Disclaimer: The below is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes professional advice or specific recommendations.
Owning a home is a commitment — any homeowner is likely to tell you that. Unless you own a newly-constructed house, you may have to expect for there to be constant repairs. Anything from a burst pipe to a leak in the ceiling requires your attention. You may always have an eye or ear out for the smallest of issues: anything from “knocking” in the pipes to a strange odor can be a warning sign that your house is sending you. Here are 9 of some of the most common warning signs, what they mean, and the issues that need your attention — ASAP.
Issue: Musty smells in the basement or attic.
What it means: Moisture is getting into your home.
Moisture finding its way into your house is never good news, and finding where it’s coming from may save you money, time, and many headaches down the road. Of course, moisture can foster the growth of mold overtime, which may be very dangerous to your health, but it can also cause structural damage to your house. Whether it’s rain water, ground-water, moisture sources like humidifiers, or just condensation, find the source and treat it before it causes extensive damage.
Issue: “Water hammer,” or a knocking sound when the water is shut off.
What it means: In most cases, this annoying, persistent sound means that there is variable water pressure in the main supply pipes coming into your home.
The “knocking sound” you may be hearing in the pipes is actually the sound of water hitting the sides as it’s moving violently through your home: without the air used in pressurizing those pipes regulating the flow, the sound occurs. The easiest way to try to solve this problem on your own is to shut off the main supply valve and turning it back on. Then, open all of the faucets and flush your toilets. If you still hear the knocking sound, it may be wise to bring in a plumber.
Issue: You feel a breeze even though all the doors and windows are closed.
What it means: You may just have drafty windows and doors, but the issue could be indicative of a more serious problem: cracks in your house’s foundation.
First, you may want to try to rule out that the fault is with your windows or doors before jumping to the worst-case scenario. But if you’ve exhausted every option, and you believe that your home’s foundation is indeed the problem, you may want to ask for the advice of a qualified foundation repair contractor: there may be areas that need to be sealed.
Issue: Sagging floors and warped ceilings.
What it means: Foundation issues, or structural damage to your home.
These structural changes on the upper floors of your home can signify shifting soil, and that humidity from water is seeping into your home: inadequate foundation waterproofing can contribute to flooring issues. A way you can confirm your suspicions is by placing a tennis ball on the floor and seeing if it rolls. If it does, you may want to call a contractor to examine your home’s foundation.
Issue: Flickering or dimming lights.
What it means: This may be a sign of a serious electrical issue.
If you’ve established that the issue isn’t due to faulty light bulbs or because you installed the wrong bulb type, you may want to consider the fact that there may be loose connections in light switches, outlets, or your electrical panel. Try toggling the on-off switch, and if the lights dim, then this may be the issue causing the lights to flicker.
However, you may want to consider that this may the sign of a more serious and dangerous issue: faulty connections somewhere along the circuit in your home. This may cause unsafe levels of heat in your home. Contact an electrician to address this problem.
Issue: Musky odor.
What it means: An impending pest infestation.
Pests, especially mice, will let you know that they’ve set up camp in your home through noise and smell. While they may only make noise at night, when you are sleeping, you may be able to smell them around the clock. The odor is distinct, often compared to a musky odor with a distinct note of ammonia. Track down the source of the smell, and you may find a few pests hiding behind your walls. They’re often found in the basement or in the kitchen — places that are considered high risk for these little critters.
Issue: Blisters in wood flooring.
What it means: A possible termite infestation.
Blistered, hollowed, or damaged wood can be serious issues if the problem stems from a termite infestation. Your house may already have suffered structural damage — but to make sure, hire a contractor in addition to an exterminator.
Issue: Sticking windows
What it means: Difficulty opening or closing windows can have a variety of causes, from dampness to termite infestations.
This is is a little harder to determine, as anything from expanding wood to moisture can cause windows to stick. A rusty frame, often hidden by a paint job, is another cause. If you’re looking at a house and you see a new paint job, you may want to make sure that it isn’t trying to conceal an issue like this. Termites, in addition to causing damage to the wood in your home, may also be responsible for sticking windows.
Your home has many nooks and crannies, and you may not know what hides in all of them. If you pay attention to the sights, smells, and sounds coming from your walls and floors, you may be able to discern all the warning signs your home is trying to send you.
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