Your home is your sanctuary so of course you intend to do right by it, from the front door to the wood floors to the walls, the roof, the porch, and yes, the septic system. But sometimes you may (unwittingly) get it wrong and end up compounding your problem.
Here is our list of common ways even the most well-intentioned homeowners can hurt their houses, with advice on how to do better from here on.
1 | Maxing out Closet Rods
Hanging too many clothes on that pole can not only cause it to bend or break but it may also strain the mounting hardware installed. INSTEAD: Replace all rod with steel rods and metal supports. Install additional brackets every 48 inches to stabilize a long rod and screwing into wall studs is best.
2 | Slamming the Front Door
Repeatedly slamming a hefty entry door pushes its jamb out of alignment. Over time, the momentum can force the door from the opening, causing the seam where trim meets jamb to separate and leaving an exterior gap where moisture and cold air can infiltrate. INSTEAD: Replace existing hinges with self-closing versions. On heavy wood doors, replace all three hinges; lightweight steel doors may need to have only one or two upgraded.
3 | Letting Outdoor rugs Lie
Inviting as they might be for summer’s bare feet, outdoor rugs with rubber or vinyl backings shouldn’t be left in place; they tend to trap water and invite mold and mildew, leading to spongy porch or deck planks, not to mention creepy-crawlies. INSTEAD: Choose an open-weave rug that allows rainwater to evaporate and air to circulate.
4 | Walking on the Roof
It’s true that keeping gutters clear and spotting roof damage early precludes pricey repairs, but stepping onto the shingles is risky for any DIYer. It can not only damage roofing but will also void the manufacturer’s warranty. INSTEAD: Clean gutters from a ladder with a stabilizer bar to protect the troughs’ thin-gauge metal. Check for worn or missing shingles using binoculars while standing safely on the ground.
5 | Storing Too Much Stuff Under a Porch or a Deck
Making use of the space under a wood deck or a porch floor makes sense, but packing in outdoor furniture, a ladder, the grill, and more during the off-season can hinder air circulation, trapping moisture and building up enough heat to warp the boards. INSTEAD: Leave at least 12 inches of open space beneath the joists to allow air to move in and out. And never store wood underthere.
6 | Building Fires Too Big
A hearth fire shouldn’t look like a blazing bonfire; the more it roars, the more likely it is to do damage. High temps can buckle a metal lining or crack one made of terra-cotta. INSTEAD: Keep fires paper-free and small enough to see the flame tips. If you’ve had fireplace or chimney work done during the warmer months, you need to take particular care. Use one log at a time for the first four burns, to allow the new masonry to cure.
7 | Extension Cords Everywhere
Extension cords are temporary helpers. Placed on the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Substantial Hazard List in 2015, some cords—especially the no-label, dollar-store variety—prompt constant recalls that cite electrocution and fire risk. INSTEAD: Throw away old extension cords and any with loose plugs, split casings, or cheap-looking construction. Don’t run cords under rugs or around furniture, as they can overheat or crack, sparking danger. Use the right cord for the job: a 16-gauge cord to power small household appliances, such as a fan, that draw up to 13 amps; a 14-gauge cord for large power tools, like a table saw, that use up to 15 amps; a 12-gauge cord for items that need 20 amps, such as a compressor. And consider upgrading to grounded receptacles where you need them most.
8 | Storing Stuff in an Over-the-Showerhead Caddy
Your morning refuge may need more perching places for shampoo and body-wash bottles, but a showerhead storage unit loaded with containers will stress the threaded connection behind the tiled wall, potentially causing leaks. INSTEAD: Store jumbo bottles on the shower floor or tub surround. For lighter stuff, try shelves that attach with suction cups.
9 | Tossing Bleach Tablets in the Toilet Tank
Those handy blue toilet-tank blocks will keep the water fresh and the bowl clean —and cause premature brittleness or breakage to the flapper valve and other rubber and plastic parts. INSTEAD: Go old-school with a toilet brush and an occasional dose of cleaner, or use a flush-by-flush product that puts the cleaner in the bowl, not the tank.
10 | Scrubbing Grout With Vinegar
If you are used to scrubbing tile with vinegar, thing twice. Traditional white grout is a sand-and-cement mix; that cement is an alkaline compound and the acid in vinegar turns it yellow and crumbly. INSTEAD: Choose a traditional alkaline hard-surface cleaner, like Spic and Span, or an oxygen-bleach-based one. Always rinse well; and to really lift dirt up and out, try a few passes of your utility vac to dry it.
11 | Mislubing Locks
A quick spritz with an all-purpose spray will improve the movement of most stubborn locks, but it won’t provide long-term lubrication, which is why your rough-turning-key problem always seems to return. INSTEAD: After loosening a cylinder, latch, or dead bolt, use a silicone spray or a squeeze of graphite powder for lasting lubrication. Never apply household oil, which attracts dirt and can lead to an even greater gunk issue.
12 | Hanging Dry Cleaning on a Doorknob
Four pairs of pants and eight shirts might weigh 8½ pounds. Hooking that load of dry cleaning on a door handle every week can strain the knob and even the hinges, pulling the door out of alignment. INSTEAD: Walk directly to closet upon entering. Open door and hang dry cleaning on properly mounted closet rod. Repeat. Every week.
13 | Mixing Paint Too Vigorously
Taking a can of paint back to the store for a spin on the shaker is fine. Stirring paint with a drill attachment, or even extensively by hand? Not recommended INSTEAD: Stir slowly and gently with a regular old wood paint-stirring stick. You’ll know you’re done when there are no solids at the bottom of the can and an even, uniform stream of paint dribbles off the stirrer.
14 | Overdoing Drain Cleaner
Serial doses of clog-dissolving liquids or crystals containing sulfuric or hydrochloric acid or lye—even those that say “septic safe”—can wipe out the essential bacteria that break down waste in a healthy septic system. INSTEAD: As a first line of attack against a clogged drain, flush with boiling water. For stubborn clogs, a routine mechanical cleaning with a closet auger snake is less damaging than those drain-clearing chemicals, which should be used only if necessary, and then only sparingly.
15 | Painting Over Rust
Slapping a coat of paint over metal that still shows signs of rust is a temporary cover, but not a fix. The iron oxide will prevent the new paint from grabbing hold, so sooner rather than later the bond will fail and flaking will begin. INSTEAD: To properly coat rusty railings and metal furniture, use a scraper to remove surface corrosion and peeling paint, feathering paint edges with 100- grit sandpaper. Treat spots with a rust primer before coating the whole thing with direct-to-metal (DTM) paint, a special acrylic formulation.
16 | Fertilizer Overspray
Fertilizers that contain sulfates or ammonias can chemically react with the cement in concrete, wrecking a walkway, damaging a driveway, and even causing cracks in your home’s foundation. INSTEAD: Stick to fertilizers with synthetic urea as their nitrogen source—unlike ammonium nitrate, it won’t damage concrete. If your product contains ammonia, keep granules at least 6 inches from concrete surfaces.