We all know the thrill of owning your own house — but don’t let the excitement cause you to overlook the basics. I’ve gathered up a few common mistakes a new homeowner commits — and give you some insight on why each is critically important to avoid…So pay attention!
Know where the main water shutoff valve is?
Water from a broken plumbing pipe can spew dozens of gallons into your home’s interior in a matter of minutes, soaking everything in sight — including drywall, flooring, and valuables. In fact, water damage is one of the most common of all household insurance claims for the typical homeowner.
A quick reaction is needed to stave off a major damage. Before disaster hits, find your water and gas shutoff valves, which will be located where a water main enters your house. Typically a homeowner will find it on the front wall of the house (facing street) down in the basement. Make sure everyone knows where it’s located and how to close the valve. A little penetrating oil on the valve stem makes sure it’ll work when you need it to. As a homeowner that went through the cleanup and repair of a broken water line after returning from vacation, I’d also recommend turning off the water if you plan to go out of town, even just an overnight stay.
Not calling 811 before digging a hole.
So you’re ready to dig into your new yard and plant bushes and build that fence. But don’t — not until you’ve dialed 811, the national dig-safely hotline. The hotline will contact all your local utilities who will then come to your property — often within a day — to mark the location of underground pipes, cables, and wires.
This free service keeps you safe and helps the homeowner avoid costly repairs. In many states, calling 811 is the law, so you’ll also avoid fines.
Important to check the slope of foundation soil.
The ground around your foundation should slope away from the house at least 6 inches over 10 feet. Why? To make sure water from rain and melting snow doesn’t soak the soil around your foundation walls, building up pressure that can cause leaks and crack your foundation, leading to very expensive repairs.
This kind of water damage doesn’t happen overnight — it’s accumulative — so the sooner you get after it, the better (and smarter) you’ll be. While you’re at it, make sure downspouts extend at least 5 feet away from your house.
Not knowing the depth of attic insulation.
This goes hand-in-hand with not knowing where your attic access is located, so let’s start there. Find the ceiling hatch, typically a square area framed with molding in a hallway or closet ceiling. Push the hatch cover straight up. Get a ladder and check out the depth of the insulation. If you can see the tops of joists, you definitely don’t have enough.
The recommended insulation for most attics is about R-38 or 10 to 14 inches deep, depending on the type of insulation you choose. BTW, is your hatch insulated, too? Use 4-inch-thick foam board glued to the top.
Carelessly drilling into walls?…STOP!
Hanging shelves, closet systems, and artwork means drilling into your walls — but do you know what’s back there? Hidden inside your walls are plumbing pipes, duct-work, wires, and cables.
You can check for some stuff with a stud sensor — a $25 battery-operated tool that detects changes in density to find studs, cables, and ducts.
But stud sensors aren’t foolproof. Protect yourself by drilling only 1¼ inches deep max — enough to clear drywall and plaster but not deep enough to reach most wires and pipes.
Household wiring runs horizontally from outlet to outlet about 8 inches to 2 feet from the floor, so that’s a no-drill zone. Stay clear of vertical locations above and below wall switches — wiring runs along studs to reach switches.
Cutting down a tree?
The risk isn’t worth it. Even small trees can fall awkwardly, damaging your house, property, or your neighbor’s property. In some locales, you have to obtain a permit first. Cutting down a tree is an art that’s best left to a professional tree service.
Plus, trees help preserve property values and provide shade that cuts energy bills. So think twice before going all Paul Bunyan on that Oak.
Most importantly, be cautious and enjoy making your new house a home.