Photo (cc) by flikr
My grandpa was full of the words of wisdom that could always get you out of a jam. One of my favorites was, “If you want something done cheap, do it yourself. If you want something done right, call a professional.”
Since I’m not a particularly handy person, I’ve spent quite a bit of cash over the years calling professionals to fix things from cars to leaky plumbing. Then I met my husband.
As a veteran of the apartment-maintenance industry and a real do-it-yourselfer, Mark taught me that there were plenty of things I can do around our home either very cheap or totally free. These simple home-maintenance tasks won’t keep things from breaking forever, but they’ll definitely prolong the life of some of your bigger-ticket items and keep your home in good working order….
1. Keep your gutters clean
Removing the debris from your gutters helps keep water flowing in the right direction. When water can’t flow down your gutters and into the downspouts, there’s only one other place it can go: over the edge and under your fascia boards and shingles. If this happens often enough, you’re going to end up replacing your roof, siding, or both. And all are expensive and unnecessary.
Another issue with stopped-up gutters is that they become heavy. Heavy gutters can’t be supported by those aluminum nails that keep them attached to your house – so they’ll pull away from your house and warp, requiring you to replace them prematurely.
Gutter guards will help with keeping the larger stuff out, but you’ll still need to remove the smaller debris. Gutter cleaning is actually tougher with the guards on, so having them installed is a waste of money, in my opinion. Note: The ease and safety of cleaning gutters is diametrically opposed to their height. In other words, don’t fall off the ladder.
2. Change your air filters
Changing your air filters is like going to the dentist: You know you need to do it, but most of us don’t as often as we should. The dirtier your filter, the harder your air conditioner or heater has to work, placing undue strain on the unit and unnecessary dollars on your utility bill.
A good rule of thumb is to change your air filter once a month, but in dustier environments or during the hotter months, you might need to change them even more often. It’s not hard to tell when they need changing, however: just look at them. It only takes a few seconds to do. If you don’t know how, someone around you does. Ask them.
3. Save extra paint for touch-ups
Ever wonder what to do with your leftover paint after finishing an interior paint job? Save it for touch-ups. Touching up your walls is a great way to save yourself a bunch of money and keep your house looking great, especially if you have a family like mine who can’t keep their hands and shoes off the walls.
By using leftover paint from a previous paint job, you’ll be sure of a 100-percent color match – super important for if you’re just covering scuffs or handprints. Store your leftover paint in an airtight container in a cool, dry place (think garage or basement) and it will keep for a year or longer. For an added bonus, add a couple of drops of vanilla to your touch-up paint. This will help get rid of musty, stale odors and keep down the “fresh paint” smell.
4. Wash your dryer lint screen
Most of us remember to peel that big lint sheet out of the lint catcher between each load to prevent dryer fires, but did you know that you should wash it too?
I discovered that your lint catcher can become gummed up with fabric softener and tiny fibers that you can’t get out by just removing the lint. Like your air conditioner filter, a clogged lint filter make your dryer work harder and can cause your heating element to burn out prematurely.
Take your lint screen out of your dryer and run hot water over it. If the water stays in the mesh and doesn’t run through, you need to wash it. Using hot soapy water and a used toothbrush, scrub the screen vigorously but gently, so as not to warp the mesh. Rinse thoroughly and allow it to dry.