How I saved 1000's on remodeling and home maintenance and you can to!

By glblguy

Old abandoned house
Photo by: Sean F

From Glblguy: This is a guest post by my dad who has been doing carpentry, home repairs and maintenance as a hobby since he was a teenager. My dad is a retired manager from IBM Corporation where he worked for 30 years. I have learned a lot from him and as a result have saved a lot of money working on my house, with some help form him of course. I hope you will too!

This article is part of my ongoing Money Saving Monday Tips Series.

As a teenager in high school, I worked for my dad doing construction during the summer months. My dad was a great self-taught craftsman and he expected me to be the same. As the days grew hotter and hotter those summers I had no idea the importance of what I was being taught by my dad and how important it would be to me later in life. I chose to work in corporate industry and retired from IBM after 30 years of service. Now, you must be asking: what has this got to do with saving money? Well, it’s got a lot to do with saving money!

You can save yourself a significant amount of money by doing your own work remodeling and repairing your own home. You might be thinking, “I can’t do that!”, but you can and I’ll show you how to get started! Once you grasp how much you can really save you won’t hesitate to “do it yourself”. In today’s society when something breaks or needs repair, our first thought is to pick up the phone and call a contractor to come take care of the problem. The same is true with remodeling your home.

Real Examples

I could give you possibly hundreds of examples of how I saved money by doing things myself. In order to get your attention though, I’ll show you a couple of examples of how I saved thousands of dollars just in the last few months. Yes, these are true examples:

  • The water pressure valve on my water line feeding the house went bad and would not hold pressure. (don’t worry if you don’t know what this is, that’s ok) I called a plumber and asked for an estimate. He stated $550.00. I said thank you very much and headed over to Lowe’s and picked up a replacement valve for $40.00. I replaced it in about 45 minutes. Savings: $510.00
  • Recently someone shot a hole through my vinyl siding with a BB gun; I called a contractor to get an estimate for a fix (this is a difficult problem because if you replace the bad siding with a new piece it will not match). His estimate was $350.00 min. and he added another $100.00 to do the repair. After I recovered from hyperventilating I said no thank you. All he was going to do was remove the bad piece and swap it with a good piece from the back of the house. Needless to say I did it myself. I purchased a vinyl siding removal tool for $7.00 and corrected the problem. Savings: $443.00
  • In the area of remodeling, I wanted to install heavy crown molding, chair rail molding and picture frame molding in our house. I had six rooms I wanted to do this in. Not all rooms required the same amount of molding. I discussed this with my builder and he wanted $300.00 per room to perform this trim work. This would have cost me $1800.00 for materials and labor. I purchased the material for $60.00 per room and did the work myself at a cost of $360.00. Savings: $1440.00.

These are some real life examples. These were extreme; however, the information provided is true. Not all contractor estimates are going to be this high but I can say they will be much higher than what you can do the job. Here are some relatively easy to do items that you can do:

  • Leaky faucets
  • Leaky commode stools (top tank or bottom stool leaks)
  • Painting
  • Minor electrical items
  • Trim work
  • Flooring
  • Wall paper
  • Framing
  • Landscaping/decks/patios
  • Minor heating and air conditioning issues
  • Lighting fixtures
  • Minor plumbing problems

Every reader of this article will have a different skill level. For those of you that are already doing these kinds of things then congratulations. For those that don’t have any training or confidence in this area don’t worry. Here are two basic ideas on how to get started:

Purchase a Home Repair/Improvement Book

Both Home Depot and Lowe’s offer general home improvement and repair books. Home Depot offers Home Improvement 1-2-3 and Lowe’s offers Lowe’s Complete Home Improvement & Repair. Both of these books are excellent and will cover most of the things you need to do around the house. There are books that also cover specific areas such as plumbing, trimming, etc. These books will guide you step by step on how to do most projects around the house. They will also identify the specific tools you need to do the job. If you take your time and follow the instructions I will assure you that you can perform most home repairs and do many remodeling tasks. The money you save doing this work yourself will easily pay for any tools required and you will still save money on each job. The tools can be reused for many years on future projects.

Leverage the Internet

You can also use the Internet to find many home improvements sites that will also be a part of your education in doing this work. Remember, no one will take the time and do the job like you. Here are just a few sites I use:

Leverage the knowledge of the stores sales people

The Home Improvement Stores representatives are very helpful and will also guide you through each project. They even have training sessions on specific projects and they are free to attend.


Some of you may decide not to do this and that’s ok. For those that enjoy this kind of work there are many rewards; saving money, self-gratification, and knowing the job was done right.

Well, I’m all grown up now and I have much respect and admiration for my dad and all that he taught me. I know you can do this work, save a “lot” of money over the years and enjoy what you are doing. It’s not hard. If you are disciplined and take the money you saved and investment it, you will be amazed how much money you can accumulate in your lifetime. Good luck and have fun!

From Glblguy: Do you do your own repairs and improvements? What websites and/or books do you recommend? My Dad and I would love to read your home improvement repairs stories good or bad, so share by adding a comment below! Oh yeah…Thanks Dad, great job!

15 Responses (including trackbacks) to “How I saved 1000's on remodeling and home maintenance and you can to!”

  1. Lynnae @ Says:

    I am the queen of tinkering with my house. Everyone laughs at my husband and I, because we do things backwards from most couples. He handles people, and I handle the home repairs.

    So far I’ve fixed leaky faucets, re-caulked a tub, replaced shingles on the roof, transformed a closet into a pantry, and fixed a garbage disposal (gained my landlord’s respect with that last one). Google is my friend. I usually just google “how to fix xxx” and follow the directions.

  2. WJ Says:

    I also do all my home repairs. I worked in the residential construction industry for roughly 5 years. The worst experience I ever had was on a property that I owned.

    I had purchased a rental house that needed lots of repairs. The house had been built in 1908, so needless to say it was a complete renovation. One of the rooms in the back side of the house had a leaky ceiling and the floor had rotted out. While removing the old floor I was standing on the ground trying to remove the rotted wood near the door, when the ground caved in. My brother happened to be there and grabbed my outstretched hand. Basically, I had been standing on an old well (still had mountain rock walls) that someone had covered with a piece of metal and built the room over it!! I will admit, it shook me up so much that I did not work on that house for two days. My brother, a youth minister at church, used the story in his lesson “Even when we think we are on solid ground…”

    Anyway, that is by far the worst thing I have ever experienced during a do it yourself project!!

  3. Randall Says:

    I’ve redone a bathroom, the downstairs floors and the upstairs chair rails/painting, but I’m still not sure about the actual ‘savings’. I’m not a born do-it-yourselfer, so my results aren’t as good as I’d like, even though I’m saving tons of money.

    Looking back, I might have either done it differently or hired it out for a better result.

  4. rocketc Says:

    I work too much to work on my house much, but someday. . . My dad almost doubled the value of every house we lived in – after about 4 years.

  5. Jeff Says:

    I just finished installing a new back door this weekend. As I don’t have most of the needed tools, my neighbor helped out. We saved over 250.00 in installation costs alone, plus I also know that the door is installed correctly (no short-cuts were taken) and won’t need to be replaced for a long long time.

    I was also able to install some additional parts ( to the door to beef up the security.

  6. Jeff Says:

    I forgot to add that my dad is also very handy when it comes to home repairs. He has built a few houses and so knows most everything needed to do any job around the house. One of the things that I still enjoy doing is working with him on home improvement projects.

  7. Elizabeth Says:

    Before my health took a dive three years ago, I did more DIY projects than I do now. I can still paint and do small electrical and plumbing tasks but the days of serious sweat-equity are gone.

    However, if, like me, you can’t save money by actually doing the labor yourself, you can still save big! We had our kitchen completely remodeled about 4 years ago. I saved money by making wise decisions. Also, I researched and spec’ed my own appliances instead of going with the remoding firm’s recommendations and saved several hundreds of dollars. Kitchen remodels in my area were averaging $30k. I brought our project in at under $18k and that included two peripheral construction projects and some additional electrical work.

    I learned a lot during that project that came in handy with our next remodeling projects. We’ve remodeled two bathrooms within the past year and a half. By designing, researching, spec’ing, and buying all of my own materials, I was able to cut the cost of each project in half — with higher quality results. I carefully researched contractors and found someone who was willing to bid the jobs as labor and construction materials only (cement board, backer board, nails, etc). The work of researching and buying all of my own materials (everything from tile and grout to plumbing and lighting fixtures) was tremendous and stressful. But, in the end, thoroughly rewarding. Every day when I take a shower in my custom marble shower with the frameless 3/8″ glass enclosure or brush my teeth at my cherry cabinet with granite countertop and copper sink, I feel like a multi-millionare in a palatial home instead of a suburban housewife in a 1979 tract house.

  8. SavingDiva Says:

    I’m still saving up for a place of my own before I can get all Bob Villa. I’m pretty proud of myself for replacing a light switch in my apartment! I’m really impressed with every one who has commented on this post!

  9. glblguy Says:

    @Lynnae – That’s awesome. I think that is great you just jump in and do it. Good for you!

    @WJ – WOW! So had your friend not been there, you would have fallen in the well? That is scary! I’ll bet that did shake you up a bit!

    @Randall – I’m with you, I’m not either. What I’ve found though through reading the Home Depot book and by leveraging my Dad is that there are generally some tips and tricks that make things much easier. I used to do a terrible job on molding and once you learn to cope it, it’s amazing how good you can make it look. Oh, the right tools help a great deal too!

    rocketc – I’m with you, I have trouble keeping up with all the things my kids are breaking and wearing out let alone making enhancements our house. My Dad has done a tremendous amount of remodeling and little details to his home…now that he doesn’t have my sister and I there to tear it up :-)

    @Jeff – That’s great. Doors aren’t easy to hang. I’d love the chance to build a house sometime just to learn.

    @Elizabeth – Great story and tips! Your shower sounds really nice…that is something on my list we have to get fixed. Thanks for the great comment!

    @SavingDiva – That is impressive. Out of all the things I hate doing on a home it’s messing with the electricity. Been shocked enough times for it to scare me to death. Best investment you can make is voltage detector…best advice, don’t ever assume the power is off ;-)

  10. Kyle Says:

    Great tips. It amazes me how much money can be saved by reading and asking questions to people who have the knowledge on home repair.

  11. glblguy Says:

    I agree Kyle. Just finding the right folks and doing a little research can really make a big difference. Thanks for dropping by!

  12. Emily Says:

    I very much enjoyed this post! :)

  13. Decon Environmental Says:

    Great article on home improvement, I totally advise everyone to follow these steps and save money. Although a few things to consider on home improvements is the sneaky killer of Moulds, Asbestos and Lead. These are problems that arise within older homes and should be taken seriously. They need to be looked at and re-mediated immediately.