1. House Fire
One of summer’s many lightning storms can start a fire, and with no one to call 911 it can take out a whole house. The best defense, says TOH general contractor Tom Silva, is lightning rods. “This is not by any means a homeowner job,” he warns. “You need a pro to install them.” Any highly placed metal protrusion on your house should be grounded, in fact, including weather vanes and satellite dishes.
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Don’t overlook the health of your wiring, as well. Curtis Niles Sr. of Armored Home Inspections in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, and President of the National Association of Home Inspectors, advises homeowners to keep up with maintenance. “Wiring is the last thing on a homeowner’s mind, but I’ve seen exterior service cables in poor condition all too often.” he says. “If there’s short or a spark in the line, a fire can start, and you won’t be there to put it out.”
Unmowed grass, piles of newspapers, and revealing posts on social networks might as well be an open invitation to burglars, says Ralph Sevinor, President of Wayne Alarm Systems in Lynn, Massachusetts. Sevinor suggests putting a hold on the mail, asking a neighbor to park in the drive, testing your alarm system, and keeping your travel plans off the Internet. “Even if it’s your kid on Facebook telling her 2,300 friends about the family trip to Hawaii, you have to watch out. That message can get picked up by criminals who troll the Internet constantly,” says Sevinor.
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3. Critter Invasion
All it takes is one small entry point and wasps, bees, squirrels, or bats can take over this seldom-visited space. Then they build nests, chew through wiring or framing, or just make your home their final resting place. “Animals can get trapped and then die. After a few days, the stench can render a house uninhabitable,” says Los Angeles–based architect Leigh Jerrard. “Make sure crawlspace and eave vents are securely screened with hardware cloth or welded-wire fabric,” says Jerrard.
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Tom Silva recommends that you do a visual inspection all around the exterior, both before you go away and after you get back. “Look for vulnerable spots—holes under the soffit, flashing lifting on the chimney, rot around the windows,” he says. “A bat can climb into a hole the size of your fingertip. Wasps and yellow jackets can find their way in through a tiny crevice.” Patch, caulk, and replace as needed.