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Dyck DeWid *
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Over and over again, my company makes similar repairs in thousands of houses. Often the damage is extensive and the costs are high. Costs are even higher when repairs are not done correctly the first time. Often, a repair is completed without understanding or removing the source of the problem. It's really a shame because most folks are not expecting the financial bomb that can drop on them. And I do not like being the bearer of bad news. So, what can you do?
Most of the time homeowners do not think they know enough about the mechanics of their houses and do not feel capable. I contend most homeowners are capable most of the time.
The easiest way to avoid costly repair is by prevention. The first step is simply observation spotting potential problems before they become severe. Whenever you see important changes, you must act on them. The following are some important home prevention items to keep in mind.
I believe that to observe is not always easy, but it is definitely possible. To observe truly, one's full attention must be given. The more full the attention, the better one can see. And without assumptions and biases, the more open one can be to see what is really going on around you.
Observing is not figuring out. It is not analysis. It is not assessing or judging. It is not hoping. Observing is not output at all. The right output can come, if first there is pure, uncolored input (observation). Observing is a wonderment. It is open and receptive. It is true learning.
Once you can observe potential problems around your home, then what? You can learn where to look and for what. At the end of this article is a list of vulnerable areas of the home. Keep this list and use it twice a year to walk around looking at the areas mentioned. Look for things that don't look natural or for differences when compared with similar areas.
Use all of your senses to observe. Look for texture and color changes. Look for things not level or plumb. Look for cracks, water, bugs and ants, etc. The eyes can spot much, but also pay attention to your feet. When walking, does the floor seem unstable or soft? Listen for noises or squeaks. Touch discolored areas to see if they are damp. Smell for musty odors. Does anyone start sneezing or have difficulty breathing or get a headache when in a certain area?
With your intention to prevent home problems from gaining a foothold, you will need to deal regularly with the information you gather from your observations. You will have many questions and concerns. That is good! I would suggest finding an experienced and reputable remodeling or renovation contractor who is willing to start an ongoing relationship. The reason is that you will need a dependable and honorable resource for expert advice who can also respond to your repair needs. Many contracting companies provide free advice to prior customers. The key is that it must be a mutually beneficial relationship. This is especially important for the do-it-yourselfers to remember. Another excellent resource for advice and contacts is ImproveNet. (Editor's note: Visit our message boards to ask our experts and other homeowners for advice, and find a prescreened contractor using our free Find a Contractor service.)
Finding a competent, dependable, honorable contractor can be a challenge. But it can be worth the effort in the long run. For prevention help I suggest finding a remodeling or renovation contractor. The reason is that they deal in a variety of construction types and problems. They know who the best people are because they deal with so many subcontractors. In this business, as opposed to new construction, workers must be respectful of property and the homeowner.
It takes an occasional effort to observe your house and a good deal of work to find a trusted contracting resource. Thousands of unwary homeowners face foundation sagging, rotting, termite infestation damage, and water invasion problems. These problems can lead to floors and walls that crack and sag, erosion, or the undermining of masonry piers and footings. Those who put forth the occasional effort can often avoid literal disasters and save many thousands of dollars.
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