Housing & Mortgage
Home Repairs: Which Ones Shouldn’t Be Delayed
Work that protects the integrity of a house is crucial
In an economic recession, homeowners may have to play defense when it comes to home repairs.
We’ve all read articles on renovations or additions that can add value to our house: a new kitchen, remodeled bathrooms, a deck. Such upgrades aren’t your priority just now.
If you’re out of work, or at risk of being out of work, you need to focus on repairs that will preserve the value of your house. That means fixing roofs, shoring up foundations, repairing or replacing malfunctioning furnaces.
In short, think of all the things that could cause your house to flunk a home inspection. It won’t be because you have ugly tile in your kitchen or lack a bidet in your bathroom. It will because your roof is shot, your house is sagging or there are flood marks on your basement walls. These are problems that threaten the integrity of the house, which is why home inspectors properly focus on them.
One good thing about a tough economy is that fixing houses should cost less. Remodeling activity will be hit hard according to this leading indicator of activity from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. Contractors should be hungry for work and willing to bid aggressively. That’s good for you.
Some repairs, like putting on a new roof, are apparent to buyers and will raise the price of your house if you have to sell it. Others, like fixing basement leaks, won’t. Buyers aren’t paying extra for a leak-free house. But they will demand a discount, or not buy the house at all, if you don’t take care of the leaks
Even if you plan to live in a house for the rest of your life, there are problems you can’t afford to ignore.
Roofs: Don’t wait until a roof leaks badly before fixing it. By then, much of the damage is done. You need to take preventative action. That means going into your attic to look for any sign of leaking. Likewise, you or someone else ought to get on your roof from time to time to make sure the shingles are in good shape. Bits of shingle in your gutters or errant shingles in your yard are bad signs.
A leaking roof often doesn’t need to be replaced. Sometimes the leak can be fixed by repairing flashing around a chimney or repairing gutters, or even just keeping your gutters clear of leaves.
If you need a new roof, expect to pay $5,000 to $8,000 for a basic asphalt roof. Bigger houses can run a good bit more than that. Here’s a calculator that estimates the size of your roof and the materials needed to replace it. When you’re ready to get bids from roofing contractors, you’ll know how many bundles of shingles are required for your roof.
Foundations: Nothing puts your house at risk like foundation problems; particularly in areas with lots of soil movement like Dallas, they can literally pull a house apart.
Signs of foundation problems include cracking walls, doors and windows that don’t close, and sagging floors or ceilings. Foundation repairs generally aren’t cheap but if you don’t fix them, they could cost you a lot more.
One caveat: It’s hard for a layperson to tell if a foundation repair is done correctly. Talk to previous customers before hiring a contractor. For complex jobs, it’s worth hiring an independent foundation expert to inspect the work afterward.
Exterior walls: In addition to protecting the roof and foundation, you have to protect what’s in between. Paint and exterior siding protect your house from the elements and help maintain structural integrity.
They also help boost the curb appeal of a house, which is why flippers repaint a house before selling it. You can let painting slide for a while, but not too long.
Beware of painters who bid way below everyone else. Good painters spend a lot of time scraping and patching and priming before they start putting on the new paint. Unlike, say, foundation repairs, painting is something you can do yourself if need be. It’s a lot of work to do it right.
Heating and air conditioning system: If your furnace goes out in Minneapolis in the winter, you may damage your pipes, plus the house will become too cold to live in. Likewise, if you’re living in a humid place like Orlando, Florida, a working air conditioning system is essential for keeping out moisture and mold. On top of that, a malfunctioning furnace can be deadly if it leaks carbon monoxide. So, problems must be fixed.
A tougher call is when to replace a heating or air conditioning system that is working but breaks frequently or is inefficient. Here is a new furnace cost calculator. You’ll get better deals if you get work done in spring and fall, the off-season for furnace and air conditioning contractors.