Small home repairs can have a big impact on security

IIf it’s not broken, you might want to fix it anyway.

That’s the message consumer advocates and insurance experts want you to hear about the hidden dangers of your home. They say that too often people put off relatively inexpensive repairs or improvements that could prevent significant damage, injury, or even death. While you can’t eliminate every potential hazard, taking a few small steps can make a big impact on your home’s security.

The following fixes typically cost $200 or less.

Reduce your fire risk

According to the National Fire Protection Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to cleaning up fire-related damage, fires in the United States cause thousands of deaths and billions of dollars in property damage every year. Climate change has also increased the risk of forest fires in many places.

Especially in areas prone to wildfires, you can reduce the chance of a stray ember igniting your home by installing screen mesh over vents and other openings, says Amy Bach, executive director of consumer protection group United Policeholders. Clear gutters and below decks of dead leaves and other combustible materials and create a “defensible space” by removing landscaping and other combustible objects at least 5 feet from your foundation. If you have a fence attached to your home, the last 5 feet should be metal rather than wood, Bach recommends.

“You shouldn’t have a wooden fence on your house at any time because it can act like a wick,” says Bach.

A roll of 1/8-inch galvanized mesh is about $30 at hardware stores, while metal fence panels are about $100 to $200 each.

Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home and test them regularly. Prices vary by configuration, but a three-pack of combo alarms often costs $50 to $100. You should have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen (expect it to spend around $50), but don’t keep it under the sink where it could be damaged by water leaks, says Ashita Kapoor, assistant director of product safety at Consumer Reports, a non-profit product testing organization. Instead, place the fire extinguisher close to the stove, but not so close that you cannot reach it in the event of a fire.

Also clean your dryer filter and vents; Lint deposits can cause fires. Vent cleaning kits cost about $30.

Watch out for falls

Falls are a leading cause of injuries treated in emergency rooms, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. To reduce the risk of falling, place non-slip mats in showers and bathtubs. Secure or remove loose rugs and other trip hazards elsewhere. Practice good safety habits, such as B. mopping up spills immediately, closing the dishwasher door (it’s a trip hazard), and using a sturdy step stool instead of a chair to reach anything stored high.

Also dangerous: things that fall on us. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, “tipping over” incidents — where heavy furniture, televisions, or appliances fall onto people — resulted in an estimated annual average of 22,500 injuries treated in emergency rooms from 2018 through 2020. From 2000 to 2020, 581 people were killed, 81% were under the age of 18. Anchors to prevent tipping usually only cost a few dollars and connect the heavy piece with a strap or tether to a stud in the wall. If you’re renting and aren’t supposed to be drilling holes in the wall, talk to your property manager about your safety concerns, especially if you have young children.

Address other hazards around the home

Another small but helpful purchase Kapoor recommends: thermometers for your fridge and freezer. Food that isn’t kept at the right temperature — 37 degrees Fahrenheit for the fridge, 0 degrees for the freezer — can spoil faster and cause food poisoning. Thermometers don’t have to be expensive: a two-pack can cost under $6.

Consider placing water sensors, which often cost around $50 each, near washing machines, water heaters, and other places with potential leaks. Some sensors can detect falling temperatures and alert you to freezing pipes. The savings could be significant: Insurance claims for water damage and freezing average $11,000, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Finally, make it a habit to tackle small problems before they become big ones. For example, a glass shower door that no longer closes properly, or that is cracked or scratched can suddenly break and injure someone, Kapoor notes. In fact, a Consumer Reports analysis of SaferProducts.gov, the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s public database, found hundreds of shower and tub door-related injuries; Many reports said the doors “exploded” without warning. Replacing a glass door typically costs about $200, says Kapoor.

“Be proactive rather than reactive,” says Kapoor. “We shouldn’t wait for something to explode above us.”

This article was written by NerdWallet and originally published by The Associated Press.

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