After a series of less than stellar jobs that I’d languished in straight out of college for a few months each—many of which that been soul-crushing enough to make me pine for my days as an unpaid intern at the college radio station—I finally decided to quit the corporate game for a time, and started looking for work. I wanted a job that would afford me plenty of flexibility to travel and write, and I finally decided that one seemed to appeal to me over others: house-sitting. I was so sure that it would have been simple enough for me to manage a big empty house, even if I had a heart and mind buried in more personal work. Boy, was I wrong; I underwent some experiences as a house-sitter that still leave me shattered to this day. The time one house’s power grid surged and shut off the meat freezer in the garage after the homeowner’s had forgotten to disclose that they’d even had a meat freezer: yes, it was summer, and yes, my vegetarian hands handled more spoiled meat then I’d care to think about. The time a neighbor forgot that they had their car in reverse, and destroyed a section of an expensive brick wall that required extensive repairs on what was supposed to be a relaxing, writing-filed weekend.
And then there was the time a basement flooded. I had never been more shocked in my life. One minute, you’re walking down the stairs in the dark into a room you hate being in enough already because it’s where all the ghosts and the monsters live, and the next you’re practically wading into the shallow end of an indoor pool that had never been planned. Not only was I feeling completely overwhelmed by the situation, but there was also the fact that I had to deal with the homeowners’ complete rage over an issue that they were too far away to deal with quickly and efficiently on their own, and who couldn’t stop complaining about all the things that they could have done to prevent it.
My, How the Turn Tables
Now that I’m a property owner myself, I have even more empathy and patience for all the rage and frustration that clients I house-sat for felt during each one of these devastating house-sitting disasters. I don’t just see the freezer as a few pounds of spoiled food: I see a food storage plan that had completely left the homeowner’s family without the next six months of their meatloaf after the mishap of a single weekend. I don’t just see a couple of feet of brick and mortar crumpled up in a helpless heap in the lawn: I see a beautiful, historic piece of masonry crushed in a freak accident, which required expert care from craftsmen to repair and replace to its former glory.
And, I don’t just see a leaky basement. Now that I have one of my own (don’t worry, I almost always keep the lights on to ensure that it is ghost and monster free whenever I visit), I don’t just see a creepy room filled up with water: I see an actual watery nightmare in the basement, with flood damage that is problematic, time-consuming, and expensive, and—depending on your coverage—isn’t necessarily covered by your homeowner’s insurance. Then, there’s the emotional toll that a problem like flooding can cause; for example, not only were so many of the homeowner’s personal items destroyed by the flooding in the basement, but the family had also had to endure the trial of moving into some temporary housing while a professional restoration team removed the water—and unfortunately, the flooding had occurred during a huge storm, which also caused the house to suffer water damage the good, old-fashioned way: through a leaky roof. Once that issue was exposed by the reveal of numerous moldy rings, the homeowners realized that the damage could have eventually led to a roof cave-in if untreated. They moved out, while the pros moved in.
What Can be Done?
As a homeowner, though, I’ve learned that there is some hope to these seemingly hopeless situations, and most of that hope is borne from my favorite old adage: “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Below are just a few of the tips to preventing water damage:
- Clean your gutters: ensure that they’re free from the debris that can clog and cause water damage.
- Slope your yard: keep water flowing away from your house during a heavy storm, and not right into it.
- Look for leaky pipes: don’t let a small leak turn into a big one.
- Check your humidity levels: your home should range between 30- and 50-percent. Ongoing high-humidity levels may be a sign of a more serious issue that could lead to mold and mildew, and even damage to your structure’s masonry.
The good news is, if you’re a homeowner who thinks the whole world is hell-bent on causing you pain by painstakingly attacking your home at every turn with some other disaster or another, you’re not alone in that sentiment. There are countless homeowners going through similar experiences, and entire industries made up of preventing problems before they get out of hand, and industrious professionals who’ll help you when they do. Be sure to follow this page for more prevention, restoration, maintenance, and repair tips for the issues that’ll be sure to follow you around over the life of your house. Welcome to the club!