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11 Ways to Avoid Costly Home Repairs

Maintain your house now, so you can avoid big problems later on

En español  |  Your house talks to you — and what is it saying? It's giving you early warning signs of potential trouble at its most vulnerable spots, and by paying attention you can prevent costly repairs down the road.




Problems: Fire, carbon monoxide poisoning, high energy costs; water inside the fireplace.

Trouble signs: Smoking fireplace; odor when not used; sooty glass fronts; white, yellow or brown powder inside fireplace; missing or crumbling masonry (indoors or outdoors); cold feeling in room when fireplace isn't used.

What you can do: Smoke, odors or soot suggest build-up of "creosote" fire byproducts, or problems with venting or flue. Crumbling masonry and powder indicates moisture problems (often caused by chimney flashing); a closed or faulty damper causes cold rooms. Install carbon monoxide detectors near fireplaces and put in a chimney cap ($50-$150) to prevent water problems; repair cracks or missing mortar joints in masonry with a silicone sealant.

What it may cost: A professional chimney sweep and inspection costs $150 to $200 and is recommended annually for homeowners using a fireplace at least weekly. Masonry repairs or repointing start at about $200. A carbon monoxide detector costs $25 to $50. An energy-saving fireplace balloon (for when the fireplace is not in use) costs $50; fireplace glass doors or heat exchangers that push warm air into the room cost about $200.

What you could save: Your life; thousands of dollars to repair structural damage. Fireplace balloons, glass doors and heat exchangers reduce energy costs by at least 10 percent per year.


  — Photo by Getty Images

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