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Preventative Home Maintenance Tasks You Shouldn't Ignore

12/23/2016 11:00 EST | Updated 12/23/2016 11:29 EST
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Woman testing smoke detector on ceiling

Not unlike bringing your car into the shop for a tune-up, scheduled home maintenance can curtail an onslaught of costly issues down the line and help preserve your home's pristine condition. But the undertaking is often daunting for new and seasoned homeowners alike.

With the multitude of tasks, where do you even start? And, for that matter, how often do they need to be carried out? Not to worry. Here's a handy home maintenance checklist for homeowners of all skill-sets -- both seasoned and novice -- to prevent extensive damage and an array of hazards.

Keep moisture at bay

Excessive moisture can wreak havoc on the household -- most prominently by introducing mould and mildew. Mould alone creates many problems for the home, like attracting rodents and termites, causing wood rot, surface discolouration, and a foul odour, as well as posing a number of health risks for the family. What's more, it thrives virtually anywhere there's enough moisture.

To keep dampness under control, make sure you carry out the following maintenance tasks:

  • Clean rain gutters and inspect the roof at least twice a year
  • Pump your septic tank every three to five years to prevent sewage backup.
  • Drain your water heater once a year to prevent leaks.
  • Use fans in the kitchen when cooking and in the bathroom when showering.

Moreover, always be on the lookout for stains on ceilings, dark areas on pipes underneath the sink, rocking toilets, and foul odours, as these may indicate a pipe leak.

Make sure none of your household appliances have been recalled

In addition to being inconvenient and costly, faulty home appliances have also been known to cause house fires. That's why it's important that you check Canada's Recalls and Safety Alerts Database for up-to-date recalls on home appliances and other consumer products. They provide a phone number you can call for more information about a specific recall, and safety precautions you should take in the meantime.

Schedule smoke alarm maintenance

According to the Survey of Emergency Preparedness and Resilience in Canada, a whopping 95 per cent of Canadian homes have at least one smoke detector. Although an inspiring statistic, research conducted by The Canadian Association of Fire chiefs (CAFC), along with Duracell and Kidde Canada, found that more than half of all households fail to replace smoke detector batteries, thus, rendering them useless. Plus, in some provinces including British Columbia, having only one working smoke alarm won't satisfy residential building codes.

With that in mind, here are some smoke alarm maintenance and safety tips that all homeowners should follow:

  • Test alarms once a month by holding down the test button.
  • Replace batteries in all smoke detectors twice a year when you adjust your clocks for fall and spring (if you're in Saskatchewan, mark this on the calendar).
  • Vacuum and clean smoke detectors with a cloth once a year.
  • Replace smoke alarms once every 10 years (some models need to be replaced every five years).
  • Use a combination of ionized batteries (for fast, flaming fires) and photoelectric batteries (for slow, shouldering fires).
  • Install a smoke detector inside and outside each bedroom, and on every storey of the home.
  • Make sure all smoke alarms are wired so that one alarm will sound all alarms in the house.

Clean vents and filters regularly

Some research shows that cleaning home appliances (like your heating and cooling system) could prolong the life of the system, reap some energy savings, and reduce maintenance costs. There are also more hazardous problems a quick clean could help nip in the bud -- such as lint buildup on the screen of your dryer, which creates a serious fire hazard. And luckily, keeping your vents and filters free of dust accumulation is as easy as brushing them off about once a month or replacing them for a few bucks.

Examine the foundation of your home

Whether uneven settling or serious cracks, foundation troubles can easily become one of the most expensive home repairs out there. Foundation damage is caused by a range of risks, including poor construction, earth movement, water exposure, and encroaching tree roots. That's why every year, make sure to check that the soil slopes away from the foundation walls and that gutter downspouts carry water away from the foundation at a distance of at least two metres. Proper sloping and downspout distance helps prevent water from getting too close to the foundation, which can cause cracks in masonry, basement walls to lean, and water leakage.

Get your carpet professionally deep-cleaned

Even if you vacuum regularly, it's important that your carpet gets a thorough, professional cleaning once a year. And while you may be tempted to save a few shekels by renting a Rug Doctor, there are some common mistakes DIYers make that could significantly damage carpets, such as over-shampooing and over-dampening -- not to mention, failing to protect furniture from wet carpets. As a result, carpets may become a magnet for dirt, shrink and tear, and create a petri-dish of mould and mildew.

Not only does a proper, professional deep clean extend the life of your carpeting, but it also reduces allergens and improves indoor air quality, which can be as much as 5 times more polluted than outdoor air.

Be prepared in case of an emergency

Despite your best efforts, things can (and do) happen. That's why, in the event of an emergency, adults in the household should be able to locate important controls on the property, including the following:

  • Main water shut-off valve
  • Water shut-off valve for faucets, toilets, and washing machine
  • Electrical fuse
  • Gas shut-off valve

Make sure you have a meter wrench shut-off tool on hand, which can be purchased at your local hardware or home improvement store for about $10 to $20.

It's important to note, too, that the main purpose of house insurance is to protect your household and its contents from sudden hazards like explosions, fires, and windstorms. When it comes to wear and tear, however, the onus is on homeowners. And by staying abreast with home upkeep, you'll reap the feeling of accomplishment, and the peace of mind that comes with maintaining a safe and cozy haven -- not to mention the possibility of a lowered premium.

Saskia Matheson is the general manager at Esurance Canada. Esurance provides home and auto insurance direct to Canadian consumers.

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