10 Money-Saving Home Repairs

Please Welcome Crystal, a brand new Sweating The Big Stuff staff writer. Crystal currently blogs over at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff, where she write about finding the balance between paying your bills, saving for your future, and budgeting for the fun stuff in between. Our shared passion for enjoying life while being financially responsible seem to be a perfect match, so please welcome her!

Home maintenance is not one of my strong suits. If something is broken, it gets fixed. That’s about it. Although I don’t succeed at following through on every great tip, I do actually carry out some of the following repairs listed in the Yahoo Finance article, 10 Home Repairs That Will Save You Money. Some of these are surprisingly basic but can save thousands of dollars in the long run.

1. Caulk

If you’ve lived in your house a few years, you probably noticed that the caulk along your sinks, countertops and bathtub is coming loose. These gaps may not seem like a big deal, but they can wreak havoc inside your walls. Moisture causes mold and even leaks – expensive repairs that can easily be prevented. A tube of kitchen and bath caulk costs just a few dollars, and you’ll avoid expensive repairs.

2. Insulate The quickest way to save money on your energy bill is to insulate, yet so many of us overlook this simple home improvement project for its benefits. Sure, your walls are insulated, but what about your basement, your attic, and your garage? Just in case the energy cost savings aren’t enticing enough for you, check with the IRS – there are current credits that allow you to deduct this energy-saving expense from your taxes.

3. Change Filters

When was the last time you changed your furnace’s air filters? It’s an oft-overlooked chore, but one that keep your furnace running efficiently, and improves the air quality inside your home. Change your filters at least every three months to keep your furnace working efficiently for years to come.

4. Install a Thermostat
Does your home have a programmable thermostat? If not, invest in one; it’ll earn its money back in no time. By programming heating and cooling, you avoid paying to keep an empty house at a comfortable temperature. Manage the heat appropriately in winter to avoid burst water pipes; in summer, draw your curtains during the day to keep the house cool. Buy a programmable thermostat and you can save big on monthly bills.

5. Fix Leaks
That leaky faucet or runny toilet is draining your water bill, and in most cases it’s a cheap and quick fix. Replace the washer on your faucet, and while you’re at it, consider installing a faucet aerator if yours doesn’t already have one. Faucet aerators reduce water flow from your faucet to save on your water bill; check your home improvement store for this inexpensive fix.

6. Install Dimmers
Dimmers aren’t just for romance; they can save you big bucks on your energy bill. They’re cheap and easy to install, so look for rooms that could use a little reduction in harsh lighting. While you’re at it, replace your light bulbs with energy-efficient ones. They’re big money savers.

7. Clean Carpets Clean your carpet lately? With proper care, carpets can last a long time and look great, but everyone needs to clean them sometime. You don’t need to hire an expensive service either – if you can vacuum, you can clean your carpets by yourself. Rent a carpet cleaner at your local supermarket or big-box store for a modest fee. Make sure you vacuum thoroughly before cleaning, and pick a dry day so your carpet dries quickly. With regular cleaning your carpet can last a long time, saving you big bucks on new flooring.

8. Clean Siding and Windows
Windows and siding get a beating in most climates. Wash your windows and siding with a simple hose and water first, and with a cleaning solution as needed; your home improvement store sells specialty products for just this kind of job. Rent a power washer for very dirty jobs. Keep an eye on cobwebs, wasp and bird nests to ensure your home’s exterior stays in good shape. Touch up with paint as needed, and your house will look like new at little or no cost.

9. Fight Pests
Those spiders and ants at your foundation, that mouse nest in your crawl space? Take care of it – pests can destroy a home in a hurry. Hire an exterminator, or for small pests, combat with pesticides. Even if you don’t think you have a problem, inspect every part of the interior and exterior of your home regularly to avoid small pest problems getting out hand.

10. Clean Ductwork If your home is older, your ductwork likely has dust, grime, and other unwelcome residue inside. For big jobs, pay a professional; a simple cleaning can easily be done yourself. Simply remove the grates from your air vents, and clean the inside with your vacuum.

Okay, so here’s where I stand:

1. Caulk – We caulked like crazy people when we first bought our house in 2007, but I haven’t picked up the dried out tube since then. Oops. It’s probably about time for us to do a little caulk check-up since water that gets into the floor of our second story bathroom could cause a hole in our bottom floor ceiling.

2. Insulate – Thankfully our home came very well insulated. Our electricity bill is never higher than $200, even in the summer, which is great for Houston, TX. I do think we need to add some more weather-stripping to the back door and the one leading to the garage since I can see light in the tiny opening left by worn away stripping. We could probably eek out a little more savings on our electricity bill. I’ll put it on our ever-growing to-do list.

3. Change Filters – We don’t have a furnace, but I change our air conditioner filter every month or two. We just bought a 90 day filter that should help decrease the pet dander from our dogs. I’ll let you know if I can ease up on my Claritin addiction.

4. Install a Thermostat – Again, we got lucky and our house came with a programmable thermostat. It’s awesome. Not only does it help keep our bills low, but I never sit shivering for an hour before realizing I lowered the A/C two hours ago and just got too involved with the tv or laptop to adjust it again. Yes, that happened to me all the time in our last apartment…

5. Fix Leaks – I fixed a few leaks last year, but I do have a guest bedroom toilet that’s been runny…time for another quick fix. Our water bill has stayed the same, but no reason to waste if we don’t have to, right?

6. Install Dimmers – We would never actually dim the lights, so we haven’t bothered. BUT, we do replace bulbs that go out with the energy-efficient ones. I have no idea if it is saving us money, but I’m counting on them lasting longer. We had one energy-efficient bulb die on us right out of the box, but the company sent us a replacement at no cost. If an energy-efficient bulb gives you problems, keep the bulb and call the phone number on the back of its box. Each bulb is individually numbered and they’ll want that before sending you a new one.

7. Clean Carpets – We replaced the carpets downstairs with wood laminate, which has made me VERY happy. I hate the cream-colored, cheap Berber that our house came with and cannot wait for it to completely wear out upstairs. Then I can justify the expense and hassle of getting the stairs and second floor recarpeted. In the meantime, most of it gets vacuumed every two-three weeks now.

8. Clean Siding and Windows – I keep an eye out for wasp nests, but I do need to clean a little green stuff off our back siding. I don’t see it often, so it’s a case of out of sight, out of mind. I’d do it right now, but I’m lazy and it’s dark outside. I haven’t actually thought about washing our windows…do any of you do that often?

9. Fight Pests – We actually pay Terminex $80 every three months to spray all around the outside of the house and inside the garage. Ants only annoy me, but fleas and cockroaches really creep me out. Even though my dogs are flea-free, I don’t trust my neighbors. I even put out that lawn care stuff with bug killer twice a year.

10. Clean Ductwork – Our house was built in 2004. Is that considered old yet? Needless to say, I haven’t checked our ductwork ever…now I feel like a slacker.

How do you add up on these money-saving maintenance tips? Are there any others you think should be added?

28 Responses to 10 Money-Saving Home Repairs

  1. In the item about Dimmers, you also mentioned energy efficient light bulbs. Keep in mind that if you want to use both, a ‘standard’ CFL bulb is not compatible with a dimmer. They do make them but they’re much more expensive. If you try to use a regular one with a dimmer, I think it can quickly ruin the bulb.

    You might want to consider doing some of the pest control yourself. The Ortho Home Max is about $10 for a jug that lasts an entire season or more and I’ve been told that it’s pretty much the same as what the Terminix people use. I’ve been using the Ortho stuff for the last couple of years and it seems to work pretty good. The only thing I really see inside is the occasional spider, but I’ve never lived in a house where that hasn’t been the case.

    • @Money Beagle, thanks for bringing up the point on dimmers being bad for CFL’s. I’m glad we don’t have dimmers! :-)

      This is the second time someone has recommended The Ortho Home Max to me, so I will definitely check it out. I’m fine with spiders, I just can’t stand cockroaches or ants or fleas or ticks…okay, pretty much anything other than spiders and june bugs…

      Thanks for the recommendation again since that could save us $280 a year if I use the Ortho package every three months!

  2. We’re planning on just ripping our carpet out because I hate it so much. Does that count as cleaning them?

    I’m usually pretty good at minor home repairs — things like fixing a leak, patching holes, etc — but one thing I’d really like to learn to do is adjust our garage door opener. We need it adjusted about once a year, and despite watching the repair person the last couple of times, I can’t seem to do it.

    • @Jackie, LOL on the carpet. Yes, that counts as cleaning it in my book. :-)

      I didn’t know garage door openers needed to be adjusted…ours quit working last year, so I kicked one of the sensors and it works again. I’m assuming that’s not the best method?

  3. I am with Jackie – I hate carpet too, but I digress.

    Just have to stress the importance of changing filters. Our house has an air filter attached to the furnace, I think it is electro-static or something like that. Anyway, the filter is huge and shaped like a weird accordion. We had some home repairs done that involved a lot of drywall dust and we did not remember to change our filter right afterward. Huge mistake. Our furnace got so screwed up and ended up needing a 700 dollar repair. So any time you have home repairs done, change those filters frequently!!

    Great post!

    • @Everyday Tips, great point! Renovation dust is a killer…

      Um, for anybody who may know…we have a central air and heating unit. Does that mean we have a furnace I don’t know about with a filter I haven’t changed in 3 years? I check the outside part of the unit occasionally for ants or crud buildup, but I RARELY go into the attic to check that part…is that a furnace?

  4. I rent a house and every year we make sure we get the carpets cleaned, if only for my own sanity. I wish we had hardwood floors, but for now we must live with carpet. As for pests, they really creep me out. However, our rental is definitely invested! We’ve tried a few different things and I’m not willing to pay a monthly fee for Terminix since it’s not my house. Any suggestions on how to inexpensively fend them off?

    • @Little House, I’m going to try the Ortho Home Max for $10 that Money Beagle suggested in his comment. I’d think it would be perfect for you and may be what we end up using long-term instead of Terminex as well. :-)

    • @Little House, If there are ants, use ‘Terro’ liquid ant baits (which you can find at any hardware store — even WalMart). Works every time. Feeds the ants a poison that they end up taking back to the nest…ultimately decimating the nest. Just be sure to put them in a place (i.e. outside behind a bush or up high) where kids and pets won’t access it (toxic!).

  5. Question along these lines. Has anyone every used that product that is perfectly clear and you put it over your window during the winder to keep heat in? Instead of buying whole new windows, you can just use this product. My Gf’s roommates used this, not too sure how well it worked however. Just throwing it out there!

  6. I totally agree with changing the air filter often. I have never understood how anyone could accept inferior air quality indoors, particularly folks with allergies (like yours truly ). When buying them, I tend to buy higher quality ones. They may cost more, but they work quite.a bit better than the very inexpensive ones.

    • @Squirrelers, I’m hoping so. I usually just bought the cheap blue crappy ones, but Mr. BFS just bought a much nicer one that should last 90 days for less than $5…we’ll see if it helps. I usually don’t have problems indoors unless I’m dusting, but the pollen in Houston can be a killer on my allergies and asthma when the seasons change.

  7. That caulk can become pretty ugly after a few years. I’ve noticed this in the apartments that I’ve lived in, but since they were apartments, I never bothered to change it.

    Dimmers are pretty nice, but you have to be careful if you use them with CFLs. Many CFLs are incompatible with dimmers and go whacko if you use them together. Not only that, but I hate the quality of light that CFL’s give off, so I stick with incandescent bulbs, preferably halogen.

    Programmable thermostats are pretty cool, and what’s really great is that you can time it to lower energy use while you’re out of the house, and then crank things up again when you’re home and you need it! Also, you can just let your body get used to warmer temperatures, that way you don’t need to use as much AC.

    Nice post!

    • @Invest It Wisely, thanks!

      I checked the bathtub caulk that I put in a while ago and so far, so good. I also prefer regular light bulbs but it’s not a fight worth having with Mr. BFS…

      Yes, programmable thermostats are fantastic and I wish all the places we lived had one…we could have probably saved almost $1000 just because we are both forgetful…

  8. If you’re addicted to claritin, you might want to consider getting an Austin Air Purifier. They’re pricey but worth every penny if you suffer from seasonal allergies.

    • @Nicole, I have heard of air purifiers but not “Austin” air purifiers. We are actually VERY interested in finding a good brand. Do you use one? Is it easy to clean or do you have to buy new filters every set amount of time? I’ll have to look into it more when I get home, but thanks for the idea!

  9. You’d be surprised how much a nice coat of paint can improve anything from the inside / outside of the home (and home value) to smaller tables, chairs that have been dinged up, or miss matched, or you got for cheap at Goodwill or a garage sale.

  10. Congrats to the both of you!

    I’m sure Crystal will be a great staff writer!

    Ironically, I just replaced my carpet about a month or so ago. Our dog dig a hole in it while she was sleeping one night.

    @ Money Beagle – Thanks for the tip about the bulbs and dimmer! I didn’t know that!

  11. Good job recommending the 3 month air filters. The standard fiberglass filters are great for the power bill, but they have to be replaced to often. The higher quality pleated filters actually clean the air while protecting your unit.

    Less allergies=less money on Benadryl

  12. I agree – consumers can find many ways to save money on a month to month basis when it comes to their home repairs.

  13. Felicia, great point!

    Less allergies=less money on Benadryl

    hahaha. I’m allergic myself and you cannot be more right.

  14. I think # 2 (insulation) is a good idea. It tends to keep in the warm in winter, and heat out in the summer. I think # 2 is best for typical home repairs.

  15. Installing dimmers would be a good idea. It should help save money on electricity I think. It would be a great way to save money.