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Priority Maintenance for New Home Owners

house maintenance This page is designed to be used in conjunction with your A Best Home Inspection report. There are so many home maintenance and repair items that are important; it can be confusing trying to establish which are the most critical. To simplify things, we have compiled a short list of our favorites. These are by no means all-inclusive, nor do they replace any of the information in a home inspection report. They should, however, help you get started on the right foot. Remember, any of your home inspection report items marked as priority and all safety issues listed in your home inspection report need immediate attention.

Be smart and safe if doing your own maintenance, use extreme caution with ladders, walking on roofs or making electrical repairs. Performing these types of jobs can be life threatening if not performed properly. Be aware that walking on roofs can cause damage to the roofing materials and some roofs are too steep or slippery to walk or crawl on safely. If you don’t know what you are doing, or need help call a qualified professional.

Priority Maintenance for New Home Owners, One-Time Tasks

  1. Install new smoke detectors if they’re 5+ yrs old or yellowing. For minimum protection it’s recommended to install smoke alarms in each bedroom and outside each sleeping area (one alarm per short bedroom hallway) and at least one on every level of the home.
  2. Install carbon monoxide detector(s), at a minimum install at lowest level of home with a bedroom. Current safety guidelines recommend at the very minimum a CO detector be installed within 10 to 15 feet outside all sleeping areas in the home and in the basement near your utility room or of course if a bedroom is in the basement.
  3. Hire a licensed electrician to make electrical improvements recommended in the home inspection report.
  4. Improve grading, gutters and downspouts as recommended to keep water away from foundation walls. See Roof Water Drainage.
  5. Try to maintain 6 inch clearance from soil to non-pressure treated wood, to minimize rot and insect damage. See House Grading pg.
  6. Change the locks on all doors. Use a dead bolt for better security and to minimize insurance costs.
  7. Correct trip hazards such as broken or uneven walks and driveways, loose or torn carpet or uneven flooring.
  8. Correct unsafe stairways and landings. (Railings missing, loose, too low, etc.)
  9. Have all chimneys inspected and repaired or cleaned as needed before operating fireplaces or wood, coal or pellet stoves and other wood or coal fired heating appliances.
  10. Locate and mark the shut-offs for the heating, electrical and plumbing systems.
  11. Label the circuits in electrical panels.
  12. If there is a septic system, have the tank pumped and inspected.
  13. If the house is on a private water supply (well), set up a regular testing procedure for checking water quality.
  14. Install metal caps with screens on all chimney flue pipes.
  15. Test your home for radon. The EPA recommends that all homes in the USA are tested for radon. Even if your home was tested as part of the home inspection I recommend to re-test for radon once you occupy the home and are in control of all testing perimeters to ensure a proper test is conducted. Radon testing protocols can be easily violated either knowingly or unknowingly at time of real estate sales which can result in inaccurate radon test results. Home test radon test kits cost very little and well worth the assurance to confirm test results. You could also purchase a radon home monitor similar to a carbon monoxide detector that has a digital display of the radon level.

Regular Maintenance Items

The following items have been grouped into categories that can be done together by the same contractor or the homeowner to save on cost or at the same time due to proximity.


  1. Set up some type of maintenance schedule or reminder to perform the following tasks, most people forget to perform these important maintenance functions without some type of schedule reminders.
  2. Replace smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector batteries yearly.
  3. Test carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors using the test button, monthly, replace if faulty.
  4. Replace smoke alarms every 5 to 10 years as per manufactures instruction.
  5. Replace carbon monoxide detectors every 7 to 10 years as per manufactures instruction.
  6. Test ground fault circuit interrupters monthly, push test buttons and reset, have repaired if faulty. This goes for individual outlets in the kitchen, bath, garage and exterior etc, with test buttons on them and also for the GFCI breakers with test buttons in the electrical distribution panel box(es).
  7. Inspect and clean as needed wood, coal and pellet burning chimneys annually. Wood burning fireplace or wood stove chimneys should be cleaned or sweeped every 5 face cords of burned wood or every 5 years whichever comes first.
  8. For homes with an active radon mitigation system the system should include a manometer (a glass U-tube with red or blue liquid) usually in the basement or garage where it is easy to see on the radon vent pipe. Check the manometer gauge daily or weekly to ensure system is working (pressurized); the colored liquid should be noticeably higher on one side which indicates suction inside the pipe. If the colored liquid is even on both sides of U-tube it indicates system is not working, if so check to ensure the power supply is on and if so call for service to repair.
  9. Additionally if your home has a an active radon mitigation system (one with an operating radon fan) the EPA and NY State Department of Health recommends that the radon level is tested every 2 years to ensure safe operation of the radon system = average radon level should be below 4.0 pCi/L. Keep records of your radon testing results.

Homeowner or Handyman

  1. Clean the tracks on horizontal sliding windows annually, and ensure the drain holes are clear.
  2. Change furnace/AC filters every 1 to 3 months during heating/cooling seasons depending on type of filter. I recommend the low cost pleated filters that are rated for 90 days.
  3. Whole house water filter cartridge systems usually need filters changed from 3 to 12 months depending.
  4. Drinking water filtration systems usually need filters changed 6 to 12 months. The vast majority of filters are rated for 12 months.
  5. Water softeners, need to be maintained by filling brine reservoir with softener salt, usually 3 or 4, 40 pound bags every few months or so as needed. If you let the salt run out you will know it because the water will not be soft.
  6. Check humidifiers and electronic air cleaners monthly and clean every 3 to 12 months as needed.
  7. Check the bathtub and shower caulking monthly and improve promptly as needed.
  8. If you are in a climate where freezing occurs, shut off outdoor water faucets in the fall, and be sure to disconnect hoses from faucets.
  9. Check reversing mechanisms on garage door opener monthly (photo eye and auto reverse).
  10. If accessible check attics for evidence of leaks and condensation and make sure vents are not obstructed, at least twice a year. (Provide access into all attics and crawl spaces.)

Roofing Contractor / General Contractor / Good Handyman

  1. Check for damaged roofing and roof flashings at least once per year.
  2. Cut back trees and shrubs from the house walls 12 inches and above roofs 10 feet, and away from air conditioning system (3 feet) as needed.
  3. Clean the gutters in the spring and fall, ensure downspouts are properly extended and free flowing.

Heating / Air Conditioning Contractor

  1. Service furnace or boiler yearly (prior to heating season, August or September).
  2. Air conditioning usually does not need service other than keeping cooling fins on the outside condensing unit clean. If A/C is not cooling and needs repair and unit is 12 or more years old it is usually best to put money towards a new A/C system as repairs can be quiet expensive and usually only last a year or so. Repairs costs are typically 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of a new system.

Septic Pumping Company

  1. If on a private septic system, septic systems should be pumped every 3 to 5 years on average.


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