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Saving money on home repairs

By Paula Pant ·
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Posted: 1 pm ET

Does your home need repairs? Do you need to install gutters, replace the roof, attach new siding and fix the cracks in the driveway?

Shopping around for home-repair estimates is likely to give you a little sticker shock. Renovating and repairing your home is an expensive undertaking.

Following are a few tips that can help you save money by cutting home-repair costs.

Use a licensed, quality contractor

This first tip might sound counterintuitive. After all, a licensed contractor with a strong reputation might charge a higher rate than a fly-by-night operation.

However, it is possible to be too frugal. Remember, the most expensive projects are the ones that need to be performed twice. If your first contractor performs shoddy work, you'll need to call in a second contractor to fix the botched job. This is how the so-called "cheapest" job becomes the opposite.

That said, "pricier" doesn't necessarily equal "better." So don't automatically opt for the contractor with the shiniest brochures, either. A slick marketing campaign doesn't reflect the quality of the workmanship.

Instead, read peer reviews on Internet forums such as Angie's List. Talk to trusted friends and colleagues to see if they have any recommendations. If possible, go beyond the salesperson and speak with the installers who actually will be performing the work.

Prioritize your projects

Let's imagine you need floor refinishing, painting, new cabinets and countertops, new siding, and window replacements. What if you only have enough budget to cover half these costs?

First, list every project you need to perform on your house. Don't edit yourself; just brainstorm every project, as if your budget wasn't a concern.

Next, order this list based on priority. Anything related to protecting your home from water damage (such as fixing your roof) should get top priority, as should anything related to your foundation or structural support. Purely cosmetic concerns, like replacing your laminate countertops with granite, should be addressed last.

DIY -- if you dare

Many do-it-yourselfers have saved thousands of dollars by putting their own skills to work on home renovation projects. If you have the tools and know-how, this is a great option.

However, remember our earlier truism: The most expensive project is the one that needs to be repeated.

Some do-it-yourselfers discover that they have sunk hundreds of dollars into tools and materials for a project, only to ultimately call in a contractor to fix the mess they made.

Honestly assess whether you have the skill, experience and time commitment to tackle a DIY project.

Paula Pant helps people ditch the cubicle and live on their own terms. She's traveled to 30 countries, owns six rental property units and hasn't had an employer since 2008. Her blog, Afford Anything, is the gathering point for a tribe that refuses to say "I can't afford it." Follow Paula on Twitter: @AffordAnything.

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