Home Maintenance

Hidden Costs Of Home Improvements

This past Saturday, I had my kids playhouse moved from our old house to our new one.  The playhouse paint didn’t match our new house, so I spent some time today painting it.  I also repaired a few shingles that were damaged during the move.  Oh, and I also installed a small window-unit air conditioner, so the kids can play in the house and be comfortable.

I have a list, a mile long, of home improvement projects.  I want to build shelves for the shed.  I really want to build a potting bench for the back porch – and I still need to do something about landscaping our backyard.  So many projects – so little time – and so little money!

I’ve noticed, as I’ve tackled various projects, that almost everything I want to do ends up costing more – sometimes a little more, sometimes a lot more – than I expected.  I am, however, getting a bit better at predicting costs, because I’ve learned to look for the “hidden costs” associated with home improvements.

Fasteners – Bolts, Screws, Nails

It never fails.  I need to attach (fill in the blank) to (fill in the blank) but I don’t have the right fastener for the job.  Whether it’s a $3 box of nails or a $50 box of specialty bolts, it’s imperative that fasteners be included when calculating the cost of any home improvement.  (Also, it also important that you buy the correct type of fastener for the job.  I cannot count the number of times I’ve purchased 2 inch nails, only to have to return to the store and buy 3 inch nails.  You would think I would learn – measure first!)

Finishes – Paints, Primers, Stains

Quality, long-lasting paint is rather expensive.  When working on a project, it’s very easy to forget, or under-estimate, the amount of paint that a project might require.  On the flip side, it’s also easy to buy too much paint, for fear that you might run out!  Think about your finishes before you begin your project, and don’t wait until you’re standing in the paint isle.  (Side note – When you complete a project, hang on to any unused paint.  You never know when you’ll need it for touch-ups.)

Measurements – Level, Square, Plumb

What’s the old saying?  Measure twice, cut once?  I say, measure twice, write it down, measure again, then cut.  There’s nothing worse than cutting a board to 43 inches long, only to find out that I really needed the board to be 44 inches.  Material costs can quickly skyrocket if care is not taken when measuring and cutting.  Haste makes waste!  (This is the old-time-sayings portion of the blog post!)

Tools – Blades, Extension Cords, Batteries

If you’re going to learn how to “do it yourself”, you’re going to need some tools.  Tools have associated costs – blades, extra batteries, drill bits – for which one must account.  When working on a DIY project, it’s important to factor the cost of any tools I might need to buy, rent, or borrow.  The right tool might cost more upfront, but will save you time (and probably money) in the long-run.  Oh, it’s also important to be able to “power” any “power tools” – and that means quality extension cords.  (Have you ever heard someone call an extension cord a “drop cord”?  I’m trying to determine if this is a term from the South, a term that folks who live in rural areas use, or if it’s universal, and lots of folks use it.  Leave a comment and let me know!)

Experts Required

I’ll be honest – I know just enough about home improvement to take care of “basic jobs”.  If I’m not comfortable tackling a particular task, I’ll call an expert.  I’d rather pay someone who knows what he is doing – and avoid making even-more-expensive mistakes.  This is especially true when dealing with projects involving electricity, plumbing, or structural work.

I actually enjoy doing projects around the house.  With a little planning – and lots of learning from past mistakes – I’m getting better at estimating the real cost of home improvements.  Now, time to check the honey-do-list and see what’s on the schedule for Saturday!

One last thought -  This article is intended to focus on “do it yourself” type home improvements.  Obviously, if I were planning a major project, like adding an addition to the house or installing a swimming pool, there would be tons of other costs to consider.  For now, I’m just dealing with stuff like painting a play house, building a flower box, or adding a lean-to to a shed.  Baby steps…

7 thoughts on “Hidden Costs Of Home Improvements

  1. My old house is for rent right now, and I can tell you that you ain’t kidding when it comes to hidden costs! It’s amazing how much little can add up quick, and before you know it, being a landlord is not such a good idea.

  2. I’m trying to build a few pieces of furniture for my house (bookshelves and a bench). So far, I’ve spent over $50 more than anticipated due to some problems with the primer (I had to strip it back to the wood to do it again). Yikes, that stuff adds up FAST!

  3. When I was growing up, a “drop cord” was a work light at the end of an extension cord, that had a hook on it to hang from the underside of a car’s hood. That may have been a Southern…California thing.

  4. For the term drop cord, I have heard it used around the country. I beleive it comes from the fact that in order to maintain workplace safety, cords should be run above head level and then dropped to the working site. This is to avoid tripping hazards. In this case the “drop” in drop cords comes from the fact that the cord is coming down from above and is dropped into place after being run.

  5. Great post. I know of what you speak since I am currently starting repainting a master bedroom and bathroom. This turned into replacing the bathroom vanity, bathroom flooring, and tearing up the bedroom carpet for an engineered hardwood floor. Luckily I am budgeting for it as I go so it’s not pinching me too bad. Just taking longer.

  6. Paint tip – Whenever I’m in the big box home improvement stores, I always check out their “oops” paint (color mixed incorrectly). It’s marked down in price considerably and you can mix similar colors until you get the quantity you need. Just remember, don’t mix different sheens, and keep a small amount back for touchups because you’ll never be able to reproduce that color again. I can usually get a name brand quart for $3 or $4.

  7. I’ve never heard of drop cord, and I’ve lived in the NYC, Atlanta, and Boston metro areas (never further than 30 miles from city-center).

Comments are closed.