Home ownership is great, but the expenses to maintain it can really start to add up. While the big stuff is best left to the experts, there are many tasks you can take care of on your own, which will save you money. Here are 10 home maintenance tasks to put back on your To Do list, to save on your maintenance budget.
Cleaning the Gutters
Your gutters serve an important function. They direct rainwater away from your foundation, and out to the street. When your gutters are clogged, you will see rainwater pouring over the edges of your roofline, pummeling your landscaping, washing away your hardscaping, and eventually damaging your foundation. You need to keep them clear to protect the investment you made in your home.
Fortunately, this is an easy—though dirty—job. A good ladder will go a long way in this job. You can also check your local hardware store for special tools that help reach your gutters and clear out the debris. Something like this even attaches to a power washer for easy cleaning. Once you are finished, you can also look at installing some screening material to keep future debris from collecting in the gutters.
Part of the American Dream includes a lawn and a white picket fence. However, that lawn needs regular maintenance to keep it looking its best. Fortunately, unless you have a large lot, this doesn’t need to consume your weekend. Instead of hiring a lawn care company, get a lawnmower that makes sense for the size of your yard. In the hottest months, it is best to cut the grass first thing in the morning, or after the sun starts to set. Also, check with your neighborhood HOA or local ordinances on any restrictions regarding watering your lawn. You can also talk to an expert at your local home and garden center for advice on when to fertilize the grass.
Whether interior or exterior, painting is another job you can easily handle on your own if you want to minimize your expenses. If you have never done any painting like this before, look for tutorial videos on YouTube to help get you started. The prep work often takes longer than the actual painting, but it’s time well spent. Many paint stores sell sample size containers so you can test out a larger section before committing to a color. When working indoors, taping baseboards, laying down drop cloths, and working in small sections will help you get a professional look. Don’t forget to ventilate your workspace, too. If you are completing an exterior painting project, check your paint samples in different lighting to make sure you like the color. You can rent a paint sprayer to make the job go faster, too. Take your time and remember, it’s just paint. If you don’t love the color, you can always do it again. A fresh coat of paint can go a long way toward freshening up your space, and it is a home maintenance task worth tackling on your own.
Proper insulation isn’t just for cold-weather climates. In fact, with the right amount of insulation, you can keep your air conditioning bills under control too. This graphic from Insulation Institute shows how much insulation you need, depending on what region you live in. Many older homes are lacking in proper amounts of insulation, so it is in your best interests to check your attic.
If you need more insulation, you can add this yourself. If you are unsure what type of insulation to use, check with your local hardware store for a recommendation. Whether loose fibers, blown cellulose, or “that pink stuff” that comes in long rolls, insulation is an easy fix, and a great way to save on your energy bills.
Replacing a Garbage Disposal
Like all appliances, garbage disposals eventually need to be replaced. It may sound more daunting to tackle this one on your own, but with the right preparation, you can save yourself the $100/hour a professional is likely to charge. You will need the right tools for the job: pliers, a flat-head screwdriver, and a hammer. You will also need plumber’s putty, mounting screws, and the new garbage disposal. Before you begin, turn off the electricity to the circuit. This tutorial from the DIY Network will walk you through the entire process.
Changing a Light Fixture
Maybe you want to upgrade those builder-grade fixtures. Or perhaps you need to swap fixtures from one room to another. You can handle these tasks on your own with the right guidance. The most critical step is to ensure the electricity has been turned off to the rooms where you are working. Other than that, it’s just a matter of following the instructions that came with your new fixture. You can also follow this Home Depot tutorial. Lighting makes a big difference in the overall aesthetic in any room. It is a great home maintenance project to tackle on your own.
Fixing a Smelly Washing Machine
Front-load washing machines may look great, but they have a bad habit of holding water, which promotes mold growth. Over time, this mold can really take a toll on the interior of your machine, causing unsightly build-up and a distinctive odor that will find its way into your clothing. To eliminate the smell, run a cycle (without clothes) of very hot water and vinegar. Wipe out the inside, including the rubber gaskets that seal the door when closed. Mold and mildew love to hide there. Leave the door open when the machine is not in use. Smelly towels? Wash them twice—once in hot water and one cup of vinegar, and once more in hot water and one cup baking soda. They will be back to smelling clean in no time.
Repairing a Deck
Loose boards? Peeling paint? These are easy fixes that just require some basic tools and an afternoon or two. If you need to replace the planks, you can talk to someone at the local hardware store to match the wood type and width. Many, like Home Depot, will cut them to length in the store, too. Some helpful advice from familyhandyman.com will help you with other deck-related issues, including replacing rotted posts and fixing a loose railing. Though repairing a deck may sound like a big home maintenance project, with the right preparation and advice, you can take this on successfully.
If you have a lot of drywall work that needs to be done, hire a pro. But if it’s a small patch job, you can do this yourself even if you don’t know your joint compound from your spackle. This video from Lowe’s Home Improvement Centers is a great tutorial. You can even retexture your wall with readily-available sprays from your local home improvement store. Once you prime and paint the repaired section, no one will be able to tell there was ever any damage there.
Looking to upgrade your bathroom’s look on a budget? Changing the faucets can make a big difference with little effort. And you can keep the costs even lower if you do it yourself. You will need a couple of tools, like an adjustable wrench and a pair of pliers. You will also need to buy some plumber’s putty and plumber’s tape. Most importantly, you need to know what kind of faucet you currently have. This will dictate the type with which you can replace it. Standard types are single hole, 4” spread, and 8” spread. With the 4” and 8” spreads, this refers to the distance between the outermost holes, where the temperature knobs are. Unless you are also replacing the entire sink, you will need to replace your old faucet with the same type so the openings line up properly. The DIY Network has a great tutorial on the steps you need to complete for this home maintenance project.
Building Your Confidence
If you have never tackled any home maintenance projects, now is the time to start. Choose something you feel you can handle, perhaps painting a room, and move up to some of the more involved projects once you have some confidence in your abilities. You will be moving light fixtures like a pro in no time. And you will have more money in your pocket.