One of the more significant budget lines you add when you become a homeowner is for home maintenance and repair. U.S. News reports that on average, homeowners will spend between 1 to 4 percent of a home’s value annually on maintenance and repairs, and the costs tend to increase as the house ages.
Luckily, there are plenty of steps you can take to minimize repair costs. Looking after your home’s structure and systems can extend their life and often prevent damage that will lead to costly repairs. One of the most damaging elements your home is exposed to is moisture. That’s why it’s so important to keep water out.
Water does more damage to your home than anything else, and the damage is usually gradual. Even small leaks, left unrepaired, lead to mold and mildew, rot, and eventually termites and carpenter ants. You can avoid a lot of expensive repairs just by keeping an eye out for moisture. Water can affect different areas of your home in different ways, so here are some tips for keeping things dry in key locations.
Insurance Institute of Business and Home Safety tells us that these are the most common places where water intrusion occurs:
Windows and doors
Foundation and Exterior walls
Surprisingly, kitchens and baths are not listed. They will fall under plumbing, and there’s certainly the potential for water intrusion there. Other places to check regularly are the clothes washer and water heater.
Common Area #1: Household plumbing
If leaks in your kitchen pipes go undetected, the damage can be extensive. Long-term drips will ruin the cabinet under the kitchen sink, and can run down into the floor sheathing and joists underneath, causing mildew and rot. This will require a structural repair, plus new cabinets and new kitchen flooring.
Watch out for dark spots under pipes or changes in water pressure that may indicate a leak somewhere in the system. Remember to check the water lines to your icemaker and dishwasher regularly, in addition to the sink.
In the bath, check the floor around your toilets, tubs, showers, and sinks. Look for any soft spots or moisture. Check for leaking faucets, dripping or “sweating” pipes, clogged drains and faulty water drainage systems.
Don’t forget to check the caulk. Replacing old or mildewed caulking is a basic home repair, requiring only a few tools and inexpensive materials, and it helps keep water where it belongs.
In the laundry room, inspect washing machine hoses for bulges, cracks or wetness. These should be replaced every few years, or sooner if problems are found. Take a minute occasionally to inspect the water heater for signs of rust or water on the floor.
Promptly repairing plumbing leaks can save the average homeowner about 10 percent on water bills, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Common Area #2: Doors and windows
Check for leaks around your windows and doors, especially near the corners. Check for peeling paint, which can be a sign of water getting into the wood. Look for discolorations in paint or caulking as well as swelling in windows, doorframes and surrounding materials. Keep caulk in good repair and seal leaks promptly. This has the added benefit of reducing your energy costs.
Common Area #3: Roof and gutters
Check the roof regularly for any signs of leaks or damage. Leaks are particularly common around chimneys, plumbing vents and attic vents. Replace or repair missing or damaged shingles promptly, and keep the surface clear of debris that can allow damaging moisture to build up.
Getting water off and away from the house as quickly as possible is the best way to keep it from doing any damage. When gutters back up and overflow, water seeps under the shingles and begins its insidious work on vulnerable materials. Keeping your gutters clear can greatly extend the life of your roof. Clean and inspect gutters at least once a year.
Common Area #4: Foundation
Foundation repairs can be disruptive and expensive. Prevent water intrusion through regular inspections. Look for cracks or holes in the foundation or external walls, and seal them promptly.
You can keep water away from the foundation by ensuring that downspouts empty at least 2 feet from the foundation, and that the ground slopes away from the house to keep water from pooling at the foundation. Keep an eye out for dripping outdoor faucets, which can wreak havoc on foundations over time.
Some other quick tips for preventing water intrusion from damaging your home:
- Investigate changes in your water bill; a spike may indicate a leak.
- Keep plantings away from foundations and water lines. Roots can cause unseen damage.
- Disconnect your hoses. If the water sitting in them freezes, it may back up into the pipe and cause problems.
- Install water detection devices. These can alert you to low moisture levels or slow leaks that are harder to detect with the eye.
If home maintenance seems overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be. Learn more about how Glasshouse can automate your home’s maintenance with regularly scheduled maintenance visits.