Unless you’re among the lucky few dropping dough on mega-yachts and Maseratis, your home is likely the most valuable thing you’ll ever own. However, while many people may envision themselves getting to undertake fun remodeling and decorating projects when they buy a home, few imagine that they’ll be constantly working to fix damage they themselves have caused. In fact, according to GoBankingRates data, the average U.S. home costs $1,204 per month to maintain, and that’s before those little projects that can eat up the rest of your paycheck in virtually no time.
The good news is that owning a home (and keeping it in great shape) doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. In fact, we’ve identified a staggering 50 ways you’re damaging your home without realizing it, so you can ditch the depreciation and put a stop to the property damage before it starts.
Not drying off fully before you leave the shower.
While many assume that drying off on a bath mat is the most effective way to rid your body of excess moisture after a shower, doing so could actually be harming your house. “If you have linoleum in your bathroom, getting out of the shower without drying off will cause water to drip onto the shower rug that you have in front of the bathtub,” says Shawn Breyer, owner of Sell My House Fast Atlanta.
“Over time, the damp shower rug will allow moisture to seep into the linoleum flooring, causing the flooring to stain and begin warping. The stain will be apparent as it will be in the exact shape of your shower rug. However, the warping won’t be as apparent. The warping will occur across the entire floor, pulling the linoleum out from underneath the floorboards. To avoid this, make sure that you fully dry off your body—and especially your feet—when you get out of the shower.”
Hammering nails directly into plaster.
If you’re living in a home with plaster walls, hanging pictures may be a trickier task than you’d imagined. If you’re nailing directly into your walls willy-nilly, you could be causing cracks that can lead to the plaster falling away from the lath behind it over time. Instead, make sure you’re using a stud finder and drywall screws to protect your walls and keep your art from falling off.
Forgetting to use furniture pads on hardwood floors.
Those little furniture pads that cover the bottom of table and chair legs are a must-have if you have hardwood floors in your home. If you’re not using them, every time you scoot back in a chair or move a piece of furniture an inch to the left, you’re potentially scratching those floors in a way that only refinishing them can cover.
Not using an exhaust fan in the bathroom.
If you don’t have an exhaust fan in your bathroom, or if you’re not running it for long enough post-shower, you could be causing serious damage to your space without even realizing it. “Most people turn off the exhaust fan and lights when they get done showering. The average exhaust fan for a bathroom won’t remove enough of the moist air to prevent mold when considering someone only turning the fan on for the duration of their shower. When someone leaves the bathroom after a shower and turns off the exhaust fan and light, there is still a significant amount of moisture in the air,” says Breyer.
“Since bathrooms usually don’t have a great way to mitigate mold, moist air combined with complete darkness causes mold to start forming,” Breyer continues. “The mold will exponentially grow with time since the increase in mold spores means increased levels of spreading when present in moist dark conditions. A great way to mitigate mold issues in a bathroom is to buy an exhaust fan with a higher CFM rating and leave the fan on for about 15 to 20 minutes after you get done with the bathroom so that the exhaust fan has enough time to replace all of the moist air in the room.”
Using a wet mop on laminate floors.
While that traditional mop may be okay for your tile, if you’re using it on laminate surfaces, you’re putting your home in peril. Wet mops are a prime culprit when it comes to standing water on your floors, which can easily warp laminate flooring, as well as causing staining and rot on hardwood.
Not cleaning your dishwasher trap.
Though many people see their dishwasher as a self-cleaning machine, even it could use a little help from time to time. If you’re not cleaning your dishwasher trap (generally located on the lower part of your dishwasher near its sprayer), its rubber gasket, and its soap holder, you could be shortening the life of your machine. At least once a month, make sure these areas are getting a good wipe-down to clear out any material that’s built up.
Using the wrong wattage light bulbs.
Using the wrong wattage light bulb in a lamp may seem like a minor mistake, but it can cause major damage in no time. In fact, using the wrong wattage bulb, or using an LED bulb in an older device, can cause a short or increase your risk of a house fire.
Not upgrading your electrical system.
No matter what the age of your home, if you have modern appliances, you need a modern electrical system. While many older homes have 100-amp service, if you’re powering air conditioners, TVs, and other heavy-duty electronics, it’s time to upgrade to at least 200-amp service—or risk a fire by overloading your system.
Leaving your attic uninsulated.
While your attic may be little more than storage space to you, if you’re leaving it uninsulated, you’re causing damage to your home (and wallet). Sources reveal that 25 percent of a home’s heat is lost through uninsulated attics, meaning you’re increasing your risk of burst pipes and other weather-related damage (not to mention increasing your electric bills) every year you fail to insulate.
Adding rooms to your home without consulting an architect.
Though DIY-ing a framing and drywall job to create a new room may seem easy enough, it could be a source of damage in your home over time. If you haven’t consulted an architect prior to adding a room, you could be overburdening your foundation, putting you at risk for cracks that can cost an arm and a leg to fix.
Forgetting to bleed your radiators.
Not bleeding your radiators on a regular basis? You could be damaging your home without knowing it. Bleeding your radiators (a process that involves removing some of the water inside the radiator) can help distribute heat more evenly throughout your home and reduce the risk that your radiator will shoot hot water at you.
Not insulating around windows.
If your windows aren’t properly insulated, or if the caulk around them has started to peel away, you’re causing accidental harm to your home. Not only are windows the source of approximately 25 percent of a home’s heat loss, insufficient caulk surrounding the window can allow moisture inside, potentially damaging the frame, sill, or even your walls.
Leaving wood siding unpainted.
While unpainted wood siding may have some rustic charm, leaving it in its raw state can do more harm than good. Unpainted siding has less protection against the elements than its painted counterpart, potentially putting your home’s exterior at risk for rot.
Not maintaining old windows.
Old windows may be charming, but if you’re not maintaining them properly with a fresh coat of paint and some new caulk from time to time, you could be damaging your space. In addition to being a major source of heat loss, old windows are a common source of lead paint, and opening and closing them can cause dust to spread through your house, putting you and your family at risk for everything from kidney problems to brain damage.
Not changing your smoke detector batteries frequently enough.
Who knew something as little as a button battery could be the source of so much potential damage? If you’re not changing your smoke detector batteries frequently—every six months, if possible—you’re increasing your risk that a fire will break out in your home and no one will be the wiser.
A drippy faucet may seem like a small problem, but it can quickly turn into a big one if left unaddressed. Those little leaks can not only damage the flooring under a sink, but if they happen to be part of a bigger issue, may actually cause the growth of dangerous mold in your walls, too.
Cutting into walls to add air conditioners.
While adding an air conditioner to your existing wall may seem like a relatively simple proposition, if you do it wrong, you could be causing serious damage to your home. Not only can an improperly-installed wall unit potentially fall, causing serious injury or death, the weight of it can cause your siding to sag or allow moisture inside your home, leading to mold.
Cleaning granite counters with vinegar-based cleaners.
Those household cleaners you make at home may be all-natural, but that doesn’t mean they’re good for everything. In fact, if you’re using vinegar-based cleaners on your porous granite countertops, you could be eroding their sealant and causing them to dull over time.
Not addressing cracks in plaster.
What looks like a little crack today could be a major problem tomorrow. When you first see a crack in your plaster walls or ceiling, it’s time to patch it and repaint—in fact, failing to do so can lead to worse damage over time, including a network of cracks that’s next-to-impossible to repair.
Letting vines grow on your home’s exterior.
While a vine-covered house may look beautiful, those climbers are doing more damage than they’re worth. Vines can get under your siding, thus warping it, and can trap moisture against your home, causing potential rot and structural damage over time.
Adding bleach tablets to your toilet tank.
While keeping your toilet clean is certainly a worthwhile endeavor, doing it with bleach tablets is a poor choice. With repeated use, these tablets can corrode the flapper in your toilet tank, making it run.
Not cleaning your gutters.
Gutter-cleaning may be a thankless job, but it’s a necessary evil. If you’re not cleaning your gutters frequently, you’re putting your home at risk for serious damage. Soggy leaves in your gutter can cause the gutter to pull away from your home, requiring an expensive repair, or may even rot pieces of your fascia. Full gutters also create a nesting spot for bugs and rodents, increasing the risk they’ll take up residence in your home.
Painting over rust.
Slapping a coat of paint over some rust may make it look better initially, but will only cause problems over time. If you haven’t adequately dealt with the rust underneath on surfaces like metal porch railings, that paint will keep peeling up, leaving the metal exposed to the elements once again, and at further risk for deterioration.
Placing your grill too close to your house.
Grilling is a summer staple, but if you’re putting your grill right up against your house, you could be putting yourself at risk. Not only does putting a hot grill near your home increase your risk of a house fire, it can also melt and warp your siding.
Letting spills sit on your countertops.
Those granite counters won’t look pristine for long if you let spills sit on them. While water may cause a temporary stain that will likely evaporate, oil-based stains can set in and be nearly impossible to get out without the help of a professional.
Not having your chimneys cleaned.
Chimney sweeps may not be as common as they once were, but that doesn’t mean you have an excuse to not get your chimney cleaned. If you don’t have your chimney cleaned with some frequency, creosote can build up inside it, putting you at risk for a chimney fire and damaging the chimney liner over time, as well.
Ignoring routine roof maintenance.
A little roof maintenance now can save you a lot of hassle in the long run. If you have falling shingles or holes in your roof that aren’t addressed in an expeditious manner, you’re setting yourself up for leaks, mold, and potential structural issues.
Putting dishes away wet.
Not drying off those dishes before putting them in your cabinet can cause more damage than you might think. Wet dishes can stain and warp the inside of your cabinets over time, and stacking wet dishes may increase the risk of bacterial growth on those plates and cups.
Slamming your door.
It may feel good to slam your door when you’re frustrated, but try to refrain from doing so whenever possible. Slamming doors can cause damage to the frame around the door, as well as increase your risk of everything from plaster damage to cracked window panes.
Letting wet leaves sit on your porch.
While you may be dealing with a never-ending onslaught of leaves on your porch when fall arrives, failing to remove them in a timely manner can do serious damage. Leaving wet leaves on a wood surface can increase the chance that the wood below it will rot.
Leaving wet towels on your floor.
More than just a housekeeping mistake, leaving wet towels on your floor can actually damage your home. Much like standing water after a bath or shower, wet towels can trap moisture against your floor, causing the flooring beneath it to stain, buckle, or rot.
Washing greasy dishes without wiping them first.
Think you can just run tap water over those greasy dishes before popping them in the dishwasher? Think again. As grease cools, it solidifies, meaning the juice from last night’s steak can quickly become a solid mass inside your pipes that will take a plumber to remove.
Planting too close to your foundation.
If you want to maintain the integrity of your home, make sure to leave some space between those pretty perennials and the building itself. Putting plants too close to your home can cause moisture damage to your foundation, or may even leave you dealing with root structures threatening to compromise it.
Not updating the flashing around your skylight.
Leaving the old flashing on your skylight indefinitely could be the source of a major problem down the line. Flashing—the metal that typically connects a skylight to your roof—is constantly exposed to the elements, and, as such, can corrode over time. As this happens, your skylight becomes less securely-sealed, meaning you’re risking a major leak that can cause serious structural damage.
Using homemade cleaners to clean grout.
Those homemade vinegar-based cleaners may have some antibacterial properties, but they’re not a safe bet for every surface. In fact, using them on grout can actually dissolve it over time.
Not cleaning your air conditioner filters.
A regular cleaning of your air conditioner filters can make both you and your home healthier. Not only can cleaning your filters regularly reduce the risk of allergens building up on them and getting into your home, doing so can also prolong the lifespan of that pricey mini-split or central air unit.
Placing your satellite dish wrong.
Think the placement of your satellite dish doesn’t matter? Think again. Perched in the wrong spot, your satellite dish can easily rip the shingles from your roof or cause damage to your gutters or fascia if it comes loose. In fact, an improperly-installed satellite dish may even void your roof’s warranty.
Not trimming your greenery.
Those old growth trees in your yard may be beautiful, but if they’re not trimmed with some frequency, they can be a source of major damage to your home. If there’s inclement weather, those branches can easily fall on your property or your home, leaving you with costly repairs to attend to.
Letting the caulk on your tub crack.
Something as simple as the caulk around your tub could be putting your house at risk. When the caulk around your tub starts to wear away, it allows moisture to seep between your tub and walls, potentially causing mold and rot over time.
Flushing baby wipes.
Those baby wipes may serve a similar purpose to toilet paper, but that doesn’t mean you should flush them. In fact, those cloth-like wipes are a major source of plumbing problems, so unless you’re eager to have your walls and pipes ripped out, make sure to toss them in the trash.
Using wood mulch near your foundation.
Wood mulch looks attractive, and it is—for termites, that is. If you’re putting wood mulch around your foundation, you’re making it a hotbed for termite activity, as well as increasing your risk of water damage and rot.
Letting your basement stay damp.
All it takes is a little dehumidifier to make your basement a safer place. Notoriously damp spaces, like basements, can be a major source of mold in your home, so play it safe by keeping the humidity as low as possible.
Not scraping before painting your home’s exterior.
Leaving that weathered paint on your home’s exterior before repainting may do more harm than good. Instead of giving you an attractive, weathered look, un-scraped paint will continue to curl and peel up, potentially revealing the siding underneath over time.
Allowing your garden to get overgrown.
An overgrown garden isn’t just an eyesore: it’s a danger, too. Those overgrown plants can start to advance on your home, increasing your risk of damage from mold and rot, as well as potentially growing onto wood surfaces and weakening them.
Using your oven as storage space.
Just because Carrie Bradshaw did it doesn’t mean you should. Even if you don’t use it regularly, using your oven like your own mini storage unit can put you at risk for fire damage (in addition to leaving whatever you store in it less than spotless).
Wearing your shoes indoors.
If you’re wearing your shoes inside the house, you’re not only damaging your home, you’re damaging your health, too. In addition to those wet, muddy shoes potentially causing damage to your floors, research conducted at the University of Houston reveals that outdoor shoes are teeming with C. difficile, a bacterium that can cause serious digestive issues if it makes its way inside your body.
Replacing old growth wood with new lumber.
Newer isn’t always better. Case in point: replacing old-growth wood with new lumber may actually cause damage to your home. Old-growth lumber is more weather-resistant than the newer stuff, so whenever possible, repair it instead of replacing it outright.
Crowding the space under your deck.
The space under your deck may be good for storage, but overcrowding it can damage your house in no time. When things in a damp environment are nestled too closely together, they can trap moisture under your deck, leaving it permanently damp and predisposing it to rot.
Using doorknobs as clothing racks.
If you want to dry your clothes at home, it’s time to invest in a real drying rack. Unfortunately, drying your clothes on doorknobs can loosen them, wear away the paint on your door, or even make your door fit improperly in its frame over time.
Power-washing the wrong way.
A good power-wash can make your house look like brand new in no time. However, make sure you’re doing it correctly and spraying from the top down. Otherwise, you could be spraying water under your siding, causing the wood beneath it to rot.