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Task: Create A Home Operating System Part 3: Basement

Be sure to turn on the light so you don’t trip on the bottom step. See, we’re already helping you think about what to include about the basement.

These suggested items and questions are to get your mind thinking about your basement or any behind-the-scenes area of your home (you know, if you don’t have an actual basement).

Remember the rules: The questions below should get your mind thinking of possible scenarios. You, or the person who knows how everything works, should write down notes and snap some photos if you think it’ll help. Don’t forget to use the same notebook or digital document from these previous Home Operating System tasks: Common Areas | Security & Automation

HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning)

These are the lungs and circulatory system of your home. On the maintenance front, are there any tips to keep them up-and-running? How often do you get them serviced? Do you change the filters on your own or is that part of a service agreement? If you have a warranty or important paperwork, where do you keep it? If it seems broken — like it won’t turn on, it’s making a noise, or it’s leaking — what are the troubleshooting steps you should take before making a service call? When putting it to use, what’s the average temperature setting per season? If your thermostat is hooked up to a Nest or other home automation system, how would you explain it to a 10-year-old so they could operate it properly?


Staying hydrated and keeping the toilets, showers, and washing machines running is the priority. Do you have to do anything beyond paying a water bill? Are there areas that always tend to leak? Is the “on/off” value properly marked and easy to operate? This is important if you’re away during the cold months, when the pipes can freeze and burst if they’re still active. (NOTE: A reliable plumber should be included with your Home & Vehicle Maintenance Contacts.) Any advice if the water is discolored or not functioning properly? This might involve a septic system, of which your family has no idea about. The pipes from the toilet flow somewhere, and, preferably, it’s not to another room in your house.

Laundry Machine

We know not all people have this in the basement, but we’re doing our best to guess what your house is like. Unlike a laundromat with easy-to-follow instructions, many of these fancy machines are more complicated than a space shuttle. How would you explain the best way to operate the washer/dryer to a house sitter or the people in your home who never do the laundry so they don’t ruin any clothes or the machine? Is there warranty info somewhere in case it breaks or would they have to buy a new one?

Mold, Floods, & Musky Smells

Gross things grow in dark, damp basements. Are there any areas that are known to flood during big storms or if you live in an area where large amounts of snow melt after a thaw? Which parts are most susceptible to mold or rot? When would a good cleaning suffice and when should you call in an expert with a sump pump or heavy machinery to deal with a serious problem?


Gross things also live in dark, damp basements like insects, rodents, and other creepy crawlies you probably don’t want to visualize. While this can happen anywhere in your home, basements are the breeding ground. Where are the areas that seem to attract the most troublesome vermin? What types of traps do you use, if any? How often should you spray or get checked by pest control? (NOTE: A reliable exterminator should also be in your Home & Vehicle Maintenance Contacts.)

Final Sweep

As you visualize your basement, what else do you have going on down there? Do you have foundational issues? Something that might need to be checked or cleared regularly, like a storm drain? A humidifier or dehumidifier to keep the moisture levels comfy? A fuse box that’s always flipping a breaker, which you might have left out of the Common Areas task?

The Task

There’s always one person in every house who does basement work without telling anyone. If this isn’t you, take that person with you for the tour and have them reveal everything. Most people avoid the basement so you can even treat it like taking a trip without having to leave the home. If you’re the basement guru then write this all down in your ever growing Home Operating System notebook or digital document.

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