Whether you’re considering putting your home on the market or foregoing selling your home until the market improves, the time to make some repairs may have come.
But if you’ve a long list, what repairs should you do first?
According to MONEY magazine, after emergencies, the project that could cause the most damage and expense if left unfixed is the priority.
Compare your own list with this list of the projects in order of the most important to the least important to do:
1. Electrical system
Correcting wiring problems claims the No. 1 spot, as they can lead to fires and electrocution, and are worth spending $300-$500 for a licensed electrician to spot trouble in your main panel, tighten any loose connections, and spot-check switches, outlets and light fixtures.
Danger signs include circuit breakers that trip frequently, lights that dim when you turn on the vacuum or outlets that are loose, hot or accept only two-prong plugs.
It could cost $4,000 to $10,000 to rewire your house, so to prolong your home’s wiring, flip every circuit breaker off and on again once a year to prevent corrosion. Add new circuits ($100 to $500 each) to take the heaviest electrical loads, like window air conditioners, off the old wires, according to MONEY magazine.
Structural problems in your basement mean shifting and cracking upstairs – at the very least – so if you don’t correct your home’s foundation, there’s little point in doing other repairs.
Warning signs of a shaky foundation include bowed or split beams, rotted posts, piles of sawdust (evidence of wood-boring insects), tiny mud trails (indications of termites), or large cracks in the masonry foundation – especially if the cracks are horizontal, which tends to indicate a bigger problem, MONEY reports.
A contractor will usually take a look free of charge; if he or she recommends significant repairs, hire a home inspection engineer to investigate at a charge of $350 to $500. Major foundation work can cost $3,500 to $8,000; new posts or beams could run $1,200 to $2,500.
To prolong your foundation’s life, keep your basement dry by making sure the landscape slopes away from the house and maintaining the roof and gutters.
If you spot dampness or stains on your ceilings, curling, missing or broken shingles, smooth spots where granules have worn away or green algae growth, water may be leaking into your home. And if it is, it can lead to several other expensive problems, including rot, insects, electrical shorts and mold.
To check if your roof is leaking, hire a roofer, who may do so for free but check the company's reputation at angieslist.com to make sure. The cost to repair your roof may range between $5,000 and $15,000.
To keep a good roof over your head as long as possible, prune tree limbs so they're at least 10 feet from the roof, which will keep squirrels away and allow moisture to evaporate quickly after storms. If shingles blow off, replace them immediately, and repair small leaks promptly, according to MONEY.
While your gutters are as important as your roof, if you replace them before relacing your roof, they’re likely to be damaged in the reroofing process. The best solution is to replace them as soon as you’ve reroofed.
If you’re not sure if your gutters need repaired or replaced, look for dented or disconnected gutters, pooled water around your home’s foundation or basement flooding near the downspouts, MONEY advises. You can also watch the gutters in action during a rainstorm.
It costs about $1,500 to $3,000 to replace gutters, so hire a gutter company to clean, check and repair your gutters ($100 to $200) at least once a year, or even two or three times if you live in a wooded area. And have someone clear the eaves of deep snow to prevent icing, which can split open gutters or rip them right off the house, according to MONEY.
5. Exterior walls
Paint isn’t just to “decorate” your home; rather, it provides a weather-tight seal, so water doesn’t infiltrate the siding, causing rot and attracting wood-damaging insects.
If paint is peeling, cracking or blistering, consider spending $4,000 to $10,000 to paint your house, and make sure the painters replace loose putty around the window glass and caulking gaps around molding, MONEY advises.
Make your home’s paint job last longer by hiring a professional to do touchups every year, trim foliage so it’s at least a foot from the house and kill any mildew growth with a bleach-and-water solution.
6. Aging equipment
You don’t have to upgrade to a new heating or cooling system as long as it’s still operating, but the risk of a breakdown increases with age.
If you want to know whether it’s time to repair or replace, be aware of whether the system cycles on and off frequently to hold your thermostat setting; check for corrosion on the vent pipe; or see if the natural-gas flames are yellow or orange instead of pure blue, MONEY advises. If the repair estimate is more than a third of the replacement cost, it’s time for a new machine: a furnace will cost $2,000 to $4,000; a boiler (hot water) will cost $4,000 to $8,000; a water heater $1,000 to $3,000; and an air conditioner $6,000 to $10,000.
To prolong the expense of replacing any of this equipment, have them cleaned and tuned every year, including flushing the water heater to remove sludge, replacing all filters and lubricating any pumps, according to MONEY.