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Homeowner New Year Resolutions

Vector art of a home outline and a woman standing inside with a clipboard indicating a check list with items checked off





Losing weight, exercising, de-cluttering – these are all pretty standard resolutions made each January 1st. But what about making resolutions to keep your home in top shape? Here are some simple resolutions you can make to ensure your home stays safe and sound in the new year.

 




Home Assessment


To make a good home assessment, pretend you are a home buyer evaluating a property you may want to purchase, and evaluate your own home. Walk through each room and make a list of the problems you see, like chipped paint, stained carpet, or wall/ceiling cracks.


Next, group these issues into categories. Mechanical and structural should go into one category, cosmetic issues into another, and then “wish list” items into a third.


Once this is completed, prioritize according to your budget. Don’t let serious issues get ahead of you, however. These can cost even more to fix down the road if you wait.


Resolve to complete a home assessment and write out your “plan of attack.”


Home Inventory


While you are going room-to-room, take the opportunity to update your home inventory list and get it off to your insurance provider. This often overlooked task is the best way to help expedite insurance claims. Photos and purchase price information are important, so be sure to update yours as soon as possible.


Resolve to update your home inventory list and get it to your insurer.


Emergency Fund


It is very important to prepare financially for what may go wrong in your home. Angi Hicks, founder of Angi’s List, says most homeowners should anticipate spending 1% to 3% of their home’s value on annual maintenance and repairs. To avoid unwelcome financial surprises, Hicks advises that you lean into the higher percentage range.


Resolve to compile your home emergency fund and put it in an easily accessible account that earns interest, like a money market.


Emergency Kit


With the threat of more severe weather across Virginia in 2024, it’s time to go ahead and assemble that emergency kit that will help you have enough food and water to last for at least three days (including any pets). We’ve created a checklist of items you should have on hand in sufficient quantities – the more centrally located, the better.


Resolve to get an emergency kit assembled and set aside before hurricane season begins in June.


Appliances


Cleaning the coils and areas under and around your appliances will help them operate more efficiently. Use a vacuum brush on the coils, and make sure you remove any debris and dirt on surrounding surfaces. Pet hair, in particular, can compromise appliance performance and help reduce its life span.


Resolve to monthly clean the coils and areas around your large appliances to keep them running efficiently.


Fireplaces


Whether you have a woodburning or gas fireplace, you should have it inspected and cleaned once a year – twice if you use it often. The leading cause of fires in heating equipment is failing to keep it clean.


Resolve to have your fireplace inspected and cleaned this year.


Dryer Vents


Cleaning the ductwork that runs from your dryer to the outside is an important task you should do at least once a year, with many experts recommending it every 6-9 months. The length and shape of your venting system, the number of pets in your home, and the volume of laundry you do can shorten or lengthen your scheduled cleanings.


There are an average of 13,000 dryer vent fires every year in the U.S. costing around $240 million in property damage. Cleaning your vents can lower your risk of a fire and save you money on your energy bill as a clean vent makes drying times shorter.


Resolve to clean your dryer vent at least once this year.


Fire Suppression


Many homeowners have a fire extinguisher in their kitchens, but nearly 70% of homeowners surveyed say they aren’t confident they would know how to use one in an emergency.


Consider investing in a fire blanket if you are one of the 60%. They are easy to use and effective in putting out kitchen fires or even toppled candle fires. They are also good to drape around you should you have to exit a house fire near flames. Another advantage? They don’t expire like some fire extinguishers or need recharging like others, but they can’t handle large blazes where an extinguisher may be more useful.


Resolve to purchase a fire blanket, check the date on your fire extinguishers (the National Fire Protection Association says they should be recharged every 6 years or disposable ones replaced every 12 years), and brush up on how to use yours.


Water Leaks


We’ve been recommending our members install an automatic water shut-off valve in their homes for years as water damage is the number one claims category for Mutual Assurance. A water shut-off valve will monitor the water flow through your house and if it detects unusual water use, it will automatically turn off the water at the main so the damage to your home is limited.


Water Leak Detectors are also recommended as they will address leaks from appliances like ice-makers and refrigerators that aren’t as easily detected by a shut-off monitor.


Water damage restoration costs average between $1300 and $5600 when caught early. Long-term leaks, however, can cause tens of thousands of dollars in repair costs.


Resolve to contact Beagle Services, our water damage prevention partner, to schedule a visit from a master plumber to discuss your prevention needs.


Lighting


Save on your energy bills with a switch to LED lights. The Department of Energy has evaluated LED light use and discovered they use 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent lighting. For the average homeowner, that equates to $225 savings each year.


Resolve to switch out your lighting to LED to save money you can put towards your home emergency fund.


Bathroom Exhaust Fans


A local contractor has found (after doing many bathroom remodels) that most bathroom fans do not exhaust to the outdoors. This often leads to mold and condensation damage. He suggests you hire a contractor or handyman to make sure your fan is directing moist air outside, particularly on days where the humidity is above 70%, running a small dehumidifier during and after bathing.


There are bathroom fans that have humidity monitors built in that will turn on automatically when the percentage reaches a certain threshold, eliminating the need for a dehumidifier.


Resolve to install or check your bathroom fan and invest in a small dehumidifier for highly humid days.

 

Wood Floors


Placing felt pads or coasters under furniture is a simple and effective way to prevent damaging your flooring. Heavy pieces with narrow legs can cause gauges in wood flooring, and the cost to refinish runs from $2 to $7 a square foot.


Resolve to have felt pads, coasters, or casters put on the furniture sitting on hardwood flooring.


Downspouts and Gutters


There’s no such thing as a little bit of water when it comes to your home’s foundation. The average foundation repair cost is over $20,000 and most damage can be easily prevented by keeping gutters flowing and using a downspout extender to route water away from your house. Extenders can be buried underground or can be fashioned out of brick for a more decorative look.


Gutter guards can be installed by a professional, or you can use a length of wire screening to fit into your gutters and prevent leaves and sticks from clogging them up.


Resolve to keep your gutters clear and downspout water directed away from your home.

 

Window Leaks


One of the easiest ways to protect your home during storms is to make sure your windows are caulked well. A waterproof, mold-and-mildew-resistant caulk is recommended, and it won’t yellow, shrink, or crack. Most dry within 30 minutes, so you can apply it with plenty of time to protect your home from a forecasted storm.


Resolve to check the caulk on the outside of your windows and doors to ensure they are waterproof.


Window Weatherstripping


While caulk outside will help prevent water penetration, replacing the pile weatherstripping in your storm windows will help prevent cold or hot air from running up your energy bills, keep water out, and limit rattling.


Felt stripping will wear down over time. You can easily replace it by pulling out the old felt and inserting the new strips with a flat-head screwdriver to help put it into the track.


Resolve to lower your heating and cooling bills by replacing your window weather stripping.


HVAC Units


When the evaporator coil on an HVAC unit is dirty, airflow is reduced which compromises cooling, heating, and humidity control. This will overwork the compressor and blower motor over time, shortening the unit’s lifespan.


You should make sure your outdoor unit is not hampered by vegetation, and you can protect it from debris by installing a mesh cover that allows airflow to continue while limiting the amount of debris penetrating the unit.


Resolve to install a mesh cover and clip/rake away debris near your unit.

 

Grout Maintenance


Sealing grout helps protect it against moisture, stains, and mildew. If you have epoxy grout, it doesn’t need sealant. If your grout is sanded and unsanded and in a bathroom, it should be resealed every year. If you have a tile backsplash in the kitchen, it should be resealed every couple of years. Many trade professionals suggest you seal your grout every year regardless of the location.


All grout, whether floor, bathroom, or backsplash, should be well cleaned before sealing.


Resolve to DIY seal your grout or hire a handyman to do it for you.

 

Smoke Detectors


Did you know smoke detectors have a life span of 10 years? When was the last time you replaced yours?

One of the more irritating aspects of most smoke detectors is the incessant beeping when the battery is running down. Replace your old detectors with a smart one that can connect to your phone or tablet and let you do a monthly batter check without climbing a ladder. A smart detector can also let you know if it goes off when you aren’t at home, and some can be connected to your HVAC system to turn it off if smoke is detected – lowering the risk of the fire spreading quickly as it isn’t being fueled by fresh air.


Resolve to replace your old smoke detectors with one that makes checking the battery and notifying you of an issue as simple as punching a button on your phone.



 


 

Sources: National Fire Protection Association, Forbes, Realtor.com, MIC, U.S. News, House Grail, HomeLight,

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