Attempts to be thrifty by delaying household maintenance can backfire. In many cases, it pays to heed the old adage "an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure." Here are a few ways to take preventive action and avoid costly repairs around the home.
Ignoring leaky drainpipes and dishwasher or washing machine connections ultimately can cost you thousands of repair dollars, according to the Institute for Business & Home Safety. Even a small amount of dripping water can, over time, cause extensive damage to drywall, cabinets and flooring, as well as to unseen structural supports such as wall studs and floor joists. Damp areas caused by water leaks also can attract unwanted insects and promote the growth of mold and mildew. Don't put off calling the plumber for these kinds of leaks.
If you have a leaky kitchen or bathroom faucet, instead of buying a new one (which may be expensive), take the leaky valve cartridge to a local plumbing store. Chances are, a 59-cent washer will do the job. If not, the plumbing store should be able to replace the whole valve for less than $10.
Change air conditioning/heating system filters monthly. Failing to regularly clean permanent filters or replace disposable ones reduces efficiency and can cause the heat and air unit eventually to shut down-costing big bucks. Decide who will be responsible for this job each month and put it on your family calendar.
• Peeling paint
Don't wait too long to paint. Small cracks, exposed wood or strips of paint hanging off your home's exterior means it's past time to paint. The longer you wait, the more water is penetrating wood surfaces, which will damage the wood over time and also worsen the cracking and peeling.
Before painting, scrape and/or sand all loose paint from the surface. Repair any damage and prime with a coat of primer or paint. Don't paint over rust buildup or rotten wood, and never prime or paint wet wood.
• Dust buildup
Do battle with dirt and dust. A little dirt and dust may seem harmless, but they can lead to costly damage. For example, dust that collects on refrigerator coils causes the refrigeration system to overwork, which can spike your electric bill and shorten the life of the refrigerator. Vacuum coils at least once a year-two or three times yearly if you have pets.
According to the Carpet and Rug Institute, dirt breaks down carpet fibers, causing them to wear out faster. Put doormats outside all doors to catch dirt, and vacuum carpet at least twice a week. If you can't vacuum your entire house this often, at least vacuum high-traffic areas twice weekly.
• Clogged gutters
Pay attention to your gutters and roof. Clogged gutters can divert water into places you don't want it to go, damaging the wood trim and the roof of your house. Overhanging limbs can cause debris buildup and eventually damage your roof. Limbs also create a bridge for crawling insects, such as carpenter ants, to gain access to your home. Keep gutters free from leaves and debris, and trim back trees and bushes from your roof.