It's no secret that U.S. infrastructure is crumbling, but is your home's infrastructure in good shape?
Maintaining key features that make a home livable will save money down the road and may even fall under critical life-safety issues. These home maintenance checkups aren't sexy or fun, but they are necessary to keep a house in top shape.
While everything in a house eventually needs to be replaced, home experts flagged their top three infrastructure areas to maintain.
The home's structure. A home's roof, foundation and frame are equally critical to a livable home. Pat Knight, training, licensing and inspection support manager of WIN Home Inspection, a national home inspection franchise, said to keep an eye on the roof as the seasons change, making sure the surface is free from debris and there is no damage. Get gutters cleaned, and make sure they're draining properly away from the home. Fall is a good time to get your gutters cleaned.
Checking the roof can be as simple as using a pair of binoculars from the yard, or it could mean hiring a company to inspect for potential damage up close.
"Deferred maintenance can drastically reduce the life expectancy of the roof, and replacement is expensive," he said.
Keep an eye on the home's bottom too. Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List, a home services directory, says the fall season is a great time to check the home's foundation.
"If there's too much water – or too little – it will become the No. 1 cause for giving your foundation a shakeup," she said.
It can be difficult to get the moisture content right consistently, so Hicks gave a few tips. Ensure proper drainage away from the structure's surface, which can otherwise compromise the foundation's integrity. Subsurface or French drains can help in regions where too little moisture is an issue, as can a strategic sprinkler system that prevents extreme drying/shrinking of the surrounding soil.
While looking at the foundation, look out for insects like carpenter ants or termites, especially in homes with wooden frames, said Beverley Kruskol, owner of M.Y. Pacific Building, a general contractor who has worked with high-end renovations, including for Mario Batali's restaurants in Los Angeles.
With climate change, insects like termites can now be a problem in areas that previously never had problems with these bugs. Termites cause significant damage and can migrate from other homes, too, she said.
Heating/cooling system. Having the home's HVAC system maintained yearly by a qualified company will prevent major breakdowns happening at just the wrong time, said Knight and Hicks.
"Waiting until you need a repair will cost you dearly, especially if there is a cold snap or a heat wave," Knight said.
In between professional maintenance, Hicks said, homeowners should change the filters regularly, do their own visual inspections and keep an eye on the thermostat.
"These are three quick and easy things you can do yourself to ensure the longest life for your HVAC system," she said.
Plumbing. Leaky faucets and overflowing toilets are obvious signs of problems, but stealth leaks can cause a lot of damage, Kruskol said, such as mold.
"It's really not a bad idea to have a plumber come out periodically and check the system. Roots can grow into pipes. Sprinklers end up splashing against the house, which can deteriorate outdoor brick, stucco and foundations," she said.
Keep an eye on water bills, and don't let leaky faucets go dripping, especially for environmental considerations.
"It's a problem for all of us. Yes, water rates are higher, but we're all going to be affected by the lack of water," she said.