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March 30, 2011


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There is some extemely rewarding about tackling any job at least once by yourself. I do pretty much everything by myself. This weekend I put a new power steering pump and lines in the car. Didn't even know where the heck a power steering pump was or that the car even had one for that matter, but now I know. Turned out being an easy job. Toughest part was cleaning the grease off my hands after the fact.

I will say that small wall repairs are super easy but if it involves mud and tape, unless you know what you are doing, leave it to the pros unless you don't care about bumps all over your once smooth and pristine walls.


Could you tell us what ant traps work for you. We use an effective indoor liquid, maybe we could use that outside if it is protected from the elements with some sort of trap.

We are outside of Chicago and have the same seasonal ant issues.

I try to do a lot of repairs and maintenance around the house. I'm re-doing my bathroom right now. Going to paint, tile and put in a new sink and counter.
I do stuff if I think I can, and I believe most people have the skills to do a lot of their own home repairs and maintenance. However, I did hire a guy last summer to cut down a big Maple tree I had in the front yard. It cost me $500, but was well worth it. Looking at that guy high up in the tree, holding that chain saw, I thought to myself that if I had tried to do that, the emergency room bill alone would have cost me at least 500 bucks. So... money well spent there.

Jeff --

I simply use the standard plastic traps you can get from Walmart. I put them in the garage (which seems to be the most likely place ants can enter the house) and the front door. Once every few weeks I also spray the base of the garage doors and all doors to the house. Seems to work for us. We had ants one year early on in our time here and haven't since.

I agree, but often hire people to do these services for me. We do all of our major and minor landscaping, but I have a mowing service come every other week in the spring/summer. I hate mowing and edging, hate maintaining even a reel mower, and it's not terribly expensive.

I pay for vehicle maintenance--for me, it's just as expensive to do oil changes myself and get a car wash (which my dealership does for free). There's the time to get the supplies, do the work, and get the used oil to a proper recycling facility. It's 30 min in and out for the same price to have someone do it for me.

Plumbing--we've only used a plumber once to replace some outside hose bibs. Yes, it was simple, but it would have been simple for us to crack the pipe inside the wall and cause all sorts of problems. $80 well spent. Everything else--new sinks, faucets, showers, etc. we've done ourselves for a massive savings.

Pest control--used them once to get rid of a massive roach problem that we had failed in treating ourself. DH stupidly signed a 1 year "no pest in sight" contract, but I somehow think we've come out ahead--I call them every time we see an ant. We will not be renewing.

So in short, we do most things ourself except when we can't, we hate it, or it's actually cheaper in terms of time/money.

Being a new homeowner, I love working on the lawn and garden. Mowing, sprinkler maintanence, etc. is a good way to spend some time exercising outdoors.

One thing I would add to the DIY list is painting. Painting a room should be another basic skill that saves you money by not hiring other people.

Another one is cleaning (maid) services. Unless you physically cannot clean your house it is another area where you can save money by doing it yourself.

We have a pretty large Tulip tree in the front yard that's on the property line between us and the couple next door. It was $456 to have it trimmed this year but it's not something any homeowner can do himself. My neighbor and I split the cost and I hired a well known company that surprisingly is headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, to come out with three guys, a huge truck with a hydraulic bucket, towing a huge chipper. They did a great job thinning it out, shaping it, and in 2 hours they had cleaned up and were gone and the tree is looking great.

Plumbing is an area where "Prevention" can save you money and inconvenience. We used to put masses of vegetable matter through our garbage disposal and my wife would also toss Kleenex into the toilet, and every year or two we would get a clogged drain. Now the vegetable matter goes into my compost bin and the Kleenex goes in our recycle bin and we haven't had a clogged drain in a very long time.

As for changing oil and filters when I was young and poor I used to always do it myself. It involved jacking the car up to get underneath, always ruining a shirt because of getting oil and grease on it, and running the risk of having the car slip off of a jack stand and crushing me. I also stupidly used to empty the used oil into the storm drains - that's a big No! No! these days. Now I take our cars to Jiffy Lube and have them do it. This reminds me of another story. Many years ago it was a Sunday morning and I was underneath one of our cars changing the oil and things weren't going well because of a filter that didn't want to come off, when I heard voices wanting my attention. I wriggled out from under the car and who should be there but two young guys in their best Sunday suits desirous of making some kind of a Christian out of me. To say I gave them a nice welcome would be a gross overstatement.

I live in a new development area in Northern California. The yards are pretty small but I am totally perplexed why so many of my neighbors pay someone to mow their lawn. It only takes a few minutes and is good exercise. Why waste money when you can do it yourself?

Landscaping - We do all of it ourselves. I've got 3 sons to help do the labor. We may hire a landscape architect/designer to help us this year as our new house has lots of land and little landscaping.

Vehicle Maintenance - I change my own oil. It's actually fun to do and gets you to pay attention to the condition of the car. It's also a good way to teach my boys a few things.

Plumbing Repairs - Do my own except when absolutely necessary. In fact we just hired a plumber to do some work for the first time in 10 years. When he drove off I felt like I got hosed based on the outrageous bill.

Pest Control - Do my own. You can get all the correct info off the net these days on how to handle certain pests. Also ordering online provides access to chemicals and other things to fight them. Make sure you do some research as not all the stuff sold in hardware stores will be the best solution to all pests. And finally keep in mind that chemicals may not be the most effective solution as a lot of natural products are now available. An example is using dried molasses on fire ants.

Mending Walls - There is a lot of labor involved on these so I would hire out if the job comes up.

Having money issues this past year has actually turned me into a part time contractor. I've had 2 plumbing problems and a few other issues in my house that i was able to figure out and fix myself by looking up the information on the internet. I've never done this kind of work and i never thought i could really do it.

But access to that type of information on the internet, allowed me to diagnose the problem, get the parts from Home Depot, and just fix it myself. I almost payed a plumber $150 to come out and fix a toilet that wouldn't stop running, but it turns out that i was able to fix it with only a philips head screwdriver that i bought for $10

FMF . . . Just curious what your mouse regimen is? We haven't had any in the house or basement (that I know of) but there is a ton of evidence of them in our non-attached garage.

As for DIY I try to do as much around the house as I have the time to do. Our current house has nearly 1.5 acres of lawn so this was the first time I hired a mowing service. Best investment I've ever made. For $55 a week they accomplish what would have taken me a good weekend afternoon. Plus, I didn't need to invest in a $1,000 riding mower. i can do all the additional maintenance with a simple blower and weed wacker.

MonkeyMonk --

I've tried everything -- humane traps, sticky traps (the worst!), regular traps, etc. What has worked best for me -- poison (the blue/green pellets) and strong (deadly) traps used in combination.

Oh, I'm totally the opposite of this post!

After being a homeowner for 14 years, I know better than to DIY--I now hire a professional whenever something needs fixing, so it's done right.

My home had been extensively "maintained" by a DIY-er when I bought it--man, what a mess.

Cruddy plumbing repairs that involved the wrong size and type piping, poor seals, badly designed traps, lumps of plumbers putty stuck on everywhere trying to stop leaks, valves that break and leak and have to be redone, bungie cords holding up pipes and wiring, fire hazard wiring all over the place, light switch sets that don't switch correctly, an electrical panel the with wrong size breakers, uninsulated recepticles placed too far into walls, lino and tile and carpet installed over non stable subfloor, sub-code EVERYTHING.

My plumbing now works properly and my furnace has the proper venting and cold-air intake so we won't die of carbon monoxide poisoning. I could sell my house if I had to even with a good inspection because it's 100% up to code. I love love love the outstanding tradesmen who managed to fix everything that was wrong.

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