Plumbing vent boots can be all plastic, plastic and metal, or even two-piece metal units. Check plastic bases for cracks and metal bases for broken seams. Then examine the rubber boot surrounding the pipe. That can be rotted away or torn, allowing water to work its way into the house along the pipe. With any of these problems, you should buy a new vent boot to replace the old one. But if the nails at the base are missing or pulled free and the boot is in good shape, replace them with the rubber-washered screws used for metal roofing systems. You’ll find them at any home center with the rest of the screws. You’ll have to work neighboring shingles free on both sides. If you don’t have extra shingles, be careful when you remove shingles so they can be reused. Use a flat bar to separate the sealant between the layers. Then you’ll be able to drive the flat bar under the nail heads to pop out the nails.
If you can see light creeping beneath exterior doors, air is also escaping. Grab a few packages of self-adhesive rubber foam weatherstripping and go to town, sealing any and all doors that lead outside. Weatherstripping already installed but you’re still suffering from a high gas bill? It might be time to replace the strips installed by the previous owners. Check out this handy tutorial on installing weatherstripping.
How to DIY it: Take off the loose bar by removing the screws on each of the posts that mount the bar to the wall. (If one side is solidly attached, leave it alone.) With the mounting plate now exposed, try tightening the screws in it. If that doesn’t work, remove it. Chances are you’ll find two plastic anchors underneath. Poke them with a screwdriver and let them fall inside the wall. Replace with bigger, stronger metal toggle anchors (above), sold at hardware stores. Just drive them into the existing holes with a drill or a screwdriver, and then reattach everything.
Another related issue for avoiding costly repairs (or disasters) is the proper operation of a home, including systems and appliances, in a way that prevents damage or prolongs their usefulness. For example, at higher latitudes, even a clean rain gutter can suddenly build up an ice dam in winter, forcing melt water into unprotected roofing, resulting in leaks or even flooding inside walls or rooms. This can be prevented by installing moisture barrier beneath the roofing tiles. A wary home-owner should be alert to the conditions that can result in larger problems and take remedial action before damage or injury occurs. It may be easier to tack down a bit of worn carpet than repair a large patch damaged by prolonged misuse. Another example is to seek out the source of unusual noises or smells when mechanical, electrical or plumbing systems are operating—sometimes they indicate incipient problems. One should avoid overloading or otherwise misusing systems, and a recurring overload may indicate time for an upgrade.
While you’re at it: If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, consider getting one. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, an Energy Star–rated model can save you about $180 in heating and cooling costs each year. You can buy one for about $40 and install it yourself. It’s a relatively easy job; no rewiring required. On the other hand, these are home improvement projects you should never, ever DIY.
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