When it comes to home safety, plumbing and electrical problems do a lot more damage than crooks. Here are our top tips for what you can do to keep your home safe and prevent disasters while you're away.
Water damage from undetected plumbing leaks will quickly ruin ceilings, floors and walls, leading to repair bills in the thousands. This is especially true if you're away on vacation. Yes, such a leak is unlikely, but insurance
companies report hundreds of these incidents every year. Look for the main valve near the water meter and turn it clockwise to close it. If it's stuck, leaks or doesn't turn on again, hire a plumber to replace it. The ice maker in your refrigerator may freeze up while you're gone, so shut it off
too or thaw it with a hair dryer when you return.
If you've had mice in your home, use a copper (type L) or braided stainless steel line rather than a plastic supply line for the ice maker in your refrigerator. Mice like to run behind refrigerators and occasionally chew holes in plastic lines, causing a leak that can ruin floors and ceilings before you detect it. Plastic tubes also can harden over time and crack. Find metal ice maker lines at home centers and wherever appliances are sold.
The most common time for a sump pump to
fail is the first heavy rainfall after months of not
being used. The submerged or partially submerged
portions of cast iron pumps can rust
and seize. And they'll burn out when they
switch on. Don't get caught with your pump
down and the water rising. After a long dry
(unused) spell, pour a bucket or two of water
into the sump to make sure the pump kicks on.
Hairline cracks in a concrete foundation
are normal, but cracks that continue
to widen spell trouble. They'll
eventually cause shifting and cracking
in the walls above, tilt floors and move
doors and windows so they won't
open and close. The movement is
glacially slow. To help you spot it,
measure and record the gap size.
Check it every few months. If the
cracks widen, call in a foundation specialist
(“Foundation Contractors” online or in
the yellow pages) to assess the foundation.
Solutions can cost hundreds
of dollars, but the cost of ignoring the
problem is greater. A major foundation
fix can cost thousands.
Insurance companies get a flood of
tree-related claims after major storms.
You can't prevent all of these incidents,
but many you can, if you trim out overhanging
branches and dying trees just waiting
to fall. Major tree trimming is dangerous and not a
do-it-yourself project. Call in a tree service to trim all tall trees around your home every few years. Spending a few hundred dollars now could save you several thousands in roof and rain damage later.
Once upon a time, water heaters and
clothes washers always sat on concrete
floors near drains, where spills and leaks
wouldn't hurt anything. Now they often
sit on framed wood floors, sometimes on
the second floor, where spills, overflows,
broken hoses or slow drips can cause
stains, rot and other potentially expensive
water damage. For about $20, you
can buy special pans at home centers
and appliance dealers that catch slow
leaks and mild overflows. Some have
drain holes where you can connect a tube
that leads to a floor drain. They won't
stop burst water lines or massive overflows,
but they're cheap insurance against water damage caused by minor spills and leaks.
If your current hoses are more than five years old, replace
them with no-burst hoses. The supply hoses to your clothes washer are always under pressure, just like the
supply pipes in your water system. However, eventually
the rubber will harden, crack and leak. If undetected, the leak can cause extensive water damage. An inexpensive solution is to buy no-burst hoses. These high-quality
hoses are less likely to leak and they'll keep
any leak from becoming a torrent. They cost
less than $20 a pair at home centers, hardware
stores and appliance stores.
Pull out your flashlight and walk
around your home, examining the
foundation, both inside and out, to
inspect for termite tunnels. Much
of the damage termites do is invisible,
inside walls and floors. Take
the time to look for telltale sawdust
and tunnels, because termites
can do major damage
before you even know they're
there. If you spot signs of termites,
call in a professional exterminator.
A 1-in. rainfall drops about 650 gallons of
water on an average roof. And your
downspouts concentrate all that water in
only a few spots. If dumped too close to
the house, the water will undermine your
foundation, causing it to leak, shift or
crack&emdash;very expensive to fix. Downspout
extensions will prevent most major problems,
including wet basements, cracked
foundation wall is, and termite and
carpenter ant infestations.
Computer chips are sensitive and highly vulnerable to momentary power surges, especially powerful ones induced by lightning. Losing a $1,000 computer is bad
enough, but losing photos, music and other irreplaceable stuff on your hard drive is often much worse. Insulate your valuable microprocessors from this danger by plugging them into a surge protector. Better surge protectors ($40 and up) will have the following
ratings printed somewhere on the
box: meets UL 1449 or IEEE 587;
clamps at 330 volts or lower; can
absorb at least 100 joules of
energy or more; and handles
telephone lines and
video cables as well.
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.
Copyright © 2014 The Family Handyman. All Rights Reserved.