Congratulations, you're a homeowner! No more surprise rent-hikes from your landlord or weight restrictions on your pets. Right now, you're probably knee-deep in boxes or expecting the cable guy any minute. Maybe you even jumped ahead and started working on the guest list for your housewarming party.
Before you go zooming into the stratosphere of homeowner glee, take a deep breath. There's some new stuff to consider.
Owning a home is a big investment and a big responsibility. It's important to identify key maintenance tasks and take care of important safety issues right away so you can prevent problems before they occur.
If You Spend A Little Now, You'll Save A Lot Later.
A tube of caulk costs a few dollars at the hardware store. Replacing the walls around your bathtub because water damage occurred due to missing or deteriorated caulk could cost you up to $10,000. Learn how small maintenance expenses can save you big bucks in the long run.
Just Because It "Works," Doesn't Mean it Works.
Some appliances, such as dryers, can operate normally but actually cost you extra money each time you use them. For example, dryer ducts clogged with lint use more energy and cost more to operate than those with clean ducts. But, you'd never spot the problem without inspecting your dryer and dryer ducts! Regular maintenance ensures everything that looks fine is also working fine.
Things You Don't See Can Hurt You
Some things – like mold, radon or termites – can cause harm even though you can't see them. For example, radon is a tasteless and odorless gas that can cause lung cancer, but you won't know it's in your house unless you test for it! Be mindful of these issues so that you can detect and eliminate them before they cause harm to people or property.
These things can be a little overwhelming, but don't panic! We'll start with basic issues that have big implications for your heath and finances. If you want to become a home maintenance master, this is the first step.
Your home is your haven. It's a place to eat, sleep, relax and raise a family. However, your new house comes with some safety hazards, too. In fact, fires and burns are the third leading cause of deaths at home. Make your home as safe as possible by checking these four important things:
You never know how generous the previous homeowner was with their house keys. To be safe, re-key all locks and change your garage door code. Also check to make sure all windows and slider doors lock properly. For added protection, you may want to consider installing a security system as well.
People are a big part of any home (that's not abandoned), so keep them safe! Your new house may look spic and span, but a number of substances that are toxic to humans may be present without you knowing it. Take the time to check for these usual suspects as soon as possible.
Now that the people living in your house are protected, it's time to give some TLC to your property itself. Unprotected property is much more likely to get damaged or destroyed, which gets expensive very quickly. For example, a flooded basement can cost you anywhere from $1,500 – $10,000, and sometimes even more! Follow these steps to help prevent property damage in your home.
There are a number of critical systems in your home (such as the main electrical panel and water meter) that are important to understand. Make sure everyone in your family is aware of what these systems do and-if appropriate-know how to turn them on and off.
So far, we've covered most of the high impact issues around your home. Pat yourself on the back, you're making excellent progress! Now, it's time to cover some smaller issues that require a basic check or consistent maintenance. This is not intended to be a comprehensive maintenance list! We just want to highlight the routine maintenance tasks that can have the biggest impact on your health, safety and wallet.
Most of the ongoing maintenance tasks we've mentioned can be done at any time of year, as long as they're done consistently. However, there are a few issues that are season specific. Two big ones are gutters and sprinklers. Gutters should be cleaned twice a year: Once in mid to late fall (when most of the leaves have already fallen) and again in early spring (to clear any debris that may have accumulated during winter). For details, read: Gutter Cleaning. If you have sprinklers, you'll likely turn your system off for winter and reactivate it during spring. To learn how to do this, read: Start Up & Inspect Your Sprinkler System. You can find more seasonal maintenance tips and reminders on BrightNest.
Now that you have some to-dos on your list, it's a good idea to grab a few tools as well. These are seven tools that you'll use often while maintaining your home. These may not be the only tools you need, but they are definitely a solid start!
Always protect your eyes! You can find safety glasses for less than $5.
A decent tape measure is a necessity for most household projects and maintenance.
Professionals recommend you choose a hammer with a straight claw instead of a curved claw, because they're more effective for common jobs (like pulling nails).
To us, this is one tool where your best option is to buy a mixed set. Be sure your set includes 1/4 and 3/8-inch flat heads and No. 1 and No. 2 Phillips head drivers.
The crescent wrench is your best wrench-option because it's adjustable, so you can use it with an array of nuts and bolts.
Make sure your drill has multiple speeds and is reversible. Yes, you want a drill with a lot of power (meaning high voltage), but increased voltage means increased weight, so buy something that isn't too heavy.
Lastly, you'll need something to put those new tools in! This is just as important as the screwdrivers and hammer, because tools are useless if you can't find them! Storing your tools in a toolbox will also help protect them and prevent rust.
Did you inherit an unidentified pile of papers from the previous owner of your house? No idea where the manual is for your fridge? We can fix that. BrightNest has a feature called the Homefolio that allows you to store home-related information such as paint colors, contractor phone numbers, and manuals all in one spot! Plus, you can enter the brand and model for your appliances and we will find and store your owner's manual for you. Sign up for BrightNest to check it out. It's completely free. Here is a quick list of items worth tracking down a manual for:
You've taken a lot of important steps to prevent accidents and injuries around your house, but it's important to always be prepared for emergencies. Follow these steps so that you're ready should something unexpected happen.
If you've been an apartment dweller until now, your house has likely come with some key additions like a yard, garage and maybe even a pool (we're jealous). These things are fun, but they also pose risks to children and pets if they aren't protected. Run through this checklist when you move in to help keep your kids and pets safe at home.
No matter how cost-effective you are, properly maintaining your house requires some spending. Don't freak out when you start seeing these expenses, just plan ahead! Earmark about 1% to 3% of your house's initial price every year for home maintenance expenses. If you don't spend it all, roll it over to next year. That way, you'll steadily build a fund you can dip into as much as necessary.
Think of it as a rainy day fund, except you may literally need it on a rainy day if your roof starts leaking! Not sold yet?
Congratulations, you've taken some great first steps as a homeowner. There's still a lot to do, but this is a solid start. As you set out upon the home maintenance waters, remember to be patient and cautious at all times. There are no extra points for cutting corners or speeding through tasks.
Want some extra help staying on track and coming up with new home maintenance ideas? Create a free BrightNest account and we'll send customized tips, tricks and expert advice directly to your inbox each week. It's an easy way to save money, be healthy and keep your home in great shape year round!