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20 Things Homeowners Need to Know

20 Things Homeowners Need to Know

| May 10, 2021

Becoming a homeowner is an exciting time. As you get to know your new surroundings and prepare to make your new house a “home,” it’s good to be aware of basic home maintenance tips every homeowner should know.

If your previous home was a rental, chances are your landlord took care of many of the things on this list. And even if you were previously a homeowner, a refresher is still helpful!

Home exterior and yard

Maintaining the outside of your home, including your yard, is important for making sure the inside stays safe, comfortable, and pest-free!

1. How to clean a gutter

Leaves, sticks, and other debris can build up in your gutters, eventually causing damage to your roof or leaks inside the home. Many experts recommend you clean your gutters at least twice a year, or more if you have a lot of trees growing above your house (especially pine trees, which shed needles year-round).

2. How and when to seal the driveway

Sealing your driveway involves applying a coating to your driveway that helps prolong its life by protecting it from water, sun, and ice. You can hire a professional to do this, or you can easily DIY. The best time to seal your driveway depends on where you live and the weather forecast; rain and extreme temperatures will affect the seal.

3. Pest control

No one wants to deal with pests and rodents in their new home. Knowing what pests are native to your area can help you determine the best steps to take to keep them away. It’s helpful to consult with a professional to ensure your pest control is safe for your family and pets.

4. Where your property lines are located

If you want to install a fence, landscape, or just make sure your neighbor isn’t encroaching on your yard, you’ll need to find your property lines. You can start by getting a plot plan from your local city hall, or you can hire a surveyor to mark the lines.

5. How to install weather stripping

Weather stripping seals air gaps around windows and doors, helping conserve energy and keep pests out of your home. Weather stripping is simple, and the materials can be purchased inexpensively from your local hardware store.

6. How to secure your exterior

You can help protect your home from break-ins by making it unappealing to a would-be burglar. Keeping your home well-lit with porch lights in the front and back, trimming back hedges that intruders use to hide, and making sure you lock your doors and windows every night are easy things you can do today to improve your home's security. Want to take it up a notch? Install a home security system or exterior surveillance cameras.

Inside your home

These are the basics you need to know to help prevent hazards on the inside of your home and how to handle situations that could lead to more expensive fixes.

7. How to change your locks

One of the first things you should do when moving into a new home is change your locks. This is a crucial safety step and helps ensure that any keys the previous owners had or gave away won’t work in your new home.

The easiest way to do this is by installing smart locks, which use codes instead of physical keys to lock and unlock your door. With a Vivint Smart Lock, you can also lock and unlock doors from your smartphone.

8. Where and how to shut off utilities

There are plenty of situations that would require you to turn off the electricity, gas, or water in a certain spot of your home. For example, if you're installing a new light fixture, you'll need to be able to turn off the circuit at the breaker. Or, if you need to install a new gas stove, you should know where and how to turn off the supply.

9. How to replace air filters

Your HVAC owner’s manual will tell you how often you should change the air filters in your system. If you have allergies or pets, you will probably need to change them more frequently to keep your air clean. This is a simple home maintenance task, but make sure you note your current filter’s size before you go shopping for a new one.

10. How to place and test smoke detectors

Smoke detectors are required by law in every state, with each state having specific guidelines on how many smoke detectors you need and where they should be placed throughout your home. You should also test them once a month, according to the US Fire Administration. Smoke detectors with monitoring are an even better option, contacting the fire department for you if necessary.

11. Where to put carbon monoxide detectors

Unlike smoke detectors, not every state requires carbon monoxide detectors in homes. However, carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless gas, making it impossible to detect without a working carbon monoxide detector. Over 430 deaths and 50,000 hospital visits per year are the result of this deadly gas, so make sure you have carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home. Like smoke detectors, there should also be one placed outside every sleeping area.

12. How to program your thermostat

If you’ve ever wondered what’s hogging the most energy in your home, it’s your HVAC system. Heating and cooling your home accounts for 46% of a home’s total energy usage on average. There are plenty of things you can do to help reduce the workload of your unit, and a programmable thermostat is a great start to help you save energy and money.

Even better? A smart thermostat like this one from Vivint. Smart thermostats learn your temperature preferences and automatically adjust the temperature when you’re not home to help you save money and energy without sacrificing comfort.

13. How to locate wall studs

If you’re anchoring heavy furniture to your walls, hanging something that will support weight (such as a shelf), or anything that weighs over a pound, you’ll need to hang the screw on a wall stud. A stud finder can be purchased inexpensively from a hardware store and will help you avoid damage to your drywall when you start decorating.

14. How to locate leaks and shut off water

It doesn't take much water to cause serious damage. In the event of a leaky pipe or flooded basement sump pump, you'll need to know where to shut off the water. This could be at the source, such as the toilet water valve, or the water supply to the entire house.

While you're at it, it's a good idea to install water sensors. These sensors are particularly useful in areas that are prone to leaks, such as water heaters or washing machines, and will alert you when moisture is present so you can act quickly.

15. How and when to clean the dryer vent

Did you know your clothes dryer can be a fire hazard? Each year, dryers are responsible for over 13,000 house fires, and lint accumulation is responsible for a whopping 27 percent of those fires. Cleaning your dryer’s lint filter after each load and your dryer’s vent at least once a year can help reduce the risk of fire.

16. How to clean surfaces

When it comes to cleaners, “all-purpose” doesn’t mean “all surfaces.” Make sure you know what each surface in your home is made of and use cleaning supplies that won’t damage the finishes. For example, if you have hardwood floors, make sure your floor cleaner is indicated for use on hardwood floors.

Planning and useful information

The right planning can help you handle emergencies big and small, so make sure you have the following in place:

17. Exit plans

In the event of a fire, everyone in the family should know how to get out of the house as quickly and safely as possible. Create an exit plan with your family and practice it often. (Tip: The National Fire Protection Agency has a ton of free resources to help you get started.)

18. Warranties and maintenance schedules

Don’t waste money on expensive replacements if your appliance or device is under warranty. All homeowners should keep a file with all the warranty information in your home, including your appliances, HVAC system, and water softener. While you're at it, a list of recommended maintenance schedules is also helpful to keep your systems running in tip top shape.

19. Local numbers and utilities

If the internet in your home goes out or the trash company accidentally skips your house, do you know who to call? Keep a list of your local utility companies accessible so you know who to contact if you have any issues.

20. Family and important contacts

If you’re like most people, you keep all of your important numbers stored in your phone but probably don’t have very many memorized. With that in mind, keeping a list of family members and important contacts, like your family physician or vet, will make sure you or your kids always have contact information ready.

Getting settled into a new house and making sure everything is running smoothly can be a bit overwhelming. With this home maintenance checklist, you can tackle the most important things first to make sure your new home is as safe and worry-free for your family as possible.