Your home might be giving you clues that maintenance or repairs are required. Your job is to decipher those clues to determine what the issues are? When you take care of maintenance and minor repairs, major problems may be avoided, which in turn will save the extra costs of more complicated remedies.
To identify any clues your home is providing about its need for maintenance or repair, you’ll need to inspect it on a regular basis –perhaps three or four times a year – and keep your senses attuned throughout the year to notice anything that might indicate a problem. The better you get to know your house, the sooner you’ll catch that something isn’t right. Timely maintenance and repairs will keep your biggest asset being in better shape, more comfortable to live in and much easier to sell should you wish to. You’ll also avoid major repair bills.
In this guide, you’ll learn what clues to look for as you inspect your home and live in it daily, paying attention to things you see, hear and smell.
Things to Look For
Keep your eyes open for these common indications that something is amiss.
1. Mold: When you find mold anywhere, it means that moisture is somewhere it shouldn’t be. For example, mold on a bathroom ceiling or wall is often an indication that the moist air in the bathroom isn’t being properly vented. A bathroom vent fan costs $250 to $350 in most cases when hiring a contractor to install it.
If your bathroom is adequately vented, and you’re seeing mold inside or mold or peeling paint outside, the culprit might be a leaky roof or gutters allowing moisture to get beneath the shingles or into the wall. Our guides, “Repair a Leaking Roof” and “Cleaning and Repairing Clogged Rain Gutters” will help you address those potential issues, and they provide repair costs too.
2. Water in your basement or mold on basement walls: Do puddles appear near the wall of your basement when it rains? Bad gutters are a very common source of this issue. When gutters are clogged or they leak, water falls next to your foundation, and it can quickly find its way inside. Also, make sure that your downspouts empty at least 6 feet from your home onto a grade running away from your house.
Replacing gutters costs $0.60 to $0.90 per linear foot of gutter and downspout material.
Another problem may be rain water from the land around you seeping through the walls and foundations particularly if the house is “Down Slope” of the land and houses above your property. You may well ask “were does all the water go when it rains?”. The simple answer is past your foundations on its way to the nearest stream or river. If the foundations and walls below ground level do not have adequate drainage and are not correctly sealed on the outside, they will leak!
Repairing small cracks in your foundation costs $40 to $60 per linear foot, though DIY kits are available that will save you money, if you do the repair properly. Our guide, “How to Fix Small Cracks in Your Foundation” will help.
3. Lights that Flicker: When a single light flickers, the bulb might be loose or need to be replaced. If a fresh, tight bulb flickers, the fixture is probably bad or the electrical connection is loose. If you have experience working with electricity, these can be DIY projects by turning off power and tightening the connection or replacing the light fixture.
When a series of lights flicker, the problem is likely in the electrical box. One of the potential issues is a bad connection which can cause arcing electricity, a major cause of house fires. Calling an electrician for several flickering lights makes sense. Replacing a bad electrical circuit is a $275 to $350 repair. Upgrading the electrical box to one with more capacity costs $650 to $975.
4. Swaying curtains or blinds: Some windows are so drafty they cause the curtains to move. Other times, you need to feel around the windows for cold drafts in the winter. If your windows aren’t tight, adding weatherstripping will help. It costs $6 to $10 per window. A window kit with plastic covering costs $8 to $15 per window.
5. Soft floors: Does the floor near your tub, toilet or dishwasher feel soft and spongy when you walk on it? There’s likely been a leak, and the subflooring is rotten. Subflooring repairs cost $450 to $1,200 depending on the extent of the damage.
If a leak isn’t the problem, check to see if the floor joists are in good condition and intact. If a basement renovation was done, a floor joist might have been cut and not repaired. Shoring up floor joists will cost $95 to $250 per joist.
What to Listen For
When someone asks, “What’s that sound?” it might lead to an important discovery. What sounds indicate problems?
1. Noises in the walls or vents: Insects and rodents make biting and scratching sounds, rustling noises, buzzing and other dead giveaways that something is living in there. To have your home inspected for an infestation of rodents or insects costs $90 to $175. Getting rid of them costs $250 to $1,000 or more based on the extent of the problem.
2. Hissing noise in the bathroom or a wall: Leaking water sounds like a low hissing. In the bathroom, the fix could be as simple as replacing a $5 flapper in the toilet. If you’re on metered water, this repair could save you hundreds of dollars a month. A hissing sound in the wall indicates a leaking pipe, and it should be tracked down and repaired immediately. When the pipe is in the wall, the cost for repair will be $200 to $400 plus the cost of repairing the drywall. When the leaking pipe is the water main leading to your home, expect the repair to cost $1,500 to $3,500. If you have city water, the repair might be the responsibility of the supplier of the water.
Odors to Be Concerned About
Odors are often an important clue and shouldn’t be overlooked. Here are the most common and what they might indicate.
1. Sewer odors: If outside, odors might mean that your drain field isn’t functioning properly, if you have one. Or, the main sewer line might be damaged. Puddling water and extra-green sod are other indicators. A standard drain field will cost $4,000 to $7,000 to replace; an engineered system can cost more than $20,000. If you have city sewers, contact the city before making repairs. The repair might be the city’s responsibility. The cost will be $1,500 to $3,500 if you have to pay for it.
If the odor is inside, sewer gases might be the issue. There is an “S” bend at ground level in the drainage system, try pouring a few gallons of water down a drain that isn’t often used. The water in the trap might have evaporated, allowing gases to enter your home.
2. Musty or moldy smells: We’ve discussed venting the bathroom. Your attic should be vented too in order to prevent mold there. Attic vent fans cost $250 to $550 for the fan and installation depending on the complexity of the job and the capacity of the fan.
If you’re sure your home’s foundation isn’t leaking, the musty smells in the basement might simply be the result of humidity that is too high. A dehumidifier might be all you need. They cost $275 to $350 for average models.
3. Hot water that smells rotten: Certain types of bacteria get into water tanks and create hydrogen sulfide gas – the cause of the rotten egg smell. Hydrogen peroxide can kill the bacteria. Pour 2 or 3 pints of hydrogen peroxide into the water fill of the heater. You’ll need to shut off the water to the tank, and you might want to drain some of the water to avoid being scalded by hot water. Once the hydrogen peroxide is in the tank, let it fill again. Try not to use hot water for 2 to 3 hours. There’s no need to rinse the hydrogen peroxide out of the tank.