27 Home Features You Never Knew Had a Secret Purpose

Your porch lattice isn't just for aesthetics.

under sink cabinet home features with surprising uses

Of course you know your front door lets you into the house, your air conditioning keeps the place cool, and your double-paned windows keep street noise to a minimum. But, whether you're an amateur architect or a die-hard homebody, there are countless features throughout your house that serve a surprising purpose. From the secret benefit of dormers to how picture rails came to be, here's a definitive list of secret home features you've been overlooking. And to make the most of any space, make sure you've practiced these 20 Home Maintenance Tips Everyone Should Know.

Sink traps

sink trap secret home features

That curved piece of pipe under your sink isn't just there to keep items from getting lost forever. "It may catch pieces of dirt, sediment, and occasional wedding rings from going down your drain, but that is not its primary purpose," says Robert Taylor, who's known as the The Real Estate Solutions Guy. "Its primary purpose is to store a small amount of water to seal and prevent the flow of noxious sewer gases from coming back into your home."

Porch lattice

porch lattice surprising home features
Shutterstock/Richard L. Bowman

That lattice skirting on your porch isn't just there to look pretty. While it can keep larger pieces of debris, like leaves, from getting trapped under your porch, its open-weave design allows for moisture to escape, reducing the risk of eventual rot.

Chimney cap

chimney secret home features

The purpose of a chimney cap seems clear: to keep debris (and curious animals) from entering your chimney and getting stuck there. However, chimney caps also prevent ashes from your fireplace from going out the top of your chimney and accidentally setting fire to your roof.


dormer secret house feature


Though window dormers are often used to add light to a room, there's more to these architectural features than meets the eye. Dormers are also a relatively simple way to expand the square footage and ceiling height of a slanted roof, turning an attic or the top floor of a Cape Cod into more functional space.

Tile backsplash

backsplash secret house feature

Those subway tiles affixed to your kitchen walls are doing more than simply making your house look like it was featured on an HGTV show. While they also make it easier to clean cooking-related messes, the water-resistant tile keeps the drywall or plaster behind it from getting wet and degrading.


windowsill secret house feature

Your windowsills do have a purpose other than providing a pretty place for your plants. They divert water away from your window panes, reducing the risk of rot over time.


crawlspace surprising home features
Shutterstock/Viacheslav Nikolaenko

That crawlspace in your attic may seem like the perfect place to store the junk that would otherwise clutter your home, but it's got way more functionality than that. Crawlspaces are also designed to promote air circulation throughout the home. Properly insulated ones can help reduce the overall humidity throughout your house.

Picture rail

hanging painting surprising home features

Picture rails do more than make your photos look professionally hung. Having a single picture rail in a room—typically a detail seen in older homes—reduces the risk of multiple nails cracking the wall's plaster, a material already notorious for its difficulty to hang things on.

The hole in a deadbolt lock

deadbolt hole surprising home features
Shutterstock/Dusit srisroy

That little hole in your deadbolt lock may keep your home safer in the long run. It's there to allow the homeowner to rekey their own lock with the help of a special Smartkey, so the same lock can be used with a new set of keys.


wainscoting surprising home features

Wainscoting may provide a charming aesthetic, but its purpose extends well beyond that. Wainscoting also helps provide additional insulation to walls, which is why it's a common feature in many older homes. Insulation wasn't a code-mandated requirement in many parts of the United States until the mid-1960s.

"Toe kicks"

cabinetry surprising home features
Shutterstock/Bogdan Sonjachnyj

That indented wood strip that connects your cabinets to the floor is called a "toe kick" and it isn't just there to make your cabinets the right height to comfortably work on. According to Jason Pickens, designer and host of HGTV.com's The Work Around, the toe kick makes it possible to open your cabinet doors without hitting your feet, as well as making it easier to stand closer to the counter.

Tongue-and-groove flooring

hardwood floor surprising home features

Using tongue-and-groove boards does more than keep your flooring from buckling. This form of interlocking wood flooring is also great for hiding finishing nails, giving your floors a seamless look.


eaves surprising home features

The eaves on your home may look like they're just there for decoration, but they also keep rainwater from pooling between the roof and walls, causing rot.

Bathtub faceplate

Bathtub surprising home features

That tub faceplate isn't just there to keep your drain lever in place. The faceplate in your tub also connects to your plumbing system and will drain the tub when water gets too close to the top, preventing flooding.

Under-oven drawer

oven drawer surprising home features

It may be great for storing baking plans and stray pot lids, but you could be doing so much more with that drawer under your oven. That space, depending on whether it's a warming drawer or broiler, can help you keep a dish hot while you wait for the rest of your food to cook. Or, it can help melt, brown, or caramelize your dish.

Bay windows

bay window surprising home features

While the reading nook your bay window creates is a nice bonus, that's not the only reason it's there. Since bay windows increase the surface area of a wall, they allow more light into a room than a traditional window. That's one of the reasons they're often found in homes built before household electricity was common.

Range hood

range hood surprising home features

Though that range may be great for sucking smoke up following a cooking mishap, it's got a lot more life in it than that. Ranges also have filters in them that allow them to remove grease particulate from your indoor air, reducing the risk of a fire in the kitchen.


barge board surprising home features

While the bargeboards on the front and back of your house look beautiful, they're not just there to add curb appeal. Bargeboards are typically installed on a home to help conceal structural components of the roof that extend past the home's exterior walls and prevent interior leaks.

Copper gutters

copper gutter surprising home features
Shutterstock/Sven Boettcher

Those copper gutters are doing more than keeping rain away from your home's walls and foundation. Unlike traditional aluminum gutters, copper has antimicrobial properties, reducing the risk of harmful bacteria and mold growing among the wet leaves and other detritus in your gutters.

Chair rail

chair rail surprising home features
Shutterstock/Brett Taylor Photography

You may not have even known that waist-height molding in your home had a name, but "chair rail" (as it's called) also serves a very particular function. As its name would suggest, the chair rail keeps the backs of chairs from hitting your wall and causing damage.

Radiator covers

radiator cover surprising home features

Your radiator cover, provided it's properly built, does more than keep your skin from getting singed if you accidentally walk too close to it. If your radiator cover has both a backing and front cover, it aids the direction of heat from your radiator into your room rather than into your exterior wall.

The hole in the elevator door

elevator door hole surprising home features
Shutterstock/Hi JOE

If you live in an apartment building with an elevator, you may have noticed a small hole, similar to a peephole, in the exterior elevator door. This little hole actually allows elevator technicians to open the doors manually in case you get stuck inside.


parapet surprising home features
Shutterstock/Karachev Yuriy

The parapets on the outside of your home may make it look fancy (and keep you from falling off the roof), but they also serve another important purpose. Parapets help prevent the spread of fire, reducing the loss of property and harm to a home's inhabitants.


baseboard surprising home features

The baseboards on your wall do more than prevent damage to the bottom of your wall from furniture and feet. Baseboards also cover what would otherwise be a visible gap between the wall and the flooring.

Ceiling medallions

ceiling medallion surprising home features

Ceiling medallions aren't just there to make your ceilings look higher and prettier. They are frequently used as a means of hiding unsightly electrical components, and, in some cases, cover where overhead lighting, like a chandelier or ceiling fan, once was without doing an expensive replastering.

Window awnings

window awning surprising home features
Shutterstock/Inge Schepers

Those retractable awnings over your windows do a great job keeping your home cool by providing some extra shade. However, you might not have realized that they also keep light from flooding into your home and fading your upholstery.

Screws in your oven knobs

oven knobs surprising home features
Shutterstock/Alfonso de Tomas

Ever wondered what those screws in the back of your oven knobs are for? Well, once they've been loosened, you can calibrate the knob with a thermometer to get a more accurate temperature reading. And for more secret uses for items you use on a daily basis, check out these 33 Everyday Things You Won't Believe Have a Real Purpose.

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