For most people, a home is one of the most valuable assets they'll ever own. Unfortunately, there are some major perils that can befall a house and put a serious dent in the value of that asset. Many of these perils are much more insidious than a fire or natural disaster. Read on to learn about some of the most expensive damage that can occur in your home, how much it costs and how to avoid it. (For related reading, check out 4 Types Of Home Renovation: Which Ones Boost Value?)

IN PICTURES: Home Renovations That Don't Pay

  • Foundation
    If you have bowed basement walls, cracks in walls or floors or a tilting chimney, you may be aware that these are signs of a problem foundation. But many people don't realize that difficulty opening and closing doors and windows can also be early signs that your home is shifting. And whether you have a new home or an old one, foundation problems often require major repairs - and a big cash outlay. According to the Concrete Network, a consumer website devoted to concrete services, foundation problems can be caused by the type of soil the house is built on, an improperly laid foundation or drainage problems. Whatever the cause, a bad foundation is bad news and, depending on the severity of the problem, can cost the homeowner well over $10,000.(For more on typical new home repairs, see New Home Repair Troubleshooting.)

    How to prevent it: Assuming your home was properly built, the most you can do to prevent problems in your foundation is to ensure that your home has proper drainage. This means that gutters and eavestroughs should be kept clear and in good repair, and your yard should be properly graded to ensure that water runs away from your house.

  • Mold
    Unlike major water damage, such as that caused by flooding, minor or hidden water damage in your home, perhaps from a defective water pipe, hot water heater or window seal, can cause just as much damage – and you may not notice it right away. Similarly, if your home suffered through a flood in the past and did not adequately dry out, mold can also thrive. (If you live in a flood-prone area, flood insurance is a must. Read The Most Expensive Home Insurance Perils for other disasters you can insure your home against.)

    A 2005 study by the National Resources Defense Council showed that New Orleans homes that had been flooded or were even near areas of flooding showed extremely high levels of mold spores that could pose health threats to residents, even in the homes that had been repaired and treated for mold. And the more humid the area in which you live, the harder it will be for you to get rid of mold and keep it from coming back. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, if the mold growth in your home is larger than 10 square feet or was caused by sewage or other contaminated water, it's time to call in a professional. Although home insurance may cover some of the costs depending on your policy, the cost of mold remediation is about $3,000 per wall, according to Environmental Solutions Group, an environmental management company that inspects homes for mold – and that doesn't include the cost of replacing any mold-infected materials such as drywall, carpet or ceiling tiles.

    How to prevent it: Mold can't grow without moisture, so it's important that you check for and fix any leaks in your home immediately, use fans in kitchens and bathrooms to vent moisture outside and clean up any mold growth immediately to prevent it from spreading.

IN PICTURES: 10 Ways To Prepare For Nature's Worst

  • Water Damage
    If your home isn't water tight, this isn't something you can ignore. Beyond the possibility of mold, long-term water damage can cause rot, which can lead to all kinds of expensive repairs to the structure of your home. It's difficult to estimate the cost of this type of repair, but it can easily run into the thousands depending on how much wood needs to be replaced and how intrusive the repairs are.

    How to prevent it: Be vigilant about water damage in your home; if you find leaks or areas that tend to be damp, have them repaired before long-term damage occurs. If you find rotten wood in your home, repair the problem before it gets out of hand. (Learn about how to make your home worth more; read 10 Ways To Increase The Value Of Your Home.)

  • Bedbugs
    If you're a homeowner rather than a renter, you may think you're immune to this one. Not so. According to Bloomberg, a recent nationwide infestation of bedbugs has seen the little blood-sucking critters popping up all over the place – including movie theaters, office buildings and hotels, making it very easy for anyone to bring the infestation home. And, because many of the most effective chemicals for killing bedbugs have been found to be dangerous, eliminating the spread is harder than ever. According to a July 2009 story in the New York Times, paying more than $5,000 to eliminate a bedbug infestation is not uncommon.

    How to prevent it: Avoid bringing home used furniture, mattresses or bedding. If you travel, inspect your hotel carefully for bed bugs (even upscale hotels have suffered from this problem), and avoid placing your luggage on the floor. If you find bed bugs in your home, contact an exterminator.

  • Sewer Line Problems
    The portion of the sewer line that extends out from a home and onto city property is often the homeowners' responsibility when it comes to repairs. Sewer line problems are most common in older neighborhoods, where the line may have sagged or has been damaged by tree roots. If you have slow running or gurgling drains, frequent backups in your plumbing system or sewage smells outside your home, these may be indications of a problem. Again, your home insurance policy may cover this cost, expect this doozy to cost anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 for a 100-foot sewer pipe.

    How to prevent it: If you experience signs of sewer problems in your home, have a professional inspect your lines. Clogs and tree roots can often be removed at a lower cost, without complete replacement of the pipe.

The Bottom Line
With careful inspection and proper maintenance, you can avoid many of the worst perils that can befall your home – or at least fix them before they become so expensive. Homeowners should also create an emergency fund to pay for unexpected home repairs.

Catch up on your financial news; read Water Cooler Finance: The New iPod And The Roller Coaster Market.

Related Articles
  1. Home & Auto

    5 Luxurious Ways to Boost Your Home's Resale Value

    Not all renovations are created equal. Here are five that are most likely to make a property appreciate (and be appreciated by househunters).
  2. Personal Finance

    Choosing An In-Home Safe: Features To Look For

    What to look for in a box to protect your irreplaceable belongings.
  3. Home & Auto

    Top-Tier Home Security Systems: Which Are Best?

    Here's help sorting out the different types of home security systems, which features will work best for you and the costs.
  4. Personal Finance

    The 6 Most Expensive Apartments in New York City

    A look into the high, high, high end of New York City real estate.
  5. Personal Finance

    3 Castles That Cost Less Than a NYC Apartment

    Did you know you can rent an entire château, and that it might cost less than your New York pad?
  6. Home & Auto

    Top 5 Home Renos For Your Money

    Here are five renovations that return most of your investment when it’s time to sell your home.
  7. Insurance

    How Car Insurance Companies Value Cars

    Learn the methodology used by car insurance companies to value cars, and understand why the amount they give you may not cover the cost of a similar vehicle.
  8. Home & Auto

    Read This Before Buying a Vacation Home with Friends

    Going in with friends to buy a vacation home will save you on the mortgage and expenses. But if there's conflict, it could end up costing your more.
  9. Insurance

    Life vs. Health Insurance: Choosing What to Buy

    When you only buy the coverage you truly need, the debate over medical insurance vs. life insurance might just be one you can avoid.
  10. Investing Basics

    Pros & Cons of Investing in a Condo with Friends

    Buying a beach house or big-city pied-à-terre with friends can save money and make sense, but only if you set it up right. Here's how to avoid trouble. thoroughly research and discuss potential ...
  1. Can your life insurance company sue you?

    A life insurance company generally cannot sue you, but it can sue your estate. The company may do this in order to recover ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How can insurance companies find out about DUIs and DWIs?

    An insurance company can find out about driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) charges against ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Does your car insurance company report accidents to the DMV?

    Your car insurance company does not generally report accidents to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). However, depending ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Can your insurance company drop you after an accident?

    It is possible, but highly unlikely, for an insurer to cancel a policy after one accident. If the accident results in a suspended ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What is the difference between a peril and a hazard?

    The two related terms "peril" and "hazard" are often used in reference to the insurance industry. Essentially, a peril is ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What are the main factors that impact share prices in the insurance sector?

    The main factors that impact share prices in the insurance sector are interest rates, earnings and actuarial risk. In the ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!