13 Costly Ways You Could Ruin Your Home Without Realizing It

Happy Latin American couple moving home and carrying furniture.
andresr / Getty Images/iStockphoto

When it comes to the care and maintenance of your home, you have to be careful. Even though you may view it as basically indestructible, there are certain things you can do — or fail to do —  that can wreak havoc on your house. The worst part? You likely won’t become aware of the damage until it’s too late.

See: 20 Insider Tips To Save Money on Every Part of Your Home
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To help you avoid ruining your home, here are 13 costly mistakes experts say you should aware of — and try your best not to make.

Pouring Grease Down the Drain

“Many people pour grease down the kitchen sink drain when they finish cooking,” said Jake Romano, owner of John the Plumber. “The amount of drain pipes that must be cut out and replaced is very surprising. Grease hardens in drains, and eventually, your drain pipe can be fully and completely blocked by rock-hard grease. When this happens, we’re limited in what we can do. Re-piping happens all the time when it could be avoided.”

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Digging up Large Sections of Lawn

“Most commonly, I have seen people start digging up their lawns with the plan of planting a giant garden,” said Kyle Tobin, owner of LawnSavers. “Halfway through, they realize how difficult it is to dig up the soil, plant things and have them grow in a healthy way. We also see a lot of flowerbeds being dug that end up being piles of dirt (until we come in to fix them). People get started and dig around their homes and/or deck, then life gets busy or they can’t figure out the next steps.”

Tobin added, “Landscaping and gardening projects should not be underestimated, and I urge you to do your research before you dig up a giant section of your lawn. Once you do this, it can’t be undone and you could be looking at a section of your lawn that is dirt and is unusable. Grass takes a while to regrow so, if you make this decision, you better be positive that you can do it (and do it well).”

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Taking Painting Shortcuts

“The familiar saying, ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,’ can often hit homeowners when they try to take painting shortcuts,” said Luke Reynolds, founder and CEO of All In Painting. “Paint and primer in one products sound appealing — cutting down paint time by combining primer with the first coat of paint. But if done on a bare substrate surface, such as exterior wood siding or new trim work, it can actually cost thousands of dollars in repair. Without a stand-alone primer, the bare surfaces will likely have an adhesion issue that leads to paint chipping or peeling. Unfortunately, this takes the homeowner backwards multiple steps to completely removing the paint and primer product and starting over.”

Reynolds added, “Painters and homeowners should only use paint and primer-combined products on previously painted surfaces; bare surfaces should always start with stand-alone primers such as wood primer or multi-purpose primer. Saving time always sounds appealing with painting, but homeowners must take caution that the products they choose really do save time and money.”

Burning Wooden Floors With UV Rays

“Hardwood flooring looks awesome and seems to last for decades,” said Sean Chapman, a professional carpenter and founder of Tools’n’Goods. “It looks exceptionally good if you open all the blinds on a sunny day! You shouldn’t do that too often, though. If you keep the blinds open all day long on sunny days, the chances are high that the UV rays lead to fading and discoloration. In the long run, harsh sunlight can even lead to overdrying of the top layer. If you don’t want to re-sand your floors too often, protect them from direct sunlight.”

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Cleaning Hardwood Floors With Too Much Water

The rule of thumb is that you have to clean wooden floors with a slightly moist mop,” said Chapman. “Otherwise, the water won’t be able to evaporate fast enough from the surface and seep into the wood. Nothing will go wrong from a single overly wet cleaning, but repeating the mistake will eventually make the wood lose its perfect shape and crack.”

Moving Furniture Without Pads

The slick surface of a hardwood floor seems like it would make it easy to move furniture. Unfortunately, doing so can be damaging if the feet of the furniture don’t have felt pads attached (or something similar) to protect the floor. 

“Although hardwood flooring looks so sturdy, its surface is actually quite tender and can be scratched easily,” said Chapman. “That’s why using furniture pads on your chairs, tables, etc. is nothing but obligatory.”

Ignoring Your Air Filter

“You can actually ruin your HVAC system by ignoring your air filter entirely,” said Glenn Wiseman, RASDT, RHDT and sales manager at Top Hat Home Comfort Services. “Your air filter protects your system from dirt and debris clogging up your blower motor or getting sucked into the evaporator coil. If you don’t change it when it gets dirty, airflow will be restricted through your system, and the system will have to work harder to cool your home (which will cost you more money). If you leave your air filter clogged for an extended period of time, it will overwork your system, and eventually cause it to break.”

Wiseman continued, “Repairing or replacing your HVAC system can be avoided with regular maintenance and upkeep. We recommend changing your filter once a month during the cooling season if you’re using a standard filter. If you are someone who knows you won’t be able to change the filter so often, you should invest in a high-end pleated filter, as they can last much longer, usually up to six months.”

More: 8 Affordable Ways To Upgrade Your Primary Bedroom

Growing Trees and Shrubs Too Close to Your Home’s Foundation

“The truth is that even those cute shrubs can damage your house foundation heavily over the years and lead to serious structural damage,” said Bryan McKenzie, a landscape designer, gardening expert and cofounder of Bumper Crop Times.

“All landscape designers know that and homeowners must learn it too. Here’s a rule to remember: you have to plant all the shrubs at least half the distance of their maximum mature spread. For example, a shrub that can reach 10 feet wide, it must grow at least 5 feet away from the foundation. Trees have wider root systems, so they must grow at least 15 feet away from the foundation.”

Using the Wrong Cleaning Products

“Cleaning is the best way to ensure that your house and belongings maintain their usability and aesthetics,” said Alicia Johnson owner of Cleaning Green LLC. “It is an activity no one should ever skip and add to their daily list of chores. However, cleaning can go bad real quick if you accidentally use the wrong cleaning product for the wrong purpose. Using cleaning products that contain aggressive and harsh chemicals on your furniture and other fittings can permanently damage their surface and ruin their visual appeal. Using an acid-based cleaner or distilled vinegar to clean your marble countertops will etch the stone.”

Not Draining Hot Water Heater

“Most people don’t know to partially drain their hot water heater once or twice a year,” said John Bodrozic, co-founder of HomeZada. “Many people have hard water with lots of minerals in it. These minerals build up on the bottom of your hot water heater over time, which then causes problems with the heater and results in a likely leak. This means you may end up replacing your hot water heater because it breaks down before its useful life, and if it does leak, depending on where it is in the home, the water can cause damage to other parts of the house.”

Not Cleaning Out Gutters

“Clogged gutters cause water to overflow onto the wood trim and soffits of the house,” said Jimmy Jackson, strategic HVAC Advisor at YouthfulHome. “Water can run down the house soaking wooden doors and window frames. It can run all the way to the ground and settle against the foundation. Even vinyl siding and brick houses have wood trim. Replacing rotted wood trim can cost over $1,000. Foundation damage will cost much more than that.”

Not Properly Ventilating Attic

“Poorly ventilated attics can result in an earlier than necessary roof replacement,” said Jackson. “In hotter parts of the US, attics can reach temperatures of over 100 degrees. This causes deterioration of the shingles. Roof replacements are one of the most costly home repairs.”

Not Pruning Trees or Cleaning Off Roof Debris

“Landscaping is beautiful but if you have large overgrown trees that extend over your roof, this is a cause for lots of potential damage,” said Bodrozic. “Depending on the type of roof and type of trees you have, a lot of leaves and debris lands on your roof. This can create blockage between your roof tiles where water is not draining properly off your roof after storms. This increases the likelihood of water leaks in your roof that enter into your attic. Another issue is storms can cause large branches to break off and damage your roof and home as well.”

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About the Author

Cynthia Measom is a personal finance writer and editor with over 15 years of collective experience. Her articles have been featured in MSN, AOL, Yahoo Finance, INSIDER, Houston Chronicle and The Seattle Times. She attended the University of Texas at Austin and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.
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