Be aware and vigilant about things that can result in big repair costs [Column]

This is a short (and very true) story:

There I was with my new salesman. We toured the house, where I look for defects and ask questions. As soon as I walked into the basement storage room, where the various components of the house are located (HVAC, electrical, radon system, etc.), I immediately asked my salesperson how old his water heating system was. They came back with “Wait … what’s a water heater?” I pointed it out. “That.” Even more confused, I had to explain what it was and what it did. I went on to say they only last about 10-12 years – maybe 15 with a water softener.

The flashlight phone comes out and I go to work to find a date of manufacture. Seldom am I shocked and scared at the same time in this business today, but it can happen. And it sure happened on that sunny Thursday morning. The label read “1992”. Well, I’m not a math expert, but I was in seventh grade when this thing was installed and it’s about 18 years from the recommended replacement date. For those of you who got lost reading this article, let me clear the problem up.

A water heater is a large tank that is filled with water and delivers, you guessed it; your hot water. If it fails, it usually spills all over the basement instead of simply not heating your water. This is a problem for any basement, but especially for finished ones. It doesn’t just leak what’s in the tank – it continues to leak until the water supply is turned off. Several people have horror stories about getting home from work and being 2-3 feet in their basement.

I am not trying to make fun of this particular customer, but rather to point out that you need to be aware and vigilant of the various components and aspects of your home that can cause devastating repair costs and unwanted problems if they fail. The following list is the main ones I come across:

Attics: Homeowners often tell me that they haven’t been in their attic in years. Only when they sell their house and have a home inspection do they find a problem. Either a slightly leaky roof or mold or both. In general, mold forms from a roof that is actively leaking or not properly ventilated. Older building codes did not require ridge ventilation or ventilated soffits. So if your roof is older it might be worth breaking out your flashlight and going there once a year to make sure everything is in order.

Water heater: There’s virtually no way of knowing when a water heater is going to fail, so it’s best to be proactive and replace it every 10-12 years depending on how hard your water is. People I find most susceptible to being complacent about this thing are people who have bought new buildings. Since everything is new when you buy it, it will stay that way, according to psychology.

Crawling areas: Much like roofs, they are areas that are not regularly visited by homeowners. For the same reasons, mold can just as easily form down here as it does in attics: water ingress and / or poor ventilation. Again, grab a flashlight and get in.

Under the sink: Americans love their things, and they love to put their things anywhere, including under sinks in kitchens and bathrooms. I’m assuming you don’t regularly empty and inspect these areas, but even a small drop can cause really costly damage. Water destroys everything.

The trees: Most brokers won’t mention this to their buyers, but don’t forget to look at your trees if you have any. Various invasive insects (Emerald Ash Borer, Spotted Lantern Fly, etc.) and diseases can seriously affect their health. A little-known fact is that if a tree falls on your house, your home insurance will cover it, but if it falls in your yard or on your driveway, the clean-up costs will come out of your pocket. A certified arborist can usually give you instructions here.

If all of this seems daunting to you, there is always an option to have a home inspection carried out, even if you have no intention of moving. Like most inspections, they are gold as they almost always find something.