3 Ways You're Destroying Your Home by Accident (and How to Fix it with DIY)

Your home is falling apart...unless you're doing regular maintenanceYour home is falling apart...unless you're doing regular maintenance

"From small things, Mama, big things one day come," as the song goes. It's especially true when it comes to your house. Left unchecked, seemingly minor things (a gutter pitched the wrong way, a bit of crumbly grout) can lead to bigger and expensive issues. The good news is that, in many cases, all it takes to head off catastrophe is a little preventive maintenance. "Don't wait until it's an emergency," says This Old House master carpenter Norm Abram. "Spot-check areas around your house, preferably twice a year, in the fall and spring."

Is mold taking over behind your walls?Is mold taking over behind your walls?1. YOU'RE ALLOWING MILDEW TO TAKE OVER FOUNDATION WALLS
Potential problem: Overgrown foundation plantings can channel water down exterior walls, leading to mold and sill rot. What's more, roots can work their way into foundation walls and pipes.

Fix it now:
Trim shrubs yourself. Better yet, replace them with dwarf varieties that won't be a perpetual pruning headache. In many parts of the country, planting in early fall gives shrubs a head start at establishing roots in the season's cool, moist soil. Save money by shopping end-of-season sales at garden centers or hosting a neighborhood plant swap. "Just be sure that any new shrubs are at least 3 feet from the foundation," says TOH landscape contractor Roger Cook. "Otherwise they'll keep the siding from being able to breathe."

What you'll save:
Between $400 and $2,500 to fix a water-damaged foundation and sill.

2. YOU'RE WEARING DOWN YOUR WOOD FLOORS
Potential problem: Failing to maintain the boards' protective top coat of polyurethane can lead to ground-in dirt and discoloration, and cause wood to dry out and splinter.

RELATED: How to Refinish Wood Floors...Without Having to Sand Down to Bare Wood

Fix it now: At the first sign of wear, sand only the floor's surface and apply a fresh coat of polyurethane. Pros charge about $1.25 per square foot for this "screen and poly" job, or you can rent a floor-polishing machine and do it yourself for less. Just bring the machine back on time or the cost of additional days' rental could whittle away at your savings.

What you'll save: Up to $5 per square foot for a full-fledged refinishing, which requires sanding down to the bare wood. The overall cost depends on how old the floors are, the number of top coats needed, and if you are using stain. Replacing sections where dried-out wood has splintered or cracked starts at $125 and can go up substantially based on the scope of the damage and the floor type.

3. YOU'RE LETTING THE WEATHER HAVE ITS WAY WITH YOUR DECK
Potential problem: If not kept in check, soft boards and loose outer rails can lead to deck collapse. Probe cracks with a flathead screwdriver; if you can insert it more than ¼ inch or if the wood feels spongy or breaks off without splintering, you may have rot. See if the rails have any give by firmly wiggling them.

RELATED: How to Do a Deck-Safety Check and How to Spruce Up a Worn Deck

Fix it now: Pry off damaged boards. Cut replacements to length and secure them to the supporting joists below using stainless deck screws. Leave a 1/8-inch gap between any new boards for proper drainage. To hide the repairs, stain or preserve the boards to match the rest of the deck. Remedy loose rails and balusters by updating old fasteners with new screws, adding construction adhesive for extra strength. Tighten any loose bolts that secure the rails' posts to the deck framing. Besides a few hours of your time with a saw, drill/driver, and wrench, expect to spend about 60 cents per linear foot for pressure-treated decking and $14 for a box of stainless screws, both available at home centers.

What you'll save:
From $500 to $10,000 for a professional to fix or replace the deck, depending on how widespread the damage is.

SEE ALL OF THE WAYS YOU'RE DESTROYING YOUR HOME BY ACCIDENT (+ HOW TO FIX IT WITH DIY) IN Fix Now, Save (A Lot) Later AT THISOLDHOUSE.COM

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