Your first home is a major milestone, and big congratulations are in order! Not only is real estate a great investment… You are now the master of your own domain. But that also means you can’t call your landlord should anything go wrong. And the regular upkeep and maintenance of the property now falls to you. Don’t be caught off guard. Here are some things for first time homeowners to keep in mind when it comes to your new abode…
WINTER: Water, Water… Please Not Everywhere!
You will most likely have an inspection before you finalize the purchase of your new home. Even though you don’t have to be present for this, it’s always a good idea. And be sure to ask the inspector to show you where the main water shut-off valve is… Here’s hoping you never need to know, but sometimes they can be hidden quite well. If you ever have a burst pipe, you will need to locate it quickly to mitigate damage to your property and possessions.
A common cause of burst pipes is freezing. It seems like an odd problem to have, especially in the South, but with our warmer temps we’re likely to have uninsulated pipes in uninsulated areas… When the mercury drops below 20℉, the water in your pipes can start to freeze. If it expands too much in any one area, the pipe can rupture.
Here are some tips for avoiding the misery of freezing pipes:
- Consider adding insulation to exposed pipes in the attic, garage, basement and yard.
- When a deep freeze is in the forecast, turn on the taps. Just a trickle of warm (hot + cold) water moving through the pipes should do the trick. Don’t miss those exposed areas mentioned above… Just the kitchen sink is not enough.
- For extra heat circulation, especially if you have a faucet against an exterior wall, try opening the cabinets as well to expose pipes to additional warmth. But if you have children or pets, be sure to put hazardous substances out of reach.
If your pipes do freeze, oftentimes you can simply use a hairdryer to thaw them out with no harm done.
And remember… The main valve is for the whole house system, and is different from the isolation valves found on individual fixtures. If the problem is with one sink or toilet, you can shut the water off just to that fixture.
SPRING: Don’t Be Buggin’
Pests can be such… pests. Your mortgage lender most likely required you to have a termite inspection before financing your new home purchase. But don’t stop there. If there’s evidence of a termite infestation, you may want to consider getting a termite bond. This serves as a maintenance contract for inspections… and, if necessary, treatment and control. A bond can also include retreatment or repair.
Aside from termites, there are other more pedestrian pests you may encounter at home. Take a few minutes to talk to your service professional to find out what else they offer. You might decide that a regular inspection and treatment plan for ants, roaches, spiders and other creepy crawlies is just the thing to set your mind at ease. You can also request treatment for your yard against fleas, ticks and mosquitos!
If you’re in a rural or wooded area, pest control can be a great thing to schedule… and forget.
SUMMER: Just Gotta HVAC It
Your new home’s heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system is like your own circulatory system. It pulls air in through the intake or return, filters it, then moves it through the ducts before blowing it out (heated or cooled) through the vents.
We work our air conditioners hard in the South! Your HVAC (or furnace and air conditioner) is expensive to replace, and it does come with a certain life-expectancy. Your home inspector will let you know how old your unit is, and about how long you can expect to have before needing to replace it.
One of the simplest—and most important—things you can to do prolong the life of your unit is to change the air filter regularly. This maintains a high quality of air inside your home, and reduces allergens as well. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends changing your filters every month or two. But this can vary widely, depending how many people are in the home, whether you have furry friends sharing your space and the level of dust.
A handy tip is, when you install a new filter, write the date on the end of it. You will be able to get an idea of how frequently you should be changing by the level of dirt and dust that accumulates in the filter over time. And if you have reusable filters, you should clean them on a similar schedule.
FALL: For A Fun New Chore, Look UP
As a brand new homeowner, it’s possible you might never have given gutters a second thought before… But they collect rainwater and control the flow through downspouts. This can protect your landscaping for one thing—but more importantly it protects your exterior, roof and foundation. It also keeps the rain and snowmelt from pouring off the roof and onto your head.
Now, while gutters collect water as it streams from above… they also collect leaves, twigs, pine needles, acorns, sweet gum balls and anything else that might drop onto your roof and then slide or roll downward. The number of trees on your property will determine how often you need to climb a ladder to check your gutters… but you should always make a point to clean them in the fall. Other times to check your gutters are after a severe storm or a situation where they might be filled with ice or snow.
You will need a ladder and gloves. A garden trowel also comes in handy if you want a tool other than your hands. The simplest method is to spread a tarp on the ground and drop the debris onto that for easy collection later… Or you can set a bucket on the roof and put the debris into that if you are comfortable with the added element. Then use your garden hose to spray down the gutters, making sure the water and remaining small debris flow out of the drain spout. (If you detect a clog in the spout, you will need to address that with either an auger/plumber’s snake or force of water from the hose.)
If you don’t have someone spotting you on the ladder, at least make sure somebody knows you’re up there. And remember, there’s no shame in calling a professional if you find gutter cleaning—or any chore—daunting. “Fall” should only refer to the season.
Note: Your home inspection report offers a wealth of information. While there are some things you will have the seller address before you take possession of the property, other items can help you form a checklist of immediate fixes to make… or provide a roadmap for maintenance and repairs over the time you are in the home.
good living simplified.