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Common (and Costly) Home Repairs You Need to Budget For

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Unexpected repairs can cause financial stress for homeowners. When crises occur, homeowners can find themselves in a financial pinch and need to rely on professionals like a general contractor to get the issue fixed quickly. Emergency repairs typically come with hefty price tags, but with proper planning, you can avoid draining your bank account.

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Experiencing Unexpected Roof Repairs

One of the most important things to maintain is a solid roof over your head, so when that starts to deteriorate, it can quickly descend into a nightmare. Although many roofs are guaranteed for around 30 years, it's better to take preventive action than wait until a crisis occurs to start thinking about how your house can weather the next storm.

A new roof for an average-sized house — using medium-priced asphalt shingles — can cost at least $5,000 in most parts of the country, assuming that the sheathing is still sound, said Timothy G. Wiedman, a retired professor of management from Doane University in Nebraska. Wiedman — who has bought, maintained, upgraded and sold several homes — said homeowners would be wise to start putting $600 to $700 per year into a roof replacement fund.

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Handling an Unplanned HVAC Breakdown

When it comes to maintaining your heating system, don't find yourself left out in the cold. “This equipment will last 12 to 15 years before it should be replaced,” said Gene Amick, with Climate Control Heating near Kansas City, Missouri. Depending on size and efficiency, he said replacement costs range from $5,000 to $14,000.

Your best bet would be to find a local heating and cooling contractor who offers a maintenance program. “This will prolong the life of your existing equipment,” he added. “The proactive approach of being ready for the eventual changing of your equipment will save you money.”

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Managing Old Window Emergencies

Old, drafty windows are a significant source of heat loss in a home. “You're literally throwing money right out the window,” cautioned Phil Eby, owner of Eby Exteriors, Inc. in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “Replacement windows are a home improvement necessity you should be saving for.”

In addition, he pointed out energy-efficient windows can be tax deductible, and to save more money, homeowners should look for window manufacturer rebates. In his area, replacement windows can range anywhere from $4,500 to nearly $9,000. “It really depends on how many windows need replacing and sizes,” he said.

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Mending Crumbling Driveways

A compromised driveway can be dangerous. Not only can someone fall, but vehicles can be damaged. A quick fix can cost only a few hundred dollars, but depending on the length, some repairs can easily cost over $1,000, according to Teris Pantazes, CEO of home improvement platform EFynch.

For a complete repaving project, a good place to start is to ask a trusted neighbor for a recommendation. A smooth driveway not only has aesthetic appeal but could also increase your home’s curb appeal and value should you choose to sell.

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Understanding Chimney Maintenance

Blocked chimneys are a serious fire hazard, so proper cleaning is a must. “With each chimney sweep, the professional should also inspect the chimney for cracks, nests or damage," said Pantezes. "Gas should be every two years; wood every year."

Typical costs are about $100 per sweep, and a maintenance contract with a reputable chimney sweep company might reduce some of these costs. DIY-ers beware: Leave this job to a professional.

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Clearing Out Dirty Vents

Replacing air filters every month or two can improve the efficiency of your HVAC system. “You should also plan to have air ducts and dryer vents cleaned at least once per year,” Pantazes said.

“There is dust which collects and can reduce air quality in both systems," said Pantazes. "Your dryer vents can reduce energy efficiency and will increase a risk of fire." He recommended planning for a vent cleaning done in the fall, when many companies offer package deals around $200 to $300.

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Addressing Blocked Gutters

When a gutter is clogged, water will find an alternate route to escape — and that means potentially entering your house and running down the interior of the walls, which leads to mold, rot, and reduced air quality. Clean your gutters twice per year and have them inspected, said Pantazes.

"The neighborhood kid just does not cut it for this job," he said. "You want someone who knows and can repair gutters." Common costs for gutter cleaning on a two-story home are between $100 to 150.

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Managing Basement Leaks

Generally caused by water in soil sitting against a basement, leaks can turn into bigger problems — including drywall repairs. One of the most basic fixes is to try to seal the wall from the inside. “This is inexpensive, but it will usually crack and start leaking again,” said Jon Boyd, manager of The Home Buyer’s Agent in Michigan.

A more permanent fix is an epoxy injection system, where a contractor actually drills holes into the basement wall along the crack and injects epoxy under high pressure. Although considered a permanent fix, it isn't cheap — it costs about $400 per crack.

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Addressing Major Appliance Repairs

It's simply a fact of life that eventually appliances will need to be repaired or replaced. For small issues, a good place to start is general handyman services. “While most major appliances are built to last 10 to 13 years with regular maintenance, there is a chance that washers, dryers, refrigerators and dishwashers often break down within three to four years,” said Steve Upshaw, CEO of Cross Country Home Services in Sunrise, Florida.

“To put this in perspective, typical repair costs for a refrigerator can set you back about $375 with a replacement at about $1,400, and a washing machine repair can land around $435 with a replacement at about $1,375,” he said. If you are replacing appliances, this might be a good time to consider a kitchen remodel to increase your home’s value.

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Handling Asbestos Concerns

Buyers or owners of older homes should invest in an asbestos inspection, as this material can become toxic if it begins to degrade. “Pre- and post-removal inspections, when put together, may add up to $600 to $1000,” said Emily Long, home improvement expert with SafeWise in Salt Lake City.

“If found to be dangerous, the cost of the removal itself depends largely on the amount of work to be done," she said. "The specialized materials are costly on top of labor. HouseLogic estimates that this project could range from several thousand to up to $30,000 for a complete 1,500-square-foot home.”

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Squashing a Termite Infestation

These pesky bugs do more than just bug homeowners — termites could drastically reduce the structural integrity of many homes. Homeowners can reduce the potential cost of this repair with one simple action: regular inspections. The longer termites are allowed to sit and eat through your walls, the more expensive the repair will be.

”I recommend that homeowners schedule yearly inspections — $75 to $150 depending on the company — to avoid costly treatment and removal procedures, which can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars depending on the infestation," advised Long. "Added costs include repairs for any structural damage caused.”

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Minimizing the Devastation of a Flood

One of the most devastating repairs a homeowner can face is the onslaught of a flood, which many residents of places like Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico are still reeling from after the 2017 hurricane season. “This is usually unexpected and somewhat out of the homeowner's control, whether it's the result of a natural disaster or a burst pipe," said Long.

"Homeowners should read their current insurance policy carefully and add supplemental flood insurance if they live in a high-risk area,” recommended Long. “Flood insurance averages $700 per year, a small price to pay for protection."

"This is something I recommend homeowners build into their monthly budget," said Long. "Flood and leak sensors start around $40 and will notify you quickly if water is discovered where it shouldn't be.”

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Dealing With a Broken Water Heater

According to HomeAdvisor, when cold water enters the tank, it is heated by an electric element or gas burner, so if you're not getting hot water, it could be because of one of the following issues:

  • A pilot light is out
  • A circuit breaker was tripped
  • A broken thermostat
  • The heating element itself is broken

Repairing or replacing any of those parts can be relatively simple and inexpensive. Costs can range from $1,500 to $3,000 depending on size, energy efficiency and associated labor costs, according to Home Advisor. Look on the bright side, however — a bathroom remodel might be a great way to take advantage of your upgraded water pressure.

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Fixing DIY Mistakes

Thanks to handy folks on cable TV programs, some homeowners misunderstand the cost and value of a truly experienced home remodeler. “Don't budget for the cheapest contractor or handyman you can find, and don't expect you'll be able to handle unexpected projects yourself,” said Mark Scott, president of MARK IV Builders in Bethesda, Maryland.

“You'll just end up having the fix the same thing over and over again," he said. "Do your research and shop around for a contractor that is known for doing it right the first time.”

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Have Trouble With Budgeting? Get a Home Warranty

If a simple budget template isn't enough, home warranty policies create worry-free situations for homeowners if an appliance breaks or there’s major damage to your home. "Home warranties are a significant upfront expense," said Scott. "But when it comes to unexpected home repairs they can really save the day."

Prices and inclusions vary on policies, though. ”You'll pay a small deductible for repairs that would normally drain the savings account," Scott said. "Trust me, it's worth it.”

Do research to identify reputable companies who offer home warranty policies. Ask a friend, your home improvement contractor, or a realtor for their suggestions.

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