Saturday, August 11, 2007

Do-It-Yourself - Do The Basics and Save Money

This has be the year of "home maintenance" projects. We have lived in our home four years and it will turned 20 this year. Until now the home has been relative maintenance free. However, this year, we have had to do a number of projects, including hiring professionals to do the work. Even so, there are still a number of projects that I will do each year, perhaps saving $1000 to $2000 per year.

Here's a list of projects that I will do (basic) and need to hire (advanced). For some of the basic items, the first time usually takes longer due to learning how to do it. However, the cost saved and the future reduction of effort is worth it.

Type of Project
LawnMow, edge, fertilize, seedResodding
SprinklerAdjustmentAdd new sprinkler head
LandscapingDesign, planting, trimming, mulchingRemove tree
PaintingTouch up, minor trim, single roomEntire house exterior or several rooms
PlumbingDrip leaks, caulking, new sink or toiletRequires soldering
GasPiping and fittings in open areaPiping behind walls
CarOil change, light change, flat tireTune up, brakes, body work
ElectricChange fixture or switchRewire
MasonryMinor patching of mortar or concreteRelaying brick or pouring concrete

For reference, the blue items I used to do myself. However, I now have others do it since the cost has become very reasonable. For example, changing oil at the dealer is about $25, only $2 more than the materials (oil filter and oil) I would need to purchase. Also, for some reason, grass cutting prices are very competitive in my area, $35 for 1/2 acre, including edging. Normally, this would be a three to four hour job for me, with a push mower.

To note, many of the basic do-it-yourself projects require additional tools. Since I previously owned a 80 year old house, I have every tool imaginable :-)

Reference Materials
With projects that I do infrequently, I like to have a "how to"reference to use. Here are several that I like to use:

Instruction manuals. Often, the manual for cars and appliances can be found on the Internet. About 80% of the time, it will have the information I need, including diagrams, part numbers, specific tools and troubleshooting guide. The other 20% of the time, it gives about half the needed information, requiring further search.

Do It Yourself or other reference websites. There are a number of websites that give generic instructions, guidance and tips. One that I have used is How Stuff Works.

Lowe's. The staff at Lowe's is typically knowledgeable on most do-it-yourself projects. Often they will have a plumber, carpenter or other craftsman on staff. They can usually help me with about half to three quarters of the projects without an instruction manual.

Local repair or manufacturer customer service. My final resource is a local repair shop or the manufacturer. About 90% of the time, someone is able to talk me through the repair steps or explain the additional parts needed.


Recent projects have included fixing a toilet leak and a car A/C condensate leak. I estimate these projects saved me about $150 to $200, which was a pretty good return on my time.

For more on Reflections and Musings , check back every Saturday for a new segment.

Photo Credit:, Michael Connors

This is not financial or home maintenance advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

Copyright © 2007 Achievement Catalyst, LLC

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