Cheap Home Repairs That Could Save You Thousands

These easy fixes will prevent big disasters.

By Stephanie Steinberg, Staff Writer |Aug. 13, 2014, at 11:00 a.m.

Cheap Home Repairs That Could Save You Thousands

Slideshow

Sometimes you have to spend money to save money.

A stack of one hundred dollar bills and an old hammer on blueprints.

(Getty Images)

This is especially true when it comes to your home. If the thought of spending money to repair that dripping shower or crack in the ceiling makes you grimace, remember that a few cheap fixes today could prevent you from shelling out hundreds or thousands of dollars tomorrow. Home improvement experts Cindy Dole and Eric Stromer, co-hosts of the “Home Wizards” radio show, share some easy home fixes that could prevent disasters or lead to significant savings.

Install insulation.

Install insulation.

(iStockPhoto)

Adding insulation in your attic or exterior walls can reduce your energy consumption and subsequently your heating and cooling bills. “That would be a very wise thing to do for savings, especially as it’s compounded over time with the soaring costs of energy,”  Stromer says. The U.S. Department of Energy offers a calculation to determine when you'd see a payback on insulation costs.

Cost:
About $500 (if you do it yourself)

Upgrade your irrigation system.

Upgrade your irrigation system.

Sprinkler watering the lawn.

(iStockPhoto)

If you don't already have one, install a timer for your sprinklers. Also changing your system to low-flow irrigation will maximize your water use while lowering your water bill. Stromer, who lives in California, says this is especially useful for people on the West Coast. “We’ve got such a terrible drought, and I still see people with huge lawns just spraying water all over the cement,” he says. “It’s not even trained on the areas where there’s growth and plants.”

Cost: About $300 to $400 for a 2,200-square-foot home

Replace moist or moldy drywall.

Replace moist or moldy drywall.

(iStockPhoto)

See a yellow or gray stain running along your ceiling? Or the bathroom walls feel moist when it’s been a while since you’ve taken a shower? You might have an interior leak. Luckily, it’s an easy fix. Replacing the drywall and repairing the leak will prevent “some kind of disaster down the road,” Stromer says. Let this go, and you might need to build an ark just to get out of your bathroom.

Cost: About $300

Hire a plumber for inspection.

Hire a plumber for inspection.

A plumber loosing a nut with a wrench.

(Getty Images)

Speaking of floods, it’s a smart idea to have a plumber inspect your home every three to five years. You might think all your faucets and pipes are running fine, but a plumber with a trained eye might spot a “time bomb waiting to happen,” Stromer says. “Have a plumber come do a once-over and look at all the different areas in your house – including your bathroom, sink, kitchen, laundry washer and dryer area.” Considering all the potential plumbing issues, Dole says a plumber who catches a problem could save you thousands.

Cost: About $100 per hour (a full home inspection could take two to three hours)

Install a hot water heater catch basin.

Install a hot water heater catch basin.

Hot water heater in a home.

(Getty Images)

Older homes may not have this tray, which prevents the hot water heater from leaking, because it didn’t used to be required. (New homes must have them.) Speaking from an unfortunate experience, Stromer says you definitely want one. “You’re out of town, for example, and you come back and your whole house has flooded because the hot water heater is just gushing hundreds of gallons of water, flooding the house and ruining hardwood floors,” he says. “That little item literally prevents disaster.”

Cost: About $15

Attach a standpipe to your washing machine.

Attach a standpipe to your washing machine.

(iStockPhoto)

Behind your washing machine is an area where water drains out from a hose after the cycle is complete. “A lot of times, that hose can come free from the wall and just start spraying water behind the washing machine,” Stromer says. But one of these plastic wall inserts will ensure the hose is secured and won’t come undone to wreck havoc. “That could save thousands of dollars on the back end,” Stromer says.

Cost: $7 to $15

Prevent windowsill rot.

Prevent windowsill rot.

Man using a caulking gun around a window on the exterior of a brick home.

(iStockPhoto)

Does the wood around your windowsill look like it’s rotting? Rainwater seeping through the frame might be the culprit. Fixing this might require an entire window replacement, but exterior caulk can save you from spending thousands on replacements over time. The caulk will seal any fissures you find and keep rainwater out, Dole explains. “The challenge is windowsills are naturally very prone to rot, so look at each window, and hunt for cracks in the sill paint,” she says.

Cost: $3 to $5

Clean your AC unit.

Clean your AC unit.

High efficiency modern AC-heater unit, energy save solution-horizontal layout.

(iStockPhoto)

Here’s another home energy saver: Take your leaf blower (or borrow a neighbor’s) and use it to flush out your air-conditioning unit outside. “The air will remove any gunk, dirt or debris inside quickly, and as a result will help your AC work more smoothly while saving you on your utility bill month after month,” Dole says. A debris-free unit could save you as much as 15 percent on your energy costs, she estimates. Better yet, this simple improvement has no upfront cost.

Cost: None

Reset circuit breakers.

Reset circuit breakers.

This is an image of electrical breakers in a box.

(iStockPhoto)

This easy trick prevents electrical problems, not to mention a dangerous overload on wiring, Dole says. All you have to do is flip all your circuit breaker switches from the “on” to “off” position. Wait for 10 seconds. Then switch them back to “on.” “This small step will break down any corrosion on the circuit breaker contacts, which you don’t want, because it could lead to a bad breaker,” Dole says. “That could cost you $500 to be replaced along with an electrician cost.” On the other hand, flipping won’t cost you anything – just be prepared to reset all your clocks after.

Cost: None

Read More

Stephanie Steinberg is an Assistant Editor for Money and Health & Wellness at U.S. News. She is the editor of the new book “In the Name of Editorial Freedom.” You can follow her on Twitter @Steph_Steinberg, connect with her on LinkedIn, circle her on Google + or email her at ssteinberg@usnews.com.


Recommended Articles

The Best Places to Live in Florida

Devon Thorsby | Sept. 16, 2019

See how the most populous metro areas in the Sunshine State compare to each other.

Your Guide to the Housing Market

Devon Thorsby | Sept. 13, 2019

Breaking down buyer's and seller's markets, forecasts for home prices and how the housing market affects your financial situation.

Tips for Making Your Home Holiday Ready

Lisa Larson | Sept. 11, 2019

Here are some tips for making your home safe, inviting and delightful from now until the end of the year.

How to Declutter Your Home

Devon Thorsby | Sept. 6, 2019

Follow this step-by-step guide to make your home more manageable and organized.

The Best Places to Live in Texas

Devon Thorsby | Sept. 5, 2019

See how metro areas in the Lone Star State stack up.

How Much Does It Cost to Build a House?

Dima Williams | Sept. 3, 2019

Building a house may offer the customization you want, but be aware of the design, finish and labor costs that add up.

Decorating Ideas for Small Patios

Robin Kencel | Aug. 28, 2019

With the right approach and mindset, you can transform your small patio into an outdoor living oasis.

Best Places to Live in South Carolina

Devon Thorsby | Aug. 28, 2019

See how the largest metro areas in the Palmetto State measure up.

The Best Places to Live in Tennessee

Devon Thorsby | Aug. 28, 2019

Find out how the largest metro areas in Tennessee compare.

Seasonal Home Maintenance Checklist

Maryalene LaPonsie | Aug. 26, 2019

Keep your home in tiptop condition by completing these essential home maintenance tasks.

Tips for Buying a Second Home

Lisa Larson | Aug. 26, 2019

Here's what to know about buying a second property whether it's for weekends, work, rental income or your college-age kid.

How to Decorate Your Living Room

Devon Thorsby | Aug. 23, 2019

Style your family room using design tips in this step-by-step guide.

The Most Expensive Places to Live

Devon Thorsby | Aug. 21, 2019

These metro areas have the highest cost of living compared to median income.

Features That Make Selling a House Easy

Wendy Arriz | Aug. 19, 2019

These details in a home are a must-have on many homebuyers' lists.

Tips to Make Your Home Instagram-Worthy

Devon Thorsby | Aug. 16, 2019

Inspire social media envy and excitement with these design and photography tips.

7 Fall Decor Tips for Your Home

Deanna Haas | Aug. 16, 2019

Autumn provides home sellers with unique opportunities for staging and decorating. But does fall decor actually help sell your home, or make it more difficult to attract buyers?

The Biggest Cities in the U.S.

Devon Thorsby | Aug. 14, 2019

These cities have the largest populations in the country, with amenities to match.

Smart Home Upgrades to Raise Home Value

Steven Gottlieb | Aug. 12, 2019

Smart home technology may wow homebuyers, but they may not be willing to pay more for the latest upgrades.

The Guide to Closing Costs

Devon Thorsby | Aug. 9, 2019

Here's a breakdown of what buyers and sellers can expect to pay when closing on a home sale.

The Best Places on the West Coast

Devon Thorsby | Aug. 7, 2019

Discover metro areas near the Pacific Ocean that offer residents the most.