25 Dangers to Your Home and How to Prevent Them

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Homeownership can be extremely gratifying, but it can also be challenging. A home is probably the largest investment we make during our lifetime. Adequately maintaining your property and home is extremely important to ensuring that you are able to provide your family with the safety, security, and comfort they deserve. Here’s a list of 25 common dangers to your property and tips to prevent future disasters.

25. An Inefficient Water Heater

Do you know how old your water heater is? If it has been around more than 10 years, it isn’t heating water efficiently. If it needs constant repairs, that could also be a sign that it’s time to replace it. Luckily, the average replacement water heater costs a little under $1000. It is also usually more cost-effective to replace a faulty water heater than to continue to pay for repairs, which can cost up to half of what you would pay for a new one!

24. Pests

Pests can wreak havoc on your home. Bugs and termites can threaten your home’s structural integrity, while rodents often chew on wires, creating a fire hazard. Although there are many products on the market to keep pests at bay, if you have a big problem, it is usually best to call a professional. After getting rid of the infestation, take steps to prevent pests from returning. Keep the house clean and store food in airtight containers. Caulk cracks, replace weather stripping, and repair rotting wood on the outside of your house. These steps will help prevent pests from threatening your home and your family.

23. Smoke Detectors

Protect your family and your investment by installing smoke detectors and making sure they work properly. If possible, it is best to hardwire them, rather than buy battery-operated detectors. If you do choose a battery-operated smoke detector, replace the batteries on schedule.

22. Decks and Patios

An unsealed deck will warp and rot in a matter of years. Sealing a deck is an easy way to protect it from moisture and other acts of nature that can drastically reduce your deck’s lifetime.

21. Lawns, Plants, and Trees

These three challenges to homeownership are particularly problematic because they creep up over time and can result in costly repairs. Untended lawns look untidy and grow up under siding. Keeping a well-manicured lawn prevents damage and also ensures healthy, green grass that looks great. Vines and plants can grow up the sides of your home and damage it, while trees that gradually extend branches over your roof threaten serious structural damage. Regular pruning can mitigate these risks and ensure that your home stays both structurally sound and presentable.

20. Leaky Faucets

Leaky faucets can be annoying to listen to and can also be annoying when it comes time to pay your water bill each month. But this is an easy fix. Most faucets have a few different rubber washers that wear out over time. With a few simple tools, these washers can be replaced, making your sink good as new. If your kitchen is in need of an update, this leak may be your excuse to change your faucet altogether! Whichever you decide, both can be completed without master plumbing skills.

19. Sweaty or Leaky Pipes

Everyone has seen water spots on ceiling tiles. While these may result from a leaky roof, if it’s in the basement, it’s most likely from a sweaty or leaking pipe. It could be from condensation buildup or a faulty joint in the plumbing. Check the pipes, and if this is the issue, take care of it immediately. It may require wrapping the pipes in insulation or cutting and replacing a section of the piping.

18. Basements

If you have a basement, chances are your main ductwork, plumbing, electrical systems, etc., are all run through this space. Take advantage of this by checking these systems to make sure they are functioning properly. If you decide to finish your basement and are going to close some of these exposed systems, take pictures first. This way, if something goes wrong in the future, you will know where each system is hidden in the walls.

17. Clogged Drains

A simple clogged drain can be a symptom of a larger problem. Some older houses have clay water mains that crack and allow roots to grow. This causes water to drain out slowly, which can back up into your house and cause water damage. Most plumbers have cameras they can run through pipes to determine if you have a simple drain clog or a larger problem.

16. Attics

Ventilate and insulate your attic to prevent mold. If you trap air in your attic, condensation will build up in your insulation and drywall, creating an ideal environment for mold. Prevent this moisture buildup by making sure you have vents on the roof and in soffits. The number of vents required depends on the size of your attic. A professional can be very helpful if you find moisture in your attic or need advice about installing vents or adding to an existing ventilation system.

15. HVAC, Duct Work, and Filter Issues

Keeping these elements of your home in working order can save you a great deal of money. It is recommended that you change the air filter in your furnace monthly, but this can vary for different households. If you have kids or pets or the furnace is in a much-used part of a house, more stuff can get picked up in the air. Make sure you monitor the air filter in order to keep the furnace efficient, your family healthy, and your utility bills as low as possible. It is also important to keep your ductwork clean by vacuuming around vents, keeping debris from falling into floor vents. Friction and lost air flow around the joints of your ductwork can restrict your system’s overall efficiency. If you find a leak, use duct tape to seal it up, and keep those extra pennies for another project.

14. Air Conditioning Unit

Outside A/C units can use excessive amounts of energy if damaged or not properly maintained. In order for a condensing unit to work properly, it has to run a large volume of air over its coils as it condenses Freon from a gas to a liquid. During the summer, different pollens, grass clippings, and weeds can cause your A/C unit to clog. This makes it difficult for the unit to run at its top efficiency. To prevent this, mow regularly to keep grass from growing too high near the unit, and refrain from planting flowers or trees around it that have messy blossoms, such as cottonwoods. Also, have your unit serviced once or twice per year. A professional can check your unit’s Freon levels and clean the inside, which can help you avoid larger problems in the future.

13. Chimney

Masonry chimneys present unique challenges to a homeowner. The chimney can crack or become home to plant life, both of which indicate water damage. Resealing a masonry chimney with a water-resistant material can solve both of these problems, ensuring that your chimney repels water, rather than absorbs it.

12. Insulation

It can get extremely hot in the summer and extremely cold in the winter. It’s important to property insulate your house to prevent energy loss from inside. Peek in your attic and make sure you have a thick layer of insulation protecting your entire house.

11. Paint Chipping

Older homes are not the only homes that can have chipped paint. New homes are often built so quickly and cheaply that developers may not use primer — the lack of which prevents paint from bonding to the wood the way it should. When this happens, wood is exposed to the elements and will begin to rot. Even brick homes have wood trim around the windows and around flashing on the roof. Have a scraper and primer ready to repair any chipping. If it has begun to rot, replace it, prime it, and paint it.

10. Caulking and Weather Stripping

Caulking is important around windows, doors, wood siding, trim, and many other areas. It keeps your house sealed, and if not properly maintained, it will let water, bugs, and outside temperatures into your home. This can cause energy loss, wood rot, and discomfort. Walk around your house every spring to inspect for any cracks or openings. Use an indoor/outdoor painter’s caulk to seal any cracks; then, cover them with primer and matching paint for a clean finish.

9. Windows

Window technology has come a long way in recent years. The common use of energy ratings has vastly improved the standard for windows. It is important to make sure windows are sealed to prevent energy loss and water damage. You should inspect your windows every spring and fall to verify the caulking is in good condition. In the winter, it is easy to tell if windows are not properly sealed because of cold drafts, and water damage is evident by discoloration of paint or moisture below the window.

8. Sump Pump

Another key tool that keeps water away from your foundation — and out of your basement — is a sump pump. By following the above recommendations and installing a good gutter system and grating, most water can be directed away from your house. The remaining water that sits by your foundation should be directed through perforated PVC piping (otherwise known as a French drain) toward a sump pump so it can be pumped away from your house. You should check to make sure the sump pump is in good working order and is clear of debris. It’s also important to pump the water far enough away from your house; otherwise, it will drain back into the sump pump.

7. Foundation

Your foundation is the base of your home; it supports everything on top of it, from your living room to your washer and dryer — and even your family. Your foundation can be threatened by a variety of problems. Ground settling, freezing and thawing of the ground, and even extremely dry summers can cause damage to a home’s foundation. It is very important to regularly inspect your foundation to ensure its integrity is intact. Walk around the outside of your house each spring and look for cracks. If your basement walls are exposed, check these walls for cracks or splits. Home remedies, like caulking, are often not enough to fix foundational problems, and any damage to a weight-baring wall could spell trouble for your entire home. If you see larger cracks or dramatic shifting over time, you may have structural issues, so call a professional.

6. Mulch Too Close to Siding

When laying mulch for a flower garden, it is important to keep it at least six inches below your siding. Mulch, dirt, and other organic material will hold moisture against your siding, which will find a way into the paint and caulking, causing the siding to rot. Mulching and planting flowers are great projects that will enhance your home’s beauty — just make sure that, as you plant, you are not threatening your home’s integrity.

5. Gutter Downspouts

Gutters are great for controlling water, but if you just let the water pour out of your downspouts, you’re asking for trouble. Proper grating will help carry this water away from your foundation; however, if a large amount of water flows from your downspout, the ground could quickly be washed away, leaving a hole in the ground where water can build up. Burying downspouts and extensions as far from your home as possible is the best option. Alternatively, installing a gutter extension or splashguard that directs water at least three feet from your home will also protect against water damage.

4. Grating around Your House

Gutters are the first line of defense when it comes to water, but you can do additional things to divert water from your house. By building up the dirt around the foundation and making the gradient flow away from your home, you can control the buildup of water. This is especially important around downspouts. As a general rule, a grate of one inch-per-foot will ensure proper water runoff.

3. Gutters

If you don’t control water around your house, it will wreak havoc. The key with water problems is to be proactive. Gutters are the best way to divert water, as they catch water runoff from your roof and flush it away from your home and foundation. If water builds up around your house, it will find a way into your basement, gradually rotting your siding or worse. Every spring and fall, clean out gutters to make sure they are clear of debris. If your lawn is full of trees, you should clean gutters more often.

2. Siding/Exterior Walls

After the roof, siding and exterior walls are the most important parts of your home to protect you from the elements. The types of issues most commonly encountered with outside walls vary a great deal, depending on what type of siding product you have. Wood siding is vulnerable to wood rot, vinyl siding can blow off or come loose, and brick siding is prone to cracking. Educate yourself to know which type of exterior walls you have and how to best care for them.

1. Roof Damage

If you protect your roof, your roof will protect you. The roof of your home keeps you dry and sheltered from the elements. Shingles can shift, crack, blow off, and wear with age. Inspecting your roof for signs of wear and tear can prevent much bigger problems in the future. A tree rubbing against your roof can quickly wear through shingles and cause leaks, while heavy snow and leaves will threaten the roof’s integrity and strength. If you have any concerns, most roofing companies will provide a free inspection, so there’s no need to put this repair off. If you do, you might end up with water dripping into your living room.

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