As a homeowner, I know what it’s like firsthand to feel overwhelmed by caring for my home. Still, it’s my largest financial asset, which is true for most homeowners. So I polled some of my favorite inspectors and put together a short list of homeowner hacks to keep your home safe and sound.
1. Test your GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlets every six months (some electricians suggest testing them monthly). A good time to do this is when daylight savings time rolls around and you are replacing your smoke detector batteries. Here’s a link to how to test it yourself or you can buy a tester. They are an inexpensive investment (less than $15) at a hardware store.
2. Install a CO2 monitor if you don’t have one. If you think you don’t need one because your home is all-electric, do you have an attached garage? If so, there could still be CO2 accumulating because of auto exhaust and/or lawn equipment. Again, a relatively inexpensive safety measure – about $30.
3. Put hose bib covers on faucets in the winter to help protect your pipes from freezing.
4. Lubricate your windows twice a year. Windows, while wonderful at letting in sunlight and allowing a view to the world, are also a means of escape in the event of a fire. Make sure you can open and close them easily. Use beeswax or a furniture spray wax on the track and frame to keep them moving properly. Most manufacturers recommend against using oily products (WD-40), especially on vinyl windows.
5. Install a damper clamp on your fireplace damper if you have gas logs. This is a cheap little gadget that keeps your damper slightly open (even when closed) so that carbon monoxide does not accumulate in your home. These are less than $5.00 on Amazon.com. Here’s a link to a website with instruction on how to install it.
6. “Caulk is a homeowner’s best friend.” If you’ve ever worked with me as a client, you’ve heard me
say this. It’s especially important in kitchen and bath areas but also around windows. When the caulk in your shower starts to age, for example, remove the old caulk and recaulk the area. Believe me, prevention of moisture seeping through walls and countertops is worth it. Best advice from one of my brothers: do not buy the cheapest caulk gun. You don’t have to buy the top of the line, but get a good one.
7. Keep your garage door(s) running smoothly. Lubricate the chain or screw mechanism twice a year with a non-silicone based lubricant.
8. Check your clothes dryer vent duct for overflow. A good way to do this is to check the exhaust flap and see if there is any lint hanging from it. If so, it’s probably getting filled up and it’s a good time to clean it to avoid a potential fire or damage to the dryer heating mechanism. There are several great tutorials on how to take care of this but this one from PrettyHandyGirl.com is my favorite. And pay attention to her mention of making sure the exhaust vent closes properly. If you haven’t heard my “dead bird in the dryer hose” story, I’m more than happy to tell you.
9. Replace your washer’s rubber hoses with braided hoses. One inspector mentioned that the rubber hoses will only burst when you’re on vacation (LOL!) but with a braided hose, you can vacation in peace. Braided hoses are much more reliable and you can order them online for about $5.99.
10. Keep your gutters cleared of leaves and debris. And while you’re doing that, make sure that gutter joints are well sealed. I’ve seen hundreds of gutters with leaking joints, which defeats the purpose of having gutters if rainwater isn’t redirected properly.
This list is a good start but isn’t comprehensive by any means. If you had your home inspected when you purchased it, pull out that inspection report and make sure any deficient items have been corrected. Don’t hesitate to have your home re-inspected from time to time. I have a colleague who has hers inspected every year. Put the above 10 items on your calendar and you’re off to a great start of caring for your home.
The author would like to acknowledge contributions from the following licensed TREC home inspectors:
Guy Willingham, Longpaw Home Inspections
Mike Killion, Aid-4-U Inspections
Cliff Willis, Home Inspection Solutions