May 3, 2012 Leaking roof demands immediate attention, delay could be costly Fix Now or Pay Later; Address Household Problems Now to Avoid Costly Repairs in Future Sharon from Whitefish asked: Q: When my mother and I were up in her attic doing some spring organizing, we noticed signs that water might be getting into the attic from around the chimney. She doesn’t think we need to worry about it but I thought it needed to be addressed – what are her options for handling this? A: In tight economic times, it is tempting to let routine home repairs slide. Don’t do it. Proper care of your home will not only protect your investment, but also help you avoid major problems and costly repairs down the road. Listen to your home when it provides you warning signs of potential trouble – and act. Your mother’s roof issue may be a job for a professional, however if you’re comfortable on a ladder, it can be done yourself. Here are additional trouble signs and options for dealing with the issue: Roof/Attic • Trouble signs: Water leaking down the chimney into the attic; dampness or stains in attic or on ceilings and interior walls; broken masonry in and around fireplaces; curled, missing or broken shingles; bows or dips on roof; green algae growth on attic ceiling. • What you can do: Inspect your roof and attic every six months and ensure flashing around chimney is tight. Check caulking and sealants for peeling and leakage and look for cracking on collars around vents. Prevent algae and fungus on wood shakes and asphalt shingles with zinc control strips. • What it may cost: One to two hours of your time if you're comfortable on a ladder; professional inspection and minor repairs might cost about $200. • What you could save: $5,000 or more to replace your roof and anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars to repair interior damage. Below are three additional signs of common household problems that, if left unaddressed, could lead to costly repairs in the future. Amy Levner, Manager of Home and Community at AARP also shares some suggestions on what you can do today to avoid costly repairs in the future. Bathroom • Trouble signs: Leaks, dripping faucets. • What you can do: Find hidden leaks by wrapping toilet paper around pipes and looking for wet spots. Tighten pipe connections and/or replace faulty pipes. Detect toilet leaks by placing a bowl filled with a few drops of food coloring directly below the pipes connecting the toilet to the wall. If colored water is found in the bowl the next morning, the flapper needs replacing. • What it costs: It takes about 15 minutes to inspect, tighten connections and apply caulk; if you're handy, you can replace a drain pipe for $10-$20. New faucets start at about $30. • What you could save: A leaking faucet can waste 10,000 gallons of water a year. Repairing water damage or mold behind walls or under floors can easily cost $2,000 or more. Laundry Room • Trouble signs: Leaks from loose or burst washer hoses. Clogged dryer vent, resulting in towels needing two cycles to dry. • What you can do: Use stainless steel washer hoses to prevent bursting. Replace plastic or foil dryer vents with aluminum ones. Clean the dryer's lint tray before and after each use. Check and clean the machine vent twice a year. • What it may cost: Burst-proof washer hoses cost $20 per pair. Aluminum dryer vents are $10 to $20. • What you could save: Thousands of dollars repairing water damage from washer flooding or fire damage caused by a badly vented dryer. Even just replacing the dryer can cost hundreds of dollars. Sewer and Septic • Trouble signs: Backups, clogs, slow-running or gurgling drains or toilets. Outside, you may see wetness or bubbling water in yard, or smell odors. • What you can do: Rent a sewer snake at the first sign of drainage problems and clean the outlet pipe from inside your house or outside, especially if trees are near them (roots may be responsible). Call a professional for odors and water problems. • What it costs: A snake, with a root-cutting head, costs around $40 for a four-hour rental. Root-kill products to prevent regrowth/future problems cost about $15. Cleaning a septic tank costs $75 to $300 and should be done every three years. • What you can save: Tree roots can break clay sewer pipes (often found in older neighborhoods) and homeowners may be responsible for pipe repair ($5,000 to $10,000). Regularly cleaning and maintaining septic systems can help avoid expensive emergency calls or premature replacement, which can cost $5,000 or more. ### Amy Levner is Manager of Home and Community at AARP. She leads the Association’s educational and outreach efforts related to housing options, including universal design and living in place, as well as broader mobility options, including expanding transportation choices for older Americans.
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