Recognizing Signs Your Home Needs Repairs (Part II)

This is a continuation of the previous article about how to know when those easy-to-ignore maintenance issues need fixed, and which ones should never be ignored at all. We know now that rain gutters, roofing, and siding should be checked for damage and leaks frequently. A small fix in those areas now could save thousands of dollars and hours of headache in the future. Now here are a few more repairs you should make today, not tomorrow.

Rodent And Termite Infestations
The idea of a pest infestation in my home always gives me the creepy-crawlies. Often, however, by the time you notice you’ve been infiltrated, it’s too late to prevent serious damage. You have to be watchful, paying attention to holes in the foundation or siding and plugging them with expandable foam as soon as you see them. When you’re in the attic, look up in the rafters for evidence of bird nests or other animal debris. Termites are attracted to moist soil and rotting wood, so be sure to keep the foundation of your home clear of dead bushes and dirt piles. One sign you may have termites or carpenter ants is the presence of sawdust along baseboards.

Even homes in the hottest of climates can have mold, especially in frequently warm, wet rooms like the bathroom or laundry room. You’ll recognize mold or mildew by its dank odor, dark splotches on the walls, or the presence of never-ending runny noses in the household. Sometimes mold won’t be visible—it can grow in air ducts, behind wallpaper and sheetrock, and under the carpet.

If you suspect mold, Consumer Reports suggests, “Check under carpets and around windows . . . Also remove cover plates for cable-TV, phone, and Internet connections, and use a flashlight to peer behind walls and wallpaper for mold.” They advised against using mold testing kits sold at the store or online. In 2006, their testing showed significant flaws in these tests, earning them a Not Recommended Rating.

Cracked Foundation
Small cracks in the foundation could be benign, but if they continue to lengthen or deepen, you could have a serious problem on your hands. Home inspector James Katen of Oregon suggested using a sharpened No. 2 pencil to test the width of the crack. If you can stick the pencil in up to the yellow paint, that’s a wide crack and will need the attention of a structural engineer. Measure and mark small cracks so you can come back and re-measure them in the future to test for further settling or growth.

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