Live in a condo or co-op in the city, and your monthly maintenance fee may be large enough to make you envy the owner of a single-family home. But that regular common charge means that you get to live in ignorant bliss about what it costs to keep a property functioning. You may never know when the gutters get cleaned, who gets hired to do the work or even how much the job costs. None of the details are your problem because the work just gets done whether you’re paying attention or not.
Depending on where you live, national averages can seem like a steal. Rene Artale’s four-bedroom house near Newcastle, in Westchester County, N.Y., suffered some damage during a storm last winter. A tree fell in the yard, damaging her fence, arbor and retaining wall. And heavy snow caused her roof to leak. The repair bills just kept piling up. Removing the tree, $3,800. Repairing the wall, $4,000. Fixing the roof, $3,800. Fixing the picket fence, $2,800. “It’s obscene,” Ms. Artale, 47, said.
Before you go through the trouble of repainting a ceiling to get rid of a water stain, try this trick. Spray the spot with a bleach and water solution (10 percent bleach), and wait a day or two. If it’s an old stain, use a mold and mildew remover from the grocery store. You’d be surprised how often the stain disappears by the next day. It works on both flat and textured ceilings.
While you’re at it: If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, consider getting one. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, an Energy Star–rated model can save you about $180 in heating and cooling costs each year. You can buy one for about $40 and install it yourself. It’s a relatively easy job; no rewiring required. On the other hand, these are home improvement projects you should never, ever DIY.
Two-part filler has to be mixed and it doesn’t rinse off with water, so it’s not as user friendly as other fillers. However, it’s much tougher and a much better choice for any hole bigger than a nail head, especially outdoors. And it’s not just for wood?you can patch metal, fiberglass?even concrete. Here’s another option for wood filler. Buy some wood filler on Amazon now.
Perhaps the most perplexing repairs facing a home-owner are broken or damaged things. In today's era of built-in obsolescence for many products, it is often more convenient to replace something rather than attempt to repair it. A repairman is faced with the tasks of accurately identifying the problem, then finding the materials, supplies, tools and skills necessary to sufficiently effect the repair. Some things, such as broken windows, appliances or furniture can be carried to a repair shop, but there are many repairs that can be performed easily enough, such as patching holes in plaster and drywall, cleaning stains, repairing cracked windows and their screens, or replacing a broken electrical switch or outlet. Other repairs may have some urgency, such as a broken water pipes, broken doors, latches or windows, or a leaky roof or water tank, and this factor can certainly justify calling for professional help. A home handyman may become adept at dealing with such immediate repairs, to avoid further damage or loss, until a professional can be summoned.
Instead of forking over $5,000-10,000 to replace all of your old windows with brand new ones, consider repairing old windows yourself. With a few hundred dollars in supplies (sand paper, paint, window glaze, etc.), you’ll be prepared to reglaze every window in your house. Though it can be a tad time consuming, you can prioritize the project by room, removing windows one by one to paint, reglaze, and, if necessary, replace any cracked glass. Get started glazing your windows here.