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What are the Most Expensive Home Repairs?

Buying a home is a large investment. From the down payment to closing costs to the fun updates you may be planning, you will end up spending quite a bit of money in securing your new home. But another set of costs that you should plan for are home repairs. Some repairs are lower-cost, some higher; but the reality is that the budget for repairs can be very hard to plan for. Another reality is that while some components inevitably wear out (like roofs), others (like foundations) may never need repair if properly maintained. And most big repairs start out small and easily managed if dealt with early on.

Below is a list of some of the most expensive, and most common, home repairs.  (As compiled from various sources). Note however, that the actions to prevent these problems often cost little or nothing.



Home Foundation

The Wisconsin climate and our expansive clay soil cause swelling in the ground,  with or without freezing.  Foundation damage is a common result of this in our area.  Foundation cracks, leaning, bowing, and other movement are common, as well as  doors and windows that become difficult to close or do not fit in their frames.

How to maintain and minimize repairs:

  • Ensure that downspouts are depositing water well away from the foundation.
  • When it rains, check that your home's drainage systems are working properly. Keep the gutters clean.
  • Ensure surrounding soil slopes away from the home to ensure good drainage, to the extent that this is practical.
  • If you notice a problem developing in the basement, do not cover or ignore it.


Roof

The roof of your home protects the whole structure from the elements. Signs that your roof may need attention include missing shingles or anything that looks different or out of place.  A roof in good condition is very uniform over the entire area.

How to maintain and minimize repairs:

  • Get your roof professionally inspected 10 years after installation, then every 3-5 years after that.
  • Do a DIY roof inspection once per year or so to catch missing shingles or weak spots.
  • Pay attention to flashing around the chimney and other protrusions.

Water Heater

The water heater manages the temperature of your water on a daily basis, making it one of the hardest-working appliances in the house. A broken water heater can cause water damage, on top of the inconvenience. 

How to maintain and minimize repairs:

  • Read the owners' manual. There is very little maintenance to a water heater, but the book will likely recommend annually operating the Temperature Pressure Relief (TPR) valve, and flushing sediment out of the tank.
  • Operate the shut-off valve in the cold water line above the water heater annually to be sure you know where it is and that it will work when needed.

Chimneys

Chimneys are one of the most underestimated problem areas, and they can get very expensive, especially masonry chimneys. Most problems are caused by water getting into the chase or body of the chimney, but chimney fires and physical damage from trees may also occur.

How to maintain and minimize repairs:

  • Have a solid fuel chimney cleaned regularly.
  • Repair any cracks or gaps in the masonry crown (the cap at the top ) of a brick or stone chimney.
  • Seal any loose or open mortar joints.
  • Maintain the flashing around the chimney to prevent leaking.

Plumbing

Properly installed pipes need virtually no maintenance, but they can develop problems. Galvanized pipes, for example, have a life expectancy of 50 years, and may eventually develop leaks. Cast iron waste lines slowly deteriorate from sewer gases. Valves and connections can develop leaks.

 How to maintain and minimize repairs:

  • Limit the use of chemical products, such as Drano, to unclog your drain
  • Insulate pipes subject to freezing during cold months
  • Do not ignore small leaks or a buildup of corrosion on your plumbing.
  • If you have a home over 70 years old – or notice slow drainage – have your sewer lateral cleaned and inspected with a camera.

Heating & A/C

Be sure to maintain these essential systems so they are working their best when you need them most. Signs of a problem include not effectively heating or cooling, or a unit that makes strange noises, vibrates, or leaks.

How to maintain and minimize repairs:

  • Get professional yearly cleaning and tuneups
  • Replace air filters frequently (typically 1-2 months for the thin basic filters, and annually for the large 4-5 inch ones.)  They need changing in the cooling season also if you run the AC frequently.

Mold

Mold is an often hidden issue that can cause serious health issues. While not everyone’s health is affected by the presence of mold, it will affect your home’s resale value. Be aware and take action if you notice a musty smell, enhanced allergy symptoms, or discoloration on ceilings or walls; or if you believe you have had a water issue. 

How to maintain and minimize repairs:

  • Address leaks immediately from plumbing, especially in the bath, kitchen, and laundry.
  • If you notice ice dams over your gutters, or large icicles, you should get some expert opinions on whether your attic needs more venting or other improvements.
  • Look in your attic on the coldest days; if you see frost on the roof boards, you may get mold in summer.
  • Keep your basement clean and dry; mold needs moisture and food (even dust) to grow.

Electrical

Electrical repairs are usually expensive because it is critical to hire a professional and not try to do it yourself. However, it is imperative to fix electrical problems immediately if you notice that your circuit breakers regularly trip, you get shocked by appliances, or you notice flickering lights.

How to maintain and minimize repairs:

  • If you did not have a home inspection when you bought the house, or have not had an inspection in 15 years, consider having an electrical inspection.
  • Avoid the permanent use of extension cords.
  • Avoid overloading circuits.
  • Do not trust non-professionals to be able to do your wiring correctly.
  • Operate the test buttons on GFCI receptacles and AFCI breakers at least annually, and replace ones that do not trip and reset. (The official guidance is to test them every month, but most people consider that impractical.)

Septic System

A dysfunctional septic system is the last thing you want, so keep an eye out for toilets that don’t flush, standing water with a bad odor in your yard, and slow drains. If you notice any of these problems, call a professional immediately.

 How to maintain and minimize repairs:

  • Have your septic system inspected every 3 years
  • Get your septic system pumped every 3-5 years
  • Try to avoid putting chemicals or anything non-organic in the sewers.
  • Do not put kitchen waste in the sewers.
  • Use only septic-friendly laundry products.
  • Limit the use of anti-bacterial soaps and cleaners.
  • Never, ever rinse out painting equipment in the laundry tub or other drain to the septic system.

Decks and Balconies

Decks are usually made of wood and in contact with the ground, so they can wear faster than other components. Balconies, especially the cantilevered type, are usually attached to the side of a house, and any failure can be catastrophic. 

How to maintain and minimize repairs:

  • Replace or repair any broken or loose components ASAP
  • Keep railings and gates in good condition.
  • Maintain the finish 

The best way to avoid costly repair costs is to be vigilant in maintaining your home. Not all problems are inevitable, and the most expensive repair often starts out small and manageable.  However, every home experiences issues from time to time. Have your home professionally inspected to catch potential issues early. Give Hearthstone Home Inspections LLC a call at 262-366-3565 if you have questions about maintenance, or would like a maintenance inspection.