If you’re a longtime homeowner, it’s easy to overlook little problems that could become big, expensive ones down the road. Falling behind on maintenance can sink the value of your home.
How can you keep up with upkeep without spending any more than necessary? I asked some of the country’s top home professionals and organizations for their advice in two areas: maintenance tips that can save you money; and ways to lower the cost of projects.
At the top of nearly all the pros’ lists for annual home maintenance were three tasks: servicing heating and cooling systems (preferably during offseasons, when prices are lower); trimming trees so they don’t threaten your house and other property; and cleaning leaves out of gutters to lower the risk of water damage. Beyond that, here’s how they answered my questions:
Angie Hicks, founder of Angi, which operates the Angi, HomeAdvisor and Handy websites
Maintenance tips: Get started on cutting heating and cooling costs by taking a lit candle around the house and holding it up near doors and windows to check for air leaks. Hicks says, “If it’s flickering, you need new stripping.”
Project tips: When you hire a pro, ask for detailed cost breakdowns for labor and materials. If you need to buy anything for the job, get it ahead of time, and group projects to avoid wasted time and money. Agree to pay up front only for materials; don’t pay in full for labor until the job is done.
Brian and Mika Kleinschmidt, hosts of 100 Day Dream Home on HGTV
Maintenance tips: Don’t ignore peeling or fading exterior paint. “Paint is like sunscreen for your house,” says Brian, who’s based in Florida. As paint ages, it can cause water to get behind stucco or damage wood siding. Check for humidity around windows once a month. “It can cause mold to grow,” Mika says. “Sometimes homeowners don’t realize it until becomes an expensive repair.”
Project tips: Don’t hire someone just because you have a coupon, Brian says. Instead, get quotes from three different professionals. “Cheaper is not always better,” he adds. “If someone drops their price without much argument, I don’t know if that’s the person I would hire. Good people know their value.”