4 home repairs you'd rather put off

Jeffrey Anderson | Improvement Center Columnist | February 13, 2013

Owning your own home can be a joy, but as the old saying goes, "into each life some rain must fall." When it comes to being a homeowner, that precipitation can be the constant upkeep a house requires. And unfortunately, sometimes when it rains, it pours.

While no one likes the large expense involved in replacing an entire roof or all of the siding on their home, sometimes it makes the most financial sense. Spending money on repairs may be simply putting off the inevitable for a few months or even weeks before you still end up writing the big check.

But sometimes all you need are repairs; so how do you determine whether a repair is a good investment or whether you need to do a full replacement? Here are a few guidelines:

1. Drafty windows

"Where's that draft coming from?" is a question that's asked in many homes on cold winter evenings. If the cold air is coming from your windows, here are some suggestions:

  • Repair: Newer windows may have loose or missing components or the caulking could have cracked around the window frames or trim. Many window manufacturers such as Andersen sell replacement parts or repair kits for their units. If caulking is the issue, that's a DIY-friendly task that can be done by using caulk that is available at any home improvement store.
  • Replace: Upgrading to new energy-efficient windows when you have old single-pane units or even early double pane models should not only stop the drafts, it may help lower your heating and cooling bills. Many window companies can provide replacement units to fit your existing opening. Pricing varies depending on the number and size of the windows.

2. No hot water

If you're tired of running out of hot water halfway through your shower, it may be time to take some action. Lawrence Bast of Bast Plumbing & Gas, LLC in Fairfax, Va. offers the following guidelines if you have a storage tank electric water heater:

  • Repair: Bast's advice: "if it isn't broke, don't replace it." He feels most electric water heaters can be repaired by just replacing the elements. While changing the elements can be done by homeowners, Bast recommends using a plumbing contractor due to the electrical work involved. While costs can vary, he usually charges in the range of $230 to $250 to replace both elements in an electric water heater.
  • Replace: Water leaking from the storage tank is a good indication that it's time for a new water heater. Bast feels that many heaters start to go downhill after 15 years of use and replacement at that point might be the best option. He highly recommends A.O. Smith heaters and won't install anything else. Budget about $650 to $700 if you need a new 50-gallon electric unit installed.

3. Out-of-date kitchen cabinets

Remodeling your kitchen can be a great way to brighten up your whole home and perhaps increase its value. But what about those old kitchen cabinets -- should they be replaced or is refacing an option? Here are some tips from Laurie Randle at Cabinet Solutions in Charlottesville, Va. that may help:

  • Repair: Randle suggests that refacing is a good choice if you plan on maintaining your existing cabinet layout in the remodeled kitchen. Refacing might also be the way to go if you're remodeling on a tight schedule as new cabinets don't need to be ordered. However, she issued a word of caution: don't believe what you read about refacing costing only a third as much as installing new cabinets. It depends on the size of the kitchen, the type of refacing being done, and the new cabinets you're considering for the project.
  • Replace: When you're planning a kitchen remodel that involves a new cabinet layout, purchasing new cabinets is almost always the best route to follow. Meeting with a kitchen designer is a good way to get started.

4. Loose or missing exterior siding

It's not unusual to find a few loose pieces of siding on your home after a severe storm -- there may even be some missing. Does that mean it's time to install new siding on the house, or could a repair be enough? This may help put your mind at ease:

  • Repair: Almost all types of exterior siding can be repaired if loose or damaged. However, if you have pieces that are missing, some colors and styles of vinyl may no longer be available from the manufacturer.
  • Replace: Wood siding can sometimes loosen from water damage or the nails beginning to fail. If it's happening in several places on your home, it may be time to upgrade to fiber cement or vinyl siding. You may never need to do any exterior painting again.

You can probably postpone the expense of replacing the various systems in your home by performing regular maintenance chores or doing certain DIY-friendly repairs. But the day will inevitably come when your roofing, plumbing, or HVAC equipment needs to be replaced. And when it does, it's best to turn that job over to a licensed professional.

About the Author

Jeffrey Anderson has a Degree in English from V.M.I., and served as an officer in the Marine Corps. He worked in Residential and Commercial construction management for 25 years before retiring to write full time. He spends his time writing, remodeling his old farmhouse, and in animal rescue.