Prioritizing Home ImprovementsIn this current economic climate, homeowners may not be able to completely renovate their abode all at once. They still, however, need to make sure that their house remains in good condition and get the most they can out of their home improvement budget. This means that a practical homeowner has to do some prioritizing.
"Most home improvement projects should be based on need and budget,” Brian Kearney, owner of Neponset Valley Construction, says. “When you have two or three major home improvement projects in mind, you need to evaluate each home project by writing down the pros and cons of completing or not completing the project.”
Prioritizing your projects and finding easy ways to save are both key to making your home safe and even more valuable. MainStreet consulted the experts and got seven tips for making the most of your home improvements.
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Safety FirstAnything that jeopardizes your family’s safety should be fixed first. You’ll save yourself some peace of mind and you won’t be stuck scrambling for funds after a costly bathroom renovations (since you will have to fix a safety issue no matter what the circumstances).
“Issues that could cause catastrophic injury, death or burn the house down need to be addressed immediately,” Reggie Marston, president of Residential Equity Management Home Inspections, says. These include back-drafting fuel appliances that could potentially fill the house with carbon monoxide and improper electrical issues, such as ungrounded fixtures, contact hazards or short-circuited connections.
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Launch a Pre-Emptive StrikeNext, address issues that could (or will) result in major problems later on. Marston explains that a good rule of thumb for identifying secondary home improvements “is to keep the outside out and the inside in.” That means you should fix your roof before it starts leaking.
If your ceiling is already full of holes, you need to plug them as soon as possible. Letting a leak persist can lead to wood rot, mold or, even worse, problems with your house’s foundation and/or structural components.
Similarly, old windows that don’t close or open properly should be replaced. They’re not only a safety hazard, but huge money wasters.
“Old windows are less energy efficient,” Kearney says, adding that they can cause your utility bill to increase by 25%.
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Shop SecondhandIf you want to finish all of the home improvement projects on your list, saving money is key. However, you don’t want to skimp on a project as important as re-wiring your home. Save some pennies, instead, by purchasing raw materials secondhand. Habitat for Humanity, for example, operates a Re-Store that sells, according to the website, “gently used” furniture, home accessories, appliances and building materials.
“They accept donations of used building supplies from builders and homeowners that may have bought too much or once they bought the item it turned out they didn't need the item,” Marston explains, adding that people who shop secondhand can save as much as 50% to 70% on building materials. “Products such as cabinets, appliances, windows, doors and much more can be obtained at a terrific discount.”
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DIY AestheticsDIY is a great way to save on home repair … if the improvements are done correctly. This means that those who don’t have prior experience should stay away from plumbing or electrical overhauls.
Hire a contractor for the big stuff and do the small aesthetic projects yourself like painting walls or shellacking floors. “Replace a couple interior doors before attempting to install the big double exterior french door,” Marston says. “Or build a small brick garden wall before attempting the big brick barbecue.”
As you gain experience, you can start to tackle more difficult projects.
“One friend of mine who got laid off just finished retiling his entire bathroom,” Emme Levine, a San Francisco interior designer, says. “It looks fantastic and took his mind off his money woes. He got the job done, increased the value to his house, got great physical exercise and [it] kept him in a positive frame of mind!”
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Comparison ShopWhile it’s highly recommended that you use professionals for big jobs, you should shop around for the best price in town. Websites such as Bidnerd.com, let homeowners post their project online (for free) so that local service providers can submit bids to them. The homeowner can then select who gets the job, based on the price and package.
If you don’t want to take your search online, Levine suggests consulting at least three contractors before you decide who gets to renovate your bathroom.
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Partner on ProjectsIf your skill set has been adequately developed, you can partner with contractors on big projects to minimize costs. Tina Gleisner of the Association of Women Home Owners explains you can hire professionals to build a deck’s infrastructure … and then lay out the actual decking yourself. Or, she says, you could put in your own railings. This can save you so money while ensuring that structural elements are up to code and safe for play.
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Group projects together to get a better bid
“Contractors really want the work and are taking deep discounts in order to get more [bids],” Levine explains. Homeowners can take advantage of current economic pressures by presenting a list of multiple projects to a contractor (ranked in order of importance) before negotiating price. Grouping these items together tends to get you more bang for your buck.
“This is the most direct route to ‘my roof is leaking but I want a deck too,’” Levine explains.
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