Winter often makes things worse for homeowners needing to fix things like draughty windows and leaky roofs – and although being stuck at home during the lockdown might be an ideal time to tackle home repairs, many of us now also have tighter budgets
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For DIY enthusiasts with some time on their hands it’s been the perfect opportunity to get stuck in. For those who aren’t as adept, it’s a chance to get a handyman in while they’re at home to supervise. The irony is that, while lockdown could be a brilliant time to get some much needed home maintenance done, financial uncertainty may prevent people from tackling their to-do lists.
Shawn Hogan, a carpenter and project manager with nearly 30 years’ experience, says although money may be tight, ignoring small but essential home maintenance tasks can lead to much bigger expenses later. “It’s important to distinguish between maintenance and improvements,” he says.
“By regularly maintaining woodwork, roofs, gutters and paintwork you can avoid bigger, more expensive problems later, such as rotten wooden doors and windows needing to be replaced or ceilings collapsing because of a leaking roof. Improvements, such as adding an office or renovating a kitchen or bathroom can wait until you’re able to afford these.”
Shafeeqah Isaacs, head of consumer education at financial services provider DirectAxis, says that it’s wise to try and keep up basic home maintenance. “Spending a bit to deal with small issues before they become big problems is sensible.”
DirectAxis’s five expert tips for staying on top of home maintenance without breaking the budget are:
1 Differentiate between necessary and nice to have
If money is tight, limit your to-do list to things that will cost you more if not attended to. “Sometimes simple, relatively affordable tasks can save you a lot in the long run, for example, getting a dead tree felled before a storm blows it over onto your house,” says Hogan.
Other jobs such as re-carpeting a bedroom can wait until you’ve got the money.
2 Prioritise, then do a bit at a time
Some tasks are more urgent than others. While sanding down and repainting woodwork will prevent it from rotting and save you from having to pay more later to repair or replace it, it’s not potentially as urgent as finding the source of a drip or reason for a damp spot on the ceiling.
Leaks, whether from a hole in the roof or a plumbing problem, don’t go away and can get worse fast. Besides having to pay for water spurting from a pipe, leaks can cause a lot of damage to paint, carpets, woodwork and even the structure of your house.
Prioritise your tasks, beginning with the most urgent and ending with those that can wait until you have more time and money to deal with them.
3 Find out if you’re covered before committing
You may have insurance cover for some household repairs, without having realised it. If you have a mortgage bond, the banks require that you have insurance to cover potential damage to the house. That’s why, before paying to get a leaking geyser repaired, it’s worth checking whether this is covered.
4 Do your homework and build a budget
If you dabble in DIY but aren’t an expert, do some research before you get started. There are plenty of how-to videos online. If you have friends or acquaintances who are better at DIY, ask them how to go about things and which products to use.
Speak to the experts in hardware shops and get their advice. It’s an effort worth making before you buy a whole load of expensive supplies that you later find you don’t need or aren’t appropriate for the job.
Once you have a list of what you need, shop around. A simple internet search should enable you to work out how much the hardware and equipment you need will cost. You can then draw up a budget to make sure you can afford to start and finish the job.
If you’re less skilled and would prefer to get a handyman in, follow the same approach. Ask friends or family who they’d recommend, and check online or on social media to see if there are any reviews or complaints about the people they recommend.
Once you’ve made a shortlist, get a few quotes, but bear in mind that cheapest is not always best.
5 Stick to your skill set
Nobody can be good at everything and even competent DIYers should be cautious about venturing outside of their areas of expertise. This is doubly true for people who don’t have much experience.
If you’re not sure that you have the ability, know-how, confidence or the right tools to do the job properly and safely, rather call an expert. It could save you lots of frustration, money and, more importantly, risk of injury or worse.