Common housing problems and how to fix them


Some housing issues that come up can be handled by the tenant, others require professional help. 

Living away from your parents’ home or the dorms can lead to a whole new kind of responsibility: home maintenance.

There are numerous types and severities of housing issues, ranging from a tripped breaker to burst pipes. A tenant or homeowner can solve some easily, while others may require intervention from a landowner or professional.

The first step to solving any housing problem, big or small, is to catch it early – ideally, before moving in or even signing any papers.

Pullman Re/Max Associate Kris Finch warns that the exterior and finishing of a house are not always what they seem.

“Lots of buyers fall in love with how cute a house is,” Finch said. “They like how the paint or carpet looks and may overlook problems like an old furnace, old windows or missing gutters.”

These issues may not seem like a major hazard to begin with, but they can eventually put a massive dent in your wallet.

If left unattended, an old furnace or windows that don’t properly insulate can cause a massive spike in utility bills in the long run, and a lack of gutters could cause foundation or roof damage, which are both unnecessary additional costs.

There are multiple routes to counteract long-term problems like these.

For anyone looking to buy a home, an inspection is a must. A good inspector will point out problems like the ones discussed above, help the buyer decide how urgent problems are and lay out the drawbacks of waiting on maintenance.

Common water problems, like leaky faucets in the sink or showers and running toilets, are often easy to fix.

A leaky faucet needs to be done properly to prevent further problems. The website, “This Old House,” has a step-by-step guide that explains the process of the project in detail. It would be an easy enough fix for a determined college student, but if renting, check your rental agreements before signing to ensure no further problems arise.

Many problems in bathrooms stem from improperly bolted toilets, Finch said. This is a project most college students can do, given permission from a landlord if renting, after looking up some how-to guides.

Many homes have a combination bathtub-shower and, if not correctly contained, water can get out of the shower and leak onto the floor. If this happens consistently, water will seep into the floor and cause damage to the wood frame and even leak if the bathroom is above the ground floor; yet another rather costly problem with a simple solution.

With the winter Pullman has endured this year, frozen pipes are also a fear for many residents. As a renter, always seek permission from the landowner before attempting a fix, but if pipes freeze and cause plumbing problems, there are a multitude of solutions on the internet, including using blow dryers and heat lamps.

If possible, it is best to seek assistance from a professional if frozen pipes become an issue. Water expands when it freezes, and pipes may rupture during a deep freeze. Thawing those pipes out could flood the surrounding space.

Many maintenance problems can arise when you begin living on your own in a house or apartment, and how to tackle those problems is always a personal decision.

“People have to look at their comfort level,” Finch said.

If you do not feel comfortable solving a problem yourself, there is no shame in calling a professional to ensure the job is done correctly.