If your house could talk, it would tell you that spending a little money now on small repairs could save you big bucks down the road. We’ve put together 15 of the best small updates for keeping your home happy and your wallet full.
Stop Talking and Start Caulking
Exterior caulking loses its integrity over time. When it begins to crumble and pull away, it can allow rain to seep through windows, where it can potentially cause the wood to rot. To prevent the problem, remove old caulking and replace it with a new paint-grade formula around windows and doors to seal out moisture.
Perk Up the Paint
It might not be your favorite to-do, but painting your house at the first sign of peeling will protect the siding and structure from weather and water damage. While a DIY paint project can set you back a few hundred dollars, you'll be paying thousands if you have to replace rotted siding.
Make the Grade
Use topsoil to bring your yard up to the proper level around the foundation. Ensuring that the yard slopes away from the foundation at no less than a 2 percent grade will prevent water from pooling next to the house, where it can lead to leaking and foundation-damaging soil heave during freeze-thaw cycles.
Filter Your Furnace
Dirty return-air filters restrict airflow to your HVAC unit, forcing its motor to work harder and ultimately costing you more cash. Replace filters (they're cheap!) twice a year, once at the start of summer and again when winter kicks in. This simple maintenance task will help the unit operate more efficiently and last longer.
Stop Sewer Problems
Few household mishaps are more disgusting than backed-up sewage in a tub or shower. Try flushing a main-line sewer cleaner down the drain every couple of months to keep the lines free from damaging clogs that could otherwise lead to expensive (and unpleasant) plumbing repairs.
Flip the Breakers
Over time, corrosion can develop on circuit breaker contacts; if ignored, this can cause irreparable damage. Every two or three months, simply flip each breaker off and back on. This simple step costs nothing but can increase the circuits' lifespan enormously.
Insulate the Attic
One of the greatest sources of heat loss in a home is inadequate insulation in an unfinished attic. By bringing your attic's value up to at least R-30, you’ll save big on your energy bill. Lay new insulation batts on top of old ones, or rent a blower unit and blow in noncellulose fiber insulation to a depth of 8.5 inches.
Help the Water Heater
Hard water deposits and sediment can shorten the life of any hot water heater. Fortunately, you can protect your model by simply flushing it out once a year. Every fall, follow the instructions printed on the heater or in the owner’s manual to keep your unit in tip-top shape.
Seal the Shower
A leaky shower can result in perpetually damp drywall, which can in turn lead to mold, rot, and water damage. The cheapest way to ensure that you won’t soon be tearing out drywall or calling a mold remediation expert is to repair small leaks before they create larger problems.
Get Some Air
Without sufficient ventilation, the temperature in an attic can become excessively hot, which can reduce shingle life and, in some circumstances, cause rafters to bow. Install intake vents in the eaves and exhaust vents in the gables, on the roof, or at the roof ridge to encourage airflow.
Service the Sump
It’s easy to overlook your sump pump—until the unit malfunctions and you’re stuck with a flooded basement. You can avoid costly water damage by removing the pump from its bucket once a year and thoroughly cleaning off any debris that has accumulated on the intake screen. Follow the instructions in the owner’s manual, or look up the manufacturer and model number on the Internet for more info.
Dim the Lights
You might want a bright overhead light when you’re cooking or cleaning, but it’s just sucking energy if you’re watching TV or lounging. By replacing your old light switches with dimmers, you can amp up a room’s ambience and lower your electric bill. While you’re at it, switch to CFL bulbs to save even more money.
Clean the Gutters
Fallen leaves clog and break gutters, causing water to run over the trough and fall along the foundation line, which can lead to some mighty expensive problems. Clear your gutters of debris in autumn, after the trees have finished losing their leaves. For extra foundation protection, install downspout extensions to direct rainwater away from the house.
Glaze Old Windows
Those vintage windows may make for charming details, but the glazing compound that seals their single panes can shrink and pull away over time, letting both drafts and rain into your home. Scraping off and replacing old glazing is a cheap fix, and you need to do it only once every five or six years.
Pick Up a Programmable Thermostat
With soaring utility costs, it pays to conserve energy. Why pay to heat or cool your home while you’re at work all day or gone for the weekend? By installing a programmable thermostat, you make your home's temperature automatically conform to your family's habits and needs, and keep your utility bill at a reasonable level.