Buying a home is an incredible milestone to achieve and an exciting time for many first-time buyers. However, there are several new responsibilities that come with the title homeowner, says Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.
“Apart from the financial commitment, there are also some other necessary home maintenance responsibilities that need to be addressed on a regular basis,” says Goslett. “Purchasing a home that is in good repair is great, but then it is up to the new owner to ensure that it stays that way. It is always advisable to get into the routine of doing regular maintenance checks, rather than waiting for something to go wrong and having to deal with costly repairs. It is far better to ensure that everything gets the required attention before it turns into a major problem and financial burden. Advanced warning will also allow the homeowner to do some comparative shopping and find the best person for the job, instead of rushing around in an emergency situation.”
According to Goslett, ideally preventative maintenance inspections should be carried out at least twice a year, although certain areas of the home may require slightly more attention and others less. “Generally the majority of checks and maintenance can be done by the homeowner, however there are certain aspects of the home that may require the services of a professional contractor,” advises Goslett.
He provides new homeowners with some areas in the home that will need to be checked and maintained regularly:
Main electrical panel
The main electrical panel should be checked for signs of water penetration as this could be potentially dangerous. Look for water marks or sections of the panel that show signs of rust. The circuit breaker switches should all be turned off and back on to ensure that they are all working and none have seized. If the panel is warm to the touch or smells of burnt insulation it is advisable to have it inspected by a professional electrician.
Windy, stormy weather can shift or damage roofing tiles, so this is an area of the home that should be checked regularly. Roof tiles that are missing or damaged should be replaced as they could lead to leaks and water damage inside the home. Homes with flat roofs must also be checked, especially for areas that are blistering or have bubbles. Debris should be cleared off the roof and any trees or branches that make contact with the roof should be cut back.
Another aspect that homeowners should pay attention to while on the roof is the chimney. Make sure that there are no loose or damaged bricks and that the mortar is in good repair. It is also a good idea to check that the waterproofing elements around the base of the chimney are in a suitable condition. The chimney should be professionally swept as least once a year to clear away any built up creosote and other flammable materials inside the chimney flue. While this will not apply to gas fireplaces, it is important to have them serviced and have a licensed gas technician ensure that everything is operating correctly.
Debris such as foliage and other foreign objects can cause gutters and downpipes to clog, causing the water to overflow into unwanted areas. This could cause water damage and damp inside the ceiling space or within the walls of the home. In order to avoid this, gutters should be cleaned and checked regularly, ensuring that there are no leaks or holes that may require some repair. It is also advisable to check that the gutters are securely attached to the wall and that they are positioned to drain water away from the house.
Windows and doors
Broken or cracked window panes can be a potential safety hazard so it is best to have them replaced. Old, cracking, sun-damaged window putty should also be reapplied where necessary. Window and door finishes should be checked for any paint deterioration or rot. Ensuring that the windows and doors seal properly will assist in reducing utility costs, as it will be easier to heat or cool down the inside of the home. It is vital to check whether any door frames have shifted over the last six months as this could point to an issue with the foundation or structure of the home.
Walls and ceilings
The most important aspects to look for when inspecting walls and ceilings are cracks and damp spots. Narrow vertical cracks in walls are often caused by minor settlement or normal shrinkage and should be too much cause for concern. However, if the vertical crack is around 3mm wide or wider, it could be a result of major settlement problems and should be checked and evaluated by an engineer.
If water marks appear of either the walls or the ceiling it is important that they are monitored. Damp within the wall will cause the paint to bubble and flake, while damp in the ceiling could cause it to sag or in severe causes collapse. Water marks on the ceiling are generally a symptom of a leaking roof.
While most people use paint to change the look and feel of their home, its primary function is to provide the home with a protective layer against the elements. It provides a waterproofing layer to walls, protects metal from rust and wooden fixtures from sun-damage, insects and rot. Painted areas that are bubbling, peeling, cracked or blistered should be inspected, repaired and repainted.
Patios and decks
Much like paint, vanish or sealant also acts as a protective layer for wooden features such as decks. Wooden patios and decks need to be sealed properly to avoid warping or water damage. If the deck is sealed correctly, water should bead on the surface, however if the water is absorbed, it is ineffective and the deck will need to be sanded down and resealed. Another concern with wooden elements is insect infestation, so these features should be inspected and fumigated if necessary.
Once all the major elements have been inspected, check for things such as toilets that run continuously and leaking taps as these elements will eat into utility costs. Ensure that toilets are sealed and secured to the floor and check that the sealant and grouting around all kitchen and bathroom fixtures is in good repair. This will prevent water from leaking in behind tiles, which can cause mould and rot.
“Getting into a routine of regularly taking preventative measures is far better than being caught unaware. Taking good care of a home will help to ensure the safety of those who live there, along with its capital appreciation over the long term,” Goslett concludes.