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How to Avoid Costly Home Repairs

by Farnoosh Torabi

The costs of home ownership stretch far beyond mortgage payments, property taxes and insurance. From clogged gutters to broken shingles and mold, home repairs can easily add up — especially with all the precipitation and cold weather this time of year. We spoke with home improvement specialist Ron Hazelton for his preventative home maintenance checklist, which he says can save the average owner over at least $100,000 in repairs over the years.

Inspect Your Foundation 

Foundation repair can cost as much as $25,000, so Hazelton's first bit of advice is to survey the exterior base of your home for any cracks, which may have been caused by rainwater mixing with soil. "When soil meets water, the soil tends to expand like a sponge and exert a great deal of pressure on a home's foundation and basement walls," says Hazelton. "After a heavy rainstorm go outside and walk around your home. Check within five feet of the house to make sure you don't see large puddles...Avoid having any water soaking the ground right next to your house."

For foundation repair, it can cost $400-$800 to repair simple, tiny cracks in the foundation. Moderate damage can run as high as $8000-$30,000 to repair, according to Costhelper.com.

Routinely Unclog Your Gutters 

Check for built-up debris in your home's gutters, which may also lead to cracks in your home's foundation. Hazelton says that as rain falls, water may spill over the edge of the home and directly onto the ground. The water may saturate the soil surrounding the house and, again, force pressure onto the foundation. Hazelton's tip: Clean gutters at least a couple times a year, purchase a gutter guard or have a professional gutter cap installed. "What I also recommend is having a downspout extension that carries water away from the foundation as it exits," he says. A typical downspout costs no more than $10.

Look For Exterior Leaks

Exposure to sunlight and water can cause the caulk around your home's windows and doors to deteriorate. Keep an eye out for loose or missing caulk and replace it with a fresh seal. If left unattended, water can seep behind your home's exterior wood and gradually cause rotting, staining and even mold. "Repairs could easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars," says Hazelton.

Inspect Your Roof

"You want to have your roof in good shape going into the colder weather," says Hazelton. Using a pair of binoculars from the ground, look for shingles that might be damaged, broken or missing and any place where something is penetrating through the roof where water can leak in. A 2,000 sq. ft. roof with asphalt shingles can run from $3,000 to $8,000 for repairs. Severe repairs can cost up to $30,000 and beyond.

"Remember, the roof is kind of the tip of the iceberg. If water enters and runs into your house, inside ceiling and walls, that's when you've got the potential for rot or mold," he says.

Change Heating or Furnace Filters

During the heating season, you should consider changing your heating or furnace filters once every two months, says Hazelton. "A clogged filter decreases efficiency, raises your energy costs and it can cause damage to the heating system."

Replace Hoses in Laundry Room 

Inspect the hoses that supply water to your washing machine once a season. Hazelton recommends replacing standard hoses with reinforced hoses made of steel mesh. "These hoses are under constant pressure and should they rupture while you're away from home, the water damage can be severe."

Remove Build-Up in Your Water Heater 

A typical water heater should last 8 to 12 years, depending on the quality of the water inside. Hazelton's tip: remove any sediment build-up in the heater, at least once a year. "Those minerals can get quite thick, so it takes more energy to heat the water," he says. The task may take an hour or two to perform, but can help keep your water heater running efficiently. It can also help lower your heating costs.