Prevention is the best medicine with your house, as well as your body. "We go for our annual checkups to our doctor and dentist, so why not do it for our home?" says Mike Holmes, host of HGTV's "Holmes on Homes."
Annual maintenance will help prevent you from having to make an avoidable, costly repair, he says. For a comprehensive list of important annual maintenance tasks, we consulted with Holmes and other home-maintenance, cleaning and organizing experts. Stick to this basic list each month and your house will run like a machine.
●Clean kitchen light fixtures. Becky Rapinchuk, author of "Simply Clean: The Proven Method for Keeping Your Home Organized, Clean, and Beautiful in Just 10 Minutes a Day," recommends using a microfiber cloth or duster on glass shades and fixtures.
●Declutter. Examine every room and try to get at least three bags of stuff out of the house, says Jill Nystul of the lifestyle blog One Good Thing by Jillee.
●Dust baseboards and vents. If you don't have a vacuum cleaner with a hose and nozzle attachment, Rapinchuk suggests using a long-handled duster or a broom with a T-shirt secured over the bristles.
●Clean light fixtures in the living and dining rooms. Take down chandeliers if you need to do a deep clean, and wash the parts in a solution of one part vinegar to three parts warm water, Nystul recommends.
●Wash and fluff pillows and bedding. Focus on bedding that doesn't get washed every week, i.e., the down comforters, pillow shams and covers.
●Turn, rotate and vacuum mattresses. Slowly use a regular vacuum or a mattress-specific vacuum such as the Raycop to get dust mites out of every nook and cranny, Rapinchuk says.
●Test and replace smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries.
●Get the HVAC system serviced. Holmes says to use a professional technician in the spring and fall to prepare for the most extreme seasons. "Part of their regular maintenance should be to vacuum any debris from the furnace blower," he adds.
●Clean gutters. Remove leaves and debris and make sure the downspouts direct water away from your home's foundation, Holmes says.
●Check decks and wooden exterior features . Perform a visual inspection annually. Do a deep-cleaning with a power washer, followed by staining and sealing, every three years, Holmes says.
●Review contents of your emergency kit. If you don't have an emergency kit, create one with a flashlight, batteries, candles, matches, a battery-powered radio, nonperishable food, bottled water and a first-aid kit, Holmes suggests. Also consider a backup generator.
●Clean light fixtures in the master bedroom.
●Get ducts and vents cleaned. Clean ducts will help with air quality and efficiency, Holmes says, adding, "Unless you have pets or suffer from major allergies, this isn't a job you'll need to do annually, but having the ducts cleaned every few years — or after a renovation — wouldn't hurt." Check dryer ducts, too.
●Wash windows inside and out. Rapinchuk says her natural recipe for window cleaner works better than anything she has purchased. Mix four tablespoons of Castile soap, four tablespoons of rubbing alcohol and a half-gallon of warm water.
●Check the attic. Make sure that there is sufficient insulation, that it is properly sealed with a vapor barrier, that vents are in good condition and that it's well ventilated to let out moisture. "If your attic doesn't have enough insulation, you could see instances of ice damming on your roof as heat escapes out of your home," Holmes warns. "This can cause water to flow back toward your home."
●Clean light fixtures in other bedrooms.
●Deep-clean the refrigerator and freezer. Consider containing and labeling items to make them more streamlined and attractive, Rapinchuk suggests, and don't forget the pantry. Oh, and brush those refrigerator coils with a condenser coil brush.
●Clean the dishwasher. Wipe down sides, check the trap at the bottom, and run an empty load with a cup or two of white vinegar in the bottom of the dishwasher, Rapinchuk says.
●Dust ceilings, corners and ceiling fans. Try an extendible pole system with microfiber cloths.
●Get an annual inspection of the chimney and fireplace. "When you use your fireplace, the chimney's flue will begin to get coated with creosote — a highly combustible substance," Holmes says. "A proper chimney cleaning will remove that creosote, lowering your risk of a chimney fire." Get it done in August so the fireplace is ready to use when chilly weather sets in.
●Touch up paint inside and out where needed. Summer can be a good time to paint before it's too cold to leave doors open for off-gassing.
●Clean light fixtures in living and dining rooms.
●Trim back overgrown and dead branches. Pay special attention to trees near your home and electrical wires, Holmes says.
●Check caulking and weatherstripping around windows and doors. If anything is missing or falling apart, replace it. "Use a rubberized caulking that can expand and contract with the home," Holmes says, and look for leaks and openings around pipes and vents.
●Clean light fixtures in the family room.
●Wash and fluff pillows and bedding. Examine sofa pillows and throws for stains, too.
●Turn, rotate and vacuum mattresses. Sprinkle a quarter-cup of baking soda that's been mixed with an essential oil over the mattress. Let it sit for half an hour, and then vacuum it up, Rapinchuk recommends. If you don't have a waterproof mattress cover, get one and launder it with your sheets occasionally.
●Test and replace smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries.
● Get the HVAC system serviced.
●Vacuum or sweep the garage. This is a good time to wash, vacuum and declutter vehicles, too.
●Service and winterize outdoor equipment. Test battery-operated snow equipment, Holmes says. Drain fuel or add antifreeze to lawn mowers, weed whackers and other machines not stored in a heated area.
●Shut down water for winter. Before the temperature drops, drain and put away hoses. Drain and shut off sprinkler systems and outdoor water taps — don't forget the tap in your garage, if you have one. Drain the line by turning the inside water off first.
●Vacuum the basement or storage area. Purge things you no longer use.
●Dust baseboards and vents. Baby wipes work, Rapinchuk says, as do white foam erasing sponges or a mixture of warm water and Castile soap.
●Clean master bedroom light fixtures.
●Dust ceilings, corners and ceiling fans.
●Vacuum lampshades. You can also use a lint roller to remove dirt.
● Assess holiday decorations before putting them away. Donate what you no longer use and throw away things that are broken.
●Clean light fixtures in the bedrooms.
●Vacuum and spot-clean furniture.
●Wash kitchen and bath mats.
●Polish wood furniture.
●Wipe switches, phones, computer keyboards and remotes. Use antibacterial dish soap and hot water, or an antibacterial spray such as the one Nystul makes, with a cup of water, a half-cup of white vinegar, and five drops each of wild orange, melaleuca and lavender essential oils.
●Wipe down appliances. Rapinchuk likes microfiber window and glass cloths for this. "For non-stainless-steel appliances, I just recommend soap and water or your favorite all-purpose spray cleaners. They're going to be easier to clean. For glass, you'll want to use a cleaner." And for stainless steel, she uses white vinegar and runs a microfiber cloth in the direction of the grain. She says olive or coconut oil can help get gunk off range hoods.
●Spot-clean walls. Check for fingerprints, smudges and smears, and wash with a solution of a half-gallon of warm water to one or two drops of Castile or dish soap.
●Change furnace filters. "You want to do this at least every three months — but I change mine every month during the winter . . . because we're getting more use out of our systems," Holmes says. Consider getting a programmable thermostat, too. "It helps keep the home more energy-efficient," Holmes says.
●Clean bathroom light fixtures and exhaust fans.
●Clean and seal or polish hardwood floors.
●Clean window treatments and blinds. "For blinds, I'll start with a vacuum cleaner and run it all over the slats, and then flip them and run it over it again," Rapinchuk says. "Then use that same attachment and just do the windowsills, too. You can then take a microfiber cloth or a sock and barely dampen it with rubbing alcohol and get a bit of that film off." For draperies, she either uses her vacuum cleaner's drapery setting and nozzle or takes them to a dry cleaner.
●Clean the oven. Use the self-cleaning feature, and if that doesn't do the trick, Nystul puts a pot of hot water on one rack and a cup of ammonia on another rack. She lets it sit overnight in a preheated (and turned-off) 150-degree oven, then scrubs away the softened grime.