The 8 ESSENTIAL “Jobs” a house has to perform for you

By Tom •  Updated: 07/04/22 •  4 min read

This is the method for getting the most out of your house while spending the least amount of your time and money:

  1. First: identify the core things any house should do – the 8 essentials below
  2. Second: do an 80/20 analysis of the actions you can take to get the most benefit with the least effort, time or money
  3. Third: Execute those essential actions as efficiently as possible, whether that means doing it yourself or hiring someone to do it

The end goal is maximum output from minimum input. 

When you boil it right down, your house only has 8 things you REALLY need it to do for you. 

It might sound simplistic to boil it down like this, but I like to think of it as getting to the first principles of a house. Managing the upkeep of a house can be overwhelming, particularly if you are a first-time homeowner. Focusing in on the essentials of the essentials can make it less daunting. 

These are the first principles of a house.

1. Don’t Be On Fire

This one is obviously binary – your house is either on fire or it’s not. My personal preference is that it’s not on fire and that fire is contained to the fireplace – hence the name—the place for fire. In relation to not being on fire, well-placed, reliable smoke detectors are where it’s at. 

Top elements (outside of being careless with candles and cigarettes): Smoke detectors, good gas and electrical work, grounding, well maintained appliances.

2. Don’t Fall Down

A bit more nuanced. This gets into structural engineering, support beams, and load-bearing walls. If you’re having problems in this area, my take is this is best left to the experts and pros. 

Top elements: Foundations, crawl spaces, basements, house frame, beams, masonry, walls, termite control

3. Keep electricity where it belongs

Some simple stuff you can do on your own, but there’s a reason electricians are licensed and need years of learning and apprenticeship. Don’t mess with this. You need electricity. You don’t need it where it doesn’t belong. 

Top elements: Electrical panel, plugs, fuse box, circuit breaker, wiring, switches, grounding

4. Keep water where it belongs and at the right temperature

An impromptu, unplanned water feature in your house is just about the worst surprise to come home to – aside from numbers 1 and 2 above.

Top elements of keeping water at the right temperature: Hot water heater, plumbing, faucets, showers, toilets, sewage, septic, dehumidifiers

Top elements of keeping water where it belongs: Roof, gutters and downspouts, irrigation, drainage and ground slope around the house, exterior walls, vents, flues, chimneys, vapor barriers, quality plumbing 

5. Maintain comfortable air temperature

If it’s unlivably cold or hot in a house, it isn’t doing its job.

Top elements: HVAC, heaters, radiant heat, fans, air conditioning, windows and doors, insulation, fireplaces, natural airflow through the house

6. Keep unwanted people, animals, and insects off your property

Keeping animals and people outside is more of a set-it-and-forget-it proposition – once you have a security system in place and adequate barriers like fences and locks, you shouldn’t really have to think about it again. But when it comes to pest control, that can require on-going work or treatment if you have a stubborn pest like ants that seem to come back from time to time. 

Top elements: Security systems, gates, fences, cameras, locks, window bars, and motion detectors. Pest control, traps, and poisons 

7. Look good

This is where do-it-yourself can really shine. While most people can easily get in over their head when dealing with structural or electrical issues, most people can handle the complexity and work involved in keeping the house looking good inside and out. 

Top elements: Painting, drywall, carpeting, various cleaners, flooring, tiling, landscaping, yard maintenance, pressure washing, soft washing, asphalt and concrete maintenance

8. Don’t hurt you

It’s the invisible stuff that can really get you. Most of the above items can contribute to making sure your house doesn’t hurt you, but you do have to be careful when it comes to things that can be hidden from view like mold, carbon monoxide and radon. 

Top elements: Carbon monoxide detectors, mold remediation, radon abatement, lead paint

So that’s essentially it.

The aim of this site is to look at each of these areas and focus on the few most impactful actions you can take to get the most bang for your buck/time spent.


A few years ago I bought my first house. It’s 100 years old. It’s clearly had a history of less-than-professional DIY handymen/women. And APPARENTLY you’re supposed to actually put work and money into it if you don’t want it to look terrible or water to rain down on you while you’re sleeping. About YouTube Facebook Twitter Pinterest Instagram