Keeping Up Appearances

Common Maintenance Issues for First-time Homeowners

By Annamarya Scaccia

house issuesBuying your first home can be an exciting experience. There is a certain indescribable joy that comes with purchasing your first piece of property you’ve worked so hard for. But purchasing that “perfect” place you can finally call your own may also come with a few unexpected maintenance issues.

Overwhelmed with the novelty of their new home, many first-time homeowners overlook the amount of upkeep and money their new abode may require. And once they’re faced with the reality of how much they have to repair, even those who purposely purchase “fixer-uppers” can feel an overwhelming sense of panic.

While there is no way to avoid maintenance issues in a new home, there are ways to make them more manageable. When scouting for the “perfect” place, first-time home buyers should try their best to not be drawn in by the superficial looks of the home. Before committing to the purchase, potential homeowners should hire a licensed home inspector to conduct a thorough property assessment. Home inspectors are an indispensable and valuable tool for the new home buyer. They can alert you of any major problems with the house or, at the very least, point out any potential long-term or short-term maintenance issues you may face. Knowing what you are getting into can save you a great deal of money in the end.

There are still a number of common maintenance issues first-time buyers will face even after hiring a home inspector. Among these issues are grimy gutters, chipped exterior paint jobs, clogged drains and vents, diminished hardwood floors, faded weather stripping, bad pipes and plumbing, cracks in plaster walls, dirty carpets, lack of a waterproofing system, clogged chimneys, and a poor security system. However, these issues can be resolved with some preventative maintenance.

Regularly maintaining the upkeep of your home will help thwart the need for serious repairs in the future, which will ultimately burn a big hole in your pocket. It’s best to set up a reasonable maintenance schedule so you can guarantee each part of your house is tended to on a regular basis, rather than becoming overloaded with all the issues you have to deal with at once. This routine safeguarding is a vital part in taking care of your new place. It’s also a cost-effective measure that can boost the resale value of your home down the line, as it assures potential buyers that the property was well cared for instead of neglected.

Certain repairs may call for a professional, such as fixing plumbing and electrical issues, and cleaning out the chimney. However, there are a number of repairs a homeowner can perform with a little bit of knowledge and a lot of elbow grease. Easy maintenance repairs include oiling decks, repainting  the house inside and out, filling in dry and plaster wall cracks, steam cleaning carpets, replacing weather stripping, rewaxing floors, bleeding the heaters, blowing off boiler pressure, clearing brush and plants away from the sides of the house , trimming hedges and cutting grass regularly, and checking the conditions of drains and vents.  Other easy and important home maintenance projects include gutter cleaning and waterproofing.

Gutter cleaning is crucial in averting soil erosion and, by extension, serious damage. Neglecting your gutters can leave them clogged, which can potentially erode the soil away from your foundation, and cause your gutters to be pulled away from your home, possibly leaking into the basement. When cleaning, remove all branches, nests, leaves, and debris and then spray down the gutters with a water hose, downspout, to remove smaller remnants. If there is water backup, put the hose all the down through the gutter’s opening until it breaks through, then finish flushing it out (if that doesn’t work, use a plumber’s snake). You should clean your gutters at least twice yearly, especially before and after the rainy seasons.

Also, investing in a waterproofing system is a key part in maintaining your home—and is an easy step first-time home buyers can tackle on a weekend. Excess water can damage areas of your home, and having a waterproofing system in place can immediately protect surfaces prone to leaks. Start by adding a sealant to interior areas at risk for water damage, particularly those properties prone to humidity. You can also install interior and exterior water drainage, though you may want to consider hiring a professional as it’s expensive and involves digging up soil around the foundation.

In the end, taking care of your home continuously will help you reduce the risk of damage to your property, and will keep your home in great condition–something you can truly take pride in.

Published on Prince George’s Suite website – Friday, May 11, 2012

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