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13 Must-Do Maintenance Tasks for Old Houses

13 Must Do Maintenance Tasks for Old Houses
Image Credit: kali9 from Getty Images Signature

Owning an old house brings character and charm, but it also comes with a unique set of maintenance tasks. Older homes need more frequent attention to ensure they remain in good condition and safe for you and your family. By understanding what needs to be looked after, you can keep your house beautiful and functional.

What are the key tasks to focus on to maintain an old house? Regular upkeep not only preserves the value of your home but also prevents costly repairs down the road. Proper maintenance can help you enjoy the historical features of your home while keeping it up-to-date and efficient.

1) Inspect Roof for Leaks

Make sure you regularly inspect your roof for leaks. A small leak can turn into a big problem if not addressed quickly. Start by checking your attic and ceilings for water stains or damp spots.

Outside, look at the roof shingles. Are any missing or damaged? You should also check metal flashings around chimneys and vents. Damaged flashings can let water in.

Next, examine your gutters and downspouts. They need to be clear so water can flow off your roof. Clogged gutters can cause water to pool and leak into your home.

Performing these checks helps catch problems early. If you’re not comfortable doing this yourself, hire a professional. Regular inspections can save you money and prevent bigger issues later.

2) Clean Out Gutters

Keeping your gutters clean is vital for your home’s health. Blocked gutters can cause water to overflow, leading to damage on walls, roofs, and foundations. To start, place your ladder in a stable, dry spot. Make sure it’s secure before climbing.

Inspect your gutters from the ground first. Look for any cracks or gaps. Once ready, climb up and use a scoop or your hands to remove debris. Be sure to wear gloves to protect your hands from sharp objects.

Work your way from the corner of the gutters toward the center. Carry a bucket to collect the debris to avoid a mess. Cleaning your gutters can prevent major repairs later on.

Gutter guards are a great option to consider. They keep leaves and twigs out, which reduces the need for frequent cleaning. Check out some top-rated gutter guards to find one that suits your needs.

Don’t forget to clean the downspouts too. You can flush them with water to ensure there are no blockages. For tough clogs, a plumber’s snake can be very helpful.

Regular maintenance of your gutters saves you a lot of potential headaches in the future. Taking these steps can protect your home from water damage and keep everything running smoothly.

3) Repaint Exterior

Repainting your home’s exterior is a key maintenance task, especially for older houses. Start by scraping off any loose or peeling paint. This can be a tough job, so consider using a heating gun to soften the paint first. Always wear a respirator for safety when doing this.

Next, check for any rotted wood. Use a putty knife to scrape out the rotted bits, then fill the holes with paintable wood filler. If large sections are damaged, remove the rotted wood and apply a wood hardener to reinforce the area.

Set up scaffolding or ladders to reach higher spots safely. Before you start painting, make sure to wash the surface to remove dust and dirt. This helps the new paint adhere better. Using a pressure washer can speed up this process.

Choose a high-quality exterior paint to ensure durability. Solid-color stains are another option but might not last as long as paint. Begin painting from the top and work your way down. This method helps you catch any drips or runs as you go along.

For more detailed steps, check out this guide on how to paint your home’s exterior. Regularly repainting can keep your house looking fresh and protected from the elements.

4) Check Electrical System

Inspect your electrical outlets for wear and damage. Look for discoloration or cracks. Make sure the outlet covers are secure.

Test light switches and dimmers to see if they work properly. If they feel loose or become hot, it’s time to replace them.

Check the circuit breaker panel. Ensure there are no loose connections. Tighten any that appear to be slack.

Look at the wiring. Verify that it’s properly grounded. Outdated aluminum wiring, for example, can be a fire hazard.

Also, check for any signs of electrical issues such as flickering lights or burning smells. These can indicate larger problems.

By following these steps, you can keep your home’s electrical system safe and efficient. For more tips on safe routine electrical checks, visit this guide on routine electrical maintenance. If you’re unsure about what to do, don’t hesitate to call a professional.

5) Service HVAC Units

Ensuring your HVAC system is well-maintained can keep your home comfortable and energy-efficient. Start by turning off your HVAC system. Locate the air filter housing and remove the old filter. Check the size and type of the filter needed for your system. Insert the new filter, making sure it’s facing the correct direction.

Keep the condenser coil clean. The condenser coil, inside the outdoor unit, can collect dirt and grime, reducing efficiency. Use a garden hose with a gentle spray to clean it. Begin at the top and work your way down. Avoid using high-pressure water because it can damage the coil.

Don’t forget to inspect the outdoor unit for debris. Remove any leaves, grass, or other items that could block airflow. Keep the area around the unit clear.

Schedule a professional tune-up. A technician can perform a thorough inspection and tune-up of your HVAC systems, identifying potential issues and ensuring everything operates efficiently. Regular check-ups can extend the life of your system.

Additionally, make sure there are no combustibles near your heater. Your heater needs to maintain certain safety clearances, typically about 30 inches away from walls or other items. This keeps your home safe from potential fire hazards.

6) Inspect Chimney and Fireplace

Keeping your chimney and fireplace in good shape is important for safety and efficiency. Start by checking the firebox, the area where you build the fire. Make sure it is clean. Remove ash after each use, but wait at least twelve hours to make sure it’s cold. Remember, ash is full of nutrients and can be added to soil.

Take a look at the chimney itself. Use a flashlight to check for any cracks, deterioration, or creosote buildup. Creosote is a flammable substance that builds up inside chimneys. If you see any signs, it’s time for a deep cleaning or professional help.

Check the chimney cap, if you have one. A damaged or missing cap can let in water, animals, and debris. Make sure it is secure and intact. If it looks damaged, replace it as soon as possible to prevent bigger problems.

Inspect the flue liners inside your chimney. Look for any cracks or wear. Flue liners help protect your home from heat and flames. Cracks can be dangerous, so if you see any, it’s important to get them repaired right away.

Regular chimney and fireplace inspections help keep your home safe and warm. Follow this fireplace maintenance checklist to stay on top of your chimney care. Your effort will pay off with a reliable and safe fireplace.

7) Caulk Windows and Doors

Caulking windows and doors is crucial for any old house. It helps to seal out drafts and prevent water damage. You’ll want to start by cleaning the areas you’ll be caulking.

Use a caulk gun to apply a continuous bead of caulk along the gaps. Make sure to hold the gun at a 45-degree angle.

Apply pressure to the trigger and move steadily. It’s best to use both hands for better control. One hand guides the gun’s tip, while the other pulls the trigger.

For effective sealing, don’t skimp on caulk. The bead should be at least 3/16″ wide and 1/4″ thick. This ensures the caulk can withstand changes in temperature and humidity.

It’s also a good idea to use primer before caulking. Primer improves the adhesion and overall performance of your caulk.

Look for gaps and cracks around windows and doors. Inspect these areas frequently to maintain waterproof seals.

By following these steps, you ensure your old house stays energy-efficient and protected from moisture damage.

8) Test Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Testing your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors is easy but crucial.

To start, locate the test button on each detector. Press and hold it down for a few seconds. You should hear the alarm sound off, indicating that the detector is in good working order.

If the alarm doesn’t sound, you may need to replace the batteries or the entire unit. Regular testing helps ensure your home’s safety.

For smoke detectors, check if the sound reaches all parts of your house. Sometimes, it helps to have someone in the farthest room to listen for the alarm.

Monthly testing is recommended. It doesn’t take long and can save lives. Make it a habit in your maintenance routine.

Follow manufacturer guidelines on replacing the entire detector. Usually, smoke detectors need replacing every 10 years, and carbon monoxide detectors every 5-7 years.

Using these simple steps can keep your home safe and sound. Make sure the alarm is loud enough and clear, so everyone in the house can hear it easily.

Following these tips will keep your detectors in top shape and give you peace of mind.

9) Inspect Plumbing for Leaks

Checking your plumbing for leaks is crucial. Leaks can cause serious damage if left untreated. Start by looking at visible pipes under sinks and in the basement.

Check for puddles or damp spots. If you see one, it’s likely you have a leak. Tighten any loose fittings and look for worn-out seals that might need replacing.

You should also test the water pressure by turning on faucets. Low water pressure can indicate a hidden leak. Follow up by inspecting under the sink and around the faucet base.

Review the hot and cold water valves for your washing machine. If the valves don’t stop the water flow when off, they might need replacing. Properly functioning valves are essential to prevent water damage.

For a more thorough check, examine your home’s water meter. Take a reading, don’t use water for a few hours, and then check again. If the reading changes, you might have a hidden leak somewhere.

Look out for other signs of leaks, such as stains on walls or ceilings. Check areas around your toilet for any signs of moisture or discoloration.

For stubborn clogs, use a rubber bladder. Insert it into the drain, turn the water on, and let it clear debris quickly.

Regular inspections help catch problems early. This saves you money and keeps your home safe from water damage.

10) Check for Termites and Pests

Inspect your home for termites and pests regularly. Look for signs like droppings, nests, and gnaw marks. Taking quick action can prevent structural damage and health issues.

Keep an eye on areas like attics, basements, and crawl spaces. These spots often attract pests. Check for moisture buildup, as it can invite termites and other insects.

Move wood piles away from your house. This includes firewood, mulch, and tree stumps. Termites love wood, and having it close to your home is risky. Keep it at least 20 feet away to help guard your home.

If you see signs of termites or pests, act quickly. You might need professional help to take care of an infestation. Regular pest control services can also help keep your home safe and sound.

Checking your home’s vents, flashing, and chimneys is also important. Pests can find entry points in these areas. Make sure everything is well-maintained to reduce the chances of an infestation.

For more tips on spotting termite damage and dealing with pests, visit this guide to termite inspections. It offers valuable advice for keeping your home pest-free.

11) Trim Trees and Shrubs

Keeping your trees and shrubs trimmed not only makes your yard look good, but it also keeps your plants healthy. Get rid of any dead or dying branches. This helps stop the spread of disease and pests.

When you trim, cut back to an outward-facing bud or intersecting branch. For branches thicker than 1.5 inches, use a pruning saw and make a three-part cut.

Make your first cut underneath the branch, about 6 to 12 inches from the trunk. Cut about one-third of the way through. Then, cut through the branch from the top, starting an inch beyond the first cut. This prevents the bark from tearing.

Trim weak growth more severely than stronger stems. Cut one or two of the oldest main stems down to the base to promote new growth. Removing old wood encourages healthier, new stems to grow.

Avoid topping trees. This leaves branch stubs that can cause health issues and ruin the plant’s natural shape. Instead, trim branches back to their base to keep the tree healthy and clean-looking.

For shrubs, cut each stem to a bud that is 6 to 10 inches above ground level. This keeps them neat and promotes strong growth. Trimming can make your old house feel fresh and well-kept.

Keep your yard looking its best with regular trimming! Follow these tips and your trees and shrubs will thrive. For more detailed instructions, check out this guide to pruning trees and shrubs.

12) Clean Dryer Vents

Cleaning your dryer vents is essential for safety and efficiency. Lint buildup can cause your dryer to work harder and pose a fire risk.

First, unplug your dryer. Then, pull it away from the wall to access the vent. Use a screwdriver to loosen the clamp holding the vent hose to the dryer.

Next, gently remove the hose. Clean out any lint or debris around the exhaust outlet. You might also need to disconnect the other end of the hose where it meets the wall or window.

Using a vacuum or a cleaning brush, clear out the lint from the hose and duct. For thorough cleaning, you can use a dryer vent cleaning kit.

Remember to check the vent cover outside your home to ensure it’s free of blockages. Doing this at least once a year can make a big difference.

For households with frequent laundry loads, cleaning every 6 months might be necessary. You can learn more about the frequency of cleaning from Homes and Gardens.

Keeping your dryer vents clean helps in maintaining your dryer’s performance and keeping your home safe.

13) Reseal Wooden Decks

Resealing your wooden deck is an essential task that keeps it looking great and lasting long. Start by cleaning the deck thoroughly. Use a mix of warm water and detergent, but avoid any that contain ammonia. Ammonia can react with bleach to create a harmful gas.

Before sealing, make sure your deck is completely dry. Applying sealant to a damp surface can lead to an uneven finish that won’t protect the wood well. Choose an oil-based stain for the best results. Oil-based stains enhance the wood’s natural color and help prevent issues like mold, mildew, cracking, and warping.

Water-based stains dry quickly but don’t last as long as oil-based ones. If you opt for a water-based stain, be prepared to reseal more frequently. Regular maintenance helps protect the wood from damage caused by weather and foot traffic.

It’s best to reseal wooden decks every two to three years. This regular upkeep ensures your deck remains safe and attractive for years to come. Spend some time caring for your deck, and it will reward you with a beautiful and durable outdoor space. For more tips, visit the guide on how to restore an old deck.

Conor Jameson
Written By

Conor Jameson was born and raised in Ireland where he was an accomplished carpenter by trade. He moved to the United States after meeting his now wife Sarah, while she was studying abroad. Conor and Sarah currently live in the New England area and love buying, renovating and selling old homes.

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