The Complete Home Maintenance Checklist: Annual Tasks That Keep Your Home New

Checklist for Yearly Home Maintenance

As a first-time homeowner, you've finally found the perfect place to call your own. You’re done financially preparing to buy your home, the offer was accepted, and the move-in day has arrived. 

Imagine you've unpacked the last box, settled in, and are ready to relax. Have you thought about all the maintenance tasks that come with owning a home? There's a checklist waiting for you, filled with essential items to help you maintain your new abode. From simple tasks to more complex ones, ensuring your home is well taken care of is crucial for a worry-free living experience.

Annual Maintenance at a Glance

  • Regularly inspect and maintain HVAC filters, water heater, and safety devices.
  • Winterize the home’s exterior, clean gutters, and rake leaves.
  • Familiarize with water shut-off, breaker box, and security measures for safety.
  • Clean refrigerator coils, test safety devices and change HVAC filters.
  • Utilize home maintenance resources and printable checklists

What to Do When You First Move In

Don't get settled in just yet! There are several maintenance tasks, like deep cleaning, that are actually easier before you've unloaded the moving truck. Afterward, there are a few tasks that are one-offs, but are important to getting a smooth start in your home.

Move-In Deep Cleaning

Deep Cleaning Your Home Before You Move In

Before moving into your new home, ensure a deep clean of surfaces, walls, and appliances for a fresh start. You set the foundation for a healthy and pleasant living environment by starting with a clean slate. This step is crucial in the home maintenance checklist for first-time buyers—even if you’re moving into a new construction home. A new construction home may even be dirtier, if construction dust and debris have snuck in.

When you're packing boxes to move out, make sure you put cleaning supplies and equipment in boxes that will be readily accessible as soon as you arrive. Include things like:

  • Paper towels (lots of them) and spray cleaners
  • A vacuum cleaner, broom, and mop
  • A duster and toilet brush
  • Sponges (abrasive and non-abrasive) and towels
  • Specialized cleaners, like oven de-greasers
  • Rubber gloves
  • A step ladder
  • Ingredients for homemade cleaners, such as vinegar and dish detergent

Renting a carpet cleaner and bringing replacement filters for your new HVAC can further enhance the cleanliness of the space.

Start from the top and work your way to the bottom. It's no good if you start with the floors only to knock dust and dirt back onto them from the counters. Dusters and vacuums with telescopic wands are excellent for getting at fan blades and light fixtures.

By performing a full-home deep clean, you are setting yourself up for a smooth transition into your new home and establishing good habits for future upkeep. A clean home is the first step towards a comfortable and enjoyable living space.

Get the Paperwork In Order

If you haven't already, this is the time to make sure all the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed. Make sure your address is changed wherever it needs to be, update your car registration, set up a mail redirect with the USPS, and so on.

Another good paperwork habit to start with your new home is to start a homeowner's folder: get all the paperwork related to your house, such as insurance, home inspection results, and your title deed, and put them all in a single folder for you to refer back to at need. Keep this somewhere safe, but also somewhere it won't be forgotten. When new home-related paperwork comes up, such as renovation receipts, you can add these to the folder, making them easy to locate if you sell your house and need them for disclosure.

Stock Up on Immediate Essentials

Your new house doesn't come stocked with perishable or consumable things like groceries and toilet paper. You'll be tired after unpacking, so make a quick trip to the store early on to grab something easy for your next few meals and enough toiletries to take a shower after you're done for the day.

As you unpack, make a list of anything your new home needs that you don't have, like extra linens or shower curtains. Big furniture items can come later, but making sure that everything you do have is properly set up can help create a relaxing "finished" feeling.

Change the Locks

Ensuring the security of your new home as a first-time buyer starts with changing the locks or rekeying them. This step is crucial in maintaining the safety and privacy of your property. By replacing the locks, you can control access to your home and eliminate any potential security risks posed by previous keyholders. Additionally, consider changing the garage door opener code to enhance security further.

When you change the locks, have a spare key (or several) made. It's a good idea to hide a spare key somewhere on the property in case you lock yourself out—just be sure to hide it better than keeping it under the door mat.

Find the Emergency Shutoffs

Knowing the location of the main water shut-off valve and circuit breaker box is vital for emergency preparedness. In case of unexpected events like water leaks or electrical issues, being able to quickly access these controls can prevent further damage and ensure your safety.

The main water shut-off valve is typically located near the water meter where the main water line enters your home. Knowing this location is vital to quickly stop the flow of water in case of a burst pipe or leak, preventing extensive water damage.

Similarly, the circuit breaker box, also known as the electrical panel, includes the circuit breakers or fuses that control the electricity flow in your home. It's usually situated in a utility room, basement, or garage. Familiarize yourself with the layout of the breaker box and understand which switches correspond to different areas of your home. This knowledge will help you address electrical issues promptly, such as tripped circuits that can cause power outages in specific areas.

Familiarize yourself with the propane or natural gas shut-off valve as well. Understanding how to operate these valves can help prevent gas leaks and other hazards, making your home a safer environment.

Taking these security measures not only protects your investment but also gives you peace of mind as a new homeowner. By being proactive and implementing these safety measures, you can feel more secure and prepared for any unforeseen circumstances that may arise.

Monthly Home Maintenance Tasks

Now that you're a homeowner instead of a renter, all the home maintenance tasks are now your sole responsibility. Keep a list of what needs doing and on what schedule in your homeowner's folder to help make sure nothing slips through the cracks.

HVAC Filter Maintenance

Before and After HVAC Filter Comparison

To maintain the efficiency and functionality of your home, ensure you check and replace HVAC filters every 30–60 days as part of your monthly tasks. This simple step helps ensure that your heating and cooling systems operate efficiently, reducing energy costs and extending the lifespan of your HVAC unit. Clogged filters restrict airflow, causing your HVAC system to work harder and potentially break down. Keeping the filters clean also helps reduce allergen buildup and improves your indoor air quality.

By staying on top of filter replacements, you can enjoy a well-functioning HVAC system that keeps your home comfortable year-round, as well as avoid untimely repairs.

Safety Device Testing

Make sure to test your smoke detectors monthly to guarantee they function correctly and can provide early fire detection. Home inspections in Ohio and other states will include safety device testing, but if you don’t re-check upon move-in, it can be easy to overlook them in the future. The following safety device testing is also highly encouraged: 

  • Carbon Monoxide: It's crucial to maintain your carbon monoxide detectors regularly to detect any buildup of this odorless gas, which can be deadly if not detected. CO detectors usually expire after 5–7 years.
  • Fire Extinguishers: Ensure fire extinguishers are fully charged and easily accessible in case of a fire emergency. 
  • Replace Batteries: Remember to inspect and replace batteries in safety devices like smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors at least twice a year. 

To enhance your home safety measures, create an emergency plan that includes the location of safety devices like the fire extinguisher and evacuation routes in case of a home emergency. By regularly testing and maintaining these safety devices, you are taking proactive steps to protect yourself and your loved ones from potential hazards. Stay vigilant and prioritize the functionality of these safety devices to ensure a safe living environment in your new home.

Other Systems to Inspect

While they're generally low-maintenance, inspecting your water softener, heater, garbage disposal, and vents every month is a good idea to guarantee they work properly. Regular maintenance of these systems can prevent unexpected breakdowns and costly repairs down the line.

Your water softener should be inspected for a hard salt crust around the sides of the tank or a thick sludge at the bottom, both of which can create blockages and reduce effectiveness.

Lift the pressure relief valve on your water heater; if water doesn't release, you need to replace the valve. Check for any cracks or leaks.

To clean your garbage disposal, turn off its power. Once it's unpowered, remove and clean the splash guard. After that, pour in half a cup of baking soda, let it sit for 30 minutes, and then pour in a cup of vinegar. After five minutes, rinse with hot water. Turn the power back on and dump in two cups of ice and one cup of salt to grind while running cold water. This process gets rid of odors, kills bacteria, dissolves grime, and cleans the blades.

Make sure your vents aren't blocked by furniture and run a vacuum over them to remove dirt, dust, and debris. If you can, turn off the HVAC and unscrew the vent covers to clean as deep inside as you can reach.

Seasonal Home Maintenance Tasks

Twice a year, the weather changes enough to switch your HVAC between "heat" and "cool." Whether you're doing spring cleaning or winterizing your home, this is a good time to do some more thorough maintenance.

Fall Exterior Maintenance

Cleaning Gutters Helps Prevent Water Damage to Your Home

Fall exterior maintenance like raking leaves and cleaning the roof and gutters are essential tasks for maintaining your home's exterior during the fall season. By raking leaves, you prevent them from piling up and potentially causing water damage to your property. Cleaning the roof and gutters ensures proper drainage and helps prevent water from seeping into your home. Additionally, inspecting these areas for any signs of blockages or damage can save you from costly repairs down the line.

If you’re living in a community of condominiums, the exterior maintenance tasks may differ, so be sure to check with your HOA to determine what is and isn’t covered by the Association. As the colder months approach, it's crucial to winterize exterior sprinklers, prevent burst pipes, and close down the pool. These steps protect your outdoor water fixtures from freezing temperatures, which can lead to significant damage. 

Additional cold weather maintenance tips include: 

  • Servicing your HVAC system, now that you're turning the heat on
  • Cleaning heating units
  • Clean the dryer vent and fireplace
  • Insulating windows and doors 

Insulating windows and doors are also vital for energy efficiency during the fall and winter seasons. Proper maintenance of these systems can help lower your energy bills and keep your home warm when temperatures drop.

Summer Interior Checklist

Inspecting and organizing your garage, tools, basement, and kitchen exhaust fan ensures a tidy and functional living space for the summer season. Start by decluttering your garage, storing tools properly, and ensuring easy access to items you may need during the warmer months

Additional summer interior items include:

  • If you have a basement, ensure it is organized to create more space and easily find stored items like seasonal decorations or outdoor gear.
  • Check your kitchen exhaust fan to ensure it is clean and functioning well. A properly working exhaust fan helps remove heat and cooking odors, keeping your kitchen cool and fresh during summer. 
  • Inspecting your garage doors, ceiling fan, and basement for leaks or cracks can help you address any potential issues before they escalate. 

Be sure to also double-check that all systems and devices in your home are functioning properly. This ensures you prevent unexpected breakdowns or safety hazards during the summer months.

Annual Home Maintenance Tasks

Some appliances and systems are low-maintenance enough that they only need servicing once a year. It's important that you don't forget due to the rarity.

Refrigerator Coil & Dryer Duct Cleaning

Cleaning your refrigerator coils annually significantly impacts energy efficiency and the longevity of your appliance. By taking the time to clean the coils, you can improve energy efficiency by up to 30%. Regular cleaning not only enhances efficiency but also extends the lifespan of the refrigerator and prevents costly breakdowns.

The accumulation of dust and dirt on the coils can restrict airflow, causing the fridge to overheat. This simple task of cleaning the coils annually can save you money on energy bills in the long run. 

To clean the coils, follow these steps: 

  • Unplug the refrigerator to ensure safety. 
  • Locate the coils either at the back or beneath the appliance. 
  • Use a coil brush or a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to gently clean off the dust and debris.

Similarly, you'll want to clean out your dryer ducts at least once a year. This isn't the lint screen that you scrape out after each load; this is the duct located behind the dryer that goes into the wall. Not only does emptying it out improve your dryer's efficiency and lower your electric bill, lint buildup in these ducts is a common cause of house fires.

Hot Water Heater Drainage

Drain Your Water Heater Once a Year for Best Results

To maintain optimal efficiency and prolong the lifespan of your hot water heater, it is essential to annually drain the unit to remove sediment buildup. Sediment accumulation in the hot water heater can lead to reduced heating efficiency, higher energy bills, and potential damage to the unit over time. By regularly draining the hot water heater, you can prevent issues like strange noises, inconsistent water temperature, and premature failure of the unit.

Flushing out the sediment through the drainage valve not only improves water quality but also reduces the risk of clogs, maintaining the water heater's performance. Following the manufacturer's guidelines for draining the hot water heater is crucial to maintain warranty coverage and ensure the proper functioning of the unit. This simple maintenance task can go a long way in enhancing the efficiency and longevity of your hot water heater.

Home Maintenance Resources

Utilize printable checklists to efficiently manage monthly and seasonal home maintenance tasks. By following these organized lists, you can stay on top of essential maintenance, ensuring your home remains in optimal condition. These resources help you prioritize tasks, schedule routine checks, and address any necessary repairs promptly.

Maintaining your home is crucial to extending the lifespan of your appliances and preventing costly damage. Regular upkeep can also enhance the efficiency of your systems, saving you money in the long run.

These resources can offer valuable tips, recommendations, and assistance tailored to new homeowners, all of which can be just as helpful as step-by-step homebuying guides. Furthermore, exploring tools, resources, loan limits, and eligibility for first-time home buyers can help you navigate the financial aspects of maintaining your home effectively.

Stay on Top of Home Maintenance Tasks

Staying on top of home maintenance tasks is crucial for first-time home buyers to ensure a safe and comfortable living environment. It will also help you get to know your home, enhancing your experience living there and simplifying your home selling steps when and if the time comes. Taking care of your home from move-in maintenance to seasonal tasks will help extend the lifespan of appliances and create a welcoming space. Stay on top of your home maintenance to enjoy your new home to the fullest.

Ready to start looking for your new home in Ohio? Call The Young Team at (216) 402-4774 today to get in touch with a local real estate expert who can help you start your homebuying journey.

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