Eat Your Vegetables: Necessary Home Maintenance Chores that You Love to Hate

by Matt Goering

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Eating your vegetables is a lot like keeping up on basic home maintenance. When it came to eating your greens, your Mom knew what she what she was talking about, and then some. Sure, those vegetables provided valuable vitamins and minerals for your growing body just like Mom said they would, though studies now show that regular consumption of vegetables also reduces your chances of getting several types of cancer, diabetes, and coronary heart disease. In addition to that, a diet high in vegetables has been proven to lower your blood pressure, reduce your chances of stroke, and helps decrease bone loss as you get older. Keeping up on basic maintenance chores can be just as beneficial to your home's well-being as eating a healthy diet is good for your body. Simple things like checking for water and roof leaks, cleaning out gutters and downspouts, servicing hot water heaters, furnaces, and air conditioners, and making sure your home is properly sealed and caulked, go a long way when it comes to extending the life of your home, and benefitting your pocketbook as well. That said, stop your complaining, revive that to-do list, and be sure to clean your plate if you want any desert.

#1: Gutter Maintenance
Gutters might be the mixed veggies of the home improvement world. Why? Because they're that beneficial to your home when they work properly. John Bandock of Absolute Handyman in Golden, Colorado, says that this one is a no-brainer. When asked which home maintenance tasks are the most important to keep up on, he didn't miss a beat: "Check for water leaks in the roof and "downspouts," recommends Bandock, "and make sure the ground next to the house is pitched properly. That's because some of the most easily preventable, and most costly repairs your home can sustain, are caused by excess moisture, and your gutters and downspouts play a vital role in catching rainwater and snowmelt, and safely diverting it away from your home. If your gutters are clogged however, as they often are after leaves drop in the fall, or after large spring storms, the results can be disastrous. Damaged roofing, attic insulation, soffits, fascias, and siding are your best-case scenarios. And if all that water isn't diverted away from your home's foundation, the integrity of your entire home can become compromised over time.

#2: Roof Inspections
An annual roofing inspection is the equivalent of an annual helping of fresh carrots. Nobody really minds eating a few carrot sticks now and then. In fact, they kind of taste good. It's just that fresh carrots hardly ever make it to the table when you've got potato chips, chocolate chip granola bars, and Cherry Garcia ice cream competing for your tummy time. Roofing inspections are just as easy and painless to perform, and you've got a lot to gain by having them done on an annual or semi-annual basis. Undetected roof damage and leaks can take months, and even years, to show up as a dark patch of moisture damage seeping through your ceiling. By that time they've likely damaged roofing materials, roof decking, framing, attic insulation, and the drywall. In other words, you're looking at thousands of dollars in repair work when you could have replaced a faulty shingle for less than a hundred bucks. But don't take our word for it. State Farm Insurance, Popular Mechanics, HGTV, and Consumer Reports all have roofing inspections listed near, or at the top, of their lists of important home maintenance chores.

#3: Caulking, Sealing, and Weatherstripping
We?ll call this one the spinach of the home improvement world. Granted, eating the canned stuff that Popeye the Sailorman was such a big fan of makes for a pretty nasty side dish, but if spinach is prepared right, and you eat it often, it really isn't so bad. Caulking, sealing, and weatherstripping are the same way. Put these tasks off for five or ten years at a time, and you'll have a week long project on your hands (and an energy inefficient home to boot!). Do it once or twice or year, and you'll be able to tackle this one in an afternoon. While this used to be a fall-maintenance chore, since most homeowners stood to gain the most by keeping the heat in and the cold out come wintertime, that's just not the case anymore. With air conditioners as commonplace as window fans in modern American homes, a well sealed home pays off year round, not just when the mercury drops. The U.S. Department of Energy suggests that homeowners focus their energies on windows, doors, and their accompanying frames when you caulk and seal, noting that this simple task can easily result in a 10% drop in your heating and cooling bills when it's done right!

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#4: Servicing Appliances
Scheduling a regular service call is the green pea of home improvement. After all, green peas aren't just good vegetables. They make regular appearances in stir fries, casseroles, and soups across the country. Similarly, appliance tune-ups and maintenance make every home maintenance list we've ever come across, including those put out by consumer advocates Consumer Reports and Popular Mechanics, as well as State Farm Insurance. As a rule, you should be sure to tune-up your air conditioner and furnace, clean your A/C compressor coils, and change out your furnace filter. And don't forget to check your hot water heater, either, says John Bandock, the owner/operator of Absolute Handyman that we introduced earlier. "Hot water heaters seem to be a common problem lately," says Bandock. "People don't drain them like they should, which leads to sediment buildup in the bottom of the tank. It decreases the life of the hot water heater, and because of all that buildup, the heaters don't burn as efficiently either, which costs people money."

#5: The Walk Through
Nobody wants to do it, but it's one of the most beneficial things you can do for your home. Call it the broccoli or Brussel sprouts of the home maintenance world. All you've got to do is get in the habit of performing a regular walk-through for your home. By simply taking a stroll inside and out, and keeping your eyes open for areas that need your attention, you'll be sure to catch minor problems before they have a chance to become big ones. Things to look out for? "Just be sure to take care of the outside, especially wood surfaces," says Bandock, since those surfaces are the first to incur irreparable damage if problems go unnoticed. Other than that, a walk through should include an inspection of your home?s siding, paint job, roofing, and gutters and downspouts, as well as interior areas such as basements, foundations, carpets, plumbing, and high moisture areas like kitchens and bathrooms, especially around sinks, showers, and baths.

You probably heard your Mom say it when you refused to eat your vegetables: prevention is the best medicine. Taking good care of your home is no different.

Matt Goering, formerly a carpenter and house painter, is a freelance writer for the home improvement industry who has published over 600 articles.