Prioritizing Home Repair Projects

by Reader Contributors

Prioritizing Home Repair Projects photo

Do you have a limited home maintenance budget? Which projects should you tackle first? Use these tips when prioritizing home repair projects.

Dear Dollar Stretcher,
We have a list of home repair/maintenance wants and needs, but have no clue how to prioritize them. We need to add electricity to our pole barn, need new shingles on our house roof (a lot of damage and leaking badly), need to tear down and repair our porch addition (water damage), and a few other house/outside projects.

We will not take out a loan or store credit card just to get our stuff done. We are already on a super tight budget and have no extra money. How do we prioritize our list of home repairs? How do we budget/afford it?

Budgeting For and Prioritizing Home Repair Projects

We asked our frugal homeowners if they have any advice for prioritizing home repairs – both in performing the repairs or having them done, as well as paying for the repairs. See if any of their tips and advice can help you determine how to best tackle your home projects.

Roof First Priority

I would recommend that you do the roof first. By waiting on this, there will possibly be more water damage as time goes on. Put all of your resources to solving this first.

Next take down the porch as this can eventually create a safety hazard.

The last project will be to add the electricity to the barn. If you have lived without power this long, a bit longer won’t matter

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Budget Affects Maintenance Priorities

We have similar prioritization issues at our house. We have decided to include “house projects” as a budget item each month. After all of the regular budget items are paid, we put in up to $100 of anything that is leftover.

We are prioritizing items like “fixing the rotting bathroom floor” above “painting kitchen cabinets” because it creates somewhat of a hazard (mold). However, “painting kitchen cabinets” falls above “fixing the horribly constructed sun porch” because painting the cabinets costs a lot less and we can only use the sun porch for half of the year anyway.

As far as squeezing extra money out of an already tight budget, try selling something on Craigslist each month to fund your project budget.

Bartering for Home Maintenance

Do you have any talents you can barter with? My husband is a printer and we’ve swapped NCR forms, business cards, etc. for work on our home and cars. I have talent in graphic arts, tutoring, gardening and baking, which I’ve used to barter with.

It may take a little while to find a swap partner, but it can be done.

Safety First Home Priority

As a homeowner, your first priority needs to be maintaining the safety and value of your home. Fix the roof soon. Every time it leaks, you are throwing away money, risking both your investment and potentially your health. Think mold.

My husband and I have tackled every thing from laying quarry tile to pulling electrical wire to roofing. While I wouldn’t vote roofing as my all-time favorite task, we managed to do a job that passed home inspection with a bit of coaching from a friend who is a carpenter. We saved thousands of dollars, learned a new skill, and grew even more convinced that most of life’s tasks aren’t rocket science.

Get 30-year shingles as they’re worth the difference in cost. If you don’t have a friend who can help, ask the local lumberyard give you an estimate on what you’ll need and how much of it to buy.

Grandma’s Advice on Maintenance

My great grandma used to say, “A stitch in time saves nine.” In other words, fix it before it gets worse. At the top of the list should be the things that will cause more damage if you don’t fix them.

Roof leaks will cause more damage and run up your expenses if left the way they are. If there is already water damage to the porch, you’ll want to repair it before mold and mildew set in, causing more repairs. If you are going to just tear it down, you can do that on weekends yourself with no cost.

Concerning adding electric to barn, you can use camping lanterns to bring light in or a really long extension cord. No extra damage will happen if you don’t have electricity.

As for affording it, we had to take out an equity line to get our roof done. If we had waited to save up, the damage would have gotten much worse and the cost would have been astronomical. It was best to borrow and do the major repairs. Everything else on the “I want” list is waiting until we save the money. We are just making do without it for now. Also try to barter on Craigslist.

Detailed Maintenance Plan

This couple needs to take an inventory of exactly what needs to be done. The leaking roof should take first priority because further water damage could result in more expensive repairs. Take a picture of the damaged areas involved and head to the home improvement store and get an estimate of all items needed to make the repair. If it’s possible for them to do temporary repairs themselves, they can save a lot of money on labor.

Once they get these prices, they need to take a look at their budget and decide where they can cut out items for the time being in order to save the money necessary to cover the costs of the materials. If there are trade schools or possibly a high school that offers construction classes to its students, they could solicit the help of the students who do this type of work as a class project in order to gain experience. The only expense involved would be the cost of the materials.

Next, this couple should determine what the next most important item needed to be repaired is. Possibly it’s the porch, which could pose a safety hazard. They should continue doing this with everything that needs to be done, and before they know it, all of their projects will be completed.

Another way to save funds is to locate a Habitat ReStore in their area. This store sells all types of items at about 80% off retail costs.

Reviewed January 2022

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