On TV, people buy a house, settle into it, and live happily ever after… unless you grew up watching Bob Vila’s “This Old House,” or Tim Allen’s fictional show, “Home Improvement.” The Vila show and the Allen shows teach you how to repair or renovate a house, one in all seriousness, one with humor and foils.
Although binge-watching every episode of both shows could prove fun, you need to renovate your home right now and maybe you need help. That’s why we put together this guide; it’s also where your local home improvement agency (H.I.A.) can help. That way, you can pop popcorn when you’re done and enjoy watching both shows at your leisure.
The United Kingdom and the United States offer home improvement agencies but refer to them by different names. To find your local H.I.A. in the U.K. visit the website www.findmyH.I.A..org.uk; to find your H.I.A. in the U.S., look for the community action agency (C.A.A.) closest to you.
There’s no central database but searching for “community action agency” and adding “near me” or the name of your nearest large town or city brings up the right results. If you can’t find an H.I.A. or CAC in your area, look for a local office of the non-profit Re-building America, formerly known as Christmas in April.
Let’s start at the top of your house and work our way down. Your H.I.A. or C.A.A. can help you with many home improvement needs.
Ask About Roof Repairs and Replacements
The roof always nabs top billing in home repairs because it protects the rest of the home. When you purchase a home, have the roof inspected. This typically costs nothing, but some roofing companies charge a nominal fee for full inspections. An inspection examines the exterior and interior of the roof. The roofer provides a list of any problems and an estimated roof repair cost.
Consider small problems that require patching, a blessing since they won’t cost much to fix. You can also consider an asphalt shingle roof that survived past the age of 15 years a gift.
When you do need a full roof replacement, you have an opportunity to update your home’s appearance and reduce your future costs. If you choose to install another asphalt shingle roof, you will need to do so again in another 15 years. The price of the roof will have risen by then. Alternatively, you could switch to a metal roof and not need a replacement for 50 years.
Metal roofs come in a wide variety of colors, just as shingles do. This means you can keep your home’s color scheme or alter it for an update to your curb appeal. Clay tiles offer another long-lasting option. Popular in homes in the desert southwest, this roofing style also typically lasts about 50 years. Copper roofs, properly cared for, can last up to 100 years. If you want a copper roof to maintain its metallic orange color, you’ll have to hire someone to clean and polish it each year. Otherwise, it will take on the dark green patina of tarnished copper.
Garage Door Renovations
When an individual chooses to age in place, they need to modify certain aspects of their home, including their garage door. Older homes may feature manual, pull-up doors but older individuals, especially those with arthritis, can find those doors challenging. Contact your local home improvement agency to learn more about garage door repairs and garage door replacement. Switching to a mechanical door that opens with a remote control can empower an older individual to get out of the house more often.
Repairing Your Gutters
The often overlooked roofing gutters do a tough job diverting water from your roof and foundation. Whether your home needs roofing gutter repairs or new roofing gutters, your local home improvement agency can help. These agencies create partnerships with local contractors who provide their services to H.I.A. clients but receive payment from the agency. Repairing roofing gutters as soon as they get damaged can save you from needing larger home repairs down the line.
Repairing Your Foundation
While in the yard, examine the perimeter of your home for damage, paying close attention to your foundation. Check the foundation for cracks or sinking areas. Small problems you may be able to fix yourself, but large issues require professional repairs and concrete suppliers, preferably a concrete delivery company, so you don’t have to try to pick up the concrete.
Repair small cracks using a foundation repair kit but leave large cracks to a professional mason and leaks to a slab leak repair service. Your home improvement agency can help you locate a mason or other foundation-related professional. Also, if the home requires lifting, you will need a house lifting professional. Damage such as this to a cement foundation, also called a slab foundation, requires professional repair.
Upgrading Your Septic
Did you purchase a home in the countryside? Many rural homes use septic systems instead of a city sewer line. Each home has its own septic system, so there’s no sewage flow from home to home to a central sewage plant.
Septic tanks merely hold the feces and urine underground. A few times each year, the homeowner hires septic pumping services to remove the waste from the tank. This renews it for more storage.
If you skip the septic tank maintenance, the tank can overfill, overflow, and ruin your yard. If enough of it bubbles up, it can flow into your house. Your home improvement agency can help you with septic cleaning and upgrading, including locating septic pump install services so your septic system features its own built-in pump.
Consider septic pumping services an important preventative measure so you avoid needing to fix the yard and the house. The few hundred dollars each year that you spend having the tank pumped saves you much heartache and damage. The H.I.A. can help fund this important service.
Consider hiring a patio contractor while you learn how to repair a house. The patio of your home offers many hours of enjoyment if you care for it properly. Examine it for cracks and uneven pavement.
Cracks and uneven pavement result in dangers to you, your family, and friends who visit your home. They equal a trip-and-fall risk. Repaving the area to create an even, unmarred surface results in a safer household.
Repairing Your AC
Your local home improvement agency can help you locate an AC company to make repairs to an older AC unit. It can also assist you in locating an HVAC service for a system inspection and maintenance visit. Depending on the time of year, your home will need maintenance from heating or air conditioning contractors. Have them conduct a full system check and maintenance appropriate for the season.
At this check, the service personnel note any system problems and apprise you of them. They may offer you a repair estimate. If they do not, request one. Consult with the H.I.A.
Repairing The Kitchen
When thinking of things to ask the home improvement agency about fixing, place your kitchen at the top of your list. Do all of the cabinets and drawers still work properly? If so, then ask about repairing their wear and tear damage instead of replacing them. Add new handles and pulls. Refinish or repaint the cabinets and drawers. Your kitchen will look new again.
Consider the sinks and faucets. Do they still look good and work well? If so, clean and polish them. If they don’t still look good or work well, ask the H.I.A. about replacing them. Updating this one thing can revamp your kitchen.
Replace old or worn flooring. When learning how to repair a house, one of the top rules remains to take the old flooring out before installing new flooring. Too many do-it-yourselfers make the mistake of laying one type of flooring over another. Over time, this causes problems because it raises the height of the floor. Doors that previously had plenty of room to open and shut now don’t.
Also, ask your local home improvement agency about kitchen appliance updates. If you’ve had the same oven and refrigerator for decades, a kitchen update can improve the habitability of your home. These older appliances may need constant repair so replacing them can save you money, too.
Cleaning Your Windows, Siding, and Doors
Your home improvement agency can help you with jobs that you can no longer do yourself, such as power washing the exterior of the home, including the windows. They can help you hire a work crew or provide one that handles cleaning the windows and frameless glass doors properly with wipers.
Check your windows for drafts. Do the same with your doors. If many windows and doors have drafts, ask your H.I.A. about adding weather stripping and caulk. If you still feel drafts, that signals a need for windows and door replacement. Ask the H.I.A. or C.
Buying a Backup Generator
Every home needs a home generator, whether small or large, manual or automatic. Home generators help you avoid needing to repair your house because they take over when the electricity goes out.
Ask your H.I.A. about how to prepare for emergencies. This requires an emergency kit and canned food, plus at least three gallons of water for one person for three days. Each human requires a gallon of water per day for drinking and sanitation. You will also need a home generator to provide emergency power.
Shopping for generators can be fun if you like technology. Choose from devices that run on solar energy, gasoline, butane, or propane. Every type of generator except solar ones sits outside your home. You’ll need to run an indoor/outdoor heavy-duty extension cord from it into the home. You plug appliances like a refrigerator into the extension cord to keep them running. This can stop food loss, provide lamplight, run a computer, and allow you to charge your cell phone.
Solar generators attach to a solar panel that harnesses the sun’s rays to fuel the generator. The rays enter the panel, which attaches to an inverter that alters the energy from raw DC to the AC current typically used in U.S. households. The inverter features electrical outlets, while the solar generators typically feature USB ports, electrical outlets, and DC ports.
What You Can Do
What about the rest of the house? When you need home repairs, you need to know how to do small things yourself. Let’s consider bathroom maintenance and repair. This requires a few basic tools that won’t set you back much money. You’ll need:
- A plunger
- A monkey wrench
- A screwdriver set
- A bottle of high-quality drain cleaner
- A selection of washers.
Once per month, clean the drain in the sink and the shower using the drain cleaner. This maintains an unclogged sink.
When the toilet doesn’t flush properly and waste and wastepaper float in the toilet bowl, grab the plunger and place the wide, soft plastic cup end over the toilet bowl hole. Use the top of the handle so your hands get nowhere near the dirty water. Firmly push down on the plunger handle. A bubbling effect should occur under the cup end. Water may gurgle.
Lift the handle of the plunger so the cup straightens out. Push it down again, repeating the process until the clog disappears and the waste runs out of the hole. Follow this process with some drain cleaner since it will help clear whatever in the plumbing line causes the clog.
A leaky faucet typically needs a new washer. Unscrew the faucet tap using your fingers or the monkey wrench. Remove the old washer – the floppy rubber circle that sits next to the screw. Replace it with a new one. Screw the faucet’s tap back onto the faucet body. Test the faucet for leaks by turning on each tap. If it still leaks, call a plumber.
Learning What Your Home Improvement Agency Can Help You Repair and Replace
You don’t have to take a crash course in home repair to own a home. As things come up, reference this site and watch YouTube videos made by experts like Bob Vila. You can learn to fix basic items in the kitchen, bathroom, and on the patio but for those things outside of your abilities, call your local home improvement agency for help.