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home improvement, tips, fixing up your home cheap

If you’ve never heard of the term ‘money pit’, then wait until you’ve bought that special home in the suburbs, and your neighbors start to come around to visit with you. You’ll soon know that the ‘pristine’ home that was advertised is not much better that a ‘fixer-upper’ with a little bit of spit and polish on it. Of course, this is a dangerous generalization, but it should give you an idea of what you might expect from a typical home. However, don’t let it get you down any, because there are smart ways to do expensive things if you know who to call and how much to pay them, which brings us to the first part – sourcing your contractor.

First - The List

But before that, you’ll need to use the old pen and paper method. Make a complete and comprehensive list of all the repairs and additions that you would like done. You may not have the funds to do it all at once, but you’ll still be much better off crossing off the jobs as and they get done; it will even motivate you to save on other things like eating out in order to get that list going and finished as soon as possible. Once you’re made your list, prioritize it and put it on a fresh list by order of importance: example, a leaky roof is more urgent before the rains come than a squeaky door hinge.

The Labor

Now for that contractor; first of all, put a smile on your face and say that ‘hello, good morning, how’re you today’ like you really mean it. Finding a good contractor is often about getting on the good side of a grouchy expert than finding a smooth-talking incompetent ‘man with hammer and saw’. Ask a lot of questions, and speak to at least four or five before you hire one. A good test of when you’ve spoken to enough of them to make an informed decision is when the answers you’re getting start to match and make sense. When you’ve made a good few rounds of phone calls, narrow it down to the one who sounds the most knowledgeable and the one who is also the most affordable. Finding a good contractor for your first few jobs will lead you to other specialists for your next batch of work; a good brick layer, for example, is bound to know a few good painters, and so on.

The Money

Finding the funds for the first phase of work is important. More often than not, it will come out of the home loan you’ve taken to purchase the house. You won’t have enough to go for an equity loan at this point, so try and make do with whatever you have. When you’ve found the contractor you’re comfortable with, watch him work, and try and pick up a few tips – a good worker will be ready to answer any questions you may have.


Now, from your priority list, pick the first few that you can comfortably afford. Do leave some room for incidentals and random expenses as this is likely to occur. However, make sure that you get the work started as soon as possible because when you do need to stretch your budget a little to get the important stuff done, you’ll be surprised by where you can find the odd dollar to cover the extras.

The garage and the closets are probably good places to start, and very often there may be a disagreement right there: perhaps the husband wants the garage done first and the wife wants closet space organized – both are equally important so whenever and wherever you can, try to include both. For the closet, you could try to deepen the top shelf for additional storage. Next you move the rod up close to the bottom of the shelf without hampering your ability to move the clothes around and take them down. Often you will have space to put a second rod at a height where the clothes won’t touch the ground, and maybe even have space for a bottom shelf or two to put those shoes that are always getting in the way.

Getting additional money to do the garage might not be as difficult as it looks. In fact, if you look at the inside of your garage long and hard, you’ll find the money right there – yes, it’s time for a yard sale. A simple weekend sale like this can often pay for the work on its own. Now weren’t you glad you kept all that junk you thought nobody would want? However, be sure to check with other family members before you lug everything out to the yard and put up your sign – there may be some precious mementos that someone doesn’t want to part with.

Now you’ve got some money and cleaned out your garage in the bargain, invest in some good quality peg-boards. Use at least quarter inch ones; you can even get them seconds because they’re purely functional and in no way esthetic. Use furring strips to secure your shelves, and you’re done with your wall space. Don’t hesitate to use the ceiling for hanging stuff that can be easily accessed, but aren’t safety hazards. Now for your workbench - you can use all the scraps that you’ve been collecting and end up with a decent work area that has all the standards – a vice, a two-by-four top, and maybe space on the wall for your most-used tools.

Final Words

A couple of more things might help. An air mattress hung right in the middle of a two-car garage will ensure that there are no door scratches on either car – ever. That will make you and your spouse happy. If you’ve got a garden and maybe a few kids, then a nice little shed behind the garage can be used for tools, bikes, mowers and miscellaneous items.

Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list of things you could do – consider it as an attempt to clear the path for you to have extensive work done in your home the easy, painless and cheap way.