What to Do When Something Big Breaks in Your Home


You are a brand new, first-time homeowner – congratulations! If you feel like this all happened so fast and that you have no idea what you are doing, don’t worry – no one else does, either.

Still, since you now own everything you see, you can’t rely on the building superintendent or landlord to solve all your residence-related problems, which means when (not if) something breaks, you need to know how to react correctly, immediately.

If you hesitate or make the wrong move, you could end up doing irreparable harm to your home – or worse, spending too much money on what should have been a fast, cheap, simple fix.

To that end, here are a few good tips to ensure that when something goes wrong in your home – when the fridge won’t cool or the stove won’t heat, when the A/C goes out on the hottest day of summer, when your roof leaks, when a tree branch crashes through a window – you can sort it out yourself.

Know Your Insurance Policy Backwards and Forwards

When you bought your home, you might have signed up for the first homeowner’s insurance policy you could find without reading its terms – and that was a mistake. Not only should you know exactly what your policy covers, but you should search for a policy that thoroughly covers what is important to you.

For example, if you live in an area where wildfires might threaten your property, you should be certain that your home insurance includes damage done explicitly by wildfire.

If you are having trouble understanding what your insurance policy covers, you shouldn’t hesitate to call your provider’s customer support line.

They should be able to explain what your policy states – and if they can’t, you should seriously consider switching to a more approachable insurance provider.

Once you know what your insurance policy covers, you will be able to use it to your advantage in an emergency. You will know what problems are handled by your insurer and what will be your sole responsibility. Thus, instead of wasting time and energy worrying about costs and service providers, you can contact your insurance company immediately to secure assistance.

Know the Same of Your Home Warranty

Unless you purchased a new-construction home, your property probably came with a home warranty.

This form of protection is often offered by sellers or selling agents to guarantee the quality of the home for buyers. Like insurance, a home warranty helps pay for certain problems with your home, but unlike insurance, those problems need not develop due to unforeseen accidents or catastrophes; rather, home warranties help you pay for damage due to regular wear and tear.

Most often, home warranties cover large appliances and home systems, like electrical, plumbing and HVAC.

However, some warranties can cover septic and sewer lines as well as the roof. If an item covered by your warranty breaks down, you call your warranty provider and pay a flat fee – usually around $70 – to have a service provider assess the problem and provide a solution.

You should dig out the documentation you have on your home warranty and learn its extent the way you did with insurance.

Know Some Simple Fixes You Can Do Yourself

Not every break in your home is big enough to contact your insurance or warranty provider. Sometimes, all you need is a little elbow grease. Here are a few simple fixes that should get you out of the most common binds:

  • How to shut off power and water. In an emergency, you should be able to run to your service panel or main valve and shut off power and water without hesitation. Take a few minutes to locate these critical services around your home and become familiar with their operation.
  • How to unclog a sink. You can use a chemical de-clogger, like Drano, or you can invest in a sink snake to pull out large, stubborn clots. You should also look into how to unclog a kitchen sink with a disposal because the appliance makes the process trickier.
  • How to stop drips. A leaky faucet is usually a sign of a degraded o-ring, which costs pennies on the dollar to replace. However, if a leak is coming from a pipe, not a faucet, you may have a more serious problem.
  • How to replace a light switch. For the most part, you should allow professionals to do the electrical work around your home, but replacing a light switch is as easy as connecting colored wires to the right screws.
  • How to tell the difference between mildew and mold. Mold is toxic and incredibly dangerous to the integrity of your home – and mildew grows almost everywhere and only looks gross. Typically, mildew is light-colored and comes up easily while mold is dark and grows roots deep.

Know Professionals You Can Rely On

When catastrophe strikes, you shouldn’t waste precious minutes searching for a service provider online or calling friends for recommendations.

If your insurance and home warranty do not cover whatever problem is occurring, you need to know a trustworthy professional you can call. You should start cultivating a relationship with service providers, perhaps by inviting them to perform a home inspection or otherwise chatting with their customer support.

The contact info for your top providers should be kept on an accessible list in your kitchen or office, so anyone can call them in an emergency.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a husband, father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market. Click to learn more about me

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