Instructions for creating and maintaining a homeowner's manula specific to your home. This will useful for maintenance and repair issues as well as when you sell you home.
If you think about, nearly everything you buy comes with a manual of some sort. However, the largest purchase most people make in their life, a home, comes with almost nothing. If you happen to buy a new home you will receive the owner’s manuals for the major appliances, but little else. Some builders have developed useful booklets to help first-time homebuyers navigate through the responsibilities of owning a home, but once you buy an existing home you will be lucky the previous owners hand over any useful information or records of any sort. This may partly be due to the fear of litigation or liability if you have performed repairs or renovations without the proper approvals or inspections. But mostly it is due to apathy.
How to Get Started
The first thing you will need to do is start collecting data. You will also need a binder, or several binders, to keep all of the material in one place and organized. You may also download information and store it electronically and scan in any manual you have that you cannot find online. Be careful not to download a newer manual for an older appliance, you may be able to contact the manufacturer and have them email or send you an previous version that includes your item.
Appliances and equipment usually have the date of manufacture or installation on the tag with the manufacturer, model, and serial number. You will need to collect this data for every appliance in your home. This includes the major items such as:
• Garbage disposal
• Water softener
• Sump pump
• Hot Water Heater
• Electrical Panel Board
• Circuit Breaker type
• Garage door opener
• Ceiling fans
• Exhaust fans
• Hard-wired space heaters
• Lawn irrigation system
• Security System
• Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
You may also want to include all of the small kitchen appliances, computers, or entertainment systems you have as well.
You can divide the appliances and equipment into categories such as kitchen, HVAC, electrical, plumbing, etc. Items that you will take with you can be included in a separate section that you can remove when you sell your home.
The items that require the most maintenance after appliances and equipment would be fixtures such as lights and faucets. A typical fixture list would include items such as:
• Shut-off valves – manufacturer, sizes, threaded or sweat
• Locks – Interior and exterior
• Stainless steel sink
• Laundry Tub
• Light fixtures – indoor and outdoor
Include installation, operation, and maintenance (IOM) or operation and maintenance (O&M) manuals. These will have important information for ordering replacement parts as with faucets or if you want to replace a fixture such as a lockset that needs to match.
Obviously everything in your home is not an appliance, but it still important and needs to be maintained. It may take some work to find out the manufacturer of older items and some information may not be able to be located. For some items you may want to have a contractor come out to take a look and give you some information about the material. You may have to pay him for his time or you may want to consider using his company in the future or refer him to your neighbors. These items include:
• Siding – Wood, vinyl, or aluminum
• Roofing Material – including color and warranty information
• Stucco material
• Stone – type is sufficient
• Doors – Include screen door
• Windows – Include storm windows and screens
• Garage Door panels
• Paving material – brick, stone, or concrete pavers
Even if you don’t have much information on a building material, record everything you can about it. For instance, if you have cedar clapboard siding, indicate the year you believe it was installed, the finish whether painted, stained, or natural, and the dimensions and reveal and include local suppliers and pricing. This will be helpful if you need to have any of it replaced, you can go right to your homeowner’s manual and give the information to your contractor or order the material yourself.
Keep track of you utility providers and any changes you have made. The information you need are the account numbers and contact information. Mailing addresses are also useful.
• Alarm Monitoring
• Natural Gas or LP
Other Important Items
Once you have the hard part completed, you can now get down to the finer points of your home. Start making notes about problems you have had in the past and the corrective measures you have taken. Track any improvements you have made and try to locate invoices or receipts and include them in your manual. Over time, you may notice a pattern that will help you prevent future problems. For instance, you may have had a leaking gutter replaced, if you have wood windows, you may want to take a closer look at the window directly beneath the leaking gutter to see if there is any problem with the paint or flashing, including rot.
Set up an Inspection Schedule
Make a schedule for testing your smoke detectors and GFI receptacles or AFCI breakers.
Flushing out your hot water heater and changing air conditioning filters. You can put recurring jobs on your email calendar and set them up as meetings or tasks so that you will receive a reminder when they come due. Of just do it the old-fashioned way and print out a calendar and write all of your maintenance items for the year on it and refer to at the beginning of each month.
Follow this link for data collection forms that you can cut and paste into your favorite word processing program to get started. New forms will be added as available.