Here are some things every homeowner should know about their house. Some are safety issues, some common sense. We need to have a relationship with where we live and realize that we are caretakers of the structure that shelters us. Here we go.
Know where all shut off switches and valves are located-Inside the electrical service panel, at the top there is a main shut off breaker. If you have any electrical emergency (outlets, switches, appliances overheating) or you need to do some electrical work, know where this main breaker is. It is best practice to have all of your electrical breakers properly labeled so you can isolate appliances and other branch wiring circuits. Your boiler, furnace or heat pump will have an electrical shut off switch, within sight of the furnace. It should have a red cover plate on it. If you have municipal gas, the main shut off valve will be located in the basement near the meter. The same situation applies for municipal water shut off valves. Private well water shut off valves will be near the well water storage tank. If you have teenagers who are at home while you’re away, give them a tutorial and let them know what to turn off in case of emergency. Labeling each switch and valve is a smart move to simplify identification.
Keep water away from the foundation-Ideally, the grade around the house should pitch slightly away from it. Gutter downspouts, if not directed into underground leaders, should spill water 4-6’ away from the foundation. Gutters need to be kept clean, at least twice a year, or more if you live in the woods like I do. Having a wet or damp basement will lead to mold and mildew. A sump pump pit in the basement is, in my mind, essential to relieve high water tables. Sump pump pits can have a 4” pvc drain run underground to daylight and you’ll never need a pump.
Let your house breath-Outside, keep landscape and vegetation about a foot away from the foundation and siding. Grade should be about 8” below the siding. Don’t let tree limbs touch or scrape the roof or walls. Water and moisture are a huge deal with rain levels dramatically increasing over the last 5 years. I’m noticing algae and mildew, in places I never used to see, like roof shingles, siding, decking, window mullions and stone walks and terraces. When you see this build up, hire someone to power wash and clean.
Winterizing-Before it freezes, turn off all water to exterior hose bibs, drain hoses and leave the hose bib valves open. Clean or replace you air filters on your HVAC units. Get on an HVAC maintenance plan so you don’t have to worry. Remove screens and install storm door panels.
Clean fireplaces and chimneys-Try to get your fireplace and chimneys inspected and cleaned in the Fall before you light your first fire. Creosote buildup in chimneys can ignite. Chimneys should have rain caps to keep water out.
Clean dryer vents-I bet most house fires are caused by lint build up in the dryer vent. We placed our vent where it’s easy to get to and removed the screen inside so it’s easy to clean. Best to clean once a month if you do a lot of laundry. Also, check that your washer hoses are upgraded from plain rubber hose to metal reinforced hose.
Inspect and repair roof shingles, siding, windows and doors-Roof shingles should lay flat and be properly flashed at walls and chimneys. If you see your shingles cupping, clawing or color fade have a Roofer inspect them. Siding and trim should be caulked and painted tight at all joints. Check for rot if you have wood windows or siding. Check that there is no moisture along door and window jambs and sills.
Preventative maintenance will be the best investment you can make to prolong the life of your house. A thorough home inspection will identify and report on all of these points.