Make us your home page
Instagram

Tips and ideas for saving money on home repairs

We loved the bones of our first home.

But the walls, cabinets and lighting? It was very Brady Bunch — too much so.

With a limited budget, we decided to overhaul the dated kitchen, paint over the salmon pink walls and upgrade electrical components.

And by doing some of it ourselves, we saved thousands of dollars.

If we can save that much money fixing up our home, so can you.

Word to the wise: Have a serious conversation about the time you're willing to spend in advance. Time really is money — and sanity. We hired professionals to do a new circuit breaker box, for example.

But here's how we saved more than $3,000 by going DIY.

Kitchen backsplash

A big way to change the look of any kitchen is a tile backsplash. It's not hard, and doing it yourself saves money. But it takes care. We spent nearly $500 on material and small tools — a mixing bucket, a float, etc. — for 40 square feet of tile. We spent time using manuals and online sources. And we saved a bundle when — enjoy this, fellas — my wife did almost all the work herself. She buttered the walls. She grouted the tile. She sealed it.

Savings: $900

Demolition

Somebody had to take the old kitchen cabinets down. To save money, we invested in a reciprocating saw for $100. Most cabinets are screwed or bolted into the wall, hopefully on a stud. With help from my father-in-law, we took out seven cabinet sections. Then I used the saw to cut down the old cabinet boxes and counter.

Savings: $700

Painting

The quickest way to freshen a house is new color. If you watch closely, most stores — not just big-box but specialty shops, too — will offer discounts occasionally. Nowadays, they even offer options to match different colors to coordinate walls, trim and other effects.

A paint service will save you sore shoulders and the tedium of laying tape along the outer edges of windows and ceilings. But DIY websites offer great ideas about how to deal with trouble, and what brushes and rollers fit which texture of walls — a big question to solve.

We did the labor ourselves, including wallpaper removal, in six rooms. We painted the ceilings, too. The total cost of painting supplies was more than $400, but we still saved a ton.

Cost savings: $1,500

Switches and outlets

Updating and changing switches and outlets can be scary. But with care, we changed seven switches and outlets in the kitchen. We also installed three dimmers in the living room. All it took was a screwdriver, wire crimping pliers and a healthy respect for electricity.

We took care not just to turn the power circuit breakers off, but to test and retest. And don't fool around. When a new double-switch for a light and garbage disposal wouldn't work, I relented and called an electrician. It turned out the previous owner had a risky connection. We saved ourselves from a future fire by having him replace the old one correctly.

Most switches and outlets sold at retailers come with manageable directions and can be purchased for $10 or less. An electrician can charge $25 a receptacle. Plus, the dimmers can save costs on future electric bills.

Savings: $250

Dishwasher

Need to upgrade an appliance? To save money, install it yourself.

In many cases, retailers such as Home Depot and Lowe's have step-by-step instructions online. DIYnetwork.com has similar help.

In our case, we wanted to invest in a stainless steel dishwasher. By eliminating the cost of hiring a contractor for installation, we could increase our budget by 10 percent for a quieter unit.

But installing it took care, a general theme for many appliance change-outs. Make sure the power is off. Take care to understand how the water service line connects — there are different sizes. And decide before you start about a crucial location: side-mounting or top mounting the anchors to keep it balanced. In the end, the savings might not be worth some people's trouble.

Savings: $75

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8779. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/decamptimes

Surviving (and thriving) with remodeling

Here are tips on how to prepare yourself for making upgrades to your house, especially if you are new homeowners:

Precautions: Read the directions closely. Take safety warnings seriously, especially if it involves work that can shock, slice, burn or stain.

It's also important to check local building codes to see if the job is so complicated a permit is required.

Changing a circuit breaker box is a lot more difficult than changing a switch.

Tools: Some essential tools for most jobs are a cordless drill, a 16 oz. hammer and Phillips head and slotted screw drivers. A paint scraper multi-tool is valuable because it can also pull nails, clear cracks and even open paint cans. Spackling or plaster patch will be your buddy on badly pocked walls before painting. If you have to do demolition, a reciprocating saw is helpful. And a mixture of unscented fabric softener and water helped remove old wallpaper with a scraper (and sore shoulders).

Neighbors and friends: We've been blessed to have good neighbors who help with advice. They've done some of the things we've done. It can help you decide whether a project is beyond your skill level or time. Always assume suggested times in DIY instructions will underestimate how long a first-timer will need.

Library and Internet: Public libraries have how-to manuals that can be tapped for insight. Big-box retailers also offer videos and instructions, although DIY websites tended to provide more details and specifics. If you go online, try to view several sites to find consensus on your approach.

David DeCamp, Times staff writer

Tips and ideas for saving money on home repairs 12/04/11 [Last modified: Monday, December 5, 2011 10:34am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Appointments at Port Tampa Bay and Tampa General Medical Group highlight this week's Tampa Bay business Movers & Shakers

    Business

    Government

    Port Tampa Bay announced that Jamal Sowell has been named director of special projects. Sowell, a former member of the U.S.Marine Corps, will support internal, external and special projects, assist the executive team with management oversight and serve as a liaison on a variety of port …

    Port Tampa Bay announced this week that Jamal Sowell has been named director of special projects. [Handout photo]
  2. Drones restrictions coming at Tampa Bay area airports

    Airlines

    Starting Sept. 1, Tampa International Airport officials will be enforcing new height restrictions for drones and other unmanned aircraft systems, according to a press release.

    In this February 2017 file photo, a drone flies in Hanworth Park in west London. Starting Sept. 1, Tampa International Airport officials will be enforcing new height restrictions for drones and other unmanned aircraft systems,
[John Stillwell/PA via AP, File]
  3. Gov. Scott backs off boycott of companies doing business in Venezuela

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott will ask the Florida Cabinet next month to prohibit the state's investment managers from doing something they already do not do: invest in companies or securities owned or controlled by the Venezuelan government.

    Florida Governor Rick Scott interacts with people as he holds a Venezuelan Freedom Rally at El Arepazo 2 restaurant on July 10 in Miami. [Joe Raedle | Getty Images]
  4. Superior Uniform Group reports $65.6 million in sales for second quarter

    Corporate

    SEMINOLE — Superior Uniform Group Inc. reported sales of $65.6 million in net sales for the second quarter, up a percentage point from the same quarter last year, the Seminole-based company reported Thursday.

    Superior Uniform Group Inc. saw a sales increase for the second quarter, the company reported Thursday. Pictured is Michael Benstock, CEO. | [Courtesy of Superior Uniform Group]
  5. Air bag inflator ruptures, driver killed in Pasco County

    Autos

    DETROIT — Automaker Honda says a driver from Pasco County died in a crash earlier this month that involved an exploding Takata air bag inflator.

    Honda says a driver near Tampa has died in a crash that involved an exploding Takata air bag inflator. 
[Associated Press]