The thought of tackling emergency home maintenance can be stressful. But it needn’t be. When an emergency arises, whether it’s an overflowing toilet, a raging fire, water damage, or structural damage from a fallen tree — you want to get things back to normal as quickly as possible.

The key is to be prepared. Let’s be honest, when a home emergency happens, we do tend to get a little perplexed — sometimes a little more. That’s why we’ve listed the most common home emergencies and ways to tackle them. You can protect your household and prepare yourself for the unexpected.

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Power outage or power failure

power failure

The first you should do is check the nearby homes and streetlights. If yours is the only house without power, check your circuit breakers to see if there’s been an overload that caused the shutdown. 

If you experience frequent power failures, the best way to deal with such power blackouts is to buy a generator. Do remember to steer clear of safety hazards such as outdoor furniture or gardening tools. Regularly trim the branches of trees near your house lest they ever fall on your power lines.

In case the power blackout has damaged any part of your home or some of its contents, check your homeowner’s insurance or home warranty.  

Read more: The coverages and exclusions in a home insurance policy

Blocked toilet, pipe, and drain

If your toilet and shower drains are clogged, it’s probably because of something that shouldn’t be there — like excess hair. In order to remove the blockage, you will have to get your hands dirty. Put on some disposable rubber gloves and pull the blockage out by hand. If you’re unable to see the blockage, use a toilet plunger to remove deeper blockages.

A simpler way to unclog pipes and drains is to pour baking soda and vinegar into the drain. It helps break down solid matter over time. However, be careful about the quantity, or else you’ll end up bursting or rusting the plumbing pipe. If you have broken pipes, call a licensed professional at once.

Read more: Essential home plumbing maintenance tips

Leaking water line

Every home has a main water valve – often in the basement or near the front of the house. The valve controls the flow of water. In case you detect a bad leak, turn the valve off immediately to prevent water damage. It’s also a good preventative step if you are leaving your house during winter. 

Inspect the pipes to find out the source and extent of the damage. If you stay in a region where freezing water often causes your pipes to burst, consider pipe insulation.

Broken or burst hot water system

hot water heater

A hot water heater generally has an average lifespan of 10 to 15 years. If your heater is older than that, don’t wait for it to start acting up. It’s probably time to get a new one. Since water heater replacement needs expertise and precision, it’s best to leave the job to a professional. 

Read more: Hot water heater financing for good & bad credit

Furnace failure 

Before taking a look inside your furnace, remember to shut down the electrical power. If you have a gas furnace, check to see if the pilot light has gone out. It probably needs reigniting. 

If you see signs of damaged wiring or burnt-out switches and sensors, call a professional at the earliest.

And, always remember to keep the air filters clean. Dirty filters that restrict airflow are one of the most common causes of furnace problems. If the blower is running but without heating your home, it’s time to replace the filter.

Gas leak

If you suspect a gas leak by its odor or hear a hissing sound of gas escaping, you must open all the doors and windows to let the air out of the room. Remember NOT to turn anything electrical on or off.

The best response is to immediately evacuate the area. Run to a safe location and call 911 or your gas company’s emergency number. DO NOT smoke or light a match or a candle.

Fire in the kitchen 

kitchen fire

The fastest way to tackle a fire issue is to cut out its oxygen supply. Cover the fire with a lid until it suffocates and dies down. If the fire is spreading uncontrollably in your home, GET OUT and call for help.

As part of your emergency home maintenance, it’s a good idea to install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside every room. You must test the smoke detectors and their battery every month. 

Practice a mock fire drill with your family twice a year. Keep a fire escape plan ready.

Damaged roof, gutter, or downpipe

A complete roof replacement can be quite expensive. But, if your rain gutter or downpipe is just clogged, it’s a much easier task to fix. Clear out the fallen leaves, shingle granules, sticks from broken tree limbs, or even plastic bags that may be blocking the water’s access to your drainage. 

As a proactive measure, make sure that the gutter is always clean, positioned correctly, and with sufficient downpipes to cope with a heavy downpour. 

Read more: A complete guide on cleaning and maintaining rain gutters

Broken heating or air-conditioning system

You’ll be able to see tell-tale signs that your heating or cooling unit is in distress. These include:

  • The unit is running, but there’s not enough warm/cool air coming out.
  • It’s making odd sounds.
  • It refuses to turn on.
  • The device is leaking water

The best option is to immediately call for a professional’s help. On your part, you must be regular with your HVAC maintenance. Regularly remove and clean the filters to remove built-up grime and dirt, clean the condenser coils with a suitable cleaning agent. Always keep the exterior clean — preferably with an anti-bacterial solution.

Broken door or window

This generally happens after a storm. You need to carefully inspect the damage wearing thick gloves. Remove any glass shards or jagged edges. Seal the window opening with a trash bag, cut to size. Use duct tape to add several layers of this bag plastic to the window’s frame. Contact a window repair professional.  

How to save for emergency repairs

save for emergency repairs

There are certain rules of thumb that can help guide you when budgeting for emergency home maintenance. The idea is to save enough to cover three to six months’ worth of unexpected expenses. Since your savings goal will depend on your income and the home repair, it’s a good idea to make small goals at first, such as saving $1,000 and then working your way up to a significant reserve amount.  

According to the one percent rule, a homeowner should set aside a minimum of one percent of their home’s value every year for an emergency fund. So, if the house is worth $360,000, you should save $3,600 a year or $300 a month.

Read more: What are the most expensive home repairs?

How to cover the cost of emergency home repairs

If you’re unable to save for home repair, you can opt for emergency financing for your home repairs. Based on what needs immediate attention and what can wait (upgrades such as installing a pool heater or finishing your basement). 

The challenge is often deciding how much funding you need, and for what. Or, if you should use your credit card. Once you decide that, you can use the best financing option at the best interest rates while keeping your finances stable. 

Read more: Home repair loans for good & bad credit.

Last thoughts

While homeownership is a happy ride, there are some maintenance costs to factor in. If not planned well, home repairs and maintenance can put a huge dent in your wallet.  The bottom line is, when you buy a home, you must start saving money toward the budget for home repairs — enough to deal with any kind of emergency home maintenance.

Read more: Understanding the ins-and-outs of home maintenance insurance

Important tips to deal with emergency home maintenance was last modified: April 12th, 2021 by Ramona Sinha
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