Now settled in her home in the Westchester suburbs, Alison Sherwin got hit head-on with the realities of NOT having a 24/7 super at the ready. From mice chomping on garage door wires to crumbling steps after a particularly snowy winter, there’s a lot that comes with owning a home in the ‘burbs. But if you’re prepared, those first few months will be that much smoother. Here are some of her tips and tricks from the trenches.
Home ownership is a joy—but I really miss having a super living right down the hall. Our house is so much larger than my old apartment, which is amazing. That said, it also requires so much more upkeep. Besides the obvious—more rooms to clean and leaves to rake—I wasn’t sure what other challenges I would face in taking care of a house. After 13 years of city living, I was surprised by how much needs to be maintained or serviced in my house in the Westchester suburbs. This list is going to make it sound as though my house is cursed. For the record, I love the Westchester suburbs and love my house. There are plenty of things that are wonderful about it. That being said…
When we bought the house, home inspectors told us our hot water heaters and furnace were old and could die at any moment. Joy of joys. It didn’t cross my mind that these were items that needed to be serviced each year, and I essentially ignored the fact that they might die. Poking around in the basement one day, I discovered one of the heaters had actually died one was on its last legs. A new hot water heater was installed and I was amazed at how much faster the water hear up. As for the furnace, we signed up for yearly servicing and are just hoping for the best.
Air Conditioning/Heat Vents
Apparently, vents and filters need to be cleaned or replaced regularly. Luckily the same service company as the hot water heater and furnace will do this.
Dryer Filter and Vent
Cleaning out the filter isn’t enough. The tubing and vent that run from the dryer to the outside can get filled with lint. Not only does this mean the dryer will run slowly, it can also pose a huge fire risk. A handyman can replace it or clean it out. Our dryer hose was bent and filled with lint, but this is an easy and inexpensive fix.
I watched my parents clean their house’s gutters each fall, so I knew this would be an issue. Because our gutters are too high to reach, I knew I had two options: hire someone to clean them annually, or have gutter guards installed. Gutter guards it was.
Our first winter in the Westchester suburbs was rough, weather-wise. There were snowstorms and rapid temperature swings. Come spring, the front steps crumbled, leaving them unsafe to walk on. This is apparently quite common. Masons will repair them.
After mice chewed through wiring in my garage, the door stopped opening one morning. Tip: learn to open your garage door manually ASAP!
We escaped the joys of roaches, but the suburbs come with its own pests, both outside—termites, mosquitoes, ants—and inside. There are companies that will spray outside for various pests. Indoors was another challenge. Mice were chewing into the garage and making their way into the kitchen. Gross! I signed up for a pest control service to immediately. The company I hired got the mice under control and sealed the basement to prevent future infestations.
The sprinkler system needs to be serviced and shut down in the fall, then turned on again in the spring. Luckily, the service company the previous owner’s used reached out and helped shut down the system. This is incredibly important: if the sprinklers aren’t cleared of any water, the pipes can burst over the winter. No thanks. This one is quick and easy.
Indoor Sprinkler System
If your house is fairly new, you may have an indoor sprinkler system. This needs to be serviced to ensure that it’s working properly in case of a fire.
Our home inspection found mold in our attic—something that needed to be fixed before we moved in. The home inspectors recommended a company to fix it quickly. They replaced our broken attic fan, which will hopefully keep the mold from returning.
These are the highlights, and I’m sure I will discover many more. For those problems that didn’t have service stickers, I’ve been lucky enough to get wonderful recommendations for service companies from Suburban Jungle and the Westchester Moms Facebook group. Maintaining a house is a lot more work than maintaining an apartment, but it’s worth it!
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