You’ve probably heard the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” But you might be surprised to learn that the author of that axiom, Ben Franklin, wasn’t talking about the virtues of healthy living. Rather, he was urging Philadelphians in 1736 to step up their fire-safety efforts.
All homeowners would do well to heed Franklin’s words, and not just when it comes to fire prevention. If you spend a little time ensuring that your house is in order, you can catch potential problems early and reduce the risk that you’ll have to deal with a much bigger issue—and expense—later.
Here are three simple things you can do right now to avoid having to file a homeowners insurance claim and make costly repairs to your home:
1. Keep a fire extinguisher near your kitchen and laundry room.
Picture this: The dryer in your laundry room catches fire. In your desperation to put out the flames, you pour a bucket of water over your dryer. After a few rounds of this, you extinguish the fire—but also cause water damage to your hardwood floors. A fire extinguisher could have taken care of the problem without the added headache. Kitchen-size extinguishers are inexpensive, they’re portable, and they’re easy to use: Just pull out the pin and squeeze the trigger.
2. Locate your main water shutoff valve.
If a pipe or water supply line bursts in your home, it can flood multiple rooms in minutes. It’s like having a hose turned on inside your house. Your best move in that situation: Turn off the “hose,” which in this case is the main water line to the house. Take time now to find the valve and commit its location to memory; that allows you to act quickly in an emergency. In colder climates, where pipes might freeze, the valve is usually inside the house, near the water meter. In warmer areas, it’s typically at the front of the house, near an outside faucet. To shut off the water, simply pull the handle into the off position or turn the valve clockwise until it stops.
3. Inspect your roof.
Check your roof at least once a year. You can probably even do it yourself using a ladder. Look for missing or worn shingles, which could result in a leak in the next rainstorm. Pay special attention to areas around chimneys, vents, and skylights, which are prime spots for leaks if they’re not sealed right. If anything concerns you, call a roofer and make an appointment for a general roof inspection. And fix any trouble spots ASAP.