32 Ways You’re Ruining Your Home and Don’t Even Know It

Gladys T. Black
Man mowing grass near his house

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Spending a lot of time at home? Ha. That was a rhetorical question. Of course you are. In fact, our home’s walls, floors, porch, patio, roof, plumbing, lights — and so on — are pretty much what form our safety net these days. When you look at it that way, of course you want to do everything you can to protect that inner sanctum. But you might not be doing such a great job. In fact, there are dozens of ways you can damage your home without even thinking about it. From the lawn to the roof — and lots of stuff in between — here are some bad homeowner habits you might want to think about breaking.

Related: 13 Little Home Improvement Projects That Make a Big Impact

Closeup top view of unrecognizable home cleaning products with blue bucket and a mop on the side. All products placed on white tiled bathroom floor.

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Whether you’re cleaning floors, countertops, stove tops, or other surfaces of your home, what you grab out of the cleaning supplies matters. You shouldn’t, for example, use chemical cleaners on painted cabinets, a water-based cleaner on laminate flooring, vinegar on granite anything, lemon juice on marble countertops, and so on. Doing so can result in dullness, warping, and erosion. Be mindful of the surface you’re cleaning, and do your research.

Related: Disinfecting Wipes Will Destroy These Products

An old rusted out and broken domestic water heater.

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Over time, a crusty sediment made up of minerals and other debris can build up inside your water heater, eventually causing clogs and malfunctioning if not addressed. To avoid this, drain your water heater at least once a year following the instructions offered by sites like The Allstate Blog (or call a plumber).

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We get it — it’s easy to forget about something you hardly ever lay eyes on, but neglecting your roof can lead to unwelcome outcomes like moisture damage, structural problems, mold growth, and more. Experts recommend you check your roof — or have it checked — at least a couple times of year for missing or damaged shingles or tiles; plant, moss, or mildew growth; and any other signs of deterioration.

Related: DIY Disasters: 20 Repairs to Leave to the Pros

Close up on Bath vent fan. Bathroom ventilation system.

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Not addressing the regular rounds of moisture that happen on the daily in your home’s loo will cause damage over time in the form of warping or mold and mildew growth. Use your bathroom’s exhaust system after your shower and, if you don’t have an exhaust fan in there, be sure to open a window to let moisture escape.

Related: What You Don’t Know About Mold Can Ruin Your Life

Bathmat in front of a rollmop bath

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Here again, that wicked culprit — moisture. Throwing wet towels or laundry on the floor on the regular can cause warping and stains. Same goes for your bathroom rug — if it gets too wet, be sure to hang it up somewhere to dry out.

Related: Are You Making These Laundry Mistakes?

House cleaning and scrubbing the floor concept with close up of a hand wearing yellow rubber gloves cleaning up a spilled cup of coffee on a carpet with a sponge and a bottle of carpet cleaner

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When it comes to carpet spills, time is of the essence when cleaning them up. Most stains become harder to pull out of your carpet’s fibers the longer they sit, and if they seep down deep and are allowed to remain, they can encourage mold and mildew growth.

Low Section Of A Person Cleaning The Carpet With Vacuum Cleaner In Living Room

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Shampooing your carpets too often or oversaturing them when you do is a big no-no. If you do have to go over a spot a few times to remove stains, check the carpet by running your hand over it afterward. If it has residual moisture on it, suction again until that goes away.

Related: Best Carpet Cleaners

Man fixing a pipe under a sink

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If you’re seeing a theme developing here, you’re spot on. Unabated moisture is one of the biggest causes of damage in any home, so regular checks for mildew, mold, leaks, puddles, drips, and the like — in obvious and not-so-obvious places — are well worth your time.

Related: 25 Germ Magnets That Need Cleaning Now

teen mowing the lawn

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People cut their grass short so that they don’t have to mow as often, but according to experts, this is one of the biggest lawn care mistakes that homeowners can make. Lawn Doctor notes that doing so “limits the lawn’s ability to store (photosynthetic) energy, restricting its nutrient supply and ultimately choking the grass.” If done too often, it can “weaken or even kill your lawn.”

fertilizer pellets spraying from spreader

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Using the correct amount of fertilizer can result in a lush green landscape. But use too much, and it will result in “fertilizer burn” — a lawn with patches of brown, crispy grass. Why? Fertilizer contains salts, and too much of it will weaken the grass and its roots and affect soil health.

Related: How to Stop Spending $400 a Year on Your Lawn and Garden

Sprinklers in the lawn

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We all know what under-watering your lawn will do, but can a lawn actually have too much of a good thing? Affirmative. Just like us, grass — and especially its roots — needs oxygen for health, and too much water keeps pockets of space around the roots filled with water, pushing out the air. Once this happens, the stressed grass becomes more susceptible to disease and insect damage.

grass clippings in bag

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If you regularly have trash bags of grass lining your curb or alleyway after mowing, you should stop that practice now. Grass clippings contain nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, and lesser amounts of other nutrients that promote the health of other green things. Leave them in the yard, or rake them up and use them as mulch around other landscaping.

Related: 12 Reasons to Get Rid of Your Lawn

growing grass in yard

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Most commercial grass seed products have more than one type of grass in them, and that’s by design. Grasses react differently to different environmental conditions — disease, weather, and so on — so having more than one type of grass in your lawn hedges your bets that one will stay healthy and green while others might be affected.

Related: 22 Tips to Keep Gardening Dirt Cheap

Close up from a man's hand trimming and landscaping trees with shears.

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Not only can trimming your trees improve their health and appearance, but it helps keep them from damaging your home’s roof and siding. According to The Allstate Blog, if branches are smaller than 2 inches in diameter, you can perform the job yourself. Anything bigger, you should consider hiring an arborist for, both for the health of the tree and your own safety.

man cleaning the gutter from autumn leaves

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Gutters are gutters for a reason. If they’re filled with debris and dirt, they can’t do their job properly, and you can end up with water damage inside your home, over-weighted gutters that are in danger of coming loose, or exterior wood rot if what’s inside those gutters stays wet for extended periods of time. Experts recommend cleaning gutters out a couple of times per year.

Related: This Spring Home Maintenance Checklist Could Save You Thousands

hand on furnace changing air filters

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Replacing your HVAC filter regularly will add a number of benefits to your home, including improving air quality, energy efficiency, and temperature control. It will also reduce the number of repairs to your HVAC system and extend the life of our unit. How often you change it depends on a number of factors.

Related: How to Make Sure Your Appliances Don’t Fail When You Can’t Get Them Repaired

Professional cleaning a chimney

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Chimney fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association, are one of the leading causes of heating-caused fires in homes, second only to space heaters. Chimney fires ignite when creosote builds up inside of them, an issue that is easily fixed with a chimney cleaning. The NFPA recommends at least an annual inspection and cleaning of wood-fueled fireplaces and chimneys.

Man working on a roof

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We all like to save money, which can lead to many a DIY home repair. But if that repair is done poorly or wrong, it will likely cost you more money in the long run. Almost a third of contractors’ work is estimated to come from do-it-yourself projects that have gone awry. If a home repair or improvement project falls outside your skill set, do yourself a favor and call a pro.

Insulate Plumbing And Pipes

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If you haven’t emptied and insulated the exposed pipes in your home’s exterior or unheated rooms come the first serious frost, you could be in for some serious damage when those pipes burst. Cover them with extra insulation or heating tape to prevent major flooding.

Related: 19 Steps to Prep Your House for Fall and Winter

open front door of house

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Regularly slammed doors will eventually push that door’s jamb out of alignment with its trim, a practice that can create air gaps that affect your home’s ability to keep moisture and cold air out.

dryer lint trap

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The U.S. Fire Administration estimates that there are nearly 3,000 dryer fires each year, causing an estimated five deaths, 100 injuries, and $35 million in property loss. Just over a third of those fires are caused by failure to clean out the dryer lint. If this is something you regularly neglect, put a sticky note up in your laundry room to remind yourself.

Related: The Best Cheap Dryers

hands replacing the battery in a smoke alarm

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If a fire does start in your house, a warning signal could not only mean saving your home, but saving the lives inside of it. Check your smoke alarm batteries on the regular. It’s an easy task to forget, so set reminders in your phone, on a smart home device, or on your calendar if need be.

Wearing Shoes Inside the House

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Yes, shoe soles are more abrasive than socks or bare feet and can cause scratches or scrapes on flooring, especially over the long term. But the issue goes deeper — and is considerably more gross — than that. A University of Arizona study found nine species of bacteria — including fecal bacteria — on the bottom of participants’ shoes, and over the span of 14 days found 440,000 units of bacteria on a single pair of shoes.

Related: 10 Household Items You Should Clean More Often (and Three You Shouldn’t)

burning charcoal in camping

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Cooking outdoors is an American pastime, but putting that grill too close to the house can both cause a fire — the National Fire Protection Association says that charcoal and gas grills are responsible for nearly 10,000 U.S. home fires each year — and cause your home’s siding to warp and melt.

Related: 11 Hot Tips to Make Your Grill Last

Don’t Forget About Caulking And Weather Stripping

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Homeowners regularly underestimate the benefits of caulk, for which Bob Vila notes that there are many uses. Most notably, it can help with improved energy efficiency, moisture control, and keeping insects and other pests out of your foundation and structure.

Related: 20 Ways to Upgrade Your Home That Will Save Money in 2021

Never Closing Blinds and Curtains

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Keeping window coverings open all day, every day can flood your home with natural light. That’s a good thing — until it isn’t. UV rays can cause flooring, and particularly hardwood flooring, to fade and discolor.

Power Outlet

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If you live in an older home without ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets, which trip electrical circuits when they detect ground faults or leakage currents — preventing shock and electrocution — simply plugging an adapter into your two-pronged outlets for use with a three-pronged device could cause an electrical fire or power surge. Instead, hire an electrician to come replace the outlet for you.

Aftermath of a "copper only" outlet connected to aluminum wiring. It nearly set the house on fire

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If you’ve got electrical wiring in your home that you know is less than ideal or damaged, don’t wait to fix it. This Old House notes that while some wiring problems are merely “inconveniences … others can pose serious fire or electrocution hazards.” Have a trusted electrician come look at the issue to see which category it falls into. And flickering lights? Check to make sure the bulb is tight. If it already is, flickering lights can signal wiring issues that could pose danger to your home and its occupants.

Cooking Pan with Hot Frying Oil

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If you’re still pouring grease down your drain, now’s the time to stop. That grease might be liquid going down, but once it starts to cool or pool, it’ll solidify and start to block pipes. Over time, this can cause serious plumbing issues. Not sure what to do with that grease? A countertop grease container is a great solution.

Related: 17 Lies That Plumbers Tell to Drain Your Wallet

Cleaning stove

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You likely paid a lot for your stove — why take the chance of ruining it with the wrong cleaner? Depending on the type of cooktop you have, chances are you need to be using something specific to wipe it down and scrub it up. For instance, a glass cooktop requires a certain type of polish, and using a cleaning pad made specifically for that surface will lessen the chances of it getting permanently scratched.

creamy fabric cleaning with a Microfiber Cloth

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While some kinds of paints can hold up to a fair amount of scrubbing, eggshell, flat, or stained surfaces may start to rub off if you scrub too hard. If you have a stubborn wall stain, lay some towels down on the floor around it, soak it with a gentle cleaner — nothing with ammonia or bleach, for example — and see if that does the trick. Repeated attempts might be necessary, and if that doesn’t do it, apply a paste of water and baking soda and let that sit before wiping it down again.

Related: 13 Steps to Painting a Room Like a Pro

Dirty dishwasher

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Yes, it washes your dishes, so it might seem logical to think that it never needs cleaning itself, but your dishwasher will need some degree of maintenance, or it won’t last as long as it could. This is as easy as checking your dishwasher filter on the regular — about every month or two — to empty it and keep it clean. If you want to go a step further, wipe down the rubber seals with a bleach solution at the same time — a 2018 study found that those often harbor sources of bacterial and fungal infections.

Related: 16 Filthy Things Even Clean Freaks Miss

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