In the 11 years that my husband and I have been homeowners, we’ve had:
- Our neighbor’s tree fall on our house
- Another neighbor’s tree fall on our garage
- A sewer line back up
- three gas leaks
- A power surge fry our downstairs HVAC unit
So, it’s fair to say we have a bit of experience with the “what could go wrong?” side of homeownership, and because of that, we’ve taken a few extra precautionary measures to ensure that these problems (and others like it) don’t come up again. These are inexpensive fail-safes that I think everyone should implement, but unfortunately most people don’t even know they exist. So, let’s change that.
I’m going to tell you what we’ve done to protect our home, in the hopes that you’ll implement these measures in your home, and then tell your friends about them so they can do the same. Because spending a few bucks on preventatives is so much better than spending thousands on repairs.
And now, here’s what we did to diaster-proof our home.
We installed a whole house surge protector. It’s a small device that plugs into your breaker box, and protects your home’s systems and electronic devices in the event of a power surge. Plugging your computer into a surge protector strip is good, but this is a lot better. We spent about $50 for the device, and compared to the $6,000 that we spent on a new HVAC system after the electric company fried ours, I’d say that’s a really cheap insurance policy. I honestly don’t understand why these aren’t standard equipment. My parents had their alarm system modem and computer destroyed in a surge, so it happens a lot more than you might think.
When our neighbor’s tree fell on our house, we were forced to do a complete gut redo of our home. Since we already had all the walls opened up, we decided to do some upgrades to our alarm system, including adding water sensors in each bathroom. Now, if we ever have a plumbing failure, it’ll be caught and reported right away (whether we’re home or not).
Water isn’t something we’ve ever had a problem with, but my parents have. Several years back, they had a toilet fail while they were out at dinner, and came home to a flooded house – all three levels. It was scary to see how much damage occurred in just a couple hours. Since then, my husband and I always cut the water off before going out of town. I don’t ever want to see what a week’s worth of water damage looks like, especially when it’s so easy to avoid.
And if you’re hesitant about spending the money, consider this: having an alarm system saves us 20% on our homeowner’s insurance. Adding the water sensors earned us another 20% discount. That more than makes up for the monthly monitoring fees, and it’s great peace of mind.
To further cut our chances of suffering a major plumbing fail, we also pay close attention to the condition of our washing machine hoses. They wear out over time, and should be replaced every five years or at the first sign that they’re breaking down. It takes $20 bucks and less than 10 minutes to swap out your hoses, so there’s no reason not to do it. I even have a tutorial to walk you through the process.
You can now buy water shutoff valves for your washing machine, and I plan to invest in a kit soon. There’s a little water sensor that sits on the floor behind your washing machine, and if it detects any moisture, it cuts the water supply, so your house doesn’t get flooded. Pretty dang smart. I went to the store last night to price them, and ran into a friend who was buying new washer hoses because hers had just flooded her laundry room. No joke. Washer hoses fail ALL. THE. TIME. And while this device is expensive (it was $165.00 when I checked on Amazon), I’d rather pay that now than the $1,000 deductible I’d have to pay, if our washing machine were to flood our home.
We use natural gas to heat our home and our water, and if you’re going to do that, you really need to have a carbon monoxide detector on each level of your home. But after three leaks (at our water heater, at the gas log and in a line), we stepped it up a notch, and bought detectors that monitor for both carbon monoxide and natural gas.
After the whole tree-on-house debacle, we got serious about doing a home inventory. We’d done one years ago, but it had never been as thorough as it needed to be. Putting a new one together was pure torture, but we now have a detailed catalog of our belongings complete with serial numbers and photos to back it up.
I couldn’t find a home inventory worksheet that gave you enough space to list everything you need to, so I created my own, and shared it over at thebalance.com. You can get it here.
Please, please put this on your to-do list. Your homeowner’s insurance policy will only bail you out of a disaster, if you’re able to prove what you lost. So do a detailed home inventory, and then make several copies of it. I have a copy in our fire safe, one on my computer, one on the cloud and I even sent a copy to my sister. That may sound like overkill, but I like knowing we’re covered.
So that’s what I’ve done to disaster-proof my home. Have you done any of these things? Are there additional measures that you’ve put in place? If so, I’d love to hear about them.