Getting the Best Value for Your Maintenance Budget

As a software developer, my first instinct at work to solve an issue with a computer system was to trash it and start over with a new, better, more modern solution. Most of the time, this was the correct approach – either because the base functionality was being stretched beyond measure and required a new foundation or because the older system just wasn’t able to keep on working well, no matter how many fixes were applied.

I applied this same philosophy at home as well – on any home maintenance projects that came up. Our first home was a 50 year old ranch. It had a small master bathroom with a shower. That shower was nasty. The grout had eroded at the bottom, allowing water to get into the drywall causing rotten soft walls and allowing mildew to grow. Yuk. Without even looking for other solutions, I decided to tear out the tub surround. Once it was out, I went after the drywall in the shower. I had so much fun smashing it out that I tore out the drywall in the entire bathroom. You should have seen the look on my spouse’s face when he came home from work that day and saw the state of the bathroom!

I spent quite a bit of time and some money putting up new greenboard, tiling the shower, having a plumber install a brand new base, drywalling the rest of the walls and putting in a new floor. It looked great when I was done and I got some good experience. But, perhaps a simpler solution would have sufficed.

At times, trash and replace isn’t the right solution, either to software or to your home maintenance projects.

Now I am looking askance at our patio, which doesn’t drain properly into the yard. Once again the first thought is that we need to get someone in here with a jackhammer to tear out the concrete and relay the entire thing at a better slant. We’ve been postponing that due to the anticipated expense and consequently the wood siding is starting to get damaged from frequent exposure to standing water.

All homes require maintenance and each of us should be prepared to spend part of our overall budget on home maintenance and repair. That said, the maintenance and repair doesn’t have to be trash and replace. It can be fix and extend as well.

Here are t least 3 things that can be done to deal with issues, or at least postpone a final solution until you have the time and resources to handle it.

Extending the life of old windows.

Homes used to come with single pane windows. Some had wood sashes, others had metal. Most had caulking or sealant to hold the window pane in place.

Window replacement is expensive, but can save you money on energy costs over time. To make do while you save up to replace, try protecting the metal or wood frames by stripping and re-sealing them as well as taking out the old dried up caulk and putting in newer types of sealant. Then you can cover them inside or outside with plastic during the extreme hot or cold months to help keep in the heat or air.

Repairing cracks in the wall board.

As houses settle, sometimes the wall board cracks around the doors, and keeps on cracking even after you repair it with grout and paint. Instead of calling in a foundation expert and ripping out the wallboard to replace it, try using a single layer of adhesive backed fiberglass mesh drywall tape – mudding over it with a couple of layers of joint compound and sanding it smooth before painting.

Refreshing an old bath vanity

To extend the life of my seldom used Jack and Jill bathroom, I redid the 1980’s vanities using spray on tub and tile finish, framing the mirror with a thin piece of wood stained to match the wood on the vanity cabinet and re-staining and sealing the wood on those cabinets.

Popular Mechanics has some additional suggestions along these same lines.