We are closing on our first home (townhome built in 2000 in NJ) purchase in another 2 weeks, we are very excited at the same time concerned about not knowing anything about homes. Is there any books or articles (links) which introduce to all the systems in a house and how they work and things to know (Example - When I was applying for home insurance, the agent asked if there was a sump pump and if it has back-up power , which I have no idea).

What are the different systems that are there in the home and how they work? Things to know(in a car analogy we need to change oil every 3 months, is there anything in home where we need to constantly monitor/maintain)?

Any help / links / good books


The home inspection is the standard way to get started with this knowledge. You hire an inspector to not only look for problems, but to instruct you about the systems in your house. You can think of an inspection as the Owner's Manual customized to your new home -- the inspector should tell you what upkeep is required, how various systems can fail, what to keep an eye on, and what you should consider investing in. If you don't have answers to all these questions, both explained to your satisfaction and documented in a report, then the inspector hasn't done his job.

If you've already had an inspection, but didn't get this information, call up your inspector and ask their advice. If you got inspection "results" but weren't around to learn about all the systems, try to schedule a follow-up visit so you can get that experience (it's worth paying for, if you have to).

We had an excellent inspector when we purchased our first home a couple years ago. Since then I've made numerous improvements and learned a lot, but I might not have known where to start without his guidance. Books and the internet are helpful but there's nothing like an expert's eye to alert you to the most important issues in your specific house.


Reader's Digest has some books that I have seen at the library that are pretty good. They have one called "New Fix-It-Yourself Manual: How to Repair, Clean, and Maintain Anything and Everything In and Around Your Home". I would check the public library or Amazon if you want to own them.

  • That's a good one. I also have an earlier (now out of print) edition of Black and Decker's Complete Photo Guide to Home Repair. They have another one on home improvement for those times when you time to actually do advance planning. – Joe Nov 8 '11 at 0:21

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