10 Ways To Save Money On Home Improvement Tips

This post is from Rob Jones, chief blogger and marketer at online flooring and other building materials company, BuildDirect. Rob writes about how to save money and stay within budget during a tough economy.

save money on home improvementThe simple fact is this. Sometimes, home improvements still need to be done, even in a struggling economy.

Sometimes this is because recessions tend to make selling properties harder, which creates a need to spruce up a property to make it more salable. Or, a home improvement project could be about necessary maintenance when you plan to stay in a property, which seems a more common trend these days. And the tendency for things to wear down over time doesn’t heed a recession.

So, what do you do when saving money on these kinds of projects isn’t just a nice-to-have? Well, here are 10 ways to make the most of your home improvement budget, whether you’re looking to do it yourself, to hire a professional, or some combination of the two.

1. Research, Knowledge, and Planning.
OK, I suppose these are really three items here. But, they’re related. And maybe this is an obvious one you’ve already taken into account. But, that’s how important this aspect of things is. Spending the time in getting a base of knowledge about building materials, budget concerns, and reputable contractors is your best bet to outlining where best to spend your money with the most return on your investment. Simply put, planning ahead and getting a bird’s eye view can help you avoid costly oversights at all stages of your project.

2. Hire A Reputable Contractor
When it comes to hiring credible contractors, it is smarter to pay more to get things right the first time, than it is to continually pay more later to address errors. And when interviewing prospects for home improvement contracts, don’t forget to ask your contractor the right questions. In the end, the right person for the job works out to be much cheaper.

3. Be a Savvy Negotiator
Part of keeping within budget is all in the negotiation skills. When you’ve engaged a contractor (see above), make sure that you have control of the pricing, especially when it comes to payment upon satisfactory completion of a job. Even when shopping for materials, your negotiation skills can make all of the difference to staying within your budget. But, more on that in a second.

4. Shop For Your Own Materials
Maintaining control over your own budget is important, once you’ve done your research. If you can cut down on the time a contractor will spend on research and shopping for you can also cut down on your bill when the job is done. And you can ensure that the materials used are top quality, and that no corners are cut to preserve your contractor’s fee.

5. Buy Online
OK, disclosure time. If you haven’t noticed, I work for a company that sells building materials online. So, this may look kind of self-serving. But, the simple fact is this; when companies don’t have the overhead costs of bricks-and-mortar locations, there are savings to be had. And (in our case) the demands of getting building materials in large quantities directly from the place they’re made and into your hands when you need them will cost you less without sacrificing on quality. When in the position where a large scale project is an absolute requirement, buying online with these conditions in place is your best option.

6. Get Those Manufacturer Rebates!
In this age of green building, and in heavy competition between manufacturers for your consumer dollar, it makes sense to see where you can leverage offered rebates and incentives related to energy savings after a purchase. This is the part where your research can allow you to see who has the most compelling rebate program. Make it one of the first things you ask , particularly when buying tools or appliances.

7. Concentrate On The Smaller Projects
As the Good Book, and 60s folk-rockers the Byrds (via Pete Seeger), tell us: for everything, there is a season (turn, turn, turn, if you will). Sometimes, those big jobs, as important as they are, can wait while a recession rages. In the meantime, there are often smaller, and therefore less costly, projects that can make a big difference to how comfortable your are in your home. Completed smaller projects can make an unexpected difference not only to the look of your space, but to how you experience it, too.

8. Use Re-Purposed Materials
You’d be surprised what people will give away for free or sell very cheaply, including materials that you can re-purpose for your home improvement projects. Check out Craigslist to see about things like mirrors, or used lumber, or extra tiles leftover from someone else’s project. Otherwise, if there’s a rebuilding center nearby, investigate it to find what you’re looking for. Not only is it a smarter use of your resources, it’s a smarter use of everyone’s resources.

9. Invest in Efficiency
Maybe it seems counter-intuitive, but when it comes to things like new, Energy Star appliances, an upfront costs can make all the difference to a long term expense. This is what I mean by investing in efficiency. Energy Star appliances, new windows, and even bigger ticket items like skylights which reduce your need for lighting during daylight hours, can take a chunk right out of your energy bills. And if you’re looking to re-sell at some point, it can add to the sale price too.

10. Do-It-Yourself
In the end, this is a great question to ask: can I do that job myself? As mentioned, sometimes hiring a professional is absolutely the more inexpensive thing to do in terms of avoiding costly errors, and saving on the time spent. But, depending on your skills and experience, sometimes taking care of that key project yourself is just the ticket. Seek out seminars on things like flooring installation, or tile setting. Lowes and Home Depot regularly host them for free. And then, go for it! The pride of accomplishment can be a significant benefit to go along with the money you can save.

Rob authors the BuildDirect blog and the BuildDirect Green Building blog, too. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuildDirect.

June Home Maintenance Tips

June is here! Here is a short home repair checklist to help you avoid expensive repairs later and keep your home safe and efficient.

  • Tighten Loose Screws & Nails on Porches & Fences – Wood expands and contracts with changing temperatures and weather.  Boards will loosen and warp if not maintained.  To ensure your porch or fence lasts, tighten screws and hammer protruding nails carefully to make sure you don’t cause the wood to crack by over tightening.
  • Test & Adjust Gates – The bottom boards can break and gates can sag as they get older.  Boards may need to be replaced and sagging can be fixed by adding diagonal cross bars of woven metal or wood to straighten.  Gates can also sag if they do not have enough hinges.  To save money, many fences are built with 2’ x 3’s instead of 2’ x 4’s and 2 or 3 hinges are used instead of 4.  If a sagging gate has less than 4 hinges, adding hinges will prevent future sagging.
  • Clean & Seal Fence and Porch Area – Do this once each year to extend fence and porch life.  Make sure that once you use one kind of product for this that you continue to only use the same type product every year in the future to prevent any incompatibility problems.
  • Fill Up All Sinks & Check Drains for Leaks – Visually check for leaks and check drain speed by filling up sinks and watching how fast they drain.  If you’ve noticed water build up in the sink, while using it, it’s at least partially clogged.  Use a natural product like Bio-Clean to unclog your drainpipes.
  • Change Furnace Air Filters – Filter out allergens and keep your furnace running efficiently by changing your air filters.  We recommend microbial type filters. Change monthly or as recommended by manufacturer.
  • Test All Smoke or CO Detectors Push the button on the unit to check it – a few minutes doing this each month could save your family’s life in a fire.
  • Have Air Ducts Cleaned Every Other Year – It’s important to make sure the service you choose uses equipment that sucks and scrapes anything inside the ducts out to their truck or at least outside your house.  Make sure to use a service that provides video of the before and after and that any seams that need to be patched are patched with metal tape, not fabric.

A Big And Small Energy Saver For Each Room Of Your House

Energy Saving Tips For Your HomeSaving the environment can be an overwhelming task. With everything in the news about how to make your home more energy efficient, it’s easy to become bewildered when thinking about all the improvements you could make. But there’s no need to worry, as you don’t have to make your home into a model for green living all at once.

In fact, if everyone did just a few little things, the earth would see a gigantic benefit, so you can still do your part even if it doesn’t mean retrofitting your entire home. And a few small measures, like taking the ENERGY STAR “Change the World” pledge, can result in you seeing immediate savings.

Some of the world’s leading brands recently teamed up with energy-savings experts to build an energy-neutral house to test earth-friendly practices in Boulder, Colo. Lifestyle experts were then invited to live in The Green House for three days, test its environmentally friendly products and experience the benefits of eco-friendly living.

The main takeaway from The Green House project is that there are a variety of steps you can take, big ones and smaller ones, to make each room in your home more eco-friendly:

Bathroom
Big: Install a low-flow aerating showerhead. Most models allow you to save around 30 percent on water usage without compromising on your shower experience.

Small: Avoid using toxic cleaning products, as chemicals find their way into the atmosphere and waterways. As you run out of old cleansers, replace with nontoxic cleaning products.

Kitchen
Big: Replace your old refrigerator or dishwasher with an energy-efficient model. Look for models that either meet or go beyond ENERGY STAR levels, like a new 4-Door French-door refrigerator that’s 20 percent more efficient than the minimum ENERGY STAR standard. The fridge achieves efficiency through linear compressor technology that alters output based on demand from the refrigerator. This means fewer temperature swings, ultimately using less energy and saving you money.

Small: Plant a garden, as the food out of your garden will be fresher and won’t need to be transported to the store or to your home.

Bedroom
Big: Buy all-natural bedding that is made from earth-friendly materials.

Small: Unplug gadgets like cell phone chargers and unused appliances before going to bed, since they can use energy even when they are plugged in and not in use.

Laundry room
Big: Buy an energy-efficient washer and dryer. Consider a high-efficiency, front-load steam washer machine. It uses more than 50 percent less water per load and is roughly 86 percent more energy-efficient than conventional top-load machines.

Small: Clean your dryer vent after each load, because even a partially clogged vent will hurt your dryer’s efficiency.

Energy center
Big: Invest in a programmable thermostat, which can save you money by automatically managing home temperatures when you plan to be away or while you sleep. Some even can be controlled remotely while you are gone.

Small: Replace incandescent light bulbs with more energy-efficient CFL or LED bulbs.

Garage
Big: If you’re in the market for a new car, buy a gas-sipping hybrid.
Small: Take public transportation. Better yet, where possible, bike or walk on one trip each week where you would usually drive.

Living room
Big: Buy an ENERGY STAR-rated TV that will save you money when it’s both on and off. With very low standby and on-mode power consumption, some new LED HDTVs save only about 7 cents of electricity a day for average viewing of six hours daily.

Small: Unplug your DVD player or other accessories when they are not in use, especially when leaving for an extended time like a vacation.

Whether they are big or small, your energy-saving contributions won’t go unnoticed by Mother Nature or your pocketbook. The professionals at Handyman Matters can help take care of all of your interior projects – no matter how small! Click here to find a location near you or call 866-FIX MY HOME today.

10 Tips To Help Prevent Water Damage In Your Home

Most homeowners’ policies cover damage from accidents and failures, such as damage from a burst pipe. What is not usually covered is damage caused by an overall lack of ongoing maintenance in your home. Most water damage starts with a simple leak or drip and can be prevented, if you know what to look for! Routine checks may help catch problems before they happen. Taking the time to regularly complete this list of helpful tips around your home can potentially save you a lot of money, and headaches.

  1. Clean up mold, rot and mildew before it becomes a hazard.
  2. Check that the dishwasher hose is tight, and examine under the dishwasher after use for any sign of leaks.
  3. If your refrigerator has an icemaker, check the water line. Wet spots on the floor may indicate a line about to burst.
  4. Fix sink blockages promptly when they occur, check under the sink for signs of leaks.
  5. Discoloration or soft areas near showers or bathtubs may be your first indication of a leak. If you find cracks or mold around joints, clean and replace the caulking.
  6. Using too much toilet paper can clog toilets and lead to leakage. In addition, some chlorine tablet cleaners may corrode internal components, leading to a leak.
  7. Inspect washing machine hoses for wetness around hose ends and for signs of bulging, cracking or fraying. Replace the hose if a problem is found or every three years.
  8. Most water heaters last 10 to 15 years. Wet spots on the floor or a rusty tank may signal a problem.
  9. To check for hidden leaks, turn off all faucets and water using appliances, and do not flush toilets for one hour. Record your water meter reading. If the flow indicator is spinning or the meter reading changes in that hour while no water was being used, a leak probably exists.
  10. Know where your main shut off valve is and check it regularly to make sure it’s operational.

Prevention is key, keep this list of tips on hand and set regular check-ups for your home once a quarter. For more helpful tips or to find a local Handyman Matters near you, check out our website at HandymanMatters.com.

Making Your Basement More Than Just Leftover Space

The February, 2011 edition of Qualified Remodeler offers a variety of insightful tips for making better use of your basement’s space:

Basements often are just leftover space.  Builders don’t usually think about the most efficient way to use that space, putting the HVAC, plumbing and electrical components wherever they happen to be expedient.  As a result, “prime real estate” may be taken up by things you want stored away.  Depending on your budget and your desire to optimize the space, you may opt for moving these things into a smaller mechanical room or designing around their presence.  In either case, getting the mechanical equipment out of the way is just the start.  Here are a few other tips for providing the lower level of your home with a face-lift:

In many cases, ceiling height may be an issue.  If the finances permit, you have the option of lowering the floor.  It isn’t your only option, however.  You can “open up” a tight space by uplighting the ceiling to gain the appearance of height.  Additionally, light colored walls and ceilings tend to project the illusion of a bigger space.

Appropriately positioned lighting can also be utilized to throw light into dark pockets or corners.  Mirrors are good options as well, but be cautious of their impact to the entire interior design.  Make sure to put them in areas where light is most abundant.

Instead of using solid wooden doors for your entrance door leading into the basement, consider a design that has glass fixed into it.  Not only does this provide more light, but it also prevents someone from being slammed while going up the basement steps.

Building drawers into the space beneath a staircase provides storage space away from the rooms themselves.  A corner or a recessed section of the basement can be closed off with sliding doors, providing a quick and easy fix for keeping the general area clutter-free.

It may be pointing out the obvious to say that the basement in the lowest point in your home, but this is a fact to keep uppermost in your mind when designing and furnishing the area. Select materials that are waterproof!  Make sure your basement is made of tiles or vinyl to facilitate easier clean-up, should the need arise.

Most importantly, think of your basement as another room in your house rather than just a dark, dank storage area.  As Elizabeth Emerson of E/L Studio in Cheverly, Maryland states it, “It’s really the base of the tree, and everything needs to come down cleanly into it.”

from the original article by Kenneth W. Betz

12 Steps To “Going Green” In Your Home

go green at homeIt’s easy to talk a good game about going green, but not always as easy to walk that talk.  But here, with the assistance Dan Fritschen, the owner of remodelormove.com and a practiced hand at implementing reasonable ways to be greener at home, is a list of easy-to-implement practices and products for reducing your home’s carbon footprint:

  1. Don’t rebuild or remodel from scratch without considering re-purposing what you already have on hand.  Remember to weigh disposal costs and landfill burden.  In the case of cabinets, for example, re-face, don’t replace.  When possible, use other’s cast-offs.  Check out www.freecycle.org to find everything from free cabinets to windows to light fixtures.
  2. Choose sustainable or recycled materials when updating floors.  Farmed oak, bamboo and cork all offer greener, comparatively affordable flooring choices.  Tiles made of ground-up discarded porcelain sinks and toilets also look better than you’d think.
  3. Use Low-VOC paints. These have fewer volatile organic compounds and are easier on the planet.  Also, you won’t get a paint headache while using them.
  4. Opt for green sheets. Linens made of organic cottons are usually pesticide-free.
  5. Save water with every flush. This is an oldy-but-a-goody, and well worth remembering.  If you don’t have a low-flow toilet, then put a brick in your toilet tank.
  6. Consider motion-sensitive lights or put outdoor lights on timers.  Even better, install solar lights outside.  These soak up the sun’s rays all day and give them back at night.
  7. Put dimmers on light switches. For every ten percent you dim the light, you save the same amount in electricity and you double the life of the bulb.  If you dim by 50 percent, you cut your lighting bill in half and extend the bulb’s life five times.
  8. Switch disposable for reusable. Use cloth instead of paper towels and napkins, and washable plastic containers instead of disposable plastic bags for lunch.
  9. Be a borrower and a lender. If you’re going to need a tool or a piece of equipment only once or temporarily, borrow or rent it.
  10. Look for Energy-Star rated appliances. They save on energy bills and are easier on the environment.
  11. Buy antiques or secondhand furniture. The world has enough stuff.  Let’s fix it up and pass it around.