What regular maintenance should I schedule for our new home?
November 12, 2013 10:51 AM   Subscribe

We bought a house, yay. It’s a small 1910’s bungalow with gas appliances and everything basically works. The foundation’s been replaced in the not-too-distant past and it’s ready for an earthquake. I've never been anything but a renter, so what kinds of regular maintenance should I be thinking about to minimize the risk of catastrophic emergency repairs? Plumbing, gas, heating, electrical, sewers: what’s a good schedule, and what kinds of things do I ask for to make clear that there’s nothing particularly wrong but I’d like to keep it that way? I looked at this old question, but most of the interesting-sounding links are dead.
posted by migurski to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Find a good HVAC company and arrange for them to inspect your A/C and furnace before cooling and heating seasons. Ours calls it "shield of protection" and includes preferential service for emergency calls and a discount on parts & labor; we pay $175/year and consider it to be worth it for the piece of mind.
posted by DrGail at 10:56 AM on November 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

You might want to get in touch with whatever the preservation society is in your area. They will have lots of great info and you can meet others who have historic homes or are preservation enthusiasts. I'm in so cal and we have a few groups so I'm guessing there is one in your area too. Congrats on your historic bungalow!
posted by wildflower at 11:03 AM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Call your power utility to see if they'll do an energy audit for you. They have deals where they'll give you tips to save energy and even clue you into rebates, both from the utility and the government (federal, state, local.) We got a tankless hot water heater this way. Nearly free after rebates.

Here's what we did in our house (before we sold it.)

HVAC twice a year. (as Drgail points out.)

Gutter cleaning three times a year.

Caulking-really important in wet areas.

Know where you shut offs are and how to use them. Gas and water, especially. For water you may need a tool, but I"m not kidding. After an earthquake, you'll need to cut off the gas.

Trim your trees and have them inspected. Twice last year I had damage due to trees. Once, a branch broke at work and crashed through the front end of my car. Windshield and front end damage were extensive. A neighbor's 40 foot pine tree fell over across our back yard. Took out the fence. 10 feet in the other direction and it would have destroyed our house. We had our trees pruned and inspected annually.

Send a camera down your sewer pipe ESPECIALLY before you do any landscaping. I learned this the hard way. Do it now, to determine if any of your trees are invading your pipes, or if there are any breeches. A plumber will do this and I would have had it done during the inspection. I learned this one the hard way.

After any storms have your roof inspected to determine if there is any damage.

Homeownership is rewarding and it's a lot of work. Enjoy!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:14 PM on November 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The roof. I presume you had a soup to nuts home inspection prior to closing, but make sure you find out who's taken care of the roof in the past, or get a good recommendation. This is especially true if the roof is different than most of your neighbors'.

Second the recommendation for having contact info for a good arborist in your home maintenance file.

Find out whether your local utilities will come out and mark your lines for free (many do). It's not a terrible idea to have, but it's essential if you want to do any digging of any sort (yes, even for a garden).

Figure out what's your problem and what's the city's, or the utility's. I own a house built in 1910 and the domestic water was all carried by clay pipe, which tend to last, oh, about 100 years at the outside. Having someone come in and dig an enormous trench in your yard to replace it gets pricey fast. Especially when it happens twice in 5 months.

Brick home? Tuckpointing. Especially around windows and chimneys. Have them come out every couple of years unless you notice something sooner.

Most of the service techs are happy to give you a few pointers on simple maintenance you can perform, and how to do it safely. Ask.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 12:29 PM on November 12, 2013

The CMHC has some resources on maintenance and repairs.

On the roof, you should inspect the flashing around penetrations every year, and have them fixed if they are damaged. If you have a chimney, consider getting a sealed gaz heater that doesn't require one. Make sure you don't have an oil tank from a previous heating system. If you do, get rid of it (in an environmentally-safe manner) ASAP.

You're also supposed to test your GFI receptacles (usually found in the bathroom, for instance) every month. Same for GFI/AFI breakers at your panel.

Try to collect the manuals for all of your applicances and file them. Read them to see if the manufacturer recommends any regular maintenance.

Make sure your gutters drain well away from your home and that the drain isn't clogged.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 1:11 PM on November 12, 2013

For some reason, the CMHC doesn't have its maintenance checklist on its Website anymore, but it's available elsewhere.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 1:17 PM on November 12, 2013

For all your appliances know what their maintenance schedule is and follow it. And don't just stick to their schedule but follow what the appliances really need. Depending on your conditions you might have to replace filters more often, for example.
posted by Runes at 1:40 PM on November 12, 2013

Response by poster: Super useful, thanks everyone!

I'm going to have a sewer lateral pressure test done soon, to comply with county requirements. Make sense to do a camera inspection then?
posted by migurski at 2:20 PM on November 12, 2013

I think so, since the contractor would also have the equipment to do the camera inspection.

Since you live in an earthquake-prone area, it would make sense to tie your maintenance schedule with your earthquake preparation. FEMA has some information on that. You could also look at preparing for other emergencies (fire, flooding, etc.), and do stuff like replace the food and water in your disaster kit, make sure you're not storing anything that could be damaged by water on your basement's floor, etc.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 3:25 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, if the requirement is the one in Oakland, it seems you'd want to have a camera inspection done before the pressure test.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 3:30 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

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