The question is, what two things will destroy a house the fastest.
Fire of course is normally pretty hard to miss, and most people are aware of the basic things we can do to help prevent a fire in our home. But how many people regularly look around for sources of water intrusion in their home. Let's take a quick look at the things you can do to help keep these two home wreckers at bay.
According to the National Fire Protection Agency, the top 5 causes of home fires are: Cooking, Heating, Electrical, Smoking, and Candles. Looking at this list, you can probably see how these can start a fire, but how can you prevent them?
Cooking: Don't leave the stove on and unattended, and make sure you keep flammable items away from the stove top. Have an appropriate fire extinguisher (Class B, C, or K) readily accessible in the kitchen, and be especially careful when frying food. Grease fires can flare up extremely fast, so have a lid nearby to smother the fire. Don't try to take a flaming pan of oil outside, it won't work out well.
Heating: Keep your heating equipment in good working order, and keep flammable materials away from them. Space heaters, fireplaces, and wood stoves are particularly dangerous, but even a fixed furnace can have exposed surfaces hot enough to start a fire. Read the manufacturer's instructions and labels to make sure you meet the clearances required. If you have a wood burning stove, make sure the chimney is cleaned and inspected annually.
Electrical: This can be one of the hardest to detect potential problems without calling in a professional. Get your home's electrical system inspected when you buy the home, and make sure that only licensed electricians perform work on the system. To help prevent fires, don't overload the electrical system. Extension cords are one of the leading causes of electrical fires. If you have breakers that are regularly tripping, or lights that flicker, you should have the system checked. Upgrading to Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupter breakers can also help prevent electrical fires.
Smoking: Don't leave smoking materials unattended, and don't smoke in bed. Also be careful where you leave lighters and matches if you have children.
Candles: Keep candles away from anything that can be burned, and don't leave them burning unattended. Also make sure they are set in a secure, flame-proof base.
Water can enter a house from many different sources, including rain, plumbing, and groundwater. A healthy home is one that keeps excess water out of the home. Here's some common areas where water enters, and how to prevent them:
Roof: Almost every homebuyer we work with is concerned about the condition of the roof. This is understandable, since the roof protects the home from rain, and it can get a lot of abuse. You should periodically take a look at you roof to make sure there aren't any missing shingles, or otherwise damaged roof materials. You should also take a look at it after any heavy weather or wind events. Sometimes the first sign of a problem is a drip or stain coming from the ceiling. If you see anything concerning, make sure you get a roofer out to inspect and repair your roof.
Siding and windows: Wind driven rain can just as easily enter through the side of your home, so take a look at the exterior of your home to make sure it's in good condition. Check caulk lines and mortar joints to make sure they aren'y cracked, and make any necessary repairs.
Plumbing: Plumbing leaks can be another source of water intrusion. If a supply line breaks, this can lead to catastrophic water damage in a very short time. Drain lines can also cause significant damage, especially since the water in them isn't clean. Check under sinks and wherever your plumbing lines are visible, and look for signs of corrosion or water damage. If you find any, get a plumber out to fix or replace the damaged components.
Groundwater: If you have a basement, regularly check to make sure water isn't getting in. Check after rains or snowmelt for signs of water. Some simple fixes you can do are making sure the ground outside your home slopes away from the house, and making sure downspouts don't discharge next to the foundation. If these don't work, more extensive waterproofing methods may be necessary.