A home maintenance to-do list for the year ahead

This article comes from the MercuryNews.com

With both the housing market and the economy still down, looks like most of us will be staying put in our homes. But whether you’re settling in for the long haul or dreaming of a seller’s market, it’s important to keep current on all those maintenance chores. Do a little every month and enjoy the benefits.


The rains haven’t materialized yet, but they will eventually, and when they do, you’re going to want those gutters free of leaves, sticks and the neighbor kid’s Frisbee. And as long as you’re putting away the holiday decorations, might as well clean out the garage. An organized garage is a great way to start the year.


Think “roof.” Check the roof of your home for loose or missing tiles, trim branches to prevent damage and to cut off access routes for various critters, and check your chimney for cracks. You can avoid a trip to the emergency room if you actually keep off your roof, though. Stay safely on the ground and use a pair of binoculars to inspect the area. Only go up if you absolutely have to, and make sure someone is nearby to keep an eye on you.


Check your water system for leaks. Turn off the water to your house and note the readings on your water meter. Wait an hour then check your meter. If it’s moved, you’ve got a leak somewhere and it’s time to call in professionals.

Check for smaller leaks in the toilets by adding a couple of drops of food coloring in the tank before you go to bed; if the color has spread to the toilet bowl in the morning, your flapper needs to be replaced.


As the weather improves, we start spending more time outdoors, so you might want to spruce up the exterior with a fresh coat of paint. At the very least, scrub your siding or stucco, and check for cracks, dings and problems. Schedule a checkup on your heating and cooling system, and do some spring cleaning on your windows, blinds and curtains.


Memorial Day means you’ll be hosting your first barbecue of the season. Clean your grill and check your tools. Replace anything that’s past saving. And before your flower beds get going again, take a few minutes to check your foundation for signs of damage and intrusion from bugs and beasties. May as well check the sidewalks, driveways, pool area and walkways. Patch cracks.


As the weather warms up, throw open the windows and let in some fresh air. Check screens for damage, clean out window wells and tracks, and replace weatherstripping. Replace the caulking around the windows. If your fence sagged with the winter weather or the gate hinges rusted, replace or make repairs. We also should be enjoying spring weather, so why not be cliche and do some spring cleaning?


You’ll probably be cranking up the air conditioning, so make sure it’s in good working order. Check the condensation drip tube to make sure it isn’t clogged. Clean your dryer vents, and because it’s hot and there’s nothing better to do, pull together an earthquake emergency kit. The time you think you’re wasting will be well worth it when disaster strikes.


By now, you’ve given your home and gardening tools a good workout. Clean and oil them, and put them back in their proper places. If the weed whacker isn’t doing its job or you’ve got six pairs of pliers, considering thinning the herd by donating, tossing or selling those that you don’t want. And although no one likes to do this, clean behind your kitchen appliances. Yes, you need to do it.


Take a good look at your landscaping. It may be beautiful, but there’s more to it than that. Everything has grown — has any of it grown into a hazard? Remove plants that are growing too close to the foundation, and trim trees that are intruding on your home. Hire a professional for the serious work, and always stay clear of power lines. And, sad to say, it’s time to clean patio furniture and make room in the garage for winter storage.


You’re going to be spending the next few months indoors, so make it as safe as you can. Replace batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Do you need to add some? Safety experts recommend detectors for every bedroom and outside sleeping areas. Have your heater inspected to make sure it’s running properly. When’s the last time you checked your water heater? If it’s in an unheated place but warm to the touch, invest in an insulating blanket.


As the weather gets colder, you’re likely to have some unwanted guests — rats and mice. Check areas in and around your house where they might sneak in. Rats can get through incredibly small places, and they reproduce at an alarming rate, so it’s best to prevent them from getting inside in the first place. If you use baits or traps, make sure they are placed where children and pets can’t get to them. Give the yard one last good rake and compost the leaves. Or leave them alone and let them compost in place.


As you drag out the holiday decorations, take a few minutes to consider how you’ll return them to storage in January. Need new boxes? Can you stand to get rid of some of the decorations that have lost their gleam? Are there some old strands of lights that have seen better times? Let them go.


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