It’s nice when your home is practically perfect; everything works, nothing’s broken, and all is right with the world. And then your heater takes a sabbatical or the toilet starts leaking. These things come with the territory.

But when real damage occurs to your home, it’s not that easy to fix, and doing so can be prohibitively expensive. The worst part of it is that if you had known how, you might have been able to prevent it.

Here are three of the leading causes of home damage and what you can do ahead of time to make sure they don’t happen to you:

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Water damage

It’s 10:30 p.m. and you’re ready to go to bed. You walk into the bathroom and are standing at the sink brushing your teeth and you notice a puddle on the floor in front of the bathtub. You look up and there is it: A huge bubble in your ceiling, and it’s full of water.

Water is the leading cause of damage in the home. Whether it’s a burst pipe, a leaky roof, or a toilet that’s backed up, any one of them could end up being really destructive to your home. So how do you prevent them? Prevent burst pipes and have a plumber inspect them, especially in older homes where pipes are more apt to leak.

Roof leaks start mainly from damaged roofing material, but other potential leaky places include skylights or vents. Do a thorough check around any places that water may be able to drip in. You may want to do it when it’s raining; this way you can find places that have more condensation than they should and leaks you don’t know you have.

The toilet or sink could be backed up or clogged for many reasons; most of the time it’s a sewage problem. The way you can prevent this is to flush an enzyme drain treatment down your toilet once a month or so; there are different kinds, so read the label. Enzyme treatments are a kind of bacteria that comes in the form of a powder. These treatments eat up grunge, soap, too much toilet paper and anything else that may be clogging your drains.

Termites

You might notice little piles of what looks like sawdust by a baseboard or a piece of wood that seems worn away or crushed where it shouldn’t be. These symptoms are signs that you have a termite infestation inside your house, and you don’t want it get that far.

There are different types of termites, and they build their colonies in soil or wood. In addition, they have to have a moist environment to survive. Remedy any places where water tends to pool, and fix any leaks in your home. If you have brush or wood lying around anywhere, get rid of it. Avoid using mulch; it provides food and water to termites. Remove any dead tree stumps in your yard.

On top of these preventive measures, have a termite inspection done at least once a year. It could save you thousands of dollars and a lot of grief.

Structural damage

Structural damage is another leading cause of home damage and a pretty serious one at that. Cracks in the drywall, cracks in the outside walls, and foundation damage means you have a serious problem for your home.

As we discussed earlier, water is the leading cause of home damage; it’s the leading cause of structural damage, as well. Water will swell the soil underneath the foundation and that, in turn, weakens the structure of the house. Before any of that happens, here are some things you can do:

  • Avoid planting trees that have deep roots near the house. Roots grow slowly, but as they move, they move the soil in their way. If soil moves, whatever’s sitting on it moves, too.
  • Keep your gutters clean. If there is debris in a gutter and it overflows, it lands on the soil right next to your house.
  • Avoid grades that flow toward your home. Water flows downhill, and if there is sub par grading, it will direct the water back towards your house.
  • Create proper drainage around your home. In addition, basement and foundation waterproofing will help stop any possible contributor to structural damage.

Final thoughts

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” And it is, especially if you have to make an insurance claim. Many insurance companies will deny claims if it is obvious the problem could have been prevented with regular maintenance. Make sure you get multiple quotes, read the fine print and ask lots of questions when shopping for home insurance. It could save you thousands of dollars in the long run.