As a homeowner, are there threats to your home you are afraid to think about?

A house fire? A flood? A break-in?

It’s okay. All homeowners worry about some potential disaster, which keeps them up at night. You want your home to remain safe and secure, but the thought of situations that could take that security away can frighten anyone.

What about less obvious threats?

Long-term water damage, insect infestations, foundational and structural damage – many of these issues are within your power to prevent. Are you taking the steps to prevent and avoid them? If not, get ready. We’re going to show you some of the most overlooked parts of your home and share some easy ways to keep your home and family safe and happy.

Your Roof

You’ve seen the cliché TV sitcom scene. Everyone is sitting at the table for dinner, but they’re surrounded by buckets catching drips from the ceiling. Nobody wants to see that in real life, but that’s a risk when you don’t take care of your roof.

Your roof works hard all year to keep out rain, snow, and unwanted pests, and to hold in heat and cool air. Even a small hole or a damaged shingle can defeat the entire purpose of a roof, so it’s vital to keep it in good condition.

The Damage

The most common cause of roof damage is accumulated leaves. Leaves collect water, and they can promote mold growth, as well as wood and shingle rot.

High-speed winds can also pry shingles loose from the roof, leaving openings into the home. Missing shingles and holes can allow rain in and cause your rafters and other wood support structures to rot. Your attic can become a breeding ground for mold and mildew, too, creating an unhealthy environment in your home. Prolonged mold and mildew exposure can cause mild to severe cold and flu-like symptoms and can also trigger allergic reactions.

If water leaks are left untreated throughout the year, colder temperatures can cause ice damage by expanding and contracting already weakened wood beams.

Insects and small animals can find their way in through very small holes, making nests, damaging wood structures, and dislodging or destroying insulation.

It’s not just about physical damage, though. Insulation damage due to water damage and pest infestations can be detrimental to your energy bills. With hot air escaping in winter and cold air escaping in summer, you could be losing hundreds of dollars a year in energy costs alone.

The Preventative

Keep your roof clear of debris year round. You can use a hose on a low-pressure setting for this. If you do use a hose, make sure to aim down toward the shingles, not up from the ground. Don’t use a pressure washer on your roof, either. The angle and pressure can easily damage your shingles instead of clean them.

Check your roof at least twice a year for any signs of damage. We recommend inspecting your roof in the fall and the spring, so you can remove any fallen leaves that could rot and cause more damage over the winter. If you experience a high-speed wind storm or hurricane, check your roof immediately after for signs of damage.

If you find any problems, call a professional roofer to inspect it and give you an estimate for repairs. Trust us, when it comes to roofing, leave it to the professionals.

Your Gutters

It seems like a fall tradition to clean out gutters by balancing on rickety ladders to pull out all those dead leaves and trying not to fall into the flower bed.

Some people have gutters with guards that keep leaves out, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to check them every once in a while.

Your gutters are a special part of your roof maintenance. They need more attention in the fall and can cause significant damage to your home if left unkept.

The Damage

Gutter buildup can be one of the main culprits of roof damage, collecting grime and water against the edges of the roof to create mold, mildew and rot, but it can also do much more damage to the rest of your home.

Since the gutters sit at the end of the roof and above the external walls of the home, buildup of leaves can cause water to sit in between the roof and walls. When the water has nowhere else to go, it trails down the walls of the home, leaving dirt and grime and sometimes getting inside the walls, causing water damage to the structural supports inside.

If water trails down the home, it tends to seep into the ground next to the foundation. Gutters are meant to direct rain away from the foundation, so trailing water like this can cause the ground to soften around and beneath the foundation, as well as cause water damage to the foundation directly. Cracks can form and allow water into the home, resulting in flood damage even during an average thunderstorm.

The Preventative

Clean your gutters at least twice a month during fall. Remove any obstructions and make sure there are no animals or insects making their home in or around your gutters. You may even want to spray bug repellent along the gutters to prevent insects from settling down.

Watch for plants that take root in the debris within your gutters. Also keep an eye out for vine-like plants that tend to use your gutters as support to climb. Remove these plants as soon as possible.

You may even want to consider a gutter guard if you consistently find animal or insect nests, or if your home sits directly underneath any trees. Again, this will not mean you won’t have to check the gutters ever again, but it will make cleaning them easier.

Make sure to check the gutters in the spring as well, in case you missed any leaves from the previous year, or in case an animal used your gutters for shelter over the winter.

If you see signs of water trails along the side of your home, check the gutters and side structure immediately. Also check the ground underneath and the walls of your basement around that area. If you see water seepage in the basement, call a contractor as soon as possible to inspect the area and suggest a course of action.

Your Windows and Doors

Nobody wants to pull away a curtain to see smudges and grime on their windows or have trouble opening or shutting getting their door. After all, a window is made to look through, and a door is made to walk through, right?

Poorly maintained windows and external doors have adverse effects on your curb appeal, your lifestyle, and even your energy efficiency and home security. It’s not just about looking good. It’s about being comfortable in your home any time of the year.

The Damage

Poor window and door maintenance can result in much more than dirty window panes. If you live in a house with original windows and doors, your frames may be letting out hundreds of dollars in wasted energy.

When windows and doors are installed in a new house, the structure and foundation have not settled yet. This settling happens over the first couple years of the house’s life, and since the windows and doors hold their shape, the frames shift and create gaps between them and the house walls. This lets air in and out of the home, causing your AC and heater to work harder throughout the year.

These gaps can also let water into the walls, causing wood rot, and it can lead to a deterioration of the structural integrity of your home. If the gap is big enough, it becomes yet another inlet for insects and small animals to get inside.

Additionally, not cleaning your window and door frames can cause buildup of mold, mildew, and other grime that can eat away at your walls.

Finally, even outdoor paints and sidings can break down if water gets behind them. Siding or paint damage can cost a pretty penny to match and replace. It’s far better to simply keep your windows and doors well-kept rather than suffer the alternative.

The Preventative

First, inspect and clean your windows and doors thoroughly at least once a month (twice if you have animals or experience intense weather year round). Remove any debris that may have collected on the window sills or along the door frames. Check for rotting wood along the frames and mark any places where deterioration has occurred. Check all frames and mechanisms to make sure there are few-if any-gaps into your home.

If your front door is painted or stained, give it a fresh coat at least once every five years. It’s best to strip the old paint or stain first for best results. This should also be done for the frame.

Ask for help from a friend or family member to check for gaps. Use a can of pressured air and blow it along all window and door frames. Have your assistant go inside and feel along the frame where you are using the pressured air. If your helper feels air coming through, have them mark those spots with painter’s tape.

For spaces where you cannot see a gap at all, but can still feel the air coming in, use some outdoor grade caulking and caulk the seam on both the inside and outside. Smooth it out with a brush and some water.

If you can see the gap, caulking will not be enough. You do have the option of buying spray insulation and spraying it into the gap until it is filled, but this is only a temporary fix and can cause additional problems. By sealing the hole, you may also be sealing in moisture that will break down the wood structure and allow mold and mildew to grow.

Your best option when dealing with big gaps, especially if these are the original windows and doors, is to get replacements. Replacement windows and doors will be fit to the exact dimensions of the existing space, thereby completely eliminating gaps. It is also likely you can get higher quality windows and doors that are more energy efficient, and in some cases, more secure against break-ins. It is a significant investment that will increase your resale value, energy savings, and home security all at once.

Take Aways

  • Lack of maintenance to your roof, gutters, windows, and doors can have detrimental effects for your home, including water damage to the structure and foundation.
  • Clean your roof and gutters at least twice a year, and increase your gutter cleaning to twice a month during the fall months when leaves accumulate.
  • Call a professional immediately if you find damaged shingles or holes in your roof.
  • Check for water trails along the sides of your house beneath the gutters. If you find any, check the ground and basement walls around that area for water damage.
  • Clean and inspect your windows and exterior doors at least once a month.
  • Repaint or stain exterior doors at least once every five years.
  • Fix invisible gaps with outdoor grade caulking and a wet brush.
  • Call a window and door professional if you find visible gaps. Any home repair you can do to visible gaps is only temporary and can cause more damage to your home.
  • Replacement windows and doors can improve your energy efficiency and home security. They are worth the investment when your old windows and doors are deteriorating.