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Do You Have a Plan for Home Maintenance?

Owning a home is a major responsibility. Not only do you have the obligation of paying the mortgage each month, but you also have to maintain your home so that it remains a good investment. Home maintenance is a crucial part of homeownership and can require a great deal of time, money, and effort.

Inspect your home – inside and outside – regularly. Use a checklist to help you familiarize yourself with the condition of your house and state of repair. Making minor, routine repairs helps to prolong the life of the home and may prevent the need for major repairs. An inspection also helps you plan and save for major improvements. Use the Maintenance Check List on the back page to guide you in what and when inspections need to be done.

Home Repairs

You can save a lot of money by doing some repair or remodeling jobs
yourself. Before tackling a job

Plan Ahead

Various parts of the house will wear out, so you need to have an emergency fund in case your roof leaks or the water heater needs to be replaced.

Budget one to two percent of the purchase price of the home for annual maintenance and repairs. If your home or the appliances are older, you may need to save an even bigger amount.

Plan ahead for major purchases. Estimate when you might have to purchase something new. According to industry officials, the average life span for the following appliances is estimated at:

  • Roof – 20-25 years
  • Heating system – 25 years
  • Refrigerator – 20 years
  • Freezer – 20 years
  • Clothes dryer – 18 years
  • Range/oven – 18 years
  • Room air conditioner – 15 years
  • Clothes washer – 13 years
  • Water heater – 13 years
  • Central air conditioner – 12 years
  • Dishwasher – 12 years
, however, make sure that you have the skills, knowledge, and time needed to do the job. Many building supply stores have instruction manuals or classes for the "do-it-yourselfer." If you do a poor job or aren’t satisfied with how the project looks, you may end up spending more time and money than if you had a professional do the work.

Even if you’re "handy," there may be some jobs that you’re not able to do or don’t have the right tools for. You may need to hire someone to do extensive plumbing, electrical, or structural repairs. Whether doing the job yourself or hiring someone, check to see if there are codes or regulations that need to be followed or permits that must be obtained before you start the job.


For safety reasons, know where the turn-off valves are for water, gas, and the fuse/breaker box for electricity before starting a job. If digging outdoors, call JULIE at 1-800-892-0123 or your local utility company to locate any underground utilities. You may need to give them 48 hours notice, so plan ahead.

Hiring a Contractor

If you need to hire someone, make a list of contractors by checking with friends, neighbors, coworkers, building supply stores or the phone book. Request references and check them out. You may also want to contact the Consumer Fraud Bureau of the Attorney General’s office, the Better Business Bureau, or your local chamber of commerce to see if complaints have been filed against the contractor.

Get a written estimate from two or three contractors to make sure that the amount quoted is reasonable. Determine if the contractor has adequate

insurance, as well as check your homeowner’s policy to see if workers are covered while on your property. Before starting the job have the contractor or sub-contractor sign a "waiver of lien." This will protect you if they don’t pay their bills.

Keep Good Records

Start a notebook and record the repairs you make or equipment you purchase. These will be valuable if you resell your home, need to document when work was done or what it cost, and help plan for future purchases.

Work done By Date Cost
Bedroom carpet Carpets Galore 5-25-96 $630
Refrigerator Appliance Mart 3-14-97 $800
Bathroom lighting A & B Electric 8-10-99 $150


Keep receipts, guarantees, and warranties in a file. These will also provide information in case of a problem.

Conserve Energy

Conserve energy and keep costs down by using energy conservation practices: weatherstrip and caulk doors and windows, insulate the attic, install storm windows, buy energy efficient appliances. Fall is a good time to conduct an inspection to get the home ready for winter. Some of the areas that need to be inspected include:

  • Check weatherstripping around doors and windows for damage and tightness. In the fall, hardware, building supply, and discount stores often have sales on a variety of products.

  • Check caulking at doors, windows, and other openings. If replacement is needed, be advised that many caulking products need to be applied when the outdoor air temperature is above 45-50 degrees. Check the label on the package for application instructions.

  • Check vents, louvers, chimney caps and housings, and gutters and downspouts for bird nests and other debris.

  • Have the heating system checked by a qualified service person. Clean around the furnace. Replace the filters monthly during the heating season or as recommended by the manufacturer.

  • Remove window air conditioners. Weatherstrip window openings if needed.

  • Clean and repair window wells, storm drains. and remove any leaves or other debris. Even a few leaves can clog outlets.

  • Drain outdoor hoses and water lines to prevent freezing.

  • Clean humidifiers and replace the filters as recommended.

  • Add insulation to walls, attic, and other areas. Check with building supply stores for the recommended R-value.

Home maintenance can be expensive and time consuming. But, it can add to the value of your investment if you decide to sell your home in the future. The Maintenance Check List* can help you identify and schedule home maintenance.

Written by Evelyn Prasse, Consumer and Family Economics Extension Educator, University of Illinois Extension, August 2000.

*The activity, Maintenance Check List , is reprinted by permission of the University of Illinois School of Architecture/Building Research Council from its copyrighted publication, Maintaining the Home. Other publications in this series on home building are available at a nominal fee. For more information and a list of publications visit http://brc.arch.uiuc.edu/, call 1-800-336-0616, or write to the Building Research Council, One East St. Mary’s Road, Champaign, IL 61820.