40 Unexpected Ways Homeowners Damaged Their Homes That Everyone Should Know
40 Unexpected Ways Homeowners Damaged Their Homes That Everyone Should Know
by Stefanie October 20, 2023
Oh boy, you wouldn’t believe some of the things people have done to their homes by accident. I stumbled upon a hilarious yet cringe-worthy Reddit thread over in the r/homeowners group where folks were sharing their not-so-proud moments and homeowner fails. From plumbing fails to people flushing non-flushable wipes, homeowners have found about some wild ways to unintentionally wreak havoc on their sacred spaces.
If there’s one thing to learn from their misadventures, it’s that sometimes a DIY spirit needs to be paired with a hefty dose of caution. Worth a read if you’re in the mood for some good laughs and facepalms.
And speaking from personal experience, as a homeowner myself, I’ve come to realize just how many little things there are to keep in mind when maintaining your property. It’s not always the big, glaring issues that trip you up; sometimes, it’s those sneaky, small tasks that slip through the cracks.
Over time, I’ve gathered a checklist of minor (but crucial) chores and advice to ensure my home stays in tip-top shape. Trust me, a little proactive care goes a long way in preventing those “Oh no!” moments. See this list to find out if you’ve been making any of the same mistakes as these homeowners. Hopefully, you won’t need to learn the hard way from these homeowner fails.
Flushing “flushable” wipes.
New homeowner at 26 and grilled too close to the plastic siding of my house and warped it
Brick is meant to breathe. Painting it can trap moisture inside your walls.
I was this dummy. My toilet started running. Intermittently at first but then more frequently. I kept putting it off. Then I had three major surgeries back to back and put off looking at the bills until they were due at the end of the month. My water bill was somewhere around $550 dollars. It is normally $50!
Then because I’d put off looking at it until the end of the month and the water bill invoices for the month before that, I hadn’t caught it in time. So when the next month’s bill arrived it was $650ish!
It was just piece inside the tank that needed swapped out. A $10 part that literally took 4 minutes. It cost me over $1k just because I kept putting off looking at a toilet that had started running.
Putting egg shells down your drain/garbage disposal. Tons of people do it. It can create a cement and clog your drain. A plumber told my wife that decades ago so we never did it. I figured there’s no harm in not doing it so better safe than sorry. Then some friends of ours had plumbing problems. Lucky for them, the point of compaction was above an unfinished room so it was easy to get to. He cut out a section of PVC pipe and it was like a chunk of cement inside. All caused from egg shells.
Moved to texas around a year ago. Learned the hard way that during dry hot months you are supposed to water your foundation to help the clay like soil settle in and around it. Wtf ,water my house?
Not paying attention to wooden things that need periodic painting. Porch posts, door trim, fences, etc. If you don’t keep up with it, it rots. Then you have to replace porch posts, door trim, fences, etc.
I had no idea until things rotted. 😂
Husband’s coworker hired someone to remove a tree from his backyard. They quoted him $600 to do it. Dude was not insured or licensed. Near as we can tell, it was just a dude who owned a chainsaw.
Tree fell on the house, damaged part of the roof, siding, and took out the electricity. His insurance wouldn’t cover it because the dude who did it was just a dude. Took 4 days to get the electricity fixed. The dude who took down the tree “felt really bad” about the damage he caused, so is going to fix it all himself.
Husband’s coworker had owned the house less than a month.
When every adult does not know where the whole-house water shutoff valve is.
Furnace filters. Replace them more often than you think you need. Don’t run ultra high MERV ratings. You need airflow over your indoor coil for the system to work well.
Friend decided to finish his basement. Built his stud wall on the ground and tipped it up to place, discovered it was an inch or two taller then it should have been. Instead of taking it down/apart and cutting to size, he managed to force it into place essentially jacking up a section of his 1st floor. Upstairs, tile grout began to crack and come up, doors didn’t shut/latch properly and you could see new gaps between the baseboards and flooring.
Ignoring very basic maintenance like clearing debris causing water to pool on roofs. And ignoring caulking around windows.
My Aunt and Uncle had a beautiful Spanish mission style house from the 1920s. And it was in really good condition when they bought it.
Roughly 20-25 years later, the only thing in halfway decent condition were the wood floors. Roof was shot and actively leaking in multiple rooms. Causing plaster ceilings to just fall.
Exterior walls were destroyed. Framing was completely destroyed, and again plaster just falling off he walls.
The house stood in great condition for over 70 years. And through minor neglect, fell apart in the last 20.
Oh pick me! I had a wash sink next to my washing machine. Had NO idea that the washing machine actually drained into the sink. Left a pile of rags in the sink and flooded the whole basement. I would like to say this was isolated, but I went on to do it two more times. The shop vac was my friend.
Not paying attention to termites invading his garage. The framing was so chewed up that the only thing keeping it standing was the outside stucco. And he won’t take advice on it
I only learned recently about the filter in the dishwasher and I’m so grossed out.
* ignoring the anode rod replacement requirements of your hot water heater* not changing furnace filters often enough, can damage carpet with gross stains and put stress on the HVAC unit* using those chlorine tablets in your toilet tank, causing plastic parts to degrade and eventually fail
Ignorance in process with my neighbor. They have a very large Oak in their front yard. Its worked its way into their septic and the trunk is only about 10ft from the house. All of the weight is to one side and about 10 years ago the soil was flat around the whole trunk. Hurricane came in, all the sudden the back is elevated a bit. Told the owner, he moved, told the new owner. They have ignored it, then this last year the back soil raised about 2-3 inches in a day. The opposing side, the ground has sunk a couple inches. Bottom line is the tree is leaning bad, neighbor was told again. It is going to fall, just a matter of when. The way it sits and leans, it will destroy their septic system, any cars in the driveway, and take out the front 10ft of their garage. The trunk could hit the house and do a lot of damage, but the roots pulling will damage the foundation for sure. The roots also have their water line running through them so they will lose water. They could spend 3k now and remove it but will probably let it do $50-150k in damage instead.
Our sump pump was working when we moved in but about 9 months later we had a week of heavy spring rains. I realized I hadn’t heard the sump pump making noise for awhile so I went into the garage to check the 3ft crawlspace we never use which runs the length of our entire house. I kid you not — we had a 2ft deep swimming pool under our home. We spent $7k on getting the water pumped out, mold mitigation, getting a vapor barrier installed, and replacing the sump pump with one that has an alarm. The old sump pump was the cheapest one our plumber had ever seen. Would’ve been nice if our home inspector had bothered to mention it.
Previous homeowners bricked over the only (tiny) access point to the crawlspace. It’s been super fun trying to fix copper plumbing lines they ran under the house, up an exterior wall to the 2nd floor laundry. Every winter they freeze a few times. There’s supposedly a heating line on them but I expect it’s no longer working.
I’m using next weekend to pull out the floor in the back stairwell to create a new access point so I can get under and see what’s happening. I dread going into the crawlspace, been here for 7 years and I have no idea what to expect
Forgot to take a hose off of the spigot before the first freeze of winter.
Not replacing sump pumps before they stop working
Not cleaning out gutters or making sure water flows away from your foundation.
Unplugging smoke detectors instead of changing batteries. Also smoke detectors do wear out and need replacing.
Not having a carbon monoxide detector.
Not caulking windows, tubs, etc. Water is your enemy.
Not reroofing your house. Water will leak in and start ruining your house. Also mold. You do not want mold!
Not cleaning. Dirt and grime accumulates and then is near impossible to clean after awhile.
Not maintaining and updating as you go. Your house is an investment. Keep it so when you do want to sell you get something out of it.
A future customer replaced the ballcock in his second-floor toilet and then went out of town.A neighbor called the police the next day when water started coming out the front door.Always call a licensed plumber.
Forgetting to clean the condensation line on my HVAC.
During a hot streak in the summer, the condensation line got clogged. Water slowly leaked out of the HVAC (it was in a utility closet so no idea how long it was leaking.) The water leaked under the drywall to the adjacent room, and ruined all of the flooring.
Hubby and I did a major FUBAR with our first home. Clogged gutters… for years, water pooling in our crawlspace without even knowing it. I mean, standing water for weeks at a time. We were blissfully unaware at first. It wasn’t until the house started getting shifty and wonky that we grasped what was going on.
Disclosed to buyers, they bought it anyway. Must’ve had a lot more disposable income than us. Didn’t think we could sell it with those issues. Still turned a helluva profit. We moved into a smaller home, but lesson learned: the gutters are pristine and in good working order.
What were we doing owning a house?! We’re much older and better now… or at least I’d like to think so. lol
I once left a bottle of toilet bowl cleaner on the laminate countertop. It leaked and permanently etched the countertop.
Previous owner tried to touch up the tile in the showers. In one she put a fiberglass mold on the floor without support then covered it with tile, so my heel went through it the first time I stepped in.
In the other one they either cheaped out on tile or didn’t have the means to cut tile to the right size, so left a nearly inch-wide band of grout between the shower floor and the wall. I didn’t notice the narrow wall-length crack in it until water started pouring through the seam and onto the floor.
Thankfully this was in a finished basement level with tile and no damage was done. If it was on an upper floor with hardwood flooring I would have been screwed beyond belief.
Moral of the story: don’t F with water seals unless you know what you’re doing.
Ignoring problems. If paint is peeling or something is leaking, it’s always going to be easier and cheaper to fix it right away instead of waiting.
Putting hamburger grease down the drain.
Check for gas leaks regularly!!! The detectors are less than $20 on Amazon. You can get acclimated to the rotten egg smell they add to make it more noticeable. Whole neighborhoods have been wiped off the map by gas leaks. Our newly purchased (one year) home nearly killed me this year. A pocket of leaked natural gas had floated into and sat in our nearby bedroom from the kitchen after I made a whole bunch of stuff for dinner with the gas oven and stove.
Something I learned late in life but thankfully early in homeownership… ladies – tampons aren’t flushable!!!!!!!
Gutters, downspouts, and deciduous trees over your roof
Don’t turn off your pilot lights!!! Your gas fireplace is supposed to have a tiny flame going at all times, and your furnace!
Putting duct tape or plastic bags over bad siding. House has mold now. New buyer who is rehabbing it has a lot of fun ahead.
*Anything with water*.
Water is evil in liquid form.
Garbage disposal, flushable wipes, and never pumping your septic tank.
Not routinely checking your crawl space. Had a main drain line plumbing leak and rodent infestation. Not sure how long, but it was bad when we found it.
Check your attic
I’ve seen stone countertops destroyed by the use of the wrong cleaners and lack of proper care.
First apartment, I washed the bathroom sink with steel wool. It removed all the shine.
Stefanie is an architect with 15+ years of working both independently as well as on teams of some of the top Architectural Firms in the country located in Atlanta, Washington D.C. and New York. She currently runs BoardBatten.com a coastal architecture and design service in Port Aransas, Texas. She is also the wife of the dude who runs Pleated-Jeans.