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Sweat Equity Home Improvement Tips
Supplying your own elbow grease to a home improvement job is a worthy
effort to save you money and boost the bottom line of value returned to
Botch the job, of course, and the opposite will be true. The cash you
hoped to save could get sucked into a money pit you create by insisting
you can do what you can't.
Before you undertake any do-it-yourself home improvement project, it's
best to first know thy self, be aware of your limitations and recognize
when it's time to throw in the towel and call in the pros.
Experts suggest you first start small and steer clear of your home's major
components -- bearing walls, foundations, roofs, and major electrical,
mechanical or plumbing work.
Money Management International, a nonprofit credit-counseling and
financial education agency, says if you decide to do-it-your self,
recognize the two hats you'll wear as both a contractor and general
Beginning with a detailed spending plan that allows for incidentals such
as equipment rentals and delivery charges, you'll need permits, a full
array of tools necessary for the job and a lot of insight.
To gain that insight, Money Management offers the following suggestions:
• Get real. If the goal is to increase your home's value, get input from a
professional with local real estate market expertise. A $50,000 master
bath upgrade doesn't mean your home's value will increase by $50,000. Even
with quality work, the direction of the housing market, floor plans of
other homes in the neighborhood and the materials and designs you use,
among just a few variables, can affect how much of a value boost your home
gets for the money and sweat you put into it.
• Get a clue. "Do-it-yourself" doesn't necessarily mean you have to hammer
in every nail and fasten down every bolt. Some projects will require
skills that are over your head or labor intensive. Hire a professional you
can work with. Enlist the skills of friends, neighbors and relatives.
• Get set to stop. Home improvement projects can snowball into massive
renovation jobs. Whenever possible, start and stop each project within
well defined parameters. At the end of each project re-evaluate your
budget and the time necessary for the next project. Build through the
winter holidays and your family will serve you up as the turkey.
• Get the best. Build with quality equipment, materials and workmanship.
Skimping up front means skimping on the boost-in-value end.
• Get your homework done. Research local building and zoning codes, secure
all necessary permits before you start and go to the local home
improvement store for some strategic advice about performing the job. Be
sure to bone up on the specific components involved in your project.
• Get options. Instead of installing a new floor, paint and change the
lighting. Rather than expand the bathroom, add new fixtures and a brighter
decor scheme. Small efforts for less money can often produce big changes.
Many low-cost energy efficient home improvements, for example, come with
cash-back opportunities in the form of lower utility bills, rebates and
• Get the "deferred" out of maintenance. Taking good care of your home can
help you avoid costly repairs down the road. For example, changing your
heating and cooling system or appliances air filter regularly will improve
the quality of your air and improve the efficiency of your heating and
cooling systems. Keeping your gutters and downspouts clear of debris will
prolong their lives.
"Remembering that your project may be a 'want' and not a 'need' can help
you to enjoy your home sweet remodeled home," said Cate Williams, vice
president of financial literacy with Money Management.