By Sal Vaglica of This Old House magazine // Illustration by Ross MacDonald

Your home means the world to you—of course you intend to do right by it, from the front door to the wood floors to the walls, the roof, the porch, and yes, the septic system. But sometimes you may (unwittingly) get it wrong, and then compound any potential damage you inflict by repeating your mistake again…and again. Luckily, we’re here to help. Coming up: our list of common ways even the most well-intentioned homeowners habitually hurt their houses, with advice on how to do better from here on.

1 | Maxing out Closet Rods
Hanging too many duds on that pole can not only cause it to bend or break—risking a pileup on the floor—it may also strain mounting hardware installed with undersize anchors, making Swiss cheese of your drywall.
INSTEAD: Only use steel rods and metal supports. The pole’s length should be just ¼ inch less than the span between the rod supports for maximum contact. Install additional brackets every 48 inches to stabilize a long rod. Screwing into wall studs is best, but if that’s not possible, secure hardware to a length of 1×4 that spans studs on both sides of the closet.

2 | Slamming the Front Door
Repeatedly slamming a hefty entry door pushes its jamb out of alignment. Over time, the momentum can force the door from the opening, causing the seam where trim meets jamb to separate and leaving an exterior gap where moisture and cold air can infiltrate.
INSTEAD: Replace existing hinges with self-closing versions. “These can be adjusted so that the door closes softly without slamming,” says This Old House general contractor Tom Silva. On heavy wood doors, replace all three hinges; lightweight steel doors may need to have only one or two upgraded.

3 | Letting Outdoor rugs Lie
Inviting as they might be for summer’s bare feet, outdoor rugs with rubber or vinyl backings shouldn’t be left in place; they tend to trap water and invite mold and mildew, leading to spongy porch or deck planks, not to mention creepy-crawlies.
INSTEAD: Choose an open-weave rug that allows rainwater to evaporate and air to circulate. To clean your alfresco floor covering, rinse gently with a hose and hang over a railing until fully dry.

4 | Neglecting Gutters
When water flowing off the roof can’t move through gutter troughs thanks to fallen leaves, pine needles, and branches, it dumps along the foundation, where it can seep into tiny cracks and crevices.
INSTEAD: Make sure to clean gutters before spring rains, checking to see that winter’s snow and ice haven’t pulled them away from the fascia. After cleaning, and while you still have the ladder out, install mesh gutter guards to help speed up your next degunking.

5 | Walking on the Roof
It’s true that keeping gutters clear and spotting roof damage early precludes pricey repairs, but stepping onto the shingles is risky for any DIYer. It can not only damage roofing but will also void the manufacturer’s warranty.
INSTEAD: Clean gutters from a ladder with a stabilizer bar to protect the troughs’ thin-gauge metal. Check for worn or missing shingles using binoculars while standing safely on the ground.

6 | Flushing all those ‘flushable’ wipes
The rise in popularity of premoistened, so-called flushable bathroom wipes is the root cause of many a home (and municipal) plumbing problem. Once down the drain, the nonwoven fabric congeals with grease and other materials, causing icky, stubborn clogs that aren’t easily dislodged.
INSTEAD: Place a covered trash bin in the bathroom for safer disposal or just stick to good ol’ paper TP, which biodegrades like lightning by comparison.

7 | Storing Too Much Stuff Under a Porch or a Deck
Making use of the space under a wood deck or a porch floor makes sense, but packing in outdoor furniture, a ladder, the grill, and more during the off-season can hinder air circulation, trapping moisture and building up enough heat to warp the boards.
INSTEAD: Leave at least 12 inches of open space beneath the joists to allow air to move in and out. And never put termite food—er, firewood—under there.

8 | Building Fires Too Big
A hearth fire shouldn’t look like a blazing bonfire; the more it roars, the more likely it is to do damage. “Burning wrapping paper or pizza boxes can cause a fire to jump from 300°F to 1,700°F,” says chimney expert Mark Schaub. Those high temps can buckle a metal lining or crack one made of terra-cotta.

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This content is not the product of the National Association of REALTORS®, and may not reflect NAR's viewpoint or position on these topics and NAR does not verify the accuracy of the content.