The Proper Care and Feeding of Your Home


Pop Quiz,

What is the leading cause of costly home repairs when you go to sell your home:

A.                Water Damage from Leaks

B.                 Termite Damage

C.                 Roof Damage

D.                 Weathered Paint

E.                 Drainage Issues around the home

The fact is that all of these can cause significant damage to your home but in my experience water damage from leaks in the kitchen and bathrooms can be the most common and expensive.  I’m not even talking about big leaks. Some of the costliest home repairs I have seen involved ripping up entire bathrooms to repair sub floor that has been damaged from years of small amounts of water dripping out from the shower area and getting under the floor causing dry root to the wood sub floor.  Faucet leaks around the shower and tub area is another big problem as are leaks around the toilet seal.

OK, many of you picked termites as the big expense.  While it’s true that termites can be costly, the big expense is usually in tenting and fumigating the home to get rid of them. The actual damage is often fairly small.  In our area, there are 2 kinds of termites, subterranean and the flying kind.  Subterranean termites burrow under your home and can attack from underneath. The interesting thing about these termites is that the rarely cause problems unless they sense wood or other cellulose debris in contact with the soil.  It’s like they can smell it but only if its touching the soil.  They don’t really know that a massive wood house is over their heads unless they come to the surface to munch on a piece of cardboard or discarded piece of scrap wood that happens to be lying on the soil under your house.  To a subterranean termite,  having scrap wood or cellulose debris under your home is like advertising a vacancy at a free, extended stay, 4 star bed and breakfast inn.

The Flying kind of termite is harder to combat because they can swarm into your home from a neighbor’s at any time.  In general, if an infestation is caught early enough, spot treatment rather than complete fumigation is often used at a significant cost savings.

Roof Damage is one of those things that often has other associated damage with it. If your roof leaks and causes damage to your ceiling, you probably have wet or damaged insulation too. And if this is a prolonged event, you may have mold problems in your attic. Talk about costly, mold can be very expensive to eradicate.  What causes roof problems?  First is just old age.  Wood shingle roofs can last 30 years but become brittle and can be damaged easily by high winds or someone walking on your roof.  Cheep composite roofs can wear out in 10 years and need replacing. Improperly installed roofs and improperly installed flashing around chimneys, vents, homeowner added skylights and such can also be a big factor in roof failure.

Weathered paint is more than a cosmetic issue.  Sure for stucco homes, faded paint doesn’t usually hurt the structure but consider this; Most homes have wooden eves and roof rafter tails (those 2X6 inch pieces of wood extending out from your roof that support the roof structure.)  If the paint on these areas cracks, flakes off, blisters peals or otherwise fails, you are exposing yourself to costly repairs as moisture will soon start to attack the exposed wood.

Last are drainage issues around the home.  This can be caused by a number of things but the most common are downspouts from your rain gutters that don’t carry water away, sprinklers that flood the area, soil that is not properly graded away from the home and poor or improper lot grading from the time your home was built.  The results can be very expensive to deal with. Try draining a small lake from under your home when you don’t know where the water is coming from.  Add to that, mold problems from sustained moisture under your home and your have real problems. And then there is the biggie. I have seen major foundation damage occur when rain gutter downspouts don’t carry water away from the home.  Pools of water collecting under a foundation can cause the ground to get soft and increase the chance of ground shifting under your foundation.  Don’t believe me?  You should check out some open homes around the Willow Glen area to see what uneven floors feel like.  Take a marble or golf ball and set it on the floor and watch it roll.  Often uneven floors aren’t a big problem. The home may have settled a bit unevenly but the integrity of the foundation is still intact and the home structure isn’t compromised.  But then there are the times when it is a big deal and I have seen $60,000 price tags associated with fixing foundation problems and the damage related to jacking the home up off its foundation, putting new foundation in and straightening the home on the new foundation. Often new doors and windows along with major wall repair are a part of this repair process.

What to do about all this?  I know it seems scary but doing a few things once in a while will greatly reduce the potential for problems.  Here is my checklist:

At least once a year do a major inspection around your home.  If you don’t feel capable of this, you can hire a home inspector yearly to do this for you.  Check the caulking around your bathtubs, showers and such. Look for leaks around and behind shower and tub faucets. Make sure your grout is intact in showers and around bathtubs. Check for leaks around your toilets and under the sinks paying attention to all connections and drains.  Look for any evidence of water staining.  If your shower door leaks, repair it, If you have children that splash a lot in the tub, make sure there is no way this water can get under the floor.  You should wipe up spills immediately.

Once a year, hire a termite inspection service to come and inspect your home. It may cost you a couple of hundred dollars to do this but if an infestation is caught early, you can often spot treat the area and avoid costly fumigation.  Make sure there is no wood or cellulose debris in contact with the ground under or around your home.

Inspect your roof annually.  Once again, you can hire this out if you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself.  Look at the roof from outside. Are there missing shingles or tiles?  If you have a wood roof, are the shingles curling and splitting?  Is there debris on your roof such as fallen leaves that could trap water and cause it to get under the roof?  Clean your rain gutters out before each winter and make sure your drains carry water away from your home’s foundation.  Go up into your attic and check for evidence of leaks.  Look for water stains on the insulation and from under the roof.  From inside your attic, check to see if there is any daylight showing though the roof.

Check the paint around the outside of your home. Pay close attention to the eves and roof rafter tails as well as areas around doors and window and indeed, anywhere wood has been used outside your home. Look for pealing, blistering, missing, cracking or damaged paint.

Last, look under your home after a big rainstorm and make sure you aren’t collecting water there. Check the grading around your foundation and make sure water is being carried away from your home not flowing toward the foundation.  Check your sprinklers to make sure they aren’t spraying your home, leaking or otherwise causing an accumulation of water around your home. If you get good at this, you can do this all in a few hours and if not, you can hire inspections services to do this for you.

You change the oil in your car don’t you?  And you make sure your tires have air and tread too. You should use the same care on your home and it will last a lifetime and your kid’s lifetime and many more after that.

When you complete your inspection, make a list of any problems and hire professionals to repair and correct any problems you found.

If you have any question or need inspection recommendations, please call me.

Best Wishes,


Steve Kent

Intero Real Estate Services

(408) 499-6159



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