When you think of spring cleaning, things like scrubbing floors, sprucing up cabinets and straightening closets come to mind. But spring is also a good time to perform routine home maintenance.
Ignore these crucial home upkeep tasks at your peril. Fail to clean the gutters, for example, and you could end up with a flood in your basement. People know they should perform these routine maintenance chores, but do they actually follow through?
“Almost no one does, in my experience,” says Dean Bennett, president of Dean Bennett Design and Construction in Castle Rock, Colorado, whose company gets called in to make repairs after a crisis. He says “a lot of it is selective memory,” where people think they recently changed the furnace filter when actually they did it two years ago. “There’s kind of an amnesia about things like that,” he adds.
The most important maintenance chores are those related to drainage. Failing to keep water out of your house could result in mold, rot and foundation problems. “That’s most of your big bills – water coming in,” Bennett says.
Here are 12 home maintenance tasks you should do this spring to save money later:
Clean the gutters. Make sure they don’t have holes and all the downspouts are still attached and taking water away from the house. “Gutters are one of the most valuable and affordable methods for homeowners to protect their homes from the elements,” says Allison Hester, editor of eClean Magazine, an online trade publication for the home cleaner industry. “By channeling water off the roof and directing it to a location away from the home, properly working gutters help protect the home’s shingles, wood under the eaves, siding, flooring and landscaping from a whole host of problems and expensive repairs.” Clogged gutters can also cause mosquito infestations, mold and mildew from decomposed leaves and other problems.
The good news is cleaning gutters is an easy job. You can do it yourself in an hour or hire someone to do it for about $35 to $40.
Seal holes where insects and varmints can get in. That includes openings around the foundation, especially entry points for wires and pipes. A spray can of foam, which you can buy for about $6, will handle most holes, Bennett says.
To prevent insects from getting into your house, you should keep moisture away from the foundation and eliminate sources of standing water, according to the National Pest Management Association. Termites cause $5 billion in property damage every year in the U.S., according to the NPMA. These destructive insects need moisture to survive, which is why the NPMA advises fixing leaking faucets, pipes and air conditioning units; repairing fascia, soffits and rotted shingles; trimming tree branches away from the house and replacing weather stripping around windows and loose mortar around basement foundations.
Get your air conditioning system ready. You can hire a service company or do it yourself. Change or wash the filters, which should be done monthly. Clean the coils and wash the condenser outside, if needed. Trim away any shrubs from the unit, and make sure its drain line isn’t clogged. While you’re at it, change your furnace filter so it’s ready for fall.
Clean your roof. Most people are better off hiring a professional for this chore, but it’s important. “Those ugly black streaks on asphalt shingles are doing a lot more harm than simply looking unattractive,” Hester says. The stains are caused by algae that feed on the limestone filler in shingles, “so those black stains are essentially eating your roof,” she says. The algae spread quickly before the wind blows them to neighboring roofs.
Power wash driveways and walkways. You can rent a power washer for about $30 if you want to do this yourself, Bennett says. The biggest benefit is removing mildew and discoloration. He advises caution before power washing decks because the force of the water may damage the wood fibers.
Make sure your windows are sealed. You want to keep water out and cool air in. You may need to replace caulking or weather sealing to accomplish this.
Clean your refrigerator coils and dryer vent. The Electrical Safety Foundation International notes that these chores not only improve the efficiency of the appliances, but also guard against electrical hazards.
Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. There should be at least one of each detector on every level of your house, and they should be working. Be sure to replace batteries, if necessary.
Fertilize the lawn. About $30 will cover enough fertilizer for 10,000 square feet, Bennett says. If you don’t have one already, you’ll also want to buy a basic push fertilizer spreader, which you can pick up for about $35.
Restain and seal wood decks. Rescuing your deck from the elements is not a task you should overlook. “Outdoor wood decks get hammered by the elements, including snow and rain in the winter and harsh sunlight in the summer,” says John Bodrozic, co-founder of HomeZada, an online home management tool. “These temperature cycles and absorption cause the wood to wear out quicker than if you regularly seal them. This can lead to rotting decks and an expensive replacement.”
Declutter. We all have too much stuff. Get rid of items you don’t use, including the stuff you have stored in the garage or basement because you “might” need it sometime.
Organize your paperwork. Not being able to find an important document when you need it can cost you. Get rid of the paperwork you don’t need while filing the paperwork you want to keep so you know where it is when you need it.
A version of this post appeared at U.S. News and World Report.