Q. Spring is about to arrive; what routine home maintenance advice may BBB offer for homeowners?
A. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the housing industry. It's created a demand for more space to accommodate home offices and schooling and bigger yards to relax in. These factors, combined with low mortgage rates, have resulted in record-breaking home sales.
As an established homeowner, or if you recently purchased a new home, you've no doubt found that all that extra space requires upkeep and maintenance. BBB recommends the following tips to help you care for your home, hire contractors, and avoid getting scammed in the process.
Perform home maintenance regularly. The Department for Housing and Urban Development (www.hud.com) reminds homeowners that regular home maintenance reduces allergens, prevents illness and reduces injury from accidents. In addition, it can help you identify needed repairs before they become too serious, saving you time and money in the long run. Many homeowners use seasonal checklists to help them stay on top of home maintenance all year long. Another aspect of home maintenance is cleaning your home. Consider hiring a cleaning service if you need help.
Keep your lawn tidy. Not only will a well-kept lawn improve your home's curb appeal, but it will also make for an enjoyable place to spend time outside with your family. Lawn care also keeps harmful pests, such as snakes and mice, from making their home too close to yours. Lawn care generally falls into three main categories: landscaping, lawn maintenance and sprinkler systems or irrigation. If you need help in one or more of these categories, consider hiring a lawn care professional.
Inspect your roof. A leaky roof can cause a plethora of problems, so it's wise to inspect your roof a few times each year, and especially after severe weather. Make sure there are no missing shingles, leaks, or other kinds of damage. You can prevent damage by clearing dead or low hanging branches away from your roof and removing debris. If at any point you find that repairs are necessary, roofing contractors can assist with repairing or replacing your roof.
Keep your air ducts clean. As a general rule, plan on having your home's air ducts cleaned every three to five years. However, if you notice mold, vermin or large amounts of dust clogging the air vents, you should get your air ducts cleaned by a trained HVAC Technician as soon as possible. Clean air ducts will improve the efficiency of your heating and air conditioning system and extend its life. It may even reduce the cost of your energy bill!
Watch out for plumbing problems. Take a peek at your plumbing and fixtures as you perform regular home maintenance to make sure there are no leaks. Ask friends and neighbors to recommend a reputable plumber in the area and keep their number on hand, in case an emergency arises.
Consider installing an alarm system. An alarm system can make you feel more secure and protect your valuables when you are away. Choose a home security system from a credible, licensed company in your area and compare pricing before you sign up.
Add a fresh coat of paint. Quality exterior paint helps protect your home from insects and weather damage. Quality interior paint can protect your home from moisture and increase its value too. Both are important parts of regular home maintenance that should be evaluated every few years. If painting isn't your strong suit, consider hiring a professional painter who is equipped with the necessary tools, skills and safety equipment to get the job done efficiently.
Get professional help with remodeling. Unless you have a background in construction, it's best to leave large remodeling projects to professionals. Plan your project and budget ahead of time. Then look for a construction or remodeling contractor who specializes in the kind of remodeling you need.
Hire reliable contractors. No matter what kind of outside help you need, hiring a reputable contractor is essential. Follow BBB's tips on hiring a contractor, www.bbb.org to make sure your project is in good hands.
Search www.BBB.org/Chattanooga to find reputable roofers, painters, plumbers, lawn maintenance specialists, and security system companies in this area.
Beware of home improvement scams. Home improvement scams abound, so watch out for red flags, such as high-pressure sales tactics, cash-only deals, and contractors who don't sign contracts. Always check references and ask for recommendations before you agree to hire a contractor. To avoid getting scammed, the Federal Trade Commission www.consumer.ftc.gov recommends getting multiple estimates, asking questions, and getting a written contract before you hire.
Jim Winsett is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga.