Maintenance Logs For Preppers

by Tommy Grant

Do you ever finish tasks and then think to yourself, that should have taken half as long?

I had to adjust my well hydrant recently, and that was what I found myself thinking at the end.  A neighbor had taught me how to adjust it several months ago; I watched what he did and was able to disassemble and reassemble the hydrant without incident, but I didn’t pay attention to which way he turned the bolt to adjust the flow of water.

So, I had to deal with several rounds of shutting off the water, draining the hydrant, turning the bolt in one direction, seeing if that worked, turning in the other direction, and realizing I needed to turn it multiple times to be able to see the difference in the flow. . .

In the end, I YouTubed it, and my hydrant is fine now.  But I also wrote down which way to turn the bolt to increase the flow rate in my home maintenance log.  If I had done that when my neighbor originally showed me how to adjust the flow rate, I would have saved myself a lot of trouble.  And the act of writing it down probably would have helped me remember, too.

I was a band nerd in high school; I didn’t take shop class.  But when I moved into an old, poorly maintained house and then found out that I couldn’t afford to fix it, I happened to move next to neighbors who did spend their time in shop class.  Some of the best advice they gave me early on was to keep track of all maintenance items and repairs in a maintenance log.

It’s helped me to monitor how well my septic system has been working; it’s served as a good reminder of the last time I changed air or well filters.  I’ve learned the hard way that regular maintenance prevents a lot of catastrophic, expensive, time-consuming repairs, but at the same time, it’s easy to forget about maintenance items.  Keeping a little notebook helps me stay on top of things.

Information in my maintenance log comes in several categories.


Most newer vehicles automatically tell you when you need an oil change, but if you’re driving something 20+ years old, it may not.  Also, if you drive an older vehicle, you may periodically add a high-mileage treatment such as a fuel system cleaner.  I’ve been using Lucas Deep Clean Fuel System Cleaner for years.  Those are ideally added every 2-3000 miles.  I write down the date and mileage when I add it.

This applies to other machinery, too.  I have a small riding mower that gets used regularly during the summer and then sits for about eight months.  Writing down when I add fuel stabilizer (in the fall, before it sits) and when I change the oil (usually in the spring) helps me stay on top of those tasks, as well.

Record filter changes in your maintenance log

Ventilation System

As a young homeowner, I remember struggling with the air conditioner.  It just wasn’t working that well.  But I was living along the Gulf Coast, and this was a pretty essential piece of equipment.  I called a family friend who was also a licensed contractor, and he asked about the last time I changed the filter.  I said I didn’t know the air conditioner had a filter.  I got an earful, changed the filter, and the problems went away.

Now I live in an area where the heater is vastly more important, and heaters need their filters changed, too.  I write that down every time I replace it.  HVAC companies say you need to get your system blown out yearly; I don’t do it every year, but once every few years.  One of my kids has allergies; maintaining good air quality in the house helps him out.  And keeping ducts clean puts less stress on the furnace, too.

Electric System

The one major repair I did get on my house was new wiring with a new breaker panel.  In my breaker panel, the electrician typed up a sheet of what switches went to what circuits.  He then laminated the sheet, and I keep in it the breaker panel.

This works well, but if you don’t want to keep your cheat sheet outside, this would be a good addition to your maintenance log.  Appliance problems are a pain, and it makes your life so much easier when you know exactly what needs to get shut off so that you can make repairs.

Appliance Purchases

Unfortunately, many appliances don’t last as long as we’d like them to.  If you’ve got an older home with inherited appliances, you’ll find yourself making expensive replacements.  If you need to do this, keeping track of what appliances you buy and when can help you space out your expensive purchases, hopefully before anything catastrophic happens.

This website has an interesting list of average lifespans of the most common appliances.  It’s worth bearing in mind that regular maintenance can extend the lifespan.  Also, if you’re on well water, even if you buy your drinking water, it’s still worth filtering your well water.  Removing minerals from your water will extend the lifespan of your appliances and decrease the time spent on plumbing issues.


I’ve got coarse and fine filters for my house, and every time I change the filters, I write it down.  I had never lived in a house with well water before my current home; the first time I lost water pressure in my house, I thought I had a serious plumbing problem on my hands.  So, I asked my neighbor about it, and he asked when I last changed the well filters.  I said I didn’t know; he said new filters would probably solve the problem.

It did.

But, since then, I’ve kept track of when I change what.  My house is old, and serious plumbing problems aren’t out of the question.  Knowing when I’ve changed the filters helps me troubleshoot the issues that do arrive.

 Septic System

I also keep track of when I add cleaner to my septic system.  When I first bought my house, I had no idea how to maintain a septic system and had a lot of backups.  My neighbors told me about the Roebic products available at our local hardware store.  I started using them religiously, and (along with switching to cheaper toilet paper) our problems were fixed within a few months.

This can become particularly important if you have people moving in with you, like elderly relatives or young adults coming back because they’ve been priced out of the housing market.  More people mean more stress on your plumbing systems, probably more frequent filter changes, and possibly more septic maintenance.  Keep these things written down to help you stay on top of them.  And if you do have young adults moving back in, pulling them into the loop of helping you track maintenance can be a good educational experience.

Having a written record of maintenance not only makes your home more pleasant but can also help troubleshoot in the event of more serious problems.

I also write down little repair notes, like which way certain things need to be turned or common clog points.  Some people are natural mechanics; I am not one of them.  I have seen one of my sons or brothers fix things in five or ten minutes that will take me over an hour to figure out.

But that’s okay.  I take notes, do my best, and save my phone calls for the big problems.

Final Thoughts

Times are getting harder for a lot of people.  Banks are failing, and people are getting worried.  It may get more expensive to keep your home comfortable, but proper maintenance and the ability to complete at least minor repairs will not only save you money, but also peace of mind.  A home full of half-broken appliances can drive everyone crazy.

Food and shelter are the two basics in life; they’re at the base of Maslow’s pyramid.  Becoming more competent in maintaining your shelter will give you more confidence to handle whatever life throws at you.  Keeping a written record of the maintenance tasks will help you with that.

Additional Resources:

Maintenance Logs For Preppers

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