Your home is where your heart is. For most of us right now, it’s also where our business is, our family is and our attention is. It’s safe to say your home is where you’re spending the majority of your time – and quite possibly a majority of your income – so make sure this investment pays off by keeping your home in the best shape possible!
Home improvement and maintenance usually conjures up images of home equity loans, contractors and the ever-dreaded noise. No one needs that right now while we’re all under one roof 24/7! Fortunately, there are tons of smaller, low-cost projects you can get done while you become intimately reacquainted with your four walls.
The easiest way to determine whether something works or not is to turn it on and see what happens. While this is usually a good rule of thumb, you certainly don’t want to wait until you need a smoke detector to work to find out if yours does!
So do yourself a favor and test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Hold the test button down for a few seconds and make sure the alarm sounds. You can easily order replacement batteries online or from your local hardware store.
While you’re at it, now is a good time to also check the batteries in other accessories, including television remotes, emergency flashlights and other household items.
Filters and Vents
Breathing freely and easily is a privilege many of us have taken for granted, as COVID-19 has shown. Make sure the air in your home is clean and circulating efficiently by checking your filters and vents. This includes your heat vents, range hood, indoor and outdoor air vents and furnace filter.
Wipe down the exterior of these vents and examine the surrounding perimeters to ensure nothing is impeding their function or getting caught in their systems. Remove your furnace filter and clean it in the sink or outside with the hose to remove any build up. This will have the added benefit of decreasing your energy bill as it allows your furnace to function efficiently.
Don’t forget about your vacuum! That filter can likely use some TLC as well.
Faucets and Showerheads
Showerheads are one of those things we don’t think of…until we’re under them! At that point, there’s a 0% chance we’re going to alter our plans – ahem, showering! – to address the four spouts that aren’t spraying from the nozzle.
Take a little time before you’re ready to hit the showers to remove the nozzle and soak it in vinegar for an hour or so. You can also work over the individual spouts with a toothpick or an old toothbrush.
Use this same strategy on faucets or hard-to-remove showerheads by filling a plastic bag with white vinegar, placing it over the nozzle and tying it in place with a rubber band. Just make sure the bag isn’t so large or heavy that it risks buckling under its own weight or, even worse, taking the nozzle down with it.
Though a clogged drain doesn’t typically go unnoticed for too long – either you’re standing in three feet of water while showering or you’re not – this is still the perfect time to “go behind the curtain.” You don’t have to waste water unnecessarily. Simply make it a point to observe the water flow next time you’re showering, brushing your teeth or doing the dishes.
Minor clogs can easily be tackled with drain snakes. Paper clips and even clothes hangers can work in a pinch if the clog is near the surface and you don’t run the risk of losing the item down the drain.
You can also tackle clogs by pouring hot water down the drain, followed by a mix that contains equal parts baking soda, water and vinegar. Plug the drain for five to 10 minutes after you’ve deployed this solution, then pour another pot of boiling water to rinse away any leftover gunk. Speaking of plugs, take a few minutes to make sure the suction is still operating correctly in your sinks and bathtubs.
We want to make sure water fixtures are flowing to our heart’s content, but only when we want them to be flowing! Take a couple minutes after you turn your faucet or showerhead off to see if water continues to fall. You can also do a quick check around your toilet after you flush to make sure water isn’t accumulating on the floor.
Lastly, pop under the sinks and feel the pipes and cabinet bottoms to ensure water isn’t making its way under there, either. If you know how to tighten a pipe, have at it. If not, make a note to call the plumber at a later date if that’s feasible, or right away if the leak warrants that kind of attention.
Water and fire. The two biggest threats to your home. It’s great you’ve gotten your smoke detectors in working order, but we don’t want you to ever have to use them, which is why it’s important to check your wiring on a regular basis.
Like a pipe leak, we know you may not have the skills or tools to take on a frayed wire or a shorted outlet. But you do have the ability to notice these items and schedule an appointment with a qualified electrician.
Go room to room testing light switches and outlets. Then take a look at all the plugged-in appliances to ensure the cords look in-tact, out of the way and far from flammable items. Make sure extension cords and surge protector strips aren’t overloaded.
Have a hidden smell in your kitchen, but you’ve checked the trash twice and it’s not the culprit? It’s probably your disposal. Like the drains, there’s an easy way to clean this. Throw a few ice cubes down the disposal (while it’s running), followed by hot water and baking soda. This should do away with anything food particles that may have been lingering there.
If that smell still persists, take this opportunity to clean out your refrigerator and pantry. Leftovers your family “promised” they would eat have a way of hiding in the far back, behind the gallon of milk. Same goes for bread. The last few pieces seem to magically squeeze into hidden pantry crevices where they can mold to their heart’s delight, especially in warmer weather!
Why is “clean the gutters” the go-to response when a spouse seems bored at home? Probably because these bad boys need to be cleaned! A little maintenance here can save you from a leaky roof or water damage.
So bust out that ladder (if you can, safely)! Make sure you remove all that debris from the outside of your home and not just your roof. After all, these leaves and gunk can still wreak havoc if they block your ventilation or settle into your lawn.
Checking the gutters can also provide a great opportunity to inspect the outside of your home. Take note of any needed paint or exterior siding touch-ups. This is also a great time to power wash windows, siding and even driveways if you have the tools and ability.
These are a few of the quick, easy and cheap ways you can keep your home looking and functioning at its very best. Many of these tasks can be performed with items you already have, or they can easily be purchased at a store or online. The best part is most don’t require professional intervention, which preserves time, money and, potentially, your health right now.
So, grab that garden hose and use the furnace filter as an excuse to get some fresh air. You can even get the kids in on the action. After all, they make the best inspection partners. Get them a clipboard, pen and a piece of paper, and you have an entire afternoon activity all ready to roll!