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How I Got Handy and Saved Money Around the House

Written by Dave Yasvinski

Friday, December 7th, 2018

It was a relaxing Saturday evening after a long week of work. The wine was poured, the music was playing, and all was right in the world. As I looked deep into my wife's beautiful eyes, the waterworks came out of nowhere.

Like, literally.

After only two years of service, our kitchen faucet decided enough was enough, springing a leak and pouring cold water on the floor and on our romantic evening. If this had happened five years ago, I wouldn't have known what to do.

Fortunately, homeownership forces you to grow up in a hurry. I headed downstairs and shut off the water and began planning the repair. The next day I picked up a new fixture at my nearest home improvement store and got to work.

It may not be the case for you, but for me, learning to do home maintenance hasn't been that hard given the information that's out there. I used to call the repairman immediately, but now it's the last resort.

Here are some of my successes, the supplies I needed and an estimate of the money I saved. You'll need some sort of instruction the first time you do this, whether it's from an expert online or someone you know who's done it before.

Replacing a Kitchen Faucet

The old fixture was poorly designed and installed by a bad contractor. It wasn't worth saving. The new fixture cost $200 and came with everything needed for the install, including straightforward instructions and a specialized tool for the job. I opted for a simple design with few moving parts, allowing for fewer things to go wrong. And there are plenty of resources online to help. 

Estimated money saved: $150 for a plumber.

Rodent Proofing

We discovered soon after moving in five years ago that there were more animals living in our house than humans. Squirrels had taken up residence in our roof and the pitter-patter of tiny rodents just isn't as charming as that of children. The first time, I brought in a very capable professional to evict the freeloaders. But I also paid close attention.

When the raccoons and skunks showed up two years later, I was armed with the chicken wire, shovel, screws and oversized washers I needed to repel the invasion (purchased for $40). 

Estimated money saved: $600 if I'd called for help every time a new animal tried to move in + at least a few hundred more in damage to the house if they were allowed to remain.

Cleaning the Gutters

I realized there was a problem here when the birds started using my gutters as a bird bath. I already had the tools I needed for this task (ladder, work gloves, waste bags) so all this cost me was a little time. You can find some pointers here

Estimated money saved: $200 + the potential for thousands more from water damage if left clogged.

Tree Trimming

When the tree branches start tapping on our bedroom window, it was time to act. A cheap tree trimmer, ladder and shears were all I needed. 

Estimated money saved: $300 for a professional + $100 in free firewood!

Dishwasher Install

This was the most complicated task on the list and one that put my new plumbing skills to the test. The best part of doing it myself is that each new task is less daunting than the one that came before. Our ancient machine had been slowly leaking. When we ordered a new unit, I assumed the store would install it for us, but I was wrong. For this job, I needed a conversion kit, a Phillips screwdriver, a wrench and a little research

Estimated money saved: $300 + untold thousands if water had kept leaking into the floorboards and the basement below.

At first, I had no experience being handy, but over time I learned how to do small repairs. It may not be an option for everyone, but it doesn't hurt to do a little research. Maybe you'll end up enjoying doing work around your home!

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