- Maintaining appliances and home systems can help prevent costly breakdowns and repairs.
- Most homeowners insurance won't cover issues that stem from lack of maintenance or normal wear and tear.
The best offense is a good defense.
Owning a home can be a fantastic experience -- but it's also a ton of work. Pretty much every single thing in your home requires some sort of maintenance. And if you don't stay on top of it, you -- and your savings account -- could be in for a world of hurt.
Failure to properly service and maintain your home and appliances is one of the most expensive mistakes any homeowner can make. Not only does regular maintenance help everything last longer, but it can also make things work more efficiently, reducing energy bills.
Unfortunately, most homeowners insurance policies don't cover replacing broken or worn out appliances. What's more, while some major failures are covered -- like a burst pipe flooding the basement -- problems from wear and tear or improper maintenance are typically excluded from most policies.
As the old saying goes, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
Change filters and service appliances
How often you need to clean and service your appliances depends on the nature of the machine. For example, frequently used machines, such as a dishwasher, garbage disposal, or clothes dryer, may need to be cleaned weekly.
Anything with a filter -- air conditioner, furnace, water purifiers, etc. -- typically needs the filter replaced once a month. The monthly filter change is also a good time to vacuum your vents and returns.
Even without filters to replace, most appliances will run better and more efficiently with regular cleaning. Your refrigerators and freezer coils should get regular vacuuming to eliminate the buildup from dust and dirt. It's also good to flush the water from your water heater on occasion to remove accumulated sediment.
Other types of maintenance may be seasonal. You should check your fireplace for damage and clean your flues before the start of the cold weather season. And be sure to service your lawn mower and other yard gear in the spring before your grass gets out of control.
On the other hand, some appliances are best professionally serviced in the off season. Air conditioning companies, for instance, are often less busy in winter and may give you a deal on servicing your AC and cleaning your ducts.
Inspect plumbing and electrical
Your home's pipes and wiring may be out of sight, but they shouldn't be out of mind. Maintaining these systems is vital, as breakdowns can be extremely costly.
How often and what you need to do to maintain these systems can vary based on your area and the age of your house. For example, if you live in a climate where your pipes are prone to freezing in the winter, be sure to thoroughly inspect for any cracks or other issues each spring.
Keeping your drains clear and free of debris is a year-round job. So is regularly checking electrical cords and other wiring for any signs of wear (especially if you've seen any rodents near your home, as they like to chew on, well, everything).
If you notice any issues, such as sluggish plumbing or electrical flickering, get it looked at by a professional sooner rather than later. A tiny leak or frayed wire can be cheap to fix; a flooded room or electrical fire, not so much. And if you wind up with extensive damage from a lack of maintenance, your homeowners insurance may turn down your claim.
Clean roofs, gutters, and siding
While you're worried about the workings on the inside of your home, don't forget about the outside. Problems with your home won't politely stop at the door and can extend to your roof or foundation.
Regularly clearing your roof of debris can go a long way toward extending its life, especially if you live in an area with lots of trees. While up there, inspect your roof for any loose or missing shingles, and replace anything that looks damaged. (If the roof damage was caused by outside forces -- such as a storm -- your homeowners insurance may help.)
Similarly, powerwash the dirt and mildew off of your siding at least once a year to prevent buildup that can eat away at your walls. This is also a good time to touch up your paint.
Wooden decks also need regular sealing to prevent cracking or splintering. And speaking of seals, regularly inspect seals around your doors and windows and reapply caulk or weather stripping when necessary. A well-insulated home is a happy home.
It takes a lot of work to maintain a home. For many, it's worth it, but for others -- not so much (that's one reason renting is still so popular). But if you have your eye on owning your own home, or own one already, putting in that work isn't optional.
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