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The Importance of Maintenance

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Proper maintenance will help to minimize problems. Go over every part of your home at least once a year. Check out the roof, plumbing, electrical wiring, etc. As soon as you notice a problem, fix it. If that paint is peeling and the wood is looking a bit worn up around the cornice, get it primed, painted, and sealed.

Your home is an investment in living as well as in savings. If neglected, it will pay no dividends. If properly maintained and improved, it will pay a high yield in comfort and usefulness for your family and in avoidance of costly repairs. Early attention to repairs will help you avoid a larger expense later on.

Do It Yourself

If you are handy with tools and have the experience, you can save money by doing many jobs yourself. You can, if you know how to flip a circuit breaker switch and you have a screwdriver, replace that wall dimmer switch yourself when it starts to crackle and hum. But unless you are skilled in wiring, plumbing, installing heat systems, and cutting through walls, you should rely on professionals for such work.

Beyond a hammer and screwdriver, probably the best investment you can make as a do-it-yourselfer is a variable speed electric drill. These tools are just sensational -- you can use them to drill holes in just about anything, and then, attaching the screwdriver head, you can use them to put just about anything together.

You don't need to spring for a table saw and a router and a jigsaw and all the other goodies you see in the Sunday supplements in your local newspaper. (Of course, if this is a passion, and you've got the space, go right ahead.) But keep in mind that most large hardware stores such as Home Depot will do cuts for you -- either for free, or for $0.50 a cut or so. This means that you can get them to cut up that piece of 4' by 8' plywood, and a few 2 x 4's, into the right size for that set of storage shelves in the basement. With your trusty drill, you can do the rest.

When thinking of more visible home jobs, it pays not to skimp on the materials. What you need are products that look good, are easy to maintain, and last a long time. Buy from reliable dealers.

Safety

Use your judgment. Sure, you may be able to clamber up an 18-foot extension ladder to get access to the roof and clean out the gutter. Yes, you'll probably be able to avoid slipping off the pine-needle blanket that's sitting up there. But is it worth it, to save $60 you'd pay professionals to do the job?

Similarly, when you begin to mess around with your home's electrical system, you'd better know exactly what you're doing. Don't be penny-wise and pound-foolish (as opposed to Foolish); do only what you're confident you can safely accomplish.

Such as? Well, some of the small improvements that you can make can really add a good deal to the house's appearance, and to your enjoyment of it. They can also have a positive impact on your house's sale price when it comes time to sell.

Let's look at some of these small improvements.