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Does Your Home Have 100,000 Miles on It?

by Matt Myers

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It's easy to tell when your car is getting up there in mileage, just check the odometer. Not to mention that there are other indicators—engine knocking, fluids leaking, gas mileage dropping—that let you know your car ain't what she used to be. But what about your house? There is no odometer to say to clean your gutters at this mileage or add insulation at this year or caulk your windows before you go on vacation.

We spend more time in our homes than in our cars, yet we give our cars more routine maintenance than our homes, and houses typically cost 10 times as much. So until home builders start installing odometers on houses, we will have to listen to conventional wisdom and listen to our homes.

Listen, Look, and Investigate
First, you need to listen to your house, and not just for the obvious things like creaking floors and dripping faucets. Listen when your cooling unit comes on. Does it sound right? Is there a loud noise that occasionally scares you? This might mean it needs a little care. Call an air conditioning contractor to come out and check. Have this unit checked at least once a year.

If your HVAC unit is constantly kicking on and then back off, it means that your home is having a difficult time holding a consistent temperature. This can be the result of many different maintenance issues or a combination.

  • Definitely you are having trouble insulating. Consider blown in insulation, which can provide solid performance during any season without having to rip out your walls.
  • If insulation is not the problem, you might have trouble with the seals around your windows and doors. Replacement windows will certainly do the trick, but at minimum have your windows caulked and sealed once a year.
  • Your ducts are likely dirty and inefficient, which also makes more work on your HVAC unit. Three items here: have your ducts cleaned, change the filter on your HVAC unit, and have your ducts sealed. These three items together are likely to save more money in one year than it will cost to have them performed. Your filter should be changed at the beginning of summer and winter.

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    Use Your Eyes
    Next, you have to look at things. It can be hard to notice items that you are constantly walking past, but take a good look at your home.

  • Is the paint on your home peeling?
  • Are the gutters chock full of leaves and debris?
  • Do your deck and fence have sun damage?
  • Has your sink been dripping for months?

    Investigate
    Take a spin through each room in your house and just investigate everything. Use your hands to feel walls and floors and determine if everything seems on the up and up. This might take 10 minutes. You have time for that, right? You might find some things you didn't know were there and you can stop them before it's too late. You might also rediscover an old problem that you have swept under the rug.

    Homes are designed to stand the test of time, whereas cars seem only to last a few years. But homes won't travel the distance without proper care, and the miles can really rack up if we let leaves sit in the gutters and let the heating and cooling unit run all day long. We don't have miles to dictate our home maintenance behavior, but we can use our senses, and at the very least, we can use our calendars.

    Matt Myers is a freelance writer for the home maintenance and remodeling industry. Formerly a contractor specializing in deck building and casework, Matt has written over 500 articles for both homeowners and contractors.