Your Year 1 Home Maintenance Checklist

You scrimped and saved, went to way too many open houses, maybe lost out on a few bids. But you (finally) got through closing and emerged triumphant on the other side.

So first things first – Congratulations! 

But once you’ve moved in, met the neighbors and found the fastest (or maybe even nicest) routes around town, you’re ready to take the next step: learning how to take care of your home.

If you’ve been lucky enough to have a landlord or super who took care of things like leaks, heat and slippery sidewalks, you got a first-class look at the essence of what it means to own a home: regular maintenance.

So here's a mini-maintenance guide to help you get started for the next 12 months.

"Seriously, there is a lot of information about vents."

The Year 1 Home Maintenance Plan

Before we break things down by month during your first year, let's start with a few overarching notes.

Repeats

This mini guide can feel repetitive. Seriously, there is a lot of information about vents. But there are at least three reasons repeat items keep showing up on home maintenance lists:

They can keep you safe

They can help you keep a lid on water, heating and cooling costs

They may help you identify problems before they become costly projects

Things to do every month

Test your smoke alarm, carbon monoxide detector and fire extinguishers

Make sure drains (kitchen, bathroom, shower, tub, basement) are clear

Clean or change filters for heat and a/c systems

Make sure dryer vents are clear (think lint)

Things to do every season

Check the roof and gutters

Make sure outdoor air vents are clear (nests, ice and snow are not your friends)

Maintain or clean heating and/or cooling systems (test pressure switches, blower and motor)

Leaving a hose outside in the winter may not dent your budget, but if you skip some of these checks, small problems could require costly fixes. 

Also, different seasons can help you detect different challenges. For example: A snow-covered roof can look pretty. A patchy melt pattern could mean you need better insulation.

With that out of the way, on to the month-by-month breakdown.

September - October: Gutters, Windows, Doors and Trees

Taking care of your home in the fall is as much about handling the current weather as it is about getting your home ready for winter.

Do this early in the season

Get your heating system checked by a professional -- Better Homes & Gardens recommends booking this at the end of summer or in early fall. Bankrate estimated in 2018 that an inefficient furnace could add $100 to your monthly heating bill.

Outdoor Maintenance

Trim trees. You want to look for dead branches or ones that could damage your home. A professional can help you determine which ones to address, and make sure they don’t fall on your home or your neighbor’s.

Check the roof and chimney. Look for missing shingles or damaged flashing. A well-maintained roof (no loose shingles) is important, and flashing, which is partly installed under roof shingles, helps prevent leaks where the roof and chimney meet.

Get your chimney, fireplace and flue checked and cleaned. Preventing creosote buildup and clearing out nests can help prevent fires. If the damper doesn’t work, your home’s warm air will literally go through the roof when you’re not using the fireplace.

Clean the gutters. Clean gutters move water away from  your house, protecting your roof and preventing leaks, so you want to remove leaves, twigs, any anything else (a lost baseball?) that may be in the way.

Seal gaps near windows and doors. This will help you keep heat in during the cooler months. You may be able to use weather stripping or caulk. You may also need a replacement and/or professional assistance.

Swap screens for storm windows. This can help keep the chilly air out. (And heat in.)

Remove or cover air conditioners. Preventing weather damage could help you avoid having to buy new ones.

Bring in lawn furniture and hoses. Even outdoor equipment needs protection in harsh weather.

Indoor Maintenance

Change the batteries in your fire and carbon monoxide detectors. You test them every month, but you may want to change the batteries yearly.

Clean your dryer vent. This does two good things: it can help you save money by maintaining efficiency and clear out a potential fire hazard.

November-March: Pipes, Sidewalks, Roofs, and Ceiling Fans

Do this early in the season

Help prevent frozen pipes, part 1: Drain outdoor faucets and sprinkler systems to help prevent ice damage.

Find or buy your shovels, ice-melt, salt and sand. The before-storm rush is never fun.

Stock up on packaged food, batteries and candles. Good for days you’re snowed in and if you lose power.

Help prevent frozen pipes, part 2. Make sure hot and cold water pipes are insulated throughout the house. This could include checking the basement, cabinets and crawl spaces. It’s also a good idea to check pipes that run along exterior walls in uninsulated areas.

Outdoor Maintenance

Clear, salt and sand outdoor walkways, stairs and sidewalks. Two really good reasons to do this: it could prevent people from getting injured on your property; some cities and towns require that you clear and salt sidewalks.

Make sure snow isn’t blocking furnace vents. One of those safety and efficiency checks.

Check your roof after it snows.  Melted patches could be a sign you need to improve your home’s insulation.

Watch for icicles. This is another way of saying check your gutters. If you’ve got what looks like a waterfall of ice, you may need to bring in a professional because you could end up with a damaged roof. A few icicles mean your gutters may be clogged.

Use a roof rake after a heavy snow fall. Snow’s pretty, but too much can stress your roof. Raking it may reduce it.

Indoor Maintenance

Set your ceiling fans to run clockwise. Seriously: it can make your rooms warmer.

Change the furnace filter every few months. This will help it run more effectively.

Clean the kitchen exhaust and air filter. Filters trap grease and odors. Clean them.

Clean refrigerator coils. Clean coils will help your refrigerator cool things as it should.

Check the basement and water heater for leaks. Leaks can happen any time of year and they can cause expensive damage.  Checking throughout the year isn’t a bad idea.

April-June: Windows, Dryer Vents and Water Stains

Spring tasks may feel a lot like what you did during the fall, and with good reason: in fall, you essentially got your home ready for hibernation. In the spring, it’s time to open the windows and start waking things up.

Outdoor Maintenance

Get your roof inspected. A professional can help you identify any damage.

Look for water stains on outdoor walls.  Stains mean gutters may not be working.

Check and clear your gutters. Yes, again with the gutters.

Check for cracks in the foundation, walls and floors. Home Advisor says immediately call a professional if a crack in the floor or foundation is as wide as a nickel.

"Different seasons can help you detect different challenges."

Look at your driveway and walkways for cracks or buckling. Tree roots and water that froze and expanded are just some of the forces that can cause damage, and that damage can cause people to trip and damage vehicles.

Clean and maintain air conditioning units. Two good reasons to do this: the A/C will run better, and it could extend its lifespan.

Have the HVAC system inspected.  Safety, efficiency. Check and check.

Clean your dryer’s vent. Fires are not fun. Properly warming dryers are great.

Indoor Maintenance

Check window screens for holes. Big holes = big bugs.

Clean and replace storm windows with screens. Let in spring and summer breezes when the A/C is off.

June-September: Filters, Leaks, Grout and Garages

Do this early

Get your chimney and fireplace inspected. The Washington Post recommends doing this in late August.

Outdoor Maintenance

See if you need to paint the exterior (or some if it). Paint doubles as decoration and a second skin—it can help protect your home from bugs, rain, snow and heat.

Hire a tree professional. They can help you identify trees that may need to be trimmed or removed.

Check for insect damage. Termites are just one type of insect that can damage homes. Precautions can help you minimize damage and prevent an all-out infestation.

Oil your garage-door hinges and tracks. Oiled hinges and tracks keep things working and can prevent damage.

Clear the dryer vent. Lint, again.

Indoor Maintenance

Run ceiling fans counterclockwise.  Changing direction will make rooms cooler.

Replace your air conditioner’s filter. Clogged filters can make your A/C work harder (which makes running it more expensive).

Clean the kitchen exhaust and air filter. Do this to help clear the air inside and reduce in-house grease build-up.

Check for water leaks. Preventing or fixing leaks can help protect your home from damage and mold.

Check caulk and grout. Summer’s a good time for getting this stuff fixed.

Consider getting a dehumidifier. Too much humidity can ruin paint, foster mold, and create a musty smell. 

What To Do After The First 12 Months

Celebrate your first 12 months of owning your own home.

Congratulate yourself on any DIY skills you picked up. You earned it!

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualized professional advice. Articles on this site were commissioned and approved by Marcus by Goldman Sachs®, but may not reflect the institutional opinions of Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Goldman Sachs Bank USA or any of their affiliates, subsidiaries or divisions.