3 Home Repair Mistakes I've Made That You Should Avoid

by Maurie Backman | Updated July 19, 2021 - First published on Feb. 21, 2021

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A man roped to a tree and cutting it down with a chainsaw with houses in the background.

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Here are a few blunders I'm not proud of. Do yourself a favor and learn from them.

When my husband and I signed a mortgage on our home a little over a decade ago, we knew we'd spend more than just the cost of principal and interest on a loan each month. As a result, we budgeted for property taxes, homeowners insurance, maintenance, and repairs.

Speaking of repairs, we've had our share of those. But we haven't always handled them all that well from a financial standpoint. Here are a few mistakes we made that you should make every effort to avoid.

1. Calling a contractor out of laziness

It's one thing to outsource a repair project when it's a dangerous job or one that requires certain skills. But it's another thing to call for outside help when the work is fairly simple, albeit time-consuming. I've certainly been guilty of the latter.

In fact, recently, my husband and I had to replace part of our wooden deck as the old planks had started to rot through. We hired a contractor to install the new planks because that's difficult work. We also paid someone to stain and seal those new planks when, in reality, it was an easy job we could've done ourselves. We hired someone to avoid having to spend hours outside in the heat but wound up feeling guilty about it after the fact.

2. Not calling a contractor for a hazardous job

Years ago, we had a dead tree in our backyard that needed to come down. I called some tree removal services but wasn't happy with the quotes they gave me. So my husband and I decided to do the work ourselves since we had the right tools.

Well, you can imagine how well that worked out. To take down the tree, my husband tied a rope around it and attempted to saw it down while I pulled it away from the side of the house. Only I didn't manage to pull it away from the side of the house. As it turns out, 30-foot pine trees weigh more than you'd think, and I'm not exactly the most muscular person. Instead, part of the tree smacked the corner of our house, denting a few pieces of its siding in the process.

I'm thankful the damage to our home wasn't more extensive. More so than that, I'm grateful I didn't actually get injured that day. And, I learned a valuable lesson -- it pays to hire a professional when the work at hand is dangerous.

3. Underestimating home repairs on my new-construction home

The home my husband and I bought a little over 10 years ago was built before our eyes from the ground up. I assumed that our repairs would be minimal for the first few years. As such, I didn't incorporate a ton of room in our budget for home repairs.

That was a bad call, though. Our house was new, but it turns out the builders took a number of shortcuts. As a result, we needed repairs right after the one-year mark, when our home warranty ran out. One year, it was a pipe that fell right out of its casing and caused water damage. Another year, it was a pipe that melted off. And due to a grading issue with our exterior, we were forced to install a very expensive retaining wall on the side of our property that cost thousands.

Thankfully, we had a nice sum of money in our emergency fund before we closed on our home. Between that and me picking up extra work, we were able to cover our repairs without going into debt. But lesson learned -- always overestimate for repairs instead of the other way around.

When you own a home, repairs are part of the picture. But don't mishandle them as we've done. Instead, tackle your own repairs when you can, know when not to do your own repairs, and plan to spend plenty of money to keep your home standing. At this point, home repairs are a significant part of our budget, and that's helped make otherwise stressful situations a little less overwhelming.

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