Whether you are a first time home owner or have lived in one for a long time there are a few things that can go wrong around your house that you need to prepare for before they go wrong. In some cases you will be able to decide whether you want to do the work yourself or hire it out to a contractor but sometimes there just isn’t a choice and you are stuck calling someone in when you have no idea what the costs will be.
Preparing means understanding a potential problem and knowing how to fix it. It doesn’t mean you do it yourself.
The best way to do this is to know who to call when its an emergency, what the cost of and where to obtain materials, how to work with your insurance company if you have coverage, what time frame you can expect for completion of work and the overall cost.
If you prepare yourself by understanding at least that much about your home, the contractors you might hire and the costs associated you will be ahead of the game when the problem occurs. If you do nothing up front you will be like a dog chasing its tail.. running in circles getting nowhere and becoming a bit crazy.
Furnace and Air Conditioning Problems
There are a variety of different ways that we heat and cool our homes and the equipment that makes it all comfortable can be expensive to repair and replace, especially if you don’t know anything about it.
For some people taking care of their HVAC system, Oil Burner, Gas or Wood Fireplaces and other devices means flicking a switch or possibly lighting a match for a fireplace. They never take the time to understand how they should be maintained or how they should work. A thermostat is their friend and that big thing in the basement is an annoyance.
Well if you are one of these people you are a contractor’s best customer. They will be more than happy to make weekend service calls or even on holidays. They are also likely to screw you over when you need small fixes .. turning them into total equipment replacements. Hey its not me saying this there have been hundreds of news show episodes where they track down heating and cooling companies that screw people. On one show of 20/20 they had a reputable technician inspect the equipment then they called in various companies from around the area. Each one wanted to make the customer pay for repairs to a perfectly working system. Imagine if the system needed some small repair. They would probably tell the home owner to sell their house and move someplace else.
Thats another thing you have people that dump money into their homes with these bad contractors and eventually it has cost them so much that they end up selling their home.
You must educate yourself about your heating system. They are relatively easy to repair and only take a few common tools and once in a while a special tool but not very often.
Roofing and Siding
Roofing repairs can cost you a lot of money if you don’t understand how basic the roofing system on your home is and how it has to be installed to work correctly.
There are three basic parts of a homes roof. The shingles, the tar paper or membrane that is under the shingles and the flashing that seals off the roof around any objects the poke through it like a chimney or plumbing vent pipe.
Honestly that is about it and the cost of repairs can be very expensive because very few people are willing to take the time and make the effort to get up on their roof and make repairs.
Siding is no different. You have the wood or vinyl siding. The tar paper or tyvek paper that is under the siding and flashing that goes around windows, doors and other opening. It is a very simple system to install and very expensive if you need a contractor. But very inexpensive if you do the work yourself.
It is very important that you understand the basics of roofing and siding. Maybe you are not someone who can climb a ladder but you should understand what needs to be done and the time it should take so you don’t get screwed.
One of my neighbors put vinyl siding over the wood siding areas of their brick home. The areas were over the garage and the ends of the house. The rest of the house was brick and didn’t need siding. The contractors they hired took over three weeks to complete a job that should have taken half a morning. They would come to the house while they were away during the day and use their BBQ and they had access to the inside of the home.
My neighbor was an idiot. He also replaced his Oil furnace twice where my family had the same oil furnace for 40 years. Their home got about 14 years out of a system and also incurred major repairs along the way. The guy was a drunk who worked for the pharmaceuticals industry. Middle Management drunk incompetent loser who couldn’t fix his home or his car but I guess he was good at networking with people. Mostly drunks like himself I guess.
Appliance repairs once the warranty has expired can be extremely expensive and thats why I tell everyone I know that there is no need to purchase the most expensive kitchen appliances.
In addition to being expensive to repair they are also more prone to break. Think about it seriously the most basic washing machine comes with three dials. A timer that can let you set the washer for delicate, regular or long runs for dirty clothes. And a Water level and water temperature dial or buttons.
That is more than you need to do any load of wash. You don’t need WiFi connectivity and Weather Reports … you don’t need a washer that can sense how dirty your clothes are or to cuddle with you on rainy afternoons.. Stick your clothes in the washer and walk away until it buzzes.
My parents has an American Made General Electric refrigerator that lasted them 50 years and ran every day from the first day they bought it. It was basic with a decent size ice box but no ice maker. You could have hid in it if there was a nuclear disaster. Lived in it for the next 2 weeks until you ate everything inside and came out to learn it was you and 2 guys in a cave working at NORAD who were left.
If you purchase a simple appliance that is less expensive you have the choice do you repair it or replace it. If the repair is more than 50% of the replacement and it is beyond the warranty or over 10 years old you are better off replacing it. If the appliance has more features each feature could take out the whole appliance if it goes bad.
Either way it is best to buy the simple but quality appliance. Then keep your eyes open for sales and realize that some day you might have to replace it. On the other hand if it is a pump in your washer or a burner in your stove you obviously repair it and often you can do it yourself.
Plumbing repairs can range from unpluging a clog to replacing a cracked pipe from your home to the sewer system. Some repairs you can make yourself like Installing a faucet or a toilet. Other things like snaking the main waste pipe to your home is probably better done by a rootarotar type company who will charge you $200 and be done in an hour.
Plumbing can be very expensive especially when a contractor sees that you have a $200,000 home with a $65,000 kitchen and a faucet that costs more than a lawn tractor.
Again simple saves you money not only for repairs but for replacement. There is also no reason to compromise on your design style but you need to be reasonable. Don’t buy a $400 faucet and a $2500 sink find something reasonable that also looks nice and functions like you want.
If you never worked on your plumbing you need to learn how it works. Understand how to clear a clog in your toilet and sinks. Know how to replace a faucet and toilet because even someone who has never done it before can probably get that done in an afternoon.
If you just can’t do the work you should build a list. Call around and don’t give your name just say I need a new faucet in the kitchen how much to replace it if I buy it at the home store or online. Find out if they have set prices or if they give you the runaround. Oh it could take days and 25 men to replace the faucet if we have to trench your street and … yeah right buddy.. more like … we charge $75 an hour and it should take under an hour.
Electrical Repairs and Upgrades
For the most part Electrical services in your home should work for the life of the home but there are times when you could have problems or need to perform upgrades. If you are remodeling your kitchen or bathroom, adding dedicated lines for entertainment or computer systems you may need to call an electrician.
Electrical work is normally not something you can do yourself unless it is low voltage or something like the attachment of an appliance like a stove, oven or changing out hardwired ceiling fans and lights.
If you need to call in an electrician you want to get estimates. You also want to look into the background of the contractor as to how long they have been in business, what type of work do they do? commercial and residential? and sometimes simple searches on the web can reveal things like court cases or bad customer experiences.
You need to take everything into account including the price they quote you and then you need to hold them to their estimate and completion dates.
Reputable electricians are more than happy to have everything about their business exposed because normally this type of contractor doesn’t run into many problems.
These are the top five problem areas of your home that can cost you lots of money if you ignore them.
The most important thing is to become educated before you need to have a repair done. If you can perform the work yourself then you can save a lot of money on labor. If you need to hire a contractor you need to know what they will do before you sign the contract and by that I am saying you need to understand how something is repaired even if you are unable to do the work yourself.. not just that they hand you a list.
Prepare before things are required and your life will be many times more easier than if you are one of the people that thinks the thermostat on the wall is what makes the heat work.
And don’t become friends with contractors to the point they take advantage of you. If its 115F outside sure make them ice tea.. on the other hand don’t invite them to stay for dinner. They are people you employ and you pay them money to perform that work.