While owning a home or renting an apartment can be costly in itself, the cost of fixing things around the house when they break can add up.
Depending on age, size and climate, or prior maintenance, home inspection experts estimate yearly costs of home repair and maintenance at anywhere between 1-3% of a home's value. Sometimes much of that cost can come from repairing or replacing a single appliance such as a furnace or refrigerator.
So to curb the cost, DIY Network's Tim Hockenberry offers seven areas where you can save on home repair. With more than a decade under his belt as a home inspector, he says the key to keeping costs down is preventative maintenance — taking proper care of things so they don't break in the first place — then following some simple tips when calling or dealing with the handyman.
- Replace filters monthly
- Bad filters equal wasted energy and added cost
- Filter types include fiberglass, pleated, electronic
Furnace filters cost a few dollars a month and are the easiest maintenance anybody can do. Do it every month — pay your bill, change the furnace filter. A dirty filter means a couple of things — bad air is getting in and the furnace is working a lot harder than it needs to. You can use a variety of filter types — fiberglass, pleated, electronic, and with regular replacement your furnace has a life expectancy of 20+ years.
- Turn on moisture control to prevent mold
- Vaseline on door gasket prevents strain
- Clear coils of dust and hair
In the summer, condensation can form in and around the refrigerator because it's cold. That leads to mold and mildew. Many refrigerators on the inside have a moisture control switch that warms the surface of the fridge so moisture won't condense on it.
Another area is the door gasket that seals the fridge shut. Inside is a magnet that sticks to the door frame. Everytime you open the door, this magnet essentially tugs the gasket off. Putting a little Vaseline on there helps the door open easier and eases the strain exerted by the magnet.
Lastly, refrigerators have coils either on the back or bottom that can get clogged up with dust bunnies and pet hair. These coils remove the heat from the machine and keep it cool, so dust and hair make the refrigerator work harder. Use a coil brush to clean them out.
- Clear dryer vents of lint
- Vinyl vent tubes are a fire hazard, use metal tubes
Make sure there's no lint in the vents. That's a fire waiting to happen. Clogged vents also impede air flow and add energy costs. Instead of taking 30 minutes to dry, your clothes will take an hour or more. Also make sure the vent tube is metal, not vinyl, since vinyl can be flammable.
- Water supply hoses have constant pressure and are a ticking time bomb
- Use blowproof supply hoses to prevent flooding
One big problem that can easily be prevented is a supply hose that bursts. It has constant water pressure on it and is thus a ticking time bomb. A supply hose that bursts can cause thousands of dollars in flood damage. You can buy hoses designed to never burst, and save yourself a lot of trouble.
- Drain sediment buildup yearly
- Replace, if nearing end of its 10-15 year lifespan
Water has minerals dissolved in it, and when heated inside a water heater those minerals fall out and become sediment that settles to the bottom. That sediment scrapes the tank and when scrapes happen they can lead to rust, and where rust happens, leaks happen.
The key is draining these sediments out of the tank once a year. After turning off the water heater, you can hook a hose into the bottom and drain just enough water so that the sediment flushes out.
Another thing to consider is that when a water heater breaks, it can break catastrophically and cause a flood. This is a good appliance to replace “preemptively” when it's nearing the end of its 10-15 year lifespan.
“Rules of Three” for choosing a handyman
If you have the time, get at least three referrals, three estimates and three bids on a job. You'll have options and can gauge how much a job should really cost. And don't just call anyone — definitely check with your parents, friends, family, even a local real estate agent or home inspector. That way you know your repair guy is reputable. Ideally, when you get a new appliance, you can have the same person who installed it do all the subsequent service and maintenance also.
Be kind to the handyman
Clear their work area out. If you need the washer and dryer fixed, clear out your two week's worth of laundry, or if they're working in the basement, clear a path so they can get where they need to be easily. If anything, it will save them time on the clock, which is money saved. Definitely be pleasant and polite, and anecdotally speaking, this can lead to a friendly relationship with that particular person that will save you costs on future repairs.