Avoiding Costly Home Repairs

Your house might be talking to you and it’s might be giving you early warning signs of potential trouble at its most vulnerable spots, and by paying attention you can prevent costly repairs down the road.


Problems: Water damage, mold, foundation damage.

Trouble signs: Flaking or peeling paint on walls, bowed walls, moisture or odor.

What to do: Ensure that the ground around your foundation slopes downward away from the house at least one inch per six feet. Regularly clean downspouts and make sure they direct water at least 10 feet away from the foundation.

What it may cost: A weekend adding well-compacted earth around the foundation. It will cost about $50 to extend downspouts for a typical house. If not, expect thousands of dollars in water damage. Foundation repairs cost $10,000 or more.

Roof or Attic

Problems: Water leaking into your home can cause rot, insects, mold, mildew and electrical shorts.

Trouble signs: Curled, missing or broken shingles; bows or dips on roof; dampness or stains in attic or on ceilings and interior walls; broken masonry in and around fireplaces; green algae growth on attic ceiling.

What to do: Inspect your roof and attic every six months and ensure flashing around chimneys is tight. Check caulking and sealants for peeling and leakage and look for cracking on collars around vents. Prevent algae and fungus on wood shakes and asphalt shingles with zinc control strips.

What it may cost: One to two hours of your time if you’re comfortable on a ladder; a professional inspection and minor repairs might cost about $200. If not, expect around $5,000 or more for prematurely having to replace your roof and anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars to repair interior damage.


Problems: Wet or flooded basements, foundation damage.

Trouble signs: Basement flooding, or water spilling over gutters during rainstorms or pooling around your home’s foundations.

What to do: Extend downspouts to direct water at least 10 feet away from your home’s foundation. Replace dented downspouts. Clean gutters at least twice a year.

What it may cost: Twelve-foot vinyl downspouts cost $10-$15 each. For a cleaner look, dig trenches on a downward slope away from your house and install 4-inch PVC pipe ($17 per 10-foot sections) below grass, secured to downspouts with “offset adjuster” connectors ($2 each).

For $1 a foot, prevent future clogging with homeowner-installed gutter shield strips. Replacing faulty gutters or having gutter shield professionally installed can cost $1,500 to $3,000 for a medium-sized house. A professional gutter cleaning and inspection starts at about $60. Thus, you get to save thousands of dollars in foundation damage and thousands in repairs of finished basements.

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Stuff You Need to Get Rid Of for Better Home Improvement

Dry-Cleaning Chemicals

It’s convenient to drop your clothing off with a dry cleaner, but the cleaning chemical of choice in this country remains perchloroethylene, also known as PCE, or perc. This chemical is classified a probable carcinogen and is linked to kidney, liver, and central nervous system damage. It’s not something you want to wear or have holed up in your home closet.

Flame Retardants

Flame-retardant chemicals can be found in electronics, carpets, carpet padding, and furniture foam. They’ve been associated with a wide range of health problems, including infertility, thyroid problems, learning disabilities, and hormone disruption. In the event they come in contact with a lit candle or cigarette, the chemicals only delay a fire, and for just a few seconds. When these flame retardants do burn, they release higher levels of carbon monoxide and soot, the two leading causes of fire-related deaths, than non-treated materials.

When shopping for new furniture, call the manufacturer and ask if it contains flame retardants. If you see a tag that says “complies with California Technical Bulletin 117,” avoid bringing home that piece of furniture. California requires all upholstered furniture to be flame retardant, and nearly all furniture sold in the US is made to comply with this law.


Nasty indoor air-polluting culprits, volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) could be trashing your indoor air, especially in the kitchen, the basement, or even the laundry room. Scented, petroleum-based laundry detergents contain high levels of VOCs. These hazardous chemicals are linked to asthma and, in some instances, even cancer, and they add to indoor air pollution. Pressed wood and particleboard cabinets and other furniture are big emitters of VOC and carcinogen formaldehyde.

Choose unscented, plant-based detergents, or go old-school and use washing soda or borax to clean your clothing. For new paint projects, choose readily available no-VOC paint, and avoid storing paint in your garage or basement. Fumes can escape even tightly closed lids and enter your home. If you have leftover paint, take it to a waste-collection facility for recycling.


Some environmental health groups have dubbed vinyl the “poison plastic,” due to its harmful production process and its effects on humans. Vinyl is laced with phthalates, chemical plastic softeners linked to hormone disruption, stunted growth, obesity, and other health problems.

For flooring, opt for wood, bamboo, or cork that’s Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified or for real linoleum, instead of vinyl. Avoid plastic shower-curtain liners, as well as fake leather furniture, clothing, and accessories, to cut down on phthalate exposure.

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Maintaining Storage Sanity in Your Home

With a few simple and fun storage projects and ideas, DIY style, you can turn parts of your home especially the kitchen and pantry area into an oasis of order where everything is at your practical fingertips.

Small drawers

You can get a lot of things into a small space with the use of drawers. All items are within easy reach when you can just slide them forward. Whether you need only one or two drawers or a whole stack, there are styles to ?t every design. Wire works well for items that need air circulation, such as potatoes and onions, and baskets keep things looking neat and pretty.

Use pretty colors on the walls

The ultimate pantry must be practical and functional, but it can still be pretty. Don’t hesitate to paint the walls a cheery color or cover them with boldly printed paper. Sure, even hang a chandelier. Why not? The effort won’t be wasted. Think about the number of times you open the pantry door each day. Between your well-organized supplies and your attractively appointed pantry, your time spent preparing meals will be much happier.

Square containers

Consider your containers carefully when you’re organizing dry goods. Square containers are more space ef?cient than round ones. Use containers with the same-size footprint so it’s easy to stack them on top of one another to make the most effective use of your vertical space.

Shoe organizer

Hang a colorful shoe organizer on the back of your pantry door to capitalize on that underutilized space. It’s a perfect place to put spices, seasoning envelopes, or bags of beans and rice. Label each pocket with letter-stamped clothespins, and you’ll have the ?exibility to change where things live on a whim.

T-Molding glass holders

T-molding is typically used for flooring, but with minimal effort, you can use it to hang a lot of wineglasses in a small space. Simply cut the molding to the depth of your cabinet shelves, predrill screw holes, and secure. Proper spacing will allow your glasses to slide in and out easily.

CD Holder lid storage

Have a few old CD holders lying around? Move them to the kitchen. Organize your plastic containers by laying a wire CD holder in a drawer and storing the lids upright in the slots. You don’t have old CD holders? You may be able to score a few cheaply at a secondhand store.

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