Don't Let Your House Fall in on Your Head
Media attention focuses more on homeowners drowning in 'underwater mortgages' than homewners' current on their homes. Nationwide that's 37 million of us who somehow manage to keep our payments up. The tragedy here is that, underwater or not, slipping home values stop all homeowners from maintaining their homes. And yet our homes still represent our single greatest asset!
Take it from a licensed contractor in the business for 35 years: that ain't good.
Let's assume for the moment that your home lost value over the past five years and to you it just doesn't pay to throw good dollars after bad. You ignore leaking gutters, peeling paint, a damaged deck, or a rot issue on the north gable end? You promise yourself that when home prices rise you'll repair, patch, and paint whatever needs it; maybe even do that bathroom or kitchen overhaul. Yeah, maybe…
Well forget it, you're not going to. You'll put it off until a $300 repair costs $2,800 with a termite program, or you'll wait until it becomes an inspector's issue when, at long last, you're ready to sell. No one's telling you how to raise your child sensibly here, but where home maintenance is concerned you're no parent.
Hey, do you want your house falling down on your head? No? Okay then, we can work together. Happy you asked. Here's what you do, you save big with maintenance.
Necessity # 1 = Get it done right, and don't just aim for cheap. Licensed contractors in our state number 35% fewer than they did in 2006. It's easy to be a bad contractor in a booming economy, but essential to be honest and efficient during a downturn. Even with enormous attrition there are still enough good ones left.
How much cheaper or better trained do you think these surviving licensed contractors can be? They're pared down and ready to do good work for you. All you need to do is choose the right ones, and follow through with due diligence. Here's your spring priority maintenance list. You'll need a pair of binoculars:
Roof: if roof shingles look cupped or worn get roofer opinions and three estimates. Here's a good money saving tip: get roofer quotes in early January for work in February or March, a roofer's slowest time. Most roof jobs last one or two days, including tear-off. Seek the median bid with an equal list of work from a qualified and licensed field of three.
Chimney (brick, wood stove, and furnace): inspect while you're looking over your roof. You're looking for any areas where brick, flashing, tar seams, piping, or stacks are decayed, obstructed or torn up by wind, critters, or weather. Have your roofer repair these before water dribbles in.
Gutters and downspouts: inspect & fix these after a heavy rain. Note which gutters are plugged, which joints have failed, and whether runoff gets directed far away from the house. Like worn shingles and chimneys, failed gutters and downspouts lead to huge repairs when ignored.
Foundation: hundreds of gallons of water come off your roof during a rain storm, so ground sloping away from your house, healthy gutters and extended downspouts are essential for driving this flood away and your basement dry. Mulch, shrubs, pebbles, and earth absorb water, keeping it up alongside the house. Your aim is to push water away, so plant grass instead.
Siding and trim: so many homes are vinyl sided and trimmed now that wind or critters are your main opponent. Visually inspect these areas twice a year. You're looking for spots where joints are lifted, pulled back, and ready to pop. If comfortable, learn to fix these areas yourself. However, if you do have to paint or stain, always keep it up. How? Paint one side of your house every fall (the dry months), making the task seem less daunting.
Windows and doors: tight-fitting is what you're looking for; not everything old needs to be replaced, so don't blow a month's salary yet. Go online to distributor or contractor education sites to learn how the pros make things fit snug.
Driveway: you might easily maintain your own. Sealant goes on sale in most big box stores in April. Think of this as repainting your driveway.
Electric panel: any panel that a licensed electrician hasn't looked into for years needs a qualified inspection. It's worth their minimum charge just to get peace of mind.
Plumbing-- fixtures, jet pumps, sumps, HWH, appliances: examine these twice yearly. Look for excessive sweating, pinhole leaks, worn hoses, discoloration, odd noises, slow drainage, or failure to perform. Remember, a $0.50 fixture part can cause $thousands in damages.
HVAC, oil or gas burner, electric baseboard, and wood stove: as well as other heating forms, excluding wind, thermal, or solar. As boring as this sounds, take a few hours to read up on your operations' manual for your heating system. Go online to find problems others experienced with your model, and then see where you can improve on your own home maintenance. The goal is to troubleshoot problems before they come up; especially during adverse conditions.
So, what's the tab for all this? Hopefully, far less than it'll be when you're ready to sell. Hey really, who else is living here but you and yours?
--Carrier Slocomb Join us at www.thriveorsurvive.net where you'll find free homeowner repair and maintenance tips, as well as contractor strategy & business tips from a 35 year licensed trade veteran on the Pro*Desk.