As a homeowner, you know there are some upgrades and repairs that, by necessity, must be categorized in the “I’ll get to it later” pile. The truth is that there’s always some kind of maintenance to do, whether it is fixing up old and out-of-date plumbing or giving the bathroom flooring an aesthetic refresh. And, for the most part, this system works out just fine. We focus on what needs the most attention and wait on the ones that don’t. And, as all homeowners love to say: It never ends!

But there are a few important home improvement upgrades and repairs you shouldn’t toss in the “later” pile, especially if they could pose a threat beyond just being visually unsightly. If left unaddressed, some small issues can turn into big ones that could be dangerous for your family and lead to costly repairs down the road. Here are a few of the upgrades and maintenance tasks you should never let lapse.

  • Cracked or Broken Tiles – Besides the fact that they’re not the prettiest things on the planet, cracked or broken tiles may not seem like a huge deal. But they may pose a threat to the members of your household, including your kids and pets. The truth is that chipped tiles often have very sharp edges, and they can easily get loose, leading to cuts and scrapes. For small breaks, you may be able to fix things yourself with the help of a handy tile cutter and some replacement tiles.
  • Inefficient Windows – Got inefficient windows? They’re probably weighing down your energy bill and making your family freeze. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), switching to energy-efficient windows can shrink your energy bill by an average of 12 percent! Old windows can be super-charming, so we’re not saying you should rip them out and replace them with brand-new ones. And, if they’re original, please don’t! But you can make a couple of upgrades to help ensure that they’re more efficient. Addressing drafts or having a woodworker repair the trim can do wonders at helping seal in the air.

  • Broken Glass Windows – Of course, if your windows have any cracks or holes in them, you’ll need to have this addressed immediately. Not only can compromised windows mess with your energy bill and ability to control the climate throughout your home, but they can also create a weak point for intruders, including burglars and curious neighborhood animals. On top of that, broken glass can pose a risk to kids and pets, so make sure to fix these up as soon as possible.
  • Mold in the Basement – If you live in an old house, a little bit of mold—and finding ways to deal with it—is just par for the course in wet areas like the basement or garage. But that doesn’t mean we should let it go unnoticed. Having your basement waterproofed—or doing it yourself—as well as installing dehumidifiers drastically reduces the amount of moisture in the space, which, in turn, reduces the amount of mold.

Mold can cause serious allergic reactions and can even trigger asthma attacks and respiratory inflammation. On top of that, mold compromises your ability to use the basement or garage for storage or living, so getting it dealt with is a good way to expand your home’s usable square footage.

  • Broken or Non-Working Smoke Alarms – This one’s pretty obvious, but don’t neglect any of the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms throughout your home. We’re all guilty of occasionally removing the batteries while cooking something a bit smoky, but always make sure you put them back immediately.
  • Chimney Repairs – The ability to have a live burning fire when it’s cold out is absolutely unparalleled, especially if you live in a chilly climate. But be aware that chimneys—especially those in old homes—are susceptible to damage that could be a fire hazard. Make sure you have your chimney inspected on a routine basis at least once a year and address any repairs immediately.

Unfortunately, the buildup of creosote—a flammable, dark-brown coating—throughout the chimney can turn the smokestack into a serious fire hazard, so make sure you keep it clean. Repairing or replacing your chimney’s flue liner may be necessary for your safety.

  • A Leaking or Inefficient Roof – Roofs are among the costlier home repairs, so it’s not surprising that so many of us have put the roof replacement off a bit too long. With that said, you really should put a roof replacement at the top of your list if you think your shoddy old roof is causing leaks or preventing your ability to properly control the temperature in your house.

A bad roof is also to blame for welcoming rodents and other unwanted pests, so taking care of cracks, holes, and leaks is absolutely essential. A typical asphalt shingle roof should last 20 to 25 years, so make sure you keep this in mind when deciding whether to make the upgrade.

  • Poor or Outdated Insulation – In the same vein, if you have shoddy insulation throughout your home, you’re going to pay a lot more throughout the year in energy costs. Replacing or adding insulation to your home, especially in breezy areas like the attic, can drastically improve your ability to heat your home when it’s cold out and keep it at a comfortable temperature in the summer. There are many affordable ways to insulate these days, many of which are DIY-friendly.

The ability to sensibly prioritize is crucial for responsible homeowners. Make sure you know which home repairs are more essential than others and which ones can get bumped to the bottom of the list. Understanding the importance of certain maintenance tasks will help prevent you from needing to throw thousands of additional dollars at the problem in the future, and it will also help keep you and your family safe and comfortable.

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