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Home Sense

When It Comes to Home Maintenance Do You Fix It or Risk It?

The experts at say homeowners should set aside one to three percent of the purchase price of their homes (or whatever they can afford) each year for ongoing maintenance. That amounts to $2,000-$6,000 a year for a $200,000 home. However, we recently conducted an online survey through Harris Poll that found that 60 percent of American homeowners don’t have a maintenance fund. That means many homeowners could be at risk for major financial headaches down the road. For example, replacing or repairing a roof is one of the biggest expenses a homeowner may have—one that can come without warning. Nationally, the average homeowner spends about $6,600 to install a new roof, but prices can soar upwards of $20,000 depending on the size of the roof, materials used, labor costs and more.

Nearly one in four homeowners* (23 percent) admits they never inspect their roof or have it inspected unless there is a problem. Nearly a third (27 percent) of those who own a house either mistakenly believe their insurance will pay for damage that occurs to their roof over time, such as normal wear and tear, or they have no idea how their insurance works when it comes to this type of roof damage.

“Our survey really highlights the need to educate consumers about the importance of regularly inspecting and maintaining roofs,” says Joe Vahey, vice president and product manager at Erie Insurance. “Otherwise they could face expensive and unexpected repair costs that, according to our survey, many homeowners aren’t ready for.”

Homeowners also admitted to suffering some serious consequences from not maintaining their homes, with much of the damage related to water. When asked if their home was damaged due to lack of maintenance, answers included:

“Yes, did not fix a dripping leak in the upstairs bathroom, ended up leaking into first floor”

“Walls in bathroom dampened and falling apart because of leaky roof”

“Dripping water in crawl space caused mold problem”

“Water damage from improper plumbing repair”

“Flooding in the basement due to sump pump malfunction”

The survey also included questions about other common home maintenance tasks that, if ignored, could end up costing big bucks. 


Maintenance Should Be Performed...

Interesting Findings


How often do you care for your gutters and downspouts?

Variable depending on region

Nearly one out of four homeowners (24 percent) says they never care for their gutters and downspouts.

Water Damage:

Clogged gutters can cause water to flow down the sides of the home and pool around its foundation, often leading to some major issues like uneven floors, cracks in walls and interior water damage. This type of claim, also known as seepage, is a maintenance issue and often is not covered under your home insurance policy. Home Advisor says homeowners can expect to pay around $3,830, on average, to repair foundation issues.

How often do you clean your clothes dryer exhaust duct?


One in five (21 percent) admit they never clean their clothes dryer ducts, unless they have a problem.

House Fires:

Laundry is part of life’s weekly grind. But did you know that dryers cause roughly 15,500 home structure fires, 29 deaths, 400 injuries and $192 million in direct property loss each year? The most common cause of dryer fires is failure to do a thorough cleaning. Because a lint trap is not a foolproof method for catching all the fuzzy stuff from clothes, lint can gradually build up and catch fire in the heating element or exhaust duct.

How often is your furnace inspected and serviced by a professional?


Thirty-six percent of homeowners have their furnaces inspected and serviced once a year. But, according to survey data, young women (aged 18-34) are least likely to do this (9 percent) compared to their male counterparts who are three-and-a-half times more likely to do it (36 percent).

House Fires:

From 2009-2013, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 56,000 structure fires per year in homes that involved heating equipment. These fires resulted in annual losses of 470 civilian deaths, 1,490 civilian injuries, and $1.0 billion in direct property damage.

How often do you clean (sweep) your fireplace chimney?


Nearly half (46 percent) of people who own a home with a fireplace never have their chimney cleaned (swept), unless they have a problem.

House Fires & Carbon Monoxide:

Unclean chimneys are a leading cause of structure fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association, which recommends an annual chimney inspection. The NFPA research shows the leading factor contributing to home heating fires (30 percent) was failure to clean, principally from solid-fueled heating equipment, primarily chimneys. From 2009-2013, chimneys resulted in $25 million in direct property damage each year. Improper cleaning can also lead to other serious issues including potential for carbon monoxide, fumes and possibly soot to enter the living spaces of your home.

How often do you clean your sump pump and pit?


44 percent of those who own a sump pump admit to never cleaning it or the pit, unless they have a problem.

Water Damage:

Sump pumps are used to remove excess water from homes that would otherwise cause property damage. One survey respondent experienced flooding in his basement due to a sump pump malfunction, specifically. Water damage due to sewage and drain backups generally requires additional insurance coverage beyond a standard policy. Without that coverage, it could end up costing you, on average, $2,156, according to Home Advisor.

Lessons Learned?

Some homeowners said the survey got them thinking about ways to improve their home maintenance habits. When asked to complete the sentence: “The one thing about my home that I know I should do a better job of maintaining but don’t is…” sample answers included: “A lot, apparently” and “All this survey just mentioned.”

*U.S. adults who own a house and are a primary/joint decision maker of home maintenance, referred to throughout this story as “homeowners”


This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Erie Insurance from March 11-15, 2016, among 2,023 adults ages 18 and older among whom 1,077 own a house and are the primary/joint decision maker and 1,151 own a house. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Leah Knapp at


About The Harris Poll

Over the last 5 decades, Harris Polls have become media staples.  With comprehensive experience and precise technique in public opinion polling, along with a proven track record of uncovering consumers’ motivations and behaviors, The Harris Poll has gained strong brand recognition around the world. The Harris Poll offers a diverse portfolio of proprietary client solutions to transform relevant insights into actionable foresight for a wide range of industries including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer packaged goods. Contact us for more information.

National survey from Erie Insurance reveals poor home maintenance habits — from lack of roof check-ups and furnace inspections to never-been-done chimney cleanings — leaving millions at risk of major financial loss /blog/home-maintenance-survey Erie Insurance

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