10 terrible, no good, pricey home repairs

Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | June 3, 2015

As a homeowner, you hope to never hear the words "structural damage" and "your house" mentioned in the same breath. Almost always that means you face extensive, expensive home repairs.

If you applied for a mortgage when you bought your home, you probably had a home inspection prior to closing. The bank wants to know the house will not bite the dust before you pay back the money. The inspector's report points out conditions and areas of the house that need immediate repair or attention in the near future.

In addition to heeding the inspector's warnings and making these repairs sooner rather than later, new homeowners should have a checklist of maintenance and routine inspections for their home's systems and components so potential trouble can be caught before a problem with one snowballs into a problem someplace else -- ultimately leading to the dreaded structural damage.

Just as medical check ups and good healthcare typically keep your body strong to fight off illness and prevent early decline, knowing how to inspect and regularly maintain your home plays a big part in keeping it structurally healthy.

These 10 problems, if found early, may require repair or replacement, but not addressing them can result in major damage to your home at even greater costs down the line:

  • Sewer pipes: Roots from trees growing close to your home can clog sewer pipes causing sewage to back up into your house. Have a professional sewer and drain company clear the line once a year.
  • Water heater: Signs of corrosion or leaking spell trouble. Flushing the water heater helps get rid of mineral deposits that can accelerate corrosion. Check the pressure release valve yearly to prevent a potential explosion.
  • Wiring: Look for wiring that is potentially dangerous and could cause fires. Examine other electrical components such as outlets and fixtures that might be loose and could cause electrocution. Call in an electrician for anything that looks off - this is not something you'll want to DIY a solution for.
  • HVAC: A house with little or no heat in the winter can mean frozen and burst plumbing pipes. Change your air filters every 30 to 90 days to take the strain off your HVAC system and extend its life. Annual maintenance checks by a professional technician for the A/C in spring and the furnace in fall avoid breakdowns at the hottest and coldest times of the year.
  • Roofing: Inspect your roof for signs of damage every year. Serious leaks left undiscovered can lead to water damage and rot. Check areas of penetration such as skylights, flashings, and vents. Make sure to unclog gutters and see that downspouts direct water away from the foundation. Never ignore signs of leaks.
  • Asbestos removal: Asbestos is a hazardous material that causes cancer and other very serious lung diseases resulting in death. Many older homes may have asbestos anywhere from the attic insulation overhead to the flooring underfoot. Leave it alone if possible. Renovations release asbestos particles into the air, and you must have a professional completely handle its removal before doing any work that could disturb it.
  • Mold remediation: Evidence of mold growth larger than 10 square feet requires professional remediation because of its serious health hazards. Water stains, water damage, and areas of obvious moisture may indicate mold even if you can't see it. A specialist must inspect and conduct tests. If you want to prevent mold from starting, get rid of the source of moisture. Fix leaks and properly ventilate any damp areas.
  • Termites: Termites pose a greater threat to wood structures than even water, wind, and fire events. The first signs you see of years of their damaging presence may be tiny piles of wood-colored droppings, mud tubes along exterior walls, or swarms in early spring. Seek a reliable termite control professional, and repair any structural damage before it's too late.
  • Wet basement: Improper grading; downspouts dumping water too close to the foundation; a concrete patio or driveway angled downward toward the foundation and butting up against it; these can all cause water seepage. You can eliminate basement leaks with waterproofing or find and remove the cause. Water in the basement can eventually lead to structural damage.
  • Foundation damage: Inspect the basement, crawlspace, and foundation looking for signs of water penetration and foundation movement such as drywall cracks, door frames out of square and floors that are not level, as well as grading issues and wood elements of the foundation that come in contact with the soil. Structural damage to the foundation requires supports, each of which can cost as much as $7,000 -- tens of thousands of dollars in total.

Photo credit to Kevin Irby

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.