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10 ways you're ruining your home - and how not to

Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | August 24, 2015

Your home represents one of the most important facets of your life. Just as you wouldn't ignore the needs of your kids, spouse, or pets, you can't neglect your home if you want it to provide adequate functionality and protection for you and your household members. Good home ownership, like good parenting, partnering or pet ownership requires an investment of time to educate yourself about - and execute - proper home maintenance and care.

While a regular home maintenance schedule can help prevent your home from suffering future damage, you might be ruining your home's systems and components without even knowing it. Take the time to learn the basics of good home care and how to prevent small and large mishaps that can lead to damage. Here are a few common ways homes get ruined and how you can avoid it happening to yours:

  1. Don't ignore drywall and ceiling stains. Find and fix the source of leaks as soon as you see them. Leaks bring moisture into contact with materials such as dry wall and wood, which can rot or turn moldy the longer they stay damp. Places to look for leaks include the roof, beneath the siding, cracks in the foundation, and around windows and doors. Water can infiltrate your walls and floors from plumbing pipes or backed-up drains, sewer lines, and worn out caulking around baths and kitchen fixtures or from malfunctioning clothes washers and dishwashers.
  2. Inspect the roof and flashings each year for wear and tear. Water already may have damaged your attic or other unseen parts of your home before you ever see a stain on the ceiling or walls. Every year - and after wet, windy storms or snow and icy weather - check for signs of damage to the roof and flashings. Look for problems such as missing shingles, ice dams, bare spots from hail, or debris hitting the roof. Inspect with binoculars from a ladder or from the ground to avoid walking on the roof, which can also damage it.
  3. Keep gutters unclogged. Leaves and dirt can block gutters causing water to overflow onto the siding or foundation. From there it can enter your home through unseen cracks instead of running down the drainpipe and away from the house as it should.
  4. Maintain proper grading for drainage. Water that collects at your foundation can allow your home to settle unevenly causing structural issues. Make sure any soil, patios, or driveways slope down and away from your foundation to carry water away from your home. Avoid planting beds next to the foundation. You may need to have a french drain installed to remove water from the property that might otherwise pool too close to the foundation.
  5. Trim tree limbs, especially those close to the house. You may love your giant shade tree, but if heavy branches hang over or near your roof or windows, you could have a rude awakening when a big wind blows a branch through your window or a lightning strike drops a limb, damaging your roof.
  6. Change HVAC air filters frequently. To keep your furnace and central air-conditioning compressor from conking out prematurely, replace your filters often - once a month is recommended. Dirty filters allow debris into the system and interfere with air flow, causing these costly appliances to work harder and shortening their life span.
  7. Reduce UV damage to furnishings. Install new replacement windows with low-emissivity coatings that reflect UV light away from the house. According to the Energy.gov, they protect indoor furnishings by reducing fading as much as 75 percent. Choose window treatments with UV protection that allows in varying degrees of light when closed.
  8. Avoid drain clogs and sewer/septic tank problems. Don't pour grease down the sink. Don't jam your sink disposal with potato peels, fibrous vegetables such as asparagus or starches like flour and rice that, mixed with water, turn to paste when they dry. Above all, don't put anything down the toilet except toilet paper and the waste it was meant to flush away. You can stop up your whole house with a messy back up.
  9. Watch out for these washer/dryer no-nos. Remove objects made of metal, even coins, from your clothes before washing or drying. Overloading the washer can cause excessive wear on its parts, and not emptying the lint filter of the dryer after each load makes it work harder - with the same potential result.
  10. Don't be so hard on granite counters. Granite is porous, meaning it soaks up stains, so it needs to be sealed periodically. Don't use abrasive cleaners or cleansing pads, ammonia or bleach, or acidic cleansers such as vinegar or lemon. They break down the sealant too quickly. Instead, use mild dish soap and warm water with a soft or nubby cloth for daily cleaning. To check whether it's time to reseal, put a few drops of water on the counter. If it soaks into the counter, you need to reseal. For disinfecting, use a mixture of half water and half 91% isopropyl alcohol.

Photo credit to Myryah Shea

About the Author

Iris Price is a single Baby Boomer whose antidote to a lack of retirement funds was to launch a long-delayed career as a writer. While others her age concoct bucket lists and travel the world, she bought a new-construction home and obsessively creates lists of must-have home improvements and personal realization goals. She specializes in writing about home services and self-motivation.