Home maintenance tips that could save you thousands
It pays to keep your home in good working order by attending to those regular - and probably boring - chores
Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today, they say. Easier said than done. We each have a million little jobs around the house on our to-do lists. But, really, who has the time? And, more to the point, who can be bothered?
The fact is, much like your car needs the occasional service, so too does the family home. Avoid those niggly chores and you'll find your home coughing and spluttering by the side of the road.
"A little job ignored can lead to big, big problems," warns Adriano Sato from handyman firm Hire A Hubby. "If you keep saying 'next month, next month, next month', eventually you'll be made to pay."
The good news is that you can do the lion's share yourself for little or no cost and minimum effort; some chores you won't have to do again until next year. Here are 10 to get you started:
1. Check your smoke alarms
One of the simplest but one of the most imperative - should your house burn down, your insurance claim may be void if you haven't done a check in the past 12 months. And troublingly (according to Smoke Alarms Australia) nearly every second household has no working smoke alarm at all.
Job: Check the "test" button on detector. No sound? Change batteries (9v $2.99) and try again. No luck? Clean the battery terminal and try again. No dice? Buy a new smoke alarm ($9.98).
Frequency: Quarterly; change battery annually.
Saving: The value of your home and contents.
2. Vacuum your fridge coils
Surprisingly, your refrigerator can account for up to 15% of your home's total power usage a year. So it pays to have it firing on all cylinders.
Job: Turn off at plug and pull away from wall. Using the crevice attachment, vacuum up any dirt or dust from the coils at the back.
Frequency: Twice a year.
Saving: About $60 a year off your energy bill.
3. Clean range hood and extractor fan
A dirty job, yes, but those fatty deposits above the stove aren't going to clean themselves. Moreover, the longer you neglect them the harder your kitchen fan will have to work to pick up the slack.
Job: Remove hood and apply hot soapy water or degreaser ($5.48) from your local auto retailer with an old rag. Allow to sit, then rinse.
Effort: 4/10 (depending on neglect).
Saving: Replacement from $130.
4. Scrub air-conditioning filters
On average, 40% of our total energy used at home is for heating and cooling (according to Your Energy Savings). So with summer around the corner, it's essential that your air-conditioning system is completely shipshape - especially considering that clogged or dirty filters can reduce airflow by up to 50%.
Job: Remove filter carefully. Rinse in sink with dishwashing liquid and soft brush. Dry naturally, then vacuum any remaining muck.
Frequency: Clean monthly; change seasonally; service annually.
Saving: Replacement from $489 plus installation.
5. Clean your tumble dryer
We all know to clear out the lint trap after use to prevent a house fire but how often do you clean your dryer's hose or exterior vent? Never? It's also a fire hazard and could dramatically reduce your dryer's life expectancy.
Job: Unplug dryer, pull out from wall. Remove ventilation tube, pulling out any lint or build-up at both ends. A vacuum cleaner will take care of the rest. Repeat process for vent outside the home (this might require unscrewing or removing caulking) then run dryer for 10 minutes to clear.
Saving: Repairs, from $65 plus labour and parts; replacement, from about $329.
6. Clear your gutters
Blocked gutters can mean rainfall isn't running off properly and can cause damage to your roof or foundations. When dry, inspect gutter for any debris or vegetation, and note any cracks or corrosion in the downpipe. After rain, check for adequate drainage, noting any leaks (in case you need a plumber).
Job: Clear any debris with a gutter brush ($13 from your local hardware store), sweeping into a bag. Mix 50/50 solution of bleach and water to disinfect, scrub and rinse. May require ladder.
Frequency: Twice a year.
Saving: Repairs, from $65 plus labour.
7. Protect against pests
As Aussies, we're never short of unwanted house guests - cockroaches, rodents, spiders and ants. While most are merely a nuisance, those termites and white ants can cause serious damage if untreated (consider a pest control inspection).
Job: Clear all cupboards and larders, brushing up all crumbs and food particles, disinfect and rinse; vacuum your mattress and pillows (dust mites); inspect any cracks and holes; sweep dead leaves from exterior (rodents).
Saving: Pest control fee, from $30 (inspection).
8. Clean your waste disposal unit
That piquant kitchen pong is a good indication that you've been putting this off. Luckily, cleaning your sink disposal unit is a piece of cake: you'll just need to freeze some vinegar in an ice tray.
Job: Allow vinegar to freeze overnight, then run the cubes through your disposal for two or three minutes. Not only will the vinegar break down any residual organic matter but the ice will sharpen the blades.
Saving: Plumber's fee, from $65 plus labour and parts; replacement, from $235.
9. Clean your tap's aerator
Often if you're experiencing poor water pressure from the tap, a bunged-up filter, or aerator, is the culprit. Easy to fix but a little fiddly.
Job: Remove tap aerator using a pair of pliers - you may have to consult YouTube for a tutorial. Scrub grime (with an old toothbrush) in hot, soapy water, rinse and replace. If corroded, this can be easily replaced from a hardware store, $3.
Frequency: Twice a year.
Saving: Plumber's fee, from $65.
10. Lubricate your locks
Admittedly not the most vital on the list but easily the most satisfying.
Job: Go round the house with a screwdriver and a dry lubricant, such as graphite powder, checking all locks and hinges for wear and tear, tightening and lubricating as you go. Check garage door tracks too.
Saving: New door hinge, $11; garage door repairs, $80 plus labour.
When to leave it to the pros
That's not to say we're all handy. Those not comfortable climbing a ladder or doing more involved repairs might need to call in help.
You can find a handyman in the Yellow Pages or online at sites such as Hire A Hubby, Airtasker and ServiceSeeking, from as little as $30 an hour.
Even if a job seems do-able, if you don't have the right tools or materials the time, effort and cash spent seeking them out could have easily been saved by calling a pro.
They can also advise if the job requires a specialist, such as any roof repairs, pest inspections, plumbing, electrical work, gas fitting or structural work.
Before attempting any work, Hire A Hubby recommends asking yourself the following: Is it safe? Do I know how? Do I have the right tools?
If you answer "no" to one or more, it might be worth calling in a handyman or a tradie.
- Clean AC filters
- Inspect fire extinguisher
- Clean range hood and extractor fan
- Clean microwave and oven
- Clean kitchen waste disposal unit
- Test smoke detectors
- Change AC filters
- Protect against pests
- Power-wash external windows
- Give house deep-clean
- Scrub tap aerators
- Inspect and clear gutters
- Inspect hoses on washing machine and dishwasher
- Vacuum fridge coils
- Clear dead shrubs and leaves
- Check trees for interference with power lines
- Change smoke alarm batteries
- Clean tumble dryer vents
- Have AC serviced (pro)
- Have chimney and fire place cleaned (pro)
- Have carpets cleaned (pro)
- Inspect exterior and roof for leaks
- Power-wash and seal wooden decking
- Check and oil all locks
- Oil garage door tracks
All prices calculated using the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, Bunnings, Harvey Norman and ServiceSeeking.