Just a few quick changes can make a big impact.— Michael Moloney, host of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"
If you’re like most people, your home repair and maintenance jobs have been piling up for months. Spring may be the best time to get to work on those neglected duties. The most common springtime repairs are small matters that can be done yourself with basic tools and common hardware-store items. The old “ounce-of-prevention” axiom is true when it comes to timely maintenance: What could be a simple fix now could turn into an expensive headache if neglected. For example, a small roof leak could lead to structural wood rot and a dangerous mold problem. Some home repair experts say there are some minor repairs you can do at a fair cost this spring to prevent such problems.
Anthony Gilchriest, a professional handyman in Los Angeles, California, suggested you create a checklist of things to do.
"Perform an inspection of your home — inside and out — notebook in hand," he said.
Outside the home, Gilchriest said, check the gutters for clogs caused by leaves and other debris, and the downspouts. They must be clear, uncracked — they can be tested with a garden hose — and securely attached to your home. Non-maintained gutters can lead to basement flooding, roof damage and foundation trouble.
He also says to check the roof for loose or missing shingles that may need to be replaced. Check the deck to see if it needs re-coating or a power wash, and the driveway for a possible fresh coat of sealant.
Inside the house, peek around areas that you don't often frequent. Check the water heater for leaks and the foundation for any cracks that may let in outside moisture. Go to the attic next. If there's any hint of mustiness, that may be a warning sign of incoming water. Inspect the roof for leaks.
With luck, you won't find any major issues. However, you are likely to come up with a laundry list of small things that need attention now before they become big things.
"You may want to hire a contractor to perform some of the more complex tasks," Gilchriest said. "But the key is to determine your needs."
Get to Work
Most of the easy fixes can be done yourself says Michael Moloney, host of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," and you should tackle them if you’re able. Moloney said hiring a pro can cost you at least $50 per hour for labor alone.
Cost of supplies will obviously vary depending upon the size of your home, but Gilchriest says you can get a lot of bang for your buck from a couple of $3 tubes of caulk. On the exterior of the home, seal the cracks and gaps that might let water in, especially around windows and door trim.
"Doing it yourself will save you at least $100 in labor costs,” he said.
You may need roofing tar to take care of loose shingles on the roof. It's a necessary fix to prevent interior leaks, rot and mold. The materials run about $30; doing it yourself will save you at least $200 in professional labor, Gilchriest said.
Though some dread it, Moloney said a springtime cleaning of gutters is essential to a maintenance plan. Faulty gutters — like faulty roofing — can divert water back onto or even into your home rather than away from it, again risking rot and even structural and foundation damage. You must clean out the gutters by hand, screw any loose downspouts to the house, and prime and spray paint the inside of rusty gutters. The supplies cost a mere $25. If you hire a professional, you’ll be looking at a bill for roughly $300.
Another area that often goes neglected, says Moloney, is outdoor decking, porches and fencing. A little bit of maintenance goes a long way here. Proper care means you won’t need to replace your outdoor structures for years longer than if you neglect them.
Use wood screws to secure loose boards on decks and fencing. This will cost only about $10 and will save at least $100 in labor.
Gilchriest said stripping and refinishing chemicals are easy to apply to worn decks and fences with a paint brush or a garden sprayer. He said the project can add "years of structural soundness and dramatically improves" their appearance.
If the cost for treatment of a deck is $250 when done yourself, you may expect to pay $1,000 for a professional to do the work.
If you had a drafty winter, Gilchriest says to add insulation to the attic. It will save on fuel costs in both summer and winter. The cost depends on the size of the attic, but most homes can be outfitted with traditional roll-out insulation for under $500 if you do it yourself.
Finally, Gilchriest said the plumbing under the house, or any place it is exposed to the elements, must be coated with insulating foam sealant. A can of this expanding foam costs under $5 and is generally enough to fill the leaks in an average home.
If you'd like to accomplish an easy project just to lift your spirits, Moloney suggests you skip the kitchen — where even minor repairs can be expensive — in favor of the bathroom.
"Just a few quick changes can make a big impact," Moloney said.
The easiest bathroom project, he says, is to re-grout the tile.
"There is a new product called Grout Buddy that works amazingly well," he said. "You can just put it over your existing old grout and it instantly gives your bathroom a fresh look."
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