Save Big Bucks | Urban Living
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Save Big Bucks

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Recently, I wrote about low-cost home projects you could undertake while staying at home that add mucho value to your home. Here are some prevention-oriented projects that can help you save big bucks.

Exterior projects

Roofing: Generally, building codes don't allow for more than two layers of asphalt shingles before the roof has to be torn off and fully replaced. That doesn't mean your roof only has two layers, it just means you (or a shady shingler) threw up a third layer on a Sunday when no one was looking. If you have a few missing, curling or loose shingles, replace them. But be careful. If you take care of your roof, you can extend its life and not spend a fortune to replace it for a while.

Caulk: While you're up on the roof, caulk around your chimney(s) and vents.

Swamp cooler prep: Also, while up on the roof, get your swamp cooler ready for summer. Upgrading your cooler pads to those with wood or synthetic fibers allows for more air to flow through the water streams. Check your fan belt on the squirrel cage for cracks. Also, a number of local HVAC vendors are offering deals on cooler maintenance right now, so shop around. Most homes I visit these days have upgraded to central air but keep the swamp cooler as a spring/fall alternative. A new central-air system is not that expensive if you have the air vents already in your home used for your furnace.

Check the gutters: Gutters leak, gutters sag. Clean out your gutters from winter, and then run a hose and see where the leaks are and caulk them. Water running into your foundation is no bueno and can set you up for ugly problems later. Again, maintenance vs. replacement saves money.

Window resealing: Windows leak air. Replacing them is expensive when you may just need to seal them properly. If you notice your double windows have moisture in-between the two panels, you've got to replace the whole window which usually starts at $300 per small double window.

Indoor upgrades

Water leaks: If you suspect a water leak in your home because you see mold or smell moisture, call a home inspector who can do an infrared photo shoot of your walls. One report I've seen says that a slow leak can waste 3,000 to 4,000 gallons of water per year so it's worth crawling around and checking your pipes.

Also, getting your main sewer line/water line insured could save you a small fortune in the future, and that can be under $20 a month vs. a $15,000 line replacement. Your insurance doesn't cover what you think when it comes to sewer or water line breaks.

I'm a big fan of home warranty policies. These are insurance programs for the mechanical parts of your home. For $500 per year on an average home, you can cover plumbing backups, replace a furnace/air conditioner or hot-water heater that breaks, fix electrical issues that come up and insure your appliances.