For homeowners, a consequence of being stuck at home during lockdown was constantly noticing things that needed to be fixed or repaired.
The fact that much of the hard lockdown happened during winter probably made things worse as draughty windows and doors let in icy wind, downpours found gaps in leaky roofs or blocked gutters collapsed. Add load shedding and there were blown bulbs, transformers on downlighters and damaged appliances to deal with.
For DIY enthusiasts with some time on their hands it was a perfect opportunity to get stuck in. For those not as adept, it was a chance to make a list for the handyman.
The irony is that while there’s probably never been a better time to get some much-needed home maintenance done, financial uncertainty has prevented people from tackling their to-do lists. Widespread retrenchments, salary sacrifices, bonuses or commissions not being paid, and businesses closed or just ticking over have understandably made people wary about spending money.
The importance of home maintenance
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.
‘Spending a bit to deal with small issues before they become big problems is sensible.’
His five expert tips for staying on top of home maintenance without breaking the budget are:
1. Prioritise fixes based on your budget
Ask yourself if the work you want done is necessary or just a nice to have. If money is tight, limit your to-do list to things that’ll 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. Consider the urgency of the fixes
Some tasks are more urgent than others. While sanding down and repainting woodwork will prevent it rotting and save you from having to pay more later to repair or replace it, it’s potentially not 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. Review your home insurance policy
You may have insurance cover for some household repairs, but not have 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 hot-water geyser repaired, it’s worth checking whether this is covered.
4. Research costs and options
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 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’ll need will cost. You can then draw up a budget to make sure you can afford to start and finish the job. If you don’t have the necessary funds to carry out urgent work needed on your house, consider applying for a loan for home improvement.
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, check online or on social media to see if there are any references or complaints about the people they recommend. Once you’ve made a shortlist, get a few quotes. Keep in mind that cheapest is not always best. The way the handymen on your shortlist go about assessing the job and compiling a detailed quote will give you an indication of who is most professional.
5. Be realistic about your skillset
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.
We’ve all seen YouTube videos of people who thought cutting down the dead tree in the backyard would be the easiest thing in the world, only to have it fall on the house.
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.