The Top 5 Home Maintenance Chores

By Katherine Salant

Time spent on home chores is an investment. Photo Credit: © gmcgill -

G.D. Grewell, a Silver Spring, Maryland-based private home inspector for nearly 40 years, said that the most important home maintenance tasks are not that onerous or time-consuming. His must-do list is short, only five items. There can be additional climate-related ones, but these five, he said, should be done, no matter where you live in the U.S.

1. Air filters. The air filter for your heating and air conditioning system must be changed every other month. This takes about five minutes and is nearly effortless, Grewell said. All that’s required is a quick trip to the basement to switch out a used filter for a new one. But, when this is left undone, the air filters become clogged, causing your heating and cooling equipment to operate inefficiently, your utility bills to increase, and, if ignored for too long, your equipment to wear out prematurely. In some houses, some of the heating and cooling equipment is in the attic and gaining access to change the filter in those cases can be challenging.

2. Gutters. Gutter cleaning should be done twice a year, in late spring and late fall. Homeowners with lots of trees may need a third cleaning in mid summer as well. When gutters are clogged, they overflow, causing leaks inside, most commonly around the windows directly underneath the gutters or in the basement at the floor level.  Many homeowners install gutter screens and think they are home free, but the screens do not prevent dirt from getting in and eventually clogging things up, Grewell said. The downspouts must also be checked and each one should have a 4-to-6-foot extension at the base to ensure that the rainwater is carried away from the house.

3. Exterior painting. Exterior painting requires considerably more effort and expense, but it’s required less often, Grewell said. Painting may be needed as often as every three years or as infrequently as every 10 to 15, depending on what materials you have. Older houses are more likely to have wood windows and trim, and possibly even wood siding, all of which must be painted every three to five years. Newer houses may have vinyl windows that never need painting and “plastic trim” (cellular polyvinyl chloride) that holds paint so well you can go ten years between paint jobs. The siding may be vinyl, which never needs painting, or fiber cement (Hardiplank is a common brand) that can go 15 years between paint jobs.

4. Exterior caulking. Painting keeps the wood from weathering and deteriorating and the synthetic materials from looking scuzzy. Exterior caulking, which should also be done every 3 to 5 years regardless of what materials are on your house, is more critical because it prevents water from seeping in the tiny gaps that occur whenever one material, like window trim, butts up against another, like siding. The caulk eventually dries out, shrinks and must be replaced.

5. Annual furnace and air conditioning check. This essential equipment must be checked annually by a professional to ensure that noxious combustion fumes from the furnace are properly exhausted, and that the equipment itself is operating safely. 

For detailed advice on other essential home maintenance tasks, click here. 

Even solar panels get dirty and require a regular scrubbing. Credit: Barley & Pfeiffer Architects

Originally Published in

Sat May 31 00:00:00 PDT 2014