Okay, okay, I admit it. I didn't follow my own advice. The signs of potential trouble were there, yet I chose not to take them seriously. For quite a while, I'd been finding it more and more difficult to turn my key in the front door lock. I tried wiping the key down with a little olive oil and cleaned out the lock faceplate ... which was full of dog hair. But I avoided taking the plunge and calling an actual handyman (or woman). Until I ended up locked into my apartment. Pretty scary for a minute there. My son was still outside, so I passed him a pair of pliers through the window; though he was able to force his key to turn, we knew it was only a short-term solution. Fortunately, we found a handyman to come and adjust the lock at 9:30 at night without charging an arm and a leg, but next time ... Well, I'm going to do my best to make sure there isn't a next time, by taking care of small home maintenance issues before they mushroom into big trouble.
- Door that no longer works quite right. If any door feels stiff and overly difficult to open and close, you may have a lock that is crying out for a little TLC, as mine was. Another cause of "sticky" doors is excessive moisture in the air. Wobbly doors which seem loose in their frame may need their hinges tightened or their strike plate repositioned.
- Problematic electrical plug or cord. If you have to force an electrical appliance's plug into the wall socket or yank it out, or its cord has frayed, you are putting yourself at serious risk for electric shock or fire. Stay safe -- get the problematic part taken care of before you use the appliance again.
- "Minor" roof leaks. Adopt a zero-tolerance policy for "little" drips and "minor" wetness on your ceiling or walls. Water is capable of causing more serious property damage than fire and the longer you neglect it, the worse it will get. PS: Even if you can't track down the source, that doesn't mean nothing's wrong. Water is like toothache pain -- it travels.
- Leftover leaves. No matter how carefully you cleaned up in the fall, dead leaves will be blown around by winter storms, landing on your exterior window wells and sills, your roof gutters, or your yard. They trap moisture and can do a great deal of harm to your walls and roof, as well as choking your lawn or garden.
- Cracks in exterior walls. A tiny crack in the masonry or stucco exterior wall of your home may be quite simple to seal. However, over time it will tend to worsen, making repair of the crack itself more costly and time-consuming, but also letting in drafts (making your HVAC system work harder) and dampness.
- Worn hose on your washing machine. Replacing the hose on your washing machine is so, so, so cheap to take care of right away ... but so, so, so expensive and messy if it's neglected until the hose bursts, flooding your basement (or upper level!!) floor.
- Unusual sounds or light patterns from your smoke detector or CO alarm. Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms are inexpensive, easy-to-maintain devices that can and do save lives. Pay attention to any strange behavior. Chirping -- emitting a short beep at regular 30-second intervals -- signals that the batteries need to be changed (ideally, perform this task semi-annually; coordinate it with the spring and fall clock changes to help you remember). Unusual patterns of beeping or flashing lights may indicate a malfunction; have the unit repaired or replaced ASAP.
Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.