11 Home Maintenance Myths You’ll Wish You Knew Sooner

Owning a home involves work. You know there are home maintenance tasks to keep up on, but are you doing these tasks correctly or as often as you should?

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You’ll Mow Less if You Cut the Grass Short

If mowing isn’t your favorite home maintenance task, you may be tempted to cut the grass short so you don’t have to mow as often. However, The Lawn Institute reports, “Cutting your lawn too short creates an environment for both weed and disease infestation. It also causes the lawn to lose moisture much quicker.”

Instead, follow the one-third rule: Set your mower blade height to cut off no more than the top third of the grass plant. This encourages stronger roots. If you don’t like mowing your grass, here’s when you can officially stop cutting your lawn this season.

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Save Energy by Turning Off the Air Conditioner When You’re Not Home

You may think you’re saving on energy costs if you turn the AC off when you leave the house in the morning, but this isn’t the best way to save money.

According to National Property Inspectors, “When you come back home and turn your system back on, your AC unit will have to work overtime to cool your house back down, negating any energy savings you’ve accrued.”

Instead, just adjust your thermostat five to 10 degrees warmer when you leave home. And don’t miss these other air conditioner maintenance tips.

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Gutters Only Need to be Cleaned in the Fall

If you think you only need to clean your gutters in the fall, think again. Gutters can get clogged with debris any time of year. That prevents them from directing the flow of rainwater away from your home, risking damage to your home’s interior and exterior.

“Clogged gutters can also become attractive homes to insects, rodents and mold,” according to Las Vegas-based First Quality Roofing and Insulation. “That’s why it’s a good idea to have your gutters cleaned in both the summer and fall.”

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More Insulation is Better

Adding insulation is a home maintenance task many homeowners will tackle at some point. However, more isn’t always better.

“While you want enough insulation to prevent heat escaping into the attic, going overboard can actually cause problems,” according to National Property Inspectors. “For instance, overloading your attic with insulation can cause the lower layers to compress, which diminishes its effectiveness. You can also end up blocking your eave or soffit ventilation, leading to heat or moisture buildup and mold problems.”

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The Test Button is the Best Way to Check Your Smoke Alarm

By pressing the test button on your home’s smoke alarm, what you’re really doing is testing whether the sound is functioning properly, according to Security First Insurance.

Instead, to properly test your smoke alarm, place a newly burned out match under the device. The smoke should cause the alarm to sound. Experts suggest you test your smoke alarm at least once in the spring and once in the fall.

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If Your Carpet Feels Dry, It’s Safe

The bad news is, even if your carpet feels dry after a water incident, that doesn’t mean it’s completely dry.

“That’s because standing water can seep beyond the carpet and underlay, and into the subfloor,” according to People’s Trust Insurance Company. “Mold can grow in wood and concrete subfloor environments, and letting it linger can lead to serious and expensive issues.”

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The Bathroom Exhaust Fan is Maintenance-Free

If cleaning out the bathroom exhaust fan isn’t one of your regular home maintenance tasks, add it to the list. First Quality Roofing and Insulation notes mold and mildew can form in the fan. In addition, dust will build up over time and cover the motor. So make sure to clean and vacuum the fan cover and mechanical parts every six to 12 months.

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Family Handyman

You Only Need to Replace Furnace Filters Once a Season

You may think you can save money on furnace filters by replacing them just once a season, but actually your filter should be replaced more often.

“If you live in a dry, dusty environment, chances are you’ll need to replace them about once a month,” according to National Property Inspectors. “If you live in an area that’s more humid and features lush landscaping, you’ll be able to get away with replacement every three months or so.”

Pro tip: If you can’t see a light shining through your furnace filter, it’s time to replace it.

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It Doesn’t Matter What Time of Day You Add Chemicals to your Pool

If taking care of a pool is part of your home maintenance, be sure to add chemicals after the sun goes down. That’s because adding chemicals when the sun is strongest can result in UV rays reducing the effectiveness of certain chemicals, especially chlorine, according to Security First Insurance.

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U.J. Alexander/Shutterstock

Asbestos In Your Home Must Be Removed

Asbestos was widely used in building materials until it was banned in 1978. If you do have asbestos in your home, you may not have to remove it. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), asbestos only poses a health risk when the material is friable (crumbled or pulverized) and fibers can be released.

“If building materials in your home aren’t damaged and won’t be disturbed, you do not need to have your home tested for asbestos,” the EPA says. “Material that is in good condition and will not be disturbed (by remodeling, for example) should be left alone.”

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Family Handyman

Your Dishwasher Cleans Itself

It may seem like your dishwasher is self-cleaning, but that isn’t the case. To keep it running well and smelling fresh, you should periodically clean the dishwasher.

Remove any debris from the tub and filter to make sure it drains properly. Then place a couple of cups of vinegar in a clean bowl near the center of the bottom rack and run the dishwasher on a normal cycle without detergent. This will help sanitize and deodorize the washer. If your dishwasher still has a funky smell, it might be time to clean out your filter.

Rachel Brougham
Rachel Brougham lived through a major home renovation in 2019, knows the ups and downs of home improvement, and loves sharing tips with readers. A veteran journalist of both print and television, she’s won several awards for her writing and has covered everything from the environment and education to health care, politics and food. She’s written for several publications beyond newspapers including Bob Vila, Taste of Home and Minnesota Parent, and she currently writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column. Her memoir, Widowland, about the sudden loss of her husband, was published in 2022. She specializes in everything from home decor and design to lawn and garden, product reviews and pet care. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her tending to her garden (both vegetables and native plants), playing with her dog, watching sports with her family or getting some exercise. A native of Michigan, she currently lives in Minneapolis. An avid user of Instagram, you can follow her @RachBrougham.