Planning for Spring Home Improvement Projects: Do’s and Don’ts
We all lead busy lives and the thought of getting all our tasks done can seem overwhelming, especially when it comes to home maintenance. With spring coming, you may be wondering what projects you need to tackle around the house. The pandemic has spurred a lot of home projects, which means contractors’ schedules are filling quickly (some may already be filled). So, now is the time to start planning and reaching out!
DO: WRITE THINGS DOWN AND PRIORITIZE
My home is 200 years old. My husband’s grandparents bought it in the 60s and prior to that it was said the home changed hands so many times because it’s hard to heat, which has put a long list of weatherization projects on our plate. In addition, I’ve recently found myself looking at the kitchen ceiling, which really needs to be painted, and hearing the drip, drip, drip of the bathroom faucet that I know is a five-minute fix.
Often, the small DIY aesthetic things spark bigger thoughts for me, so I have to rethink my ongoing schedule for home projects. For example, why paint the ceiling now when the plan is to renovate the kitchen in a year, which will involve tearing out the ceiling? Thinking about it like that, I can find a little peace in letting go of the thought of painting that ceiling so I can move on with my day and carve out that five minutes on Saturday to repair the faucet!
My point is, there is always something that has to be fixed and you’ll save time and money if you keep a running list that you put in order of priority, cost, and budget. You can further break it down into jobs you can do yourself and those you’ll need to hire help for.
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DON’T: START WITHOUT A PLAN TO COVER COSTS UPFRONT
Unless you are facing an emergency, the best way to finance home projects is with your current income and savings, which saves you the interest costs of relying on a loan or other financing. A budget is a great way to plan and execute regular maintenance, deal with emergency repairs, and turn bigger improvements into reality. Did you know the average cost for a kitchen is $69,000; a bathroom, $22,000; and a deck, $15,000? Projects in an old home (any home, for that matter) really add up, but here are a few tricks I use to budget for the right now stuff and everything in between:
What is this going to cost us?
Referring to a website with material pricing for DIY projects is helpful on Saturday morning planning days. We happen to have a small local home lumber/hardware store a minute away. So, while I am there getting plumbing supplies for that faucet, I’ll tell them what I am planning next. They will print off a supply price list, which is saved under a project name for me for next time.
Sometimes a call to a contractor is needed for the big stuff. Give a call and get quote. I suggest getting a few. Be upfront with the contractor that your project is in its planning stage, which will spare you any commitment timelines down the road when, perhaps, you learn you cannot afford the expense this year. Your contractor will be able to amend a quote if you are a few years out, but at least you’ll have an idea of how much it will cost so you can plan the next step, which is:
How are we going to pay for it?
A Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) is a great tool to use as needed or for big emergency repairs. Last summer was very dry and our old spring almost failed us, but we had peace of mind knowing we had our HELOC should we need it. A HELOC is awarded based on the equity you have in your home and often comes with little cost to set up. Starting the process of opening a line of credit can be as easy as calling your local mortgage specialist to see if one is right for you. Some lenders offer special rate discounts depending on the purpose, so make sure you inquire about that.
If the project is efficiency related, you may want to call to an Energy Excellence Contractor see what low- or no-interest sustainable energy incentive programs and rebates are available. If you do plan to borrow the money for a spring project, start your application process now. Home equity loans could take several weeks to set up and you don’t want a contractor starting work without your financing in order.
Depending on the cost, a small personal loan may do. If you don’t have equity in your home, some other options include credit cards, financing through your contractor, and borrowing money from family. If it’s an emergency, you could tap into your 401(k), but I wouldn’t suggest that unless you have exhausted your other options. Be sure and do your homework to see what’s right for you when it comes to financing.
DON’T: DELAY WHEN IT COMES TO FINANCING
If you do plan to borrow the money for a spring project, start your application process now. Home equity loans could take several weeks to set up and you don’t want a contractor starting work without your financing in order. Lining up a contractor could be a wait so be sure you get on a schedule just as soon as you have a plan and a budget!
Consider the size of the project and how the project impacts daily life within your home. We are planning a large weatherization project that involves a new foundation. All the plumbing and electrical components of the home will be removed, so we will need to relocate for at least two months. This is at a cost and was part of our budgeting plan from day one. We plan to camp out on our 40-acre plot of farmland. We figured we can be close to home to see the progress. It’s budget-friendly and our five-year-old son will love the adventure. For smaller projects, you could plan a family vacation or stay with family for a long weekend.
DO: DREAM BIG
Saving ideas from web searches is a great way to start planning for DIY projects. When a large project is six months out or sooner, I have been known to use the fridge as a vision board to make sure every detail is covered. A few summers back, we hired a mason to build a beautiful stone patio. During the planning, I was already sitting on that patio in my imagination. I could see myself enjoying the space on a hot summer morning; sipping tea, listing to songbirds, dreaming about the next project.
That patio was well worth the wait. I now have a great space for creative daydreaming about our kitchen demo. All that planning provided results that exceeded our expectations, and there was even a little left in the budget to splurge on beautiful locally-made patio furniture.
Whatever project you have in mind, dreaming up a plan will put your mind at ease so you too can get out there and enjoy the seasons. Patience is well worth it. Now, just close your eyes and let yourself be on that new stone patio. Before you know it, that daydream will be a reality!
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