Unless you adhere to the strictest of home maintenance schedules—a roof inspection every 2-5 years, a home inspection every 5-10 years, and regular interior cleanings in between, then every homeowner should create their own personalized checklist. It may sound hokey, but it can be extremely handy having a checklist that you can consult to periodically go through the house and look for anything that may have changed—or worrisome signs in general. Because every home is different, every checklist should be slightly different as well. Still, there are several common threads and a lot of items that apply to most homes. With this in mind, here’s a solid master checklist from This Old House that you can use to get started personalizing your own list.
❏ Flush the toilets to make sure they operate properly. Open their tanks and look for worn or missing
parts. Then wait around for a few minutes to see if the toilet runs after a pause, a sign of a slow leak.
❏ Look inside the burner chamber of the water heater for rust flakes. Check the flame; it should be an even
blue, with no yellow. A yellow flame indicates soot or a problem with the gas-air mixture, meaning the jets
❏ Drain the water heater to remove sediment that has settled to the bottom. Sometimes leaks in faucets
are caused by hard water wearing out the washers.
❏ Watch out for cracked tiles in the shower area or around sinks. Tap on tiles looking for loose or hollow
ones, which could be masking rotted backerboard behind them.
❏ Check on the state of the tub and shower caulking to see if its time to replace it.
❏ Look for evidence of mildew where water has a chance to stand for longer periods
❏ Manipulate the toilet base to be sure it doesn’t rock, which might mean a leak has damaged the floor
❏ Look for cracks on the toilet tank or bowl or on sinks
❏ Slide shower doors do check for sticking, rust, or obstructions. Examine the gaskets around the door
glass for gaps and tears.
❏ Turn on the shower and bath faucets and check for leaks around handles and valves. Are they easy to
use, or harder to turn on and off? Check set screws around escutcheon plates.
❏ Unscrew the shower head and look for collected sediment in it that could be lowering the water pressure.
❏ Examine vent fans for obstructions or dust. Turn them on: If it sounds really loud, the bearings may be
worn out or a flapper may have gotten stuck.
❏ Check washer hoses for signs of aging (cracks or brittleness) or leaks.
❏ Check dryer vents for tears. Vacuum or brush out lint in hose and around lint screen inside unit. Look
for link around the floor or on the wall, indicating a clog in the vent hose.
WATER and SEPTIC
❏ Send out a sample of well water to your country cooperative extension to test it for chemicals and
❏ Make sure that the well cover is tightly sealed but there is still access to the pump.
❏ Check the sump pump by pouring water on it, to see if it turns on automatically.
❏ Look around your septic tank/field for soggy ground or overly lush vegetation, which could mean the
tank is full or failing.
❏ Take a flashlight into the furnace flue and look for a buildup of soot or rust. Tap on it to see what falls;
rust is a sign of condensation, which is cause by an inefficient furnace. Have a pro service the system
regardless of what you find.
❏ Make a solution of dishwashing soap and water, then brush it on ductwork joints-wherever there are
leaks you’ll see bubbles in the soap.
❏ Check registers and vents for loose or missing covers and screws.
❏ Check around radiators for leaks, or damaged floors, which could be a sign of a leak or an incorrect pitch
toward the return.
❏ Look for overall deterioration, rust, loose parts, and other signs of a failing system.
❏ Check trees around the house to be sure they’re not threatening wires.
❏ Open the panel and look for new scorch marks around breakers or fuses. Also check outlets for scorch
marks, which could be a sign of loose and sparking wires.
❏ Look for loose outlet covers, receptacles, and loose boxes, which may have to be refastened to the studs
while the power is turned off.
❏ Test all GFCI outlets by plugging in a lamp and then hitting the test and reset buttons to see if it turns the
light off and then on again.
❏ Go around with a electrical tester (or lamp) to make sure all outlets work
❏ Now that summer’s humidity is gone, check doors for swollen spots and sticking.
❏ Look for loose hinges and doorknobs.
❏ Check the floor for popped nails, loose boards, loose tiles, and springy spots that could be a sign of joist
❏ Look at ceilings for stains, which could indicate a roof or plumbing leak.
❏ Make sure ceilings and floors aren’t sagging or cracked in new places, which might mean a bigger
problem causing a shift in the house. Look above doors for cracks.
❏ Check walls for popped screws and nails on drywall or new cracks in plaster.
❏ Point a flashlight into the fireplace and up the chimney, checking for loose bricks, cracks, signs of
animal nests, or excess soot that could spark a chimney fire.
❏ Make sure the damper operates properly.
❏ Check around ceiling fans to be sure they’re well secured to the ceiling and not working their way loose
with all the summer use.
❏ Jiggle the stair balustrade to test its sturdiness, and take note where balusters and banisters have come
❏ Test all smoke and CO2 detectors and replace batteries immediately if something doesn’t work.
DOORS AND WINDOWS
❏ Examine weatherstripping around exterior doors and windows for tears and wear.
❏ Look for cracks in window glass and glazing around panes.
❏ Check the action of the windows for sticking points.
❏ Look for peeling paint and other signs of wear on window frames and stools, usually in the bottom
corners. Check that weep holes in the sill outside haven’t been caulked over, inhibiting drainage.
❏ Take a look at thresholds for cracks that could let water reach the sill.
❏ Look around the attic space during daylight hours, with the lights turned off. Look for holes in the
roofing that let light in.
❏ Keep an eye out for signs of animal activity or entry points for animals.
❏ Check around vents for gaps. Look at fan motors for frayed wiring or loose screws.
❏ Feel around insulation for damp spots where leaks might be occurring. Look for missing or torn
insulation, which could be a sign of animal activity.
❏ Examine joists and rafters for structural damage.
❏ Check the action of the garage door and look for dents in the tracks or cracks in the door.
❏ Make sure tool storage and hanging rakes and shovels don’t create a falling or tripping hazard.
❏ Test the drainage of the sink and look for signs of leaks on the faucet.
❏ Look at all the cabinet doors and drawers to make sure they open and close properly. Check for loose
hinges or sticking drawer slides.
❏ Turn on the disposer and listen for signs of obstructions or problems with the motor.
❏ Try all the stove burners to be sure they turn on quickly and properly, without sparking or bursts of
flame. Make sure gas stoves give off an even blue flame.
❏ Check the oven door gasket for signs of wear and tear.
❏ Turn on a gas broiler to make sure it lights properly.
❏ Make sure the gas shutoff valve is working. It should be able to turn until its completely perpendicular to
❏ Open the dishwasher and spin and lift the washer arm by hand to make sure it isn’t stuck. Check that
nothing has dislodged the drain hose; it should arc up to prevent backwash from the drain into the
❏ Look for signs of leaking under and around the dishwasher.
❏ Make sure water filters have been changed recently.