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Old Home Maintenance Plan

old house maintenance

All houses need some kind of maintenance to keep performing their best, and old houses are no exception. Actually, they typically need more maintenance than newer homes which can be a deterrent for some homeowners, but I think we should look at the situation a little differently.

Homes built after WWII were designed with planned obsolescence in mind for a lot of the major systems. Today’s homes have windows that can’t be maintained, flooring that can’t be refinished, siding that can’t be repaired. When an architectural element wears out it is removed and replaced with a new one.

That’s not the case with historic homes built before this era. They were designed with simple elements that were intended to be maintained rather than replaced so their life could be extended decades and in most cases centuries beyond their initial installation.

Historic wood windows were designed to be reputtied, repainted, reroped and put back into service for another century when and if any of those elements wear out. That’s not the case with today’s windows that last 15-20 years before they are thrown in the landfill due to fogged glass, and worn out balances that are no longer manufactured.

The same goes for flooring. When the finish on a wood floor is beginning to wear through, the floor can be sanded and refinished, lengthening it’s lifespan to 100+ years. Compare that with vinyl plank floors which come with a thin wear layer that once worn down the color and pattern have worn off and the flooring needs to be replaced. If you’re lucky enough to find that same pattern on the store shelves 20 years later you can patch it, but eventually, as styles change, the flooring has become obsolete and needs wholesale replacement.

But where do you start and how do you know what can and should be maintained? When does it need repair and when is it too far gone?

This guide will help you with the annual inspection and maintenance process so you won’t be stuck wandering in the dark. Implementing the maintenance cadence taught here will save you tens of thousands of dollars over the time you own your home and that is no exaggeration.

Almost everything has a specific lifespan, but most things on a historic house built before the 1940s have a lifespan far longer than most of us previously imagined.

Determining the lifespan of items in a newer house is tough, but on an old house it’s actually quite simple. Other than roof coverings and modern mechanical things like appliances and the HVAC system you can generally expect all the original items to last almost indefinitely.

Wood floors and windows, doors, metal weatherstripping, wood siding, bricks, stucco and other masonry, plaster, trim, none of these things have expiration dates other than when they are damaged by accident or neglect.

Accidents happen and there is very little we can do to stop those. Baseballs will hit your windows. Storms will cause tree branches to fall on your roof, and kids will dent the walls and scratch the floors. It’s an imperfect world and we have to make the best of these issues when they happen.

Neglect is usually the bigger issue. Yes your wood siding can last forever literally, but if you don’t paint it every decade or so it won’t last that long. Your wood windows can last hundreds of years too, but the glazing putty needs to be replaced every 20-30 years to keep they from becoming water damaged and leaky.

Just like your car can last 300,000 miles with regular fluid changes your old house can do the same. No one in their right mind would blame the car manufacturer if their cars died after only 30,000 miles if the owner never changed a single fluid, and we shouldn’t blame the house if it starts to fall apart on our watch due to neglect either.

In this guide you’ll find a very simple maintenance plan for the major components of your home. These regular inspections and maintenance will extend the life of your home, cut down on expenses, and help you determine with more accuracy when the time for replacement is drawing near so you can budget accordingly.

Just like anything, this guide is only helpful if you put it to good use. It’s not enough to simply know the information, you have to put it into action. These inspection and maintenance process I recommend usually only takes 2-3 days over the course of a year for an average size home.

I encourage you to dig in and change your mindset from looking for no maintenance products (products that can’t be maintained!) to a mindset of maintenance. This maintenance mindset saves money, keeps things out of the landfill and is a boon to your home economics.

A Doable Maintenance Plan

Keep in mind this is a maintenance plan not a restoration plan. If you have a porch that has rotten through to the core then there is no point maintaining it until it is restored and in good condition. This maintenance plan will be most effective at maintaining things that are currently in good working order to keep them in that condition longer they otherwise would last without the maintenance.

The shoulder seasons will be the busy times for you in preparation for the summer sun or the winter storms. If you spend one day in the spring and one day in the fall you should be able to knock these items out. Then you get summer and winter off except for minor indoor maintenance items that shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.

Winter/Summer

  • Change Air Filters
  • Clean HVAC Condensate Line
  • Appliance Coil Cleaning

Spring

  • Change Air Filters
  • Clean HVAC Condensate Line
  • Inspect/Lubricate Window Mechanicals
  • Clean Gutters
  • Touch Up Exterior Paint
  • Clean & Refinish Exterior Furniture
  • Inspect/Clean Decks
  • Touch Up Exterior Paint
  • Inspect Masonry
  • Inspect/Clean Roof
  • Inspect Sprinklers
  • Inspect Siding

Fall

  • Change Air Filters
  • Clean HVAC Condensate Line
  • Inspect/Touch Up Windows
  • Inspect/Touch Up Doors
  • Clean Gutters
  • Bleed Radiators
  • Inspect Fireplace/Chimney
  • Touch Up Exterior Paint
  • Inspect/Clean Roof
  • Store Outdoor Hoses
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