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Contractors say these common mistakes may damage your home — & here's what to do instead

Jul 29, 2023

Avoid pricey repairs with these products that make your home look nicer, too.

Home repairs and on-going upkeep can add up fast, so we reached out to seasoned contractors for advice on the common mistakes that damage homes and what to do instead. These pros suggested products that reduce wear and tear on your appliances, items to protect against pricey water damage, things that will reduce your risk of a fire, and more. The bonus is that many of these genius items will make your home look nicer, too. Keep scrolling for gadgets and upgrades that help you avoid expensive mistakes.

Without a water detector in your home, you’re denying yourself valuable time to catch leaks or dripping pipes quickly. Nathaly Vieira, the owner of InspireClean, says, “This can cause expensive damage in the long run.” This pack comes with two wireless devices that will alert you of any leaks with a loud 100-decibel alarm.

This multi-purpose tape gives you the best of both worlds because it “prevents damage to surfaces despite its strong adhesion,” according to Dan Walker, the owner and contractor of Walker Home Remodeling. It can handle UV exposure and moisture so it can be used both indoors and out. You’ll be able to create a secure bond or clean paint lines without leaving behind a sticky residue.

Picking up this cast is a no-brainer if you have a minor plumbing issue. Walker says, “It's easy to fix small cracks in pipes with this fiberglass pipe repair cast. It's water activated and hardens to be as strong as steel — it's great for a quick repair.” In just 15 minutes, you’ll have a permanent solution that will resist corrosion and prevent damage-causing leaks.

Vieira says that a general household repair kit comes with “everything you need to handle minor repairs around the house.” This set comes in a latching carrying case and contains 131 pieces, including wrenches, pliers, and more. Each is made of heat-treated steel and is chrome-plated to resist corrosion. Plus, they have nonslip handles for comfort while working.

Instead of letting products stain and cause permanent damage to your cabinets, protect the bottom surface with this vanity mat. It’s made of a waterproof material that you can cut to fit your space and it also protects against slow leaks from plumbing. “They are cheap insurance against leaks and take no time to put in place,” says Walker. It’s available in two colors and several sizes within the listing.

Cluttered cabinets can lead to leaking or spilled products. To prevent this, Katherine Lawrence, the certified professional organizer and KonMari consultant behind Space Matters, recommends using an under-sink organizer. She says it “will securely contain your products, protecting cabinets from water and chemical damage while extending their lifespan.”

Walker says that using dimmable LED tape lighting under cabinets “can help prevent accidents in the kitchen or bathroom that can hurt you or lead to chipping of tiles and sinks.” This roll is 12 feet long but can be cut to any length that works for your cabinets. He adds, “This lighting has a true white color and is very reliable.”

Instead of using potentially damaging chemical drain cleaners, Logan Cox, the assistant general manager of Hamilton Drain Cleaners, suggests “using a [...] drain snake to clear minor clogs.” This pack comes with four snakes that are nearly 20 inches long each and flexible enough to work around corners. Buildup, hair, and food can easily be snagged and removed.

Lawrence warns that “loose [...] items or staining substances in vanity drawers can cause permanent damage and unsightly stains.”, These non-adhesive drawer liners are waterproof and come in a range of sizes and colors in the listing. They are trimmable to fit any drawer and can be used in bathrooms, kitchens, and inside furniture like dressers and desks.

“It's important to snugly tighten connections with a wrench, but excessive force can cause more harm than good,” says Cox. To ensure that you can get the job done with precision, add this adjustable wrench to your cart. It features a ratcheting design so you can tighten screws continuously and has a rotating head for hard-to-reach areas.

While you may be tempted to kick your shoes off as soon as you get in, Lawrence says, “Leaving shoes at the front door can introduce water and dirt into your home, potentially damaging wood flooring over time.” She suggests investing in a waterproof organizer like these stackable shoe bins to keep the mess off your floors. The set of 12 can be locked in place as they’re stacked to create a custom solution and they come in several colors in the listing.

Another option Lawrence suggests if you don’t have much room or don’t want to store many pairs by the door is a boot tray. This model is made of wear-resistant rubber. “This strategy keeps your floor protected and clean, and ensures shoes are neatly arranged, enhancing the overall aesthetics of your entryway,” she Lawrence.

According to Thomas Borcherding, the co-owner of Homestar Design Remodel, “areas such as your kitchen sink, toilet base, and shower should all be properly sealed with a silicone caulk.” The formula of this white silicone sealant will keep out air, water, and moisture, and it dries in just 30 minutes.

While adding great style to your home, Zach Barnes-Corby, the head of construction at Block Renovation, says that cordless shades can “significantly reduce heat gain and keep your home cooler.” This allows you to go easier on using your air conditioner, reducing the strain on it.

To “block out direct sunlight during the hottest parts of the day,” as Barnes-Corby suggests, another option is blackout curtains. They offer privacy, a pop of color, and stronger protection from sunlight. They come in 17 rich colors (and three sizes) in the listing.

By blocking up to 99% of UV rays, Barnes-Corby says privacy film can “help reduce glare and protect furniture and flooring from UV damage.” It can also insulate your home against heat, reducing wear and tear on your air conditioner. The frosted film is easy to apply and won’t leave a residue if removed.

“Running a dehumidifier helps remove excess moisture from the air” according to Barnes-Corby, with the bonus that it will make your room “feel cooler and more comfortable.” This dehumidifier is compact enough to easily move from room to room and can reduce the moisture level of a 225-square-foot space. It has an auto-shutoff feature and a light that alerts you when the 16-ounce tank needs emptying.

To “save energy when you're away” to reduce strain on your air conditioner and heater as Barnes-Corby advises, you’re going to want to add this programmable thermostat to your cart. You can set it to a specific schedule so it will automatically adjust while you’re away or sleeping.

To avoid frozen pipes, add this four-pack of faucet covers that come in different colors to your cart. According to Cox, neglecting to winterize faucets “can cause extensive water damage to your property and require costly repairs.” The covers feature waterproof Oxford cloth and a durable fastener that lets you adjust them to fit your spigot.

To prevent an electrical fire, Dave Roebel, the owner of Northeast Mechanical Services, says that homeowners should “distribute the load among multiple outlets” when plugging in lots of devices. This highly rated wall outlet extender has five three-prong outlets, three USB ports, and one USB-C port — all of which have surge protection. It also has a small shelf to perch your devices on and a built-in nightlight.

[[This feels redundant to the above. For similar issues with multiple product options to fix, let’s group them together]]

Roebel also suggests using a “high-quality extension cord” to avoid plugging too many devices into a single outlet. This extension cord is equipped with five AC outlets and three USB ports and is made of fire-retardant ABS. Its cord is 9.8 feet long and a 16-foot version is also available in the listing, as are a few different colors.

To prevent mold in bathrooms, Adam Donnelly, the franchise owner of Handyman Connection Coraopolis, says you should make sure the exhaust fan is “clean and clear of dust/debris [so it can] perform its job properly.” This extendable duster has a detachable handle that extends to up to 47 inches long. Plus, the microfiber head can be washed and reused.

Donnelly says that gaps around windows and doors allow air and insects to enter your home, potentially causing damage or wear and tear on your heating and air conditioning system. To seal them up, he suggests using painter’s caulk. It can be used both indoors and out and can be painted over (after just two hours) to further blend in.

“Letting pest problems go untreated can cause damage to the structure and result in health hazards,” says Roebel. This indoor bug catcher uses both a UV light and bait to attract and trap fruit flies, mosquitoes, gnats, and more.

Blake Watkins, the operations partner and ISA board-certified master arborist at Monster Tree Service says that “many homeowners are unaware of the importance of deep watering nearby mature trees.” He says they generally need 5 to 10 gallons of water per inch across the trunk at shoulder level, and a water flow meter can help you keep track.

Craig Ricks Jr., the president of Acadian Windows and Siding, warns that “using harsh cleaners can damage the coatings, tints, or seals on your windows.” To make sure you’re being as gentle as possible, reach for this microfiber cleaning cloth. By simply using it with water, it will remove 99% of grease and grime and leave behind a streak-free shine. The cloths can be washed and reused.

Nick O’Keefe, the owner of Oak City Coatings, says this is his favorite painter’s tape to avoid messy lines. He says that wetting the tape with a damp rag will activate the powered sealant on the tape. “This quick trick will help you get really neat, clean, and straight lines for painting,” he says. You can leave it on for up to 21 days as you finish the project without leaving behind a residue.

While you may close doors roughly in a rush, Ricks Jr. says that “slamming your doors can start to damage your door frames and hinges over time.” He suggests using screwdrivers to keep the hinges in good shape. This screwdriver set comes with six pieces — three Phillips heads and three flat heads.

“Harsh chemicals and abrasive cleaners can damage surfaces like countertops, floors, and fixtures,” says Roebel. So instead of using store-bought formulas, create your own and store it in this leakproof spray bottle. It has a continuous and ultra-fine spray that is easy to direct.

Ricks Jr. warns that “allowing cracked, buckled, peeling, or otherwise damaged siding to go unchecked can cause costly damages to your home.” To keep things from getting to that point, use this multi-purpose cleaner to get rid of mold, dirt, debris, and more. It’s a bleach-free formula that’s also safe to use on anything from cement to wood.

In order to make the best use of a gentle but effective cleaner for your siding, Ricks Jr. recommends picking up a soft bristle siding brush as well. The handle on this brush can extend from 5 to 12 feet to reach even the higher parts of your house. This multi-purpose tool can also be used to wash cars.

Mansur recommends using “cable management systems to keep cables organized and prevent hazards such as fires and falls.” This 6-foot-long cord cover can hold multiple wires and comes in four different colors to blend in with your decor. It can be cut to fit any space and a 10-foot version is also available in the listing.

Drew Mansur, the co-founder of TileCloud, says that “a clogged vent can be a fire hazard and reduces dryer efficiency.” So to keep things running smoothly (and safely), you’ll want to pick up this dryer vent cleaner. It’s made of flexible rods that can extend to up to 40 feet and it can be used with or without a drill.

David Sutter, the president of Five Star Painting, recommends using a baseboard cleaner before painting to prevent leaving an uneven finish. This tool has a head that swivels 360 degrees and an extendable handle that can reach 4 feet long so that you don’t have to strain your back as you work.

When painting, Sutter says, “Drips and splotches that were not addressed at the time of the work are very noticeable.” He suggests using drop cloths that are not made of plastic. This one is highly absorbent and made of a durable canvas material that can be used for indoor and outdoor projects. It can also be put in the washing machine and reused.

Fix: This nearly 10-foot-long extension cord that can power 8 devices[[This feels redundant to the above. For similar issues with multiple product options to fix, let’s group them together]]