Buying a home is exciting and scary. Home maintenance doesn't have to be complicated, though. Learn some helpful tips like what tools you need, how to find the circuit breaker, and how to shut off the water in this new homeowner maintenance guide.
Home Maintenance Tips for First-Time Homeowners
Owning your first house is exciting! You can build an expansive deck or paint the walls purple on a whim. The design decisions are all yours.
When it comes to renovations and personalizing your new home, however, you may find yourself stuck trying to figure out where to begin. The solution to this quandary is quite simple. After you've purchased your new home, and before you fire up the cordless drill or contemplate knocking down walls, you’ll want to take care of a few preventative home maintenance tasks first.
House maintenance can be daunting for new homeowners if you’re used to calling a landlord to come fix your problems. But by arming yourself with some general home repair and maintenance knowledge, you can make sure your bases are covered when it comes time to roll up your sleeves and get to work.
Locate Your Main Water Shut-Off Valve
Gallons of water rushing out of a burst pipe can wreak havoc on your drywall, flooring, and belongings. In fact, non-weather-related water damage is the second-most common homeowner’s insurance claim, according to ValuePenguin. So, you need to be able to cut off the flow of water into your home quickly in case of an emergency.
Find your water shut-off valve. This is where the water main enters your house. It's often—but not always—located near a street or alleyway. Next, be sure you know how to close it. You may need to purchase a special tool, such as a crescent wrench or "curb stop key," both to access and turn the valve off and on.
Find Your Circuit Breaker Box
While you’re searching your closets, basement, garage, and front and back yards for your main water shut-off valve, be on the lookout for your circuit breaker box. This component will be frequently used during any DIY house maintenance that involves electrical work. Once you've identified it, determine which fuses control the electricity in various areas of your house and label them accordingly.
Call 811 Before You Dig
One of our most important homeowner tips for maintenance is to stay safe. Whether you’re planting shrubs or building a new fence, you need to be sure you won’t hit any utilities when you break ground. Call 811, the national dig-safely hotline. They will send your local utility company out to mark the locations of underground pipes, wires, and cables.
Adding this step to your home maintenance checklist will not only help you avoid expensive repairs and neighborhood-wide cable outages, but it will also ensure that any work you do on your property will be conducted under safe conditions.
Check Your Foundation
If rain and melting snow drench the soil around the base of your home, pressure can build up and inflict structural damage on your foundation. Worse, if a leak springs and water comes into direct contact with your home's foundation, it can expand any existing cracks and cause expensive problems.
To prevent the weakening of your home’s foundation, be sure the ground around the foundation drops at least six inches over the course of 10 feet. Finally, while running through your home maintenance checks, caulk any small cracks in your foundation walls before they have a chance to become big (and expensive) repairs.
Check Your Attic Insulation
Next on your home upkeep list is to check the attic. If your attic inspection reveals that the tops of your floor joists are visible, then your home is insufficiently insulated. The recommended amount of insulation for most attics is about 10 to 14 inches of material, depending on the type of insulation used.
The attic is the easiest place to add insulation to improve your home’s energy efficiency. A well-insulated house can help you save money on your electricity bill, increase your property value, and keep your family a lot more comfortable.
Proceed With Caution When Drilling Into Walls
Plumbing pipes, ductwork, wires, and cables are hidden in most homes. Before you power up your drill, use a battery-operated stud sensor to detect studs, cables, ducts, and the other vital veins and arteries running just beneath the surface of your walls. Since stud sensors aren’t always 100 percent accurate, avoid damage by drilling only one and one-fourth inches deep—just enough to clear the drywall and plaster but miss most wiring and pipes.
Hire a Professional to Trim Your Trees
If you find small, easy-to-remove branches, go ahead and do this home maintenance step yourself. But because huge limbs can break and fall unpredictably on you, your roof, or overhead power lines, leave major tree trimming to the pros.
This is also an excellent opportunity to clean your gutters and check the integrity of your soffits, eaves, and roof vents.
How Much to Budget for Home Maintenance
The general rule of thumb for a home maintenance budget is between one and four percent of your home’s value. This depends on how old your house is and the condition that it was in when you purchased it. Some home maintenance tasks don’t require any money, while others may be on the expensive side—just be sure to prepare financially for any homeowner tasks that may come your way.
By adding these first-time homeowner tips for maintenance to your homeowner's toolkit, you can feel confident in your new responsibilities.
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