Repairs and maintenance. Your first priority
should be to repair any defects that may cause more damage, such
as replacing a broken windowpane or fixing a leak in the roof.
Then move on to other, less pressing, jobs. If you lack do-it-yourself
experience, tackle the simpler jobs first; then move on to the
more complex tasks as your skills improve.
Whatever the level of your expertise, you will
find easy-to-follow directions for most repairs in the following
pages. The quickest way to locate the information you need is
to check the Table of Contents or Index. Also, watch the cross-references
at the tops of the pages. They will refer you to related jobs
that are covered elsewhere in the book. Even if a job is too complicated
for you to do yourself, you can see what's involved and can thus
deal more knowledgeably with professionals and avoid being overcharged.
Ideally, you shouldn't wait for a breakdown to
prompt you to take care of your property. By undertaking regular
general maintenance on both the interior and the exterior, you
can forestall the damage and frustration that result when one
small, unattended problem snowballs.
Modest improvements. Once all
the needed repair and maintenance jobs have been taken care of,
you'll no doubt consider brightening up the house with a paint
job, new carpeting, or more modern faucets. You might even consider
jobs that cross into the area of improvements, such as converting
a closet into a half bathroom or installing new kitchen cabinets.
In planning major improvements, go through your
house from top to bottom, inside and out, making notes on what
you would like to change. The master plan that results will probably
be too extensive to accomplish all at once, but with your desires
spelled out, you can decide which improvements take priority.
Do one job at a time at your own pace; give yourself some breathing
time between projects; and soon you'll have the satisfaction of
a more attractive and comfortable home.
How far to go. Some of the larger-scale
improvements not only will make your home more comfortable to
live in but may add to its value if you sell it. Such improvements
include putting new cabinets, countertops, and ceramic tile in
your kitchen and bathrooms; building a deck or patio; adding a
skylight; adding a fireplace; or converting your basement or attic
into living space. Directions for these projects are given in
the following chapters. You may also add to the value of your
house (if you don't drive it out of the price range for its neighborhood)
by adding one or more rooms. Naturally, your profit will be greater
still if you do the work yourself.
Material taken from
Readers Digest "New Complete do-it-yourself manual"
first step in estimating the cost of any job is to decide exactly
what you want to do and how you want the completed project to look.
With this in mind, you can determine the kind of work involved and
the tools and materials you will need.
costs. Make a rough sketch or diagram of the project and
fill in the measurements. Based on these measurements, make a list
of the materials needed to complete the job, allowing about 10 percent
extra for wastage on each item.
If you are framing a wall, for example, use the measurements to
estimate the number and sizes of the studs and plates. How many
panels of wallboard will you use? How many nails? If you are putting
in electrical switches and outlets, list those plus wiring, connectors,
and other equipment. Include any tools you will need to buy or rent.
Then, by determining the number of square feet in the wall (height
multiplied by width), estimate the amount of primer and paint required
to finish the wall.
make sure your list is complete, reread the directions for carrying
out all parts of the project. Make sure that you have listed all
necessary materials, no matter how insignificant. Then get prices
for each item, and add up the costs.
Shop around for the best prices. Watch advertisements for sales,
and check prices at various home centers, lumberyards, hardware
stores, building supply stores, and discount outlets. If you are
thinking about a future project, make a file of pertinent ads and
magazine articles for later reference.
of the most convenient shopping guides for hardware and decorative
materials is a mail-order catalog. Sometimes catalog prices are
slightly lower than those of local dealers. For basic building materials,
such as lumber, plywood, and wallboard, it is easier to deal with
a local building supplier.
materials. Familiarize yourself with home improvement materials
so that when you plan your project, you will be able to deal knowledgeably
with suppliers or contractors.
Family Handyman. By writing to their advertisers, you can
obtain brochures and pamphlets to help you evaluate the newest building
products.More and more products in the home improvement market are
designed for installation by the homeowner. These products help
achieve desired effects quickly and inexpensively. For example,
pre-finished wall panels are far easier and cheaper to install than
a wall of individual planks that must be hand-finished. Pre-hung
(factory-framed) doors can save you time and frustration, as well
you are modernizing a kitchen or bathroom, visit showrooms of suppliers
who sell ready built cabinets, countertops, and sink units. Because
such units are mass-produced, they often cost less than building
a cabinet from scratch. The money you save could make the difference
between doing the job and not being able to afford it.
home improvements. If the improvements you are planning
are relatively minor, you may be able to manage them by digging
into your savings or stretching the family budget. If they are major,
you may have to arrange a loan.
extensive home improvements are financed through conventional lending
institutions: banks, credit unions, and savings and loan associations.
You may also be able to borrow against your life insurance policy
at a comparatively low rate, but this will reduce the amount the
policy will pay by the amount you owe until you repay the loan.
Shop for a loan as you would any other major purchase. Investigate
all the types of loans you are eligible for, and decide which best
suits your particular circumstances. Consider not only the annual
interest rates (which vary from bank to bank), but also the finance
charges, the costs of life insurance (if required), the penalties
for late payment or default, the amount of each payment, and the
total number of payments. Multiply the amount of each payment by
the number of payments to determine the full amount you will be
HUD and VA loans. If the improvements you are making are not extensive
but will make your home more livable and useful, you might be able
to get a loan backed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development (HUD). Or if you are a U.S. veteran and bought your
house under a GI mortgage, you can probably get a VA loan. Because
they are backed by the government, HUD and VA loans generally have
lower interest rates, and security is required only for very large
loans (the amount vanes).
loans. You can borrow money at a fairly low interest rate
by pledging the amount you have in the bank to pay out the loan
if you default. It would cost less merely to withdraw the money
from the account to finance the work and then pay it back in monthly
installments, but doing this requires great discipline and determination.
loans. If your credit is good, you may be able to get a
personal loan of a small amount of money on your signature alone.
However, it is more likely that you will have to put up some collateral
that would be sold to pay off the loan in case of default, and the
interest rate is often higher for a personal loan than for a home
loans. If the collateral you are offering is the home,
consider a second mortgage to get the money for the improvements.
For the most part, interest rates on second mortgages are higher
than on first mortgages, but lower than on other types of loans.
The term for a second mortgage is usually 15 years, and the combined
first and second mortgages generally may not exceed 75 percent of
your home's appraised value.
A home equity loan is a variation on the second mortgage in that
a lien is placed on the property, which means that if you default
on payment you risk foreclosure and the loss of your home. Typically
home equity loans have adjustable rates and work as revolving lines
of credit, allowing you to draw money only as you need it over a
period of 5 to 10 years.
Finally, you might be able to refinance your first mortgage into
one new higher loan amount. Be aware, however, that most mortgage
transactions involve new closing costs as well as a reappraisal
of your home.