Bad Homeowner Habits to Break Now

A man wearing a blue shirt plugging in an orange cord.

Are you feeling safe and secure in your home? Would you like to feel even more so? Upkeep, maintenance, and managing your home is the key to that security. Start good habits now, keep it up, and your home will be the haven you have always dreamed of.

Personal Safety Habits

Do you check to make sure the garage door is closed after you hit the button on your automatic garage door opener? I once had to make a run for it when we had a heavy snowfall. I didn’t have time to shovel, so I thought I could just plow through it. Well, that didn’t turn out so well. I made it out of the garage, but the snow that was piled up against the door fell inward and in front of the electric eye. I got home and the door was still open. Thankfully nothing was missing, but there sure was a good drift piled up inside the garage. If you drive off and leave the door open, what do you think your chances are of coming home to find your tools and mower still there?

A man opening up a garage door.

Leaving your garage door open is an open invitation to thieves, animals and personal safety. That thief could still be in the garage when you get home. Be safe and make sure your door is closed.

The same goes for windows. Close and lock them. It's harder to break a window than it is to tear a screen, and noisier, too.

I know it's a habit of some people to leave a key hidden outside near the front door. But crooks are not fooled by the key in the fake rock anymore. They also know to look under the mat. If you are going to hide a key, make sure it's in a spot that no one would ever think to look. Better yet, install an electric numbered keypad on your doors and make sure you change the code every once in a while.

Structural Security Habits

Inspecting the basement and attic at least once a year is not that big a task and it could save you a ton of money on repairs if you catch problems early. Insects and other creepy crawlers love attics and basements. I had a friend who never looked in her attic, only to wake up one night hearing scratching coming from the attic. It turned out she had hundreds of bats in there. It was expensive to take care of the problem when all it would have taken in the first place is to fix a screen on one of the attic vents.

You have probably heard this a million times, but please get out and clean your rain gutters, once in the fall and again in the spring. If you don’t, you will end up having to fix water problems in your foundation and/or in the basement. Clogged rain gutters can also cause roof damage by creating ice dams in the winter. New roofs these days for an average house can be upwards of $10,000 to replace. That is a scary number.

A broken asphalt shingle.

Speaking of roofs, you should inspect your roof at least once a year for loose shingles. Use a pair of binoculars for the inspection because walking on your shingles can void the warranty.

Something most people rarely think about is leaving appliances on when leaving the house. I always wait until the dryer is done before leaving, but I never thought it would be a problem to leave the dishwasher running. I was wrong. I came home to a flooded kitchen and a ruined kitchen floor; one of the hoses broke and I wasn’t there to stop it. The same goes for many appliances. Going forward, I will not leave anything running or in the "on" position when I am not home.

Do you have kids (or adults) who have a tendency to slam doors? Break them of that habit now. Slamming doors pushes the jam out of alignment a little at a time until the door won’t close properly. Then you have a problem to fix.

One more thing on structural bad habits -- if you are like me, the door knob is a great place to hang things like handbags or coats. Well, stop it! Hanging items, especially if they are on the heavy side, will put strain on the knob and the hinges.

Want to keep your finances out of the toilet? Well, one way is to avoid using bleach tablets in the toilet tank. The bleach weakens the internal parts in the tank, especially rubber and plastic. If you absolutely have to use a “clean every flush” product, get the kind that attaches inside the bowl and save your tank. Another bathroom item that is swiftly becoming popular is flushable wipes. Don’t believe it. They definitely are flushable, but so is a Hot Wheels car. Flushable wipes cause clogs in both septic tanks and sewers. They become jelly-like and cause all sorts of problems and plumbing bills.

Fire Safety Habits

This may sound silly, but please do not use your oven as a storage area. You may forget that there is something in there, preheat the oven, and cause a meltdown inside. Even the handles on pots and pans can melt in a hot oven. Look around the top of your stove. Are there flammables within two feet of the stove top? If so, move them away.

There is nothing worse than having your furnace go out when it is 15 degrees outside. Get your furnace cleaned and inspected by a professional at least once a year. Change your filter per the manufacturer’s directions as well. Once a month during heating season is a good rule of thumb.

A person holding a dryer lint catcher.

Regular cleaning of dryer lint traps, vents and duct work could save you heartache down the road. Lint is highly flammable. Add the heat from your dryer and you have an instant fire.

I have three rules about extension cords. Use sparingly, use the right gauge, and don’t buy the cheap ones. 16 gauge is okay for small appliances, 14 gauge is suitable for larger power tools, and 12 gauge is appropriate for any heavy use such as a compressor or generator. Never, ever put an extension cord under a rug or tape it to the floor. Inspect cords before each use. Never leave an extension cord plugged in if you are going to be away from home for long periods of time.

No matter how careful we are, emergencies do come up. If you can swing it, save about one or two percent of your home's worth in a separate account. Doing your regular inspections and maintenance will reduce the chances of you having to use that money, but you will feel safe and secure knowing that it is there if you need it. Start good habits now, and you will never feel as though you bought a money pit.