Recently, I asked repair workers and others in the BuzzFeed Community to share a piece of advice they wish all homeowners knew. Some repair workers and designers chimed in with their best tips for homeowners to maintain their property, while others added anecdotes from their own experience as a homeowner.
One thing is for sure: The answers were enlightening! Here's the best of what they said:
1. "Concrete work is expensive, so only do it once! Make sure they're putting in rebar, using bridge chairs for consistency, and putting in control joints. Ask all the questions. Get referrals. It's much more than just putting cement in a hole. There's nothing worse than someone who's just spent thousands being told, 'They did bad work, and it's gotta be replaced.'"
2. "As a former flipper who has seen (and corrected) a lot of DIY projects, if you think you can do it yourself, you are probably wrong. And if a house is more than two years old, there has probably been a leak under the kitchen sink that has rotted out half the kitchen subfloor."
3. "Think ahead before you DIY. If you need a manual or several YouTube videos just to understand it, you probably shouldn’t attempt to fix it yourself, unless it’s something easy to live with. Some things are really better left for the professionals, like appliance and HVAC repair. If what you do doesn’t work, you can end up making it worse and more expensive.
"Refinishing cabinets looks like it might be easy, but unless you are a highly skilled craftsman, it’s going to be more of a challenge than you think. If you’re trying to re-stain, you have to first strip off the old stain, which includes using nauseating chemicals and lots of scrubbing and scraping with hand tools. Then you have to sand them smooth. After you sand them, there’s a chance that the new stain won’t take well, if at all. It’s easier to paint them, but more often than not, it’s still going to LOOK like you did it yourself. Just hire a pro."
4. "When replacing a water heater, going up in size is not always that much more expensive. We had to replace both of ours a few years apart and to go from a 30-gallon water heater to a 40-gallon unit was only $15 difference overall.
"And do NOT get a tankless electric water heater. They have a high failure rate, and the warranty is voided if anyone other than a factory certified technician works on them. The natural gas-burning ones work great though."
5. "Make sure your home insurance has enough coverage (good limits), and that your deductible isn't something you can't afford/don't have in savings at all times! I can't tell you the number of times I've seen a home had a lien put on it because the owner pocketed the insurance check and spent it, or couldn't afford their deductible! If you've done significant improvements to your home, make sure you get it re-appraised and have your home insurance adjusted to compensate!"
6. "Don't trust just any general construction company to do the job 100% right when you've experienced a loss such as a flood, sewage, fire. ... A lot of the time, they will just rip out what you can see and replace it, without making sure things like mold aren't growing in places you can't see."
7. Someone even had their own story to share related to this tip:
"Yes! A pipe burst in the walls of my kitchen, and it flooded into the wall, and it got to the carpet in the dining area (it’s a small space, so there was carpet right outside the kitchen).
"They replaced the area under the sink, but I had to really argue to get the carpet ripped out. They figured once it dried, it would be fine. It wasn’t. That carpet stunk so bad, and there was mold developing around the baseboard.
"I had to mention a personal experience (my parents’ house had a bathroom leak) and also that my father is a contractor and we know that the carpet will be a problem in order to get them to remove it. I got the carpet removed and had vinyl through the whole area added in."
8. "My dad is a brick mason so mainly does brick/stone work, but he’s very handy and knows how to do or fix almost anything in a house. However, there’s one thing he won’t mess with, and tells others the same….Hire someone for plumbing! It’s not worth doing it yourself. Too detailed and easy to mess up and you’ll most likely be hiring someone to fix your mess, ending up in costing you more."
9. "You need to hire the right person for the job. For example, if you live in an old house that has damaged plaster over wooden lath, you can’t slap spackle inches thick over it and expect it to last another hundred years. Not many people are truly experienced with old materials anymore, but it’s very important to repair things properly, or it’s going to grow into a nightmare."
10. "Not a repair person, but this can't be said enough: know the location of the water shutoff valve to the entire house."
11. "Additionally, there are shut off valves for fixtures (e.g. sinks and toilets) and some appliances (e.g. dishwashers). The time to locate them is now and not when water is shooting across the kitchen from a broken valve."
12. "One more shutoff valve tip. But first, some backstory. I live in Mexico, where there are no building codes. When I moved into my house as a tenant, there were no shutoff valves to anything in my house and the only thing akin to a whole house shutoff valve is on a nearly inaccessible tank on the roof. Had one plumbing emergency as a tenant with the faucet in a shower coming off and the only thing to do was to weep at my impending water bill as both my water tanks emptied themselves while I waited for the plumber."
"My first order of business after I bought house was to get shutoff valves installed everywhere. The next was to get in a routine to regularly open and shut them because nothing sucks more than to have a shutoff valve only for it to be seized open when you need it!"
13. "Not a repair person, but speaking from experience: if you have a septic tank, do not neglect it! Make sure the products you use are septic safe (no bleach!) and get it pumped every 5 or so years. Rid-X doesn't cut it."
14. "The more people you have in your house the more you will need it pumped. We are just two old farts in our house and we have it pumped every 5 years. Our neighbors who had 6 kids had it pumped every 2."
15. "Those 'flushable' wipes you can buy at the store? Don't buy them. Don't flush them, I know they say they are, but they *aren't* designed for all systems and if you don't know your system, don't test it. Don't flush baby wipes either, or any other 'wipe' product. Don't pour grease down the sink, even if you have a garbage disposal and you're running hot water. Some places have grease/oil disposal places designed for these things."
"I know this because a house down the street had to have their plumbing replaced after they found a 'fatberg' in their system -ie: flushed wipes + grease and fat that solidified into a disgusting mass with a smell I will personally never forget. 🤮🤮"
16. "Your fabric softener is absolutely destroying your washing machine. Fabric softener...is typically made out of some type of animal fat or grease. Anything over a tablespoon in each cycle isn't going to dissolve and flush out properly and will coat every nook and cranny. This buildup in your machine is going to cause mold, mostly in places you'll never see it."
"This is all worse if you have a front load washer. Use white vinegar in place of it and your clothes will not only strip the waxy residue but it'll help your washer get clean and stay clean."