Home & Garden

Home repairs shouldn't be part of family budget cuts

ATLANTA — As families tighten their budgets, there are some things homeowners should never cut out, experts say.

Home maintenance can end up costing much more if it is not taken care of in a timely fashion, said Karen King, marketing director for DogGoneHandy, an Atlanta-based maintenance company. "And we often see things that would have cost the homeowner less if they'd taken care of it earlier," she said.

There are few statistics on who keeps up with home maintenance and who does not, but industry experts say the economy has caused many people to pull back on certain repairs.

"If there is a sink leaking, some people will just not use that sink if they can't get it fixed right away," King said. "Or if they see a small water stain on the ceiling, they might think it is not that big of a deal and ignore it for a while. That's not a good idea."

Water damage and wood rot are two common problems that technicians run into, King said.

"We often don't know if the homeowner didn't realize there was a problem or if they just ignored the problem," she said. "But from the amount of damage, it is obvious the problem has been around for a while."

What initially starts as a small leak can quickly turn into a big problem if it goes unaddressed, she said.

According to the Census Bureau, routine home maintenance includes painting; papering; floor sanding; replacing shingles; fixing water pipes; replacing parts of large equipment, such as a furnace; repairing fences, gutters, sidewalks, decks or patios; removing dangerous trees; and termite inspection.

"I know there are people putting off repairs because they don't have the money," said Tim Carter, a syndicated columnist and retired custom-home builder. "Sure, times are tight, but there are some things you just shouldn't let go."

Taking care of interior and exterior leaks, cracks in ceilings or walls, and holes in floors are just a few of those things, he said. And keeping on top of repairs around your home not only can save money in the long run; it can lower utility bills.

"Caulking and filling in gaps and holes around the house helps keep your heat in during the winter," Carter said. "And that doesn't have to be a costly repair."

In addition to home maintenance, some home owners are letting things like alarm monitoring fall by the wayside, said Jennifer Thomas, an Atlanta-area appraisal manger for the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies.

"It is something that people can save money on, but it leaves the home and homeowner vulnerable," she said. "Break-ins, fires and that type of thing go unchecked without that service."

Keeping up with routine maintenance not only improves the look of a home, it helps the home last longer, Thomas said.

"The home is often the largest investment people make," she said. "And keeping that investment in shape is a major issue for a lot of homeowners, especially when times are tough."