Resolution: More Maintenance for the Home

By Bill Primavera

The Home Guru

When I read that Irv Gordon from Patchogue, New York, had logged almost 3,000,000 miles on his 1966 Volvo P1800, I thought that surely I had misread that number.  Three hundred thousand, yes, but 3,000,000?  I was not mistaken, and Irv attributes his car’s exceptional longevity to painstaking maintenance.

With some facsimile of such discipline, our homes can also get great mileage.

My home is celebrating its 278th New Year, having witnessed the American Revolution, the Civil War, two World Wars, the Depression, presidential assassination, and terrorist attack, along with the invention of electricity, indoor plumbing, technological wonders, and normal wear and tear to the structure itself.  Just since I have owned it, there has been a roof leak, flooded basement, the last gasp of a hot water heater, then the boiler, and the most spectacular occurrence when the transformer on my corner exploded and blew my electrical panel completely off the basement wall. 

But, on the positive side I can see that the guardians of the house prior to me had taken steps to upgrade and maintain it through the years, and I have tried my best to continue that tradition. However, sometimes life gets in the way. 

I was spoiled by my previous home. It had been completely renovated just before I bought it and I never had to do anything to keep in going for the five years of my ownership. I couldn’t get away with a continuing free pass after living for more than 30 years in my new, old home. But, embarrassed as I am to admit it, I’ve usually waited until something has malfunctioned before attending to it, rather than taking preventative measures.

And that’s probably a natural thing for most of us. Realistically, when was the last time you cleaned your chimney or, better yet, drained your hot water tank?

For those of you who want to join me in making a New Year’s resolution to gift your home with proper maintenance, here is a checklist of the basic “to dos.”


Roof:  If you’re agile and fearless enough to mount your own roof, check for loose or damaged shingles, as well as the condition of flashing at dormers, plumbing stacks, and valleys.   The  rest of us can call a reliable roofer to check anything close-up that may look suspicious from ground level. 

Gutters and downspouts:  Check for blockage, leakage and areas requiring re-sloping.  Gutters should be cleaned both in spring and fall.

Eaves:  Monitor the condition of soffits and fascia, looking for the onset of rot.

Foundation walls: Check for deteriorated brink, block, mortar, and for cracking due to settlement.

Grading:  The grading immediately adjacent to the house should be sloped away from the house, at least one inch per foot for at least six feet.

Doors and windows: Caulking and weather stripping should be checked for better insulation.

Porches and decks: Check wooden components for rot and insect infestation.  Steps and railings should be secure.

Driveways and sidewalks: Check for cracks and deterioration, especially if there is a possibility for someone tripping.


Attic:  Should be examined annually for signs of water stains on the underside of the roof sheathing.  Also determine if attic vents are obstructed.

Basement: Check the walls and floor for dampness and consider a dehumidifier if needed.  And, while down there, check that the sump pump is operating property.

Plumbing:  For supply plumbing, precautions should be taken to assure that pipes in crawl spaces do not freeze during the winter. Outdoor faucets should be shut off from the interior and drained for the winter.  And remember to remove any hoses from the outside faucets.  Check all indoor faucets for leaks and replace washers as necessary.

Electricity:  The main panel should be examined at least once a year checking for rust. Periodically check for frayed or damaged wiring in extension cords, appliances cords and plugs.

Heating system: For forced air systems, conventional or electronic filters should be checked monthly and cleaned or replaced as needed. With hot water systems, radiators and convectors should be inspected annually for leakage, particularly at the valves.  Radiators should be bled of air annually. Electric, oil and gas furnaces and boilers should be checked by a qualified technician on an annual basis.

Smoke detectors:  At least one should be placed on each floor, and one in each bedroom.

Carbon monoxide detectors:  Install one on each level.

Hot water heater:  Drain the hot water heater to remove sediment from the bottom of the tank.

Fireplaces and chimneys:  Have them inspected and cleaned once a year.

 Does this basic list seem overwhelming when ticked off item by item?  Does it have you wondering whether you might not better become a renter, rather than owning, and have a friendly landlord who does the maintenance work for you?  Tip: there is an alternative. Get yourself the best darned handyman you can find.

By the way, did I mention that I’ve become emotionally attached to a 2000 Grand Caravan that has 187,000 miles on its odometer? It has saved my life twice, once in a head-on collision, and I think it deserves great care from me in return.  Shall we say to the extent of at least 300,000 miles?

Bill Primavera is a licensed Realtor® (, affiliated with Coldwell Banker, and a marketing practitioner ( For questions or comments about the housing market, or selling or buying a home, he can be reached directly at 914-522-2076.