New House
photo: iStock/nensuria

You did it. After all the research, endless house hunting, negotiations and the closing, you are finally the proud owner of a home. Congratulations!

Now it’s time to think about protecting your new home — and we don’t just mean installing an alarm system. Home insurance is a crucial safety net, but there’s also a long list of basic maintenance tips that will help keep you from filing a big claim down the line.

1

Read Up

Check the manuals for basically everything in your home — the hot water heater, HVAC system, carbon-monoxide detector, and so on. Regardless of how much you know about these systems, reading the manual will give you a solid overview and instructions on maintenance. If you don’t have the manual, check the manufacturer's website or call them to request a new one.

2

Test Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detectors

Not only can these devices save your life, they can save you from filing a huge claim by detecting problems before they spread. Test these devices each month and be sure to replace the batteries every six months.  Some people use daylight savings time as a marker to remember.

3

Inspect the Fire Extinguisher

The only way you can really count on a fire extinguisher working is to check it regularly. The National Fire Protection Association recommends inspecting your extinguisher once a month. During this check, you should make sure the extinguisher is easy to access, has no visible damage, and that the gauge displays the right amount of pressure. A working fire extinguisher can help minimize damage, so make sure you can count on it working.

4

Check Your Roof

Your roof is one of the most important parts of your home. When well maintained, it keeps out water, helps insulate your home, and keeps your house structurally sound. Simply put, you’ve got a lot riding on your roof, so regular inspections are key. Catching problems early, like missing, broken, or damaged shingles or flashings (the pieces that cover the edges of your roof), can save you a lot of money and frustration. Make sure your roof is inspected by a professional at least once a year as a preventative measure. In between professional visits, make sure you’re looking out for these issues both inside your home and outdoors:

Externally: Look for sagging and aging, areas with moss, algae or heavy leaves,. Be sure to watch for buckled or curling shingles and loss of shingle texture.

Internally: Check your attic ceiling for signs of water.

5

Clean Your Gutters

Cleaning out the gutters is one of those dreaded chores you might want to avoid, but taking the time to clear them out offers more than just aesthetic benefits. The main purpose of gutters is to direct water away from your house. If they’re clean and properly maintained, they can help prevent water damage and, over time, cracks in your home’s foundation. Gutters should be cleaned out at least twice a year.

6

Clear Out Your Dryer Vent

Cleaning the lint screen out each time you use the dryer is literally scratching the surface. Over the course of a dryer’s lifespan, lint builds up in the dryer hose, vents, and screen. All that build-up makes the dryer less efficient and more dangerous. (Too much build-up can be a fire hazard.) Check the manual to determine how often your dryer should get a thorough cleaning, but know that experts recommend a professional cleaning each year.

7

Check Your Washing Machine Lines

Washing machines are one of the most useful tools in any home, but according to insurance companies, they’re also one of the leading sources of water damage. The lines leading to the machine can end up causing major damage if the material gets worn down or if the connection comes loose. Be sure to check that the lines are held tight (you shouldn’t be able to get them any tighter if they’re on right), and if you have a rubber line, inspect it for any damage or signs of aging. You might also consider switching to a stainless steel hose, which holds up better over time.

8

Have Your Chimney Inspected and Cleaned

Regularly checking and cleaning your fireplace and chimney will help keep it functional and safe. The National Fire Protection Agency recommends having your chimney and fireplace inspected and cleaned once a year — or every two years, if you don’t use it much.

9

Trim Trees Regularly

On top of making your trees look great, regular trimming keeps them healthy and less likely to become a hazard when a storm hits. Inspect the trees around your property at least once a year and take care of any imposing branches or dying trees, especially the ones close to your home.

10

Maintain Your Water Heater

Hot water on command is something many take for granted, but a hot water heater, like any machine, needs regular maintenance. One thing you should be sure to check annually is sediment build-up. Over time, the sediment in water will fall to the bottom of the tank. It’s important to change out the water and clean out the sediment to keep your hot water heater working and free of leaks.    

11

Check Caulking

The material that seals your tub, sink, windows, and more, caulking keeps bugs, debris, and moisture at bay. Over the course of your home ownership, you’ll likely need to replace sections of caulking, especially in your bathroom. It’s a fairly simple DIY project, but left unchecked, missing sections of caulking can lead to water damage. Keep an eye out for worn down sections of caulking and make sure to replace it soon.