A home costs a lot of money over the years, whether you rent an apartment or buy a house. But the costs go up by a lot if you find yourself having to do major repairs — the bill a plumber or an electrician can send may quickly translate into a heart attack.
But an ounce of prevention really can be worth a pound of cure, just like Ben Franklin said. Putting time and effort into maintenance means that even if there is a problem, you’ll see it coming. At the very least, it means you can save up for the repair work you know you’ll need to do. Here are 10 tips.
1. Get to know the lay of the land:
Your yard and surrounding areas can have a major impact on the maintenance your home needs. If, for instance, you have plenty of trees surrounding your house, you’ll need to spend more time up on your roof and you may even need to worry about some of your plumbing. It’s more than just your own property, though: even if you’re living in an apartment, knowing the area around you can give you a head’s up if you run risks of flooding or other natural problems.
2. Do once-overs in the off season:
Most people find problems with their furnaces when they turn up the heat on the first cold night of the fall — not a time when you want to be trying to get a HVAC repairman to come out. If you test out your furnace and your air conditioning a month or so before you expect to need them, you can make sure everything’s in great shape and avoid the emergency visit fees.
3. Get an energy audit:
Taking a look at where the energy goes in your home can reveal easy fixes to save you money: something as simple as sealing a few cracks can dramatically change your electric bills (and you can take at least some of these steps in a rental). Such steps can also help you make some long-term decisions, like deciding what type of hot water heater you’ll buy when the current one is ready to retire.
4. Cut back on the grass:
While a lush, verdant lawn seems to be required in many neighborhoods, it can drive up the time and expense you spend on maintaining your yard. There are a number of strategies that allow you to minimize the amount of grass in your yard, from xeriscaping to focusing on native plants. You’ll spend less time behind the mower (maybe even eliminating it entirely) and have a lower water bill.
5. Share tools with your neighbors:
One of the big expenses of doing home maintenance is making sure that you have the right tool for every job. Talking to your neighbors can make a difference. If you can share tools, you won’t need to buy them. That can stretch as far as big items like a lawn mower. While only one person may be able to mow their lawn at a time in your neighborhood, the overall cost for buying and maintaining that lawn mower will be next to nothing.
6. Clean everything on a regular basis:
Whether it’s a question of sweeping off the side walk or wiping down the air conditioner, keeping things clean reduces wear and tear. Dust can shorten the lifespan of anything with a vent or a filter. Giving appliances and the different parts of your house a regular once over can also help catch small issues before they become big problems. There simply isn’t a chance that you’ll notice a crack in a wall if you don’t go anywhere near that wall, after all.
7. Look for a handy man:
There are certain projects where, when you weigh the value of your time against the cost of hiring a handy man, it simply makes sense to bring in someone who can do it in half the time it might take you to even find the resource that walks you through what to do. Build a long-term relationship with a handyman if you can — he’ll be able to point you to the right people for bigger projects and he may even be willing to walk you through routine tasks so you’ll be able to handle them on your own.
8. Create a maintenance schedule:
Telling yourself you’ll get around to cleaning the gutters is the easiest way to make sure that you’ll never actually clean those gutters. Setting a schedule is the easiest way to keep up with each part of your home and, as long as you know what needs to be done, a schedule can help you keep your work load down. The alternative is devoting an entire weekend at a time to keeping up your home. It’s also worth creating a long-term plan for items like replacing appliances or remodeling.