowing your covered items are protected when breakdowns occur.
That’s because home warranties work by covering the cost to repair or replace many vital appliances and home systems in and around your home. When a covered item fails, all you do is contact us. We’ll find a qualified local service provider who will contact you to schedule a convenient appointment, diagnose the problem, and begin the repair or replacement process. That’s it!
A basic plan with First American Home Warranty can cover many essential home appliances as well as important systems, such as plumbing, electrical, and heating. If you don’t know about our great home warranty coverage, now might be a good time to compare our plans!
Even when you have the best home warranty protecting your budget, practicing routine maintenance remains vital to keeping appliances and systems running efficiently and well.