When it comes to home improvement, there are two types of projects: the sexy “look at my gorgeous new and improved kitchen/bathroom/deck!” type of renovation, and the dreary “we’ve got to spend how much and no one will even notice?” type of repair or maintenance. Unfortunately, the second type of project is the kind that is generally much more urgent and if Murphy’s Law is to be believed, it’s also how you’ll probably end up spending more of your home improvement dollars.
When Not to Go Cheap on Home Repairs
If you plan for your home to last a lifetime, here are the repairs that you shouldn’t skimp on:
Roof. Roofers will often tell you that your roof is one of the most important structural components of your house. It protects the entire framework of your home. So it’s not only important to maintain your roof well, but also to repair and/or replace it when it has reached the end of its life.
It is possible to simply place new shingles on top of your existing roof if you do need a new cover and cannot afford to replace the roof. However, you can only get away with this fix once. When it is time for a new roof, it’s worth the extra money to purchase a roof that lasts at least 30 years. It saves you from an inevitable headache coming sooner rather than later. And since the labor costs the same whether you install a roof with a long life span or a 15-year cheap-o special, it makes much better sense to spend a little more now to keep your roof in good working order for several decades.
Foundation. Without your foundation, your entire house would crumble. Problems in your foundation can lead to water seepage, mold and possibly even cracks or shifts in the structure of the house. Clearly, taking good care of your foundation is in your best interest. However, you do have the luxury of time when it comes to foundation problems, because unlike roofing issues, it can take years for a minor foundation problem to develop into a major one. That can allow you the time to save up money to shore up your foundation—a process which can cost quite a bit, but is far less onerous or prohibitively expensive than repairing a major foundation problem.
In the mean time, it’s important to make certain that rainwater is draining away from your foundation. A weekend spent redirecting your rainspouts or re-grading your yard away from your foundation may not be anyone’s idea of fun, but it will save you a great deal of time and money in the future.
Plumbing. Water damage caused by bad plumbing can be a very expensive problem to fix. To make matters worse, most of your home’s plumbing is out of sight, making it more difficult to notice small problems before they become big problems. Make sure you use quality parts and hire a qualified plumber if you won’t know what you are doing.
Electric. The first three items on this list can cause expensive problems, but most of the issues they cause are not catastrophic if tended to quickly. That isn’t always the case with electric problems which can cause damage to appliances and fixtures, fires, or bodily harm. There is far more to home electric work than simply stringing a wire from point A to point B, and if you don’t know the ins and outs of electric work, it’s a good idea to hire a professional to make sure the job is done right the first time, and with the right parts for the job.
If You DIY
Much of the foundation and roofing work that an average house needs could be done by an intrepid Do-It-Yourselfer. The work may require a strong back and some time, but generally it does not need extremely high-level expertise. However, it would be foolish to embark on one of these projects without calling in a professional inspector to make sure that you are doing the job right. Spend about $200 of your labor savings on a pre- and post-project inspection. This will help you to know if the project is over your head, or give you the confidence to go forward with all the information you need. Keep in mind you may also need to file for a permit and have the inspection filed with your county or municipality.
DIY plumbing and electric work are very different from many other home improvement projects as they often require specialized knowledge and equipment. Make sure you are up to date on current safety issues, codes, and best practices. And if in doubt, call a professional.
While it may be more fun to do the home improvement projects that transform the living space of a house, it’s vital that homeowners care of these important structures of their homes.
Photo credit: haglundc.