4 Foolproof Tips to Keep Your House from Falling Apart

Published on January 13, 2016 By Lauren

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  • We’ve been very open about our housing situation over the years. We previously lived in a 3,200 square foot brand new house that we couldn’t afford. Thankfully we don’t live there anymore – but at age 34, we are living in the 3rd house that we’ve purchased. I’m not saying this to brag – this is not that great from a financial perspective. In all these years of home ownership, we’ve never had to do absorb many maintenance costs.

    Before I get to my 4 tips, I want to bring you through some brief history of our current house and the repairs I completed this past summer.

    We have now entered the 6th year of owning our current home – a colonial style house built in 1914. I believe it was built from a Sears kit because there are a few other homes in my town with the same floor plan. During the first 3 years, we put new windows in, added a deck, painted most of the rooms, and completely finished the attic into an office and a bedroom. Yes – a whole bunch of sexy improvements that made the house more comfortable and look nicer. But we kinda neglected or put off some of the maintenance items. You know that report from your home inspector when you first purchased the home? Well, he gave us a ‘to-do’ list that I was ignoring. Maybe the 5th year is the magic number for me to take care of these nagging issues, but I had to do it.

    Before I get into my fixes, you might want to check out this New Homeowners Survival Guide from Allstate. This provides some really good info about some easy first steps when you buy a home, what projects to tackle, what projects to hire an expert to do and other smart frugal advice aimed at home owners.

    Fix number 1: Porch Roof


    The roof on our porch is painted metal, original to the house. As you can see from the pictures, the paint was chipping and needed fixing. I didn’t know the first thing about repairing a painted metal roof. But I did some research and decided on a modern product tailor made for this type of roof and condition (an elastomeric system made for historic homes). At $590, this was the most expensive paint I’ve ever purchased; but it should be maintenance-free for about 10 years, at which point it will only need another top coat of paint. And $590 is WAY cheaper than if I had done nothing and allowed the metal to rust through.

    Fix number 2: South Side Foundation Wall

    This is the one that had me most worried. I knew that rain water was getting into the foundation wall since the paint had been peeling up and the blocks were looking a little deformed. I spent 10 minutes with a screwdriver peeling away paint and small chunks of concrete and I was amazed at the extent of the damage.

    There were holes in my foundation wall! The other window well was pretty bad too. Thankfully this was still easily repairable – I just had to use some concrete, masonry caulk and a high quality masonry paint. Repairs for this ran me about $120. It ain’t pretty – so if you are a mason, you might need to avert your eyes. But it gets the job done. This was an absolute bargain compared to the cost of repairs if water had continued to pound on that wall.

    Fix number 3: Gutters

    Most old homes in my town don’t have gutters, and they probably don’t need them. However, I was sick of a damp basement, my wife is scared of mold (even though we’ve never had a problem) and I wanted to protect repair #2.

    The reason that the south side wall had gotten so bad is due to the concrete walkway directly next to the house. The way that my roof eves are positioned, water would pour directly on the walkway right next to the foundation whenever it rained, which would splash directly onto the foundation wall. The only solution to this would be to get rid of the walkway, or have gutters installed. Gutters it was.

    Gutter installation is not a DIY project in my opinion – so I gathered a few estimates and went with a reasonably priced local company. $920 later, I have seamless aluminum gutters.

    Based on my own neglect of my house, I developed a straight-forward system that will keep my house in good shape for years to come. Here are my 4 tips:

    1. Unsexy fixes first. Each year, find a few issues (at least 2 or 3) that you know need to be fixed. And FIX THEM. If you own an older home, I’m sure you could list off about a dozen things to fix. Don’t overwhelm yourself, just start with the important ones.
    2. Know your DIY Limit – You can fix more things than you think you can. I was so close to hiring a mason to repair my foundation wall, but I talked to a couple professionals and realized that it was something I could do myself relatively easily. Know your limit, and if you think that you are in over your head then you probably are. You are probably friends with a good contractor or two… give them a call and get their opinion.
    3. Don’t be a cheapskate. Don’t cut corners. Use high-quality materials. You do not want to perform the same repair every few years, so do it right. This is YOUR house after all. Be willing to spend a few extra bucks to get the good stuff. It is usually worth it. And if the repair is something you need to hire a contractor for – get multiple bids and don’t just go with the cheapest one – use the one you think is the BEST!
    4. Research online forums. The internet is awesome, and I honestly have no idea how people figured out how to fix things before it… I think people back in the day just knew everything. Like my dad, he knows how to fix everything. Anyway, I don’t. So I’m gonna let you in on a little secret of how I research stuff on the internet. After my search term, I add the word “forum”. Forums are filled with experts, many of them wanting to share knowledge, some just wanting to show others up. But after reading through a few forums on any particular topic, you will see some common themes and probably notice the same names popping up. You will quickly realize who really knows what they’re talking about. Either participate and ask directly, or just read some archives. Forums have way more real-world information than online how-to articles. And this tip is significant whether the project is DIY or you hired it out – you need to know what is being done and have an idea of the best way to do it BEFORE you collect bids. This way, you will know which contractors know what they’re doing and which ones don’t.

    I finally followed these tips this past summer. In total, I spent just $1,630 for these repairs. They weren’t sexy home improvements at all, but they had to be done, and my return on investment has got to be astronomical considering the cost of not making the repairs. There are still many other nagging repairs to be done, but they can wait. From here on out – no more neglecting of these nagging repairs. I’m gonna knock out 2-3 every summer!

    What nagging repair issues do you have on your home? Did you get anything fixed this past summer?

    This post was written as part of the Allstate Influencer Program and sponsored by Good Life, every day.


  • Some nice tips, thank you.
    My families home is really starting to show its age and it’s hard to know where to start or where money should go first.
    I’ve got cinderblock foundation that has inches of decay inside and out, and some joints have holes I can shove a wallet through – but I fear poking at it with a screwdriver or scrubbing the surface with a stiff brush to prep the surface for a layer of cement might bring a whole section down and end up dropping a corner of the house or something. Akin to fixing rust on a car, I fear if the surface isn’t stable enough, anything I put up will just flake off in a year (like rust spreading under the new paint if you failed to get it all).
    Every time I look up a video on how to fix my leaking tub faucet or fix the jammed internal drain plug the video is of a different type of faucet or drain, it’s so hit & miss.

    Toilet sinking into the floor after the gasket leaked once, now paired with the tub leaks, its likely we’d be forced to do an entire renovation of the bathroom (why (other than cost) would we stop at tearing up the floor and most walls?).
    Garden is a year-round chore on top of it all, and with massive trees leaf pickup is a whole season affair, snow across a four-car length driveway means most winter I’d be too tired to do chores indoors after shoveling it all. Leaking porch keeps getting redone by contractors that don’t ever seem to actually fix the leak.
    Light switch in kitchen somehow started to short-circuit the fridge power line, so we now use a desk lamp on a different outlet. Stove started tripping it’s breaker, so now we use a toaster oven and a portable induction cooktop.
    Ice damming by basement window one year had water half way up the window, water flowing down the inside walls of basement.
    The more these things happen, the more trashy I feel in my home, the more overwhelmed and less ‘in the headspace’ to get anything really worthwhile done about any of it. The more my mother starts to question selling the place, figuring to be immediately torn down. That in mind, I’m even less inclined to get down and dirty wasting any time working on fixing anything – why bother? But then time flies and years pass, still with Leaning Tower of Pisser, Weeping Walls, Crying Porches …etc

  • I loved reading that someone can actually handle problems the DIY way. I am terrified as I was siddenly widowed last year, am 64, know nothi g and everything is breaking.. Finances are definitely an issue as I stopped working as,an RN for my own breast cancer, then my husband became ill and,I nurses him, now both parents in end stage cancef. I did get a new roof and garage door. I have wzter5rot near the front door, the electric t is gone from my detached garage, the shower door fell off the track, the fence is falling down, , the carpet needs to GO, the screens have blown out on my “screened porch, ” and much more. I cry myself to sleep so often it is ridiculous. The windows need replacing but my gozh, I might as well k ow this house down and start over with all of the problems and no man to guide me. I wish there was someone to magically restore my potentially nice home without breaking the bank.

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