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Prioritizing Your Home Repair Projects

It would be nice if the rate of a home’s deterioration was uniform, so that it only required the homeowner to budget for one home improvement project at a time. Unfortunately, homes don’t always adhere to this pace. This forces most people to prioritize the projects which need to be undertaken without going bankrupt.

Here are some guidelines about how to decide which project should be addressed first—with the most important ones near the top of the list:

1. Project: Electrical System

Potential issues: Shorts in wires which can cause fires, or unprotected breakers or panels which can cause electrocution.

Costs: Initial inspection—$300 to $500. Complete home rewiring—$4,000 to $10,000.

How to know when there’s a problem: Frequently-tripping breakers, lights that dim when appliances are powered up (like vacuum cleaners or blow dryers), or outlets that come loose, reveal wires, or feel hot to the touch.

2. Project: Foundation

Potential issues: Cracks in ceilings, walls, or beams all around the home—none of which can be addressed until the foundation problems are repaired.

Costs: Replacement posts are between $1,200 and $2,400 each, but foundation repairs will set you back anywhere from $3,500 to $20,000, depending on the type and scope of the damage.

How to know when there’s a problem:cracking, buckling, or bending concrete at the base of the home; posts which are rotted; beams that are split or bowed; evidence of termites (like mud trails or sawdust piles).

3. Project: Roof

Potential issues: Leaking water can cause a host of other problems, such as mold, rot, insect infestations, and electrical shorts.

Costs: Inspections are free, but new roofs can run anywhere between $5,000 and $20,000, depending on the size of your house.

How to know when there’s a problem: Smooth spots on ceilings where granules have worn away; stains, dampness, or growth of green algae on walls or ceilings; broke, missing, or curling shingles; presence of animals in attic or ceiling

4. Project: Gutters

Potential issues: Leaky or malfunctioning gutters can lead to water runoff falling near your home’s foundation (see #2).

Costs: Between $1,500 and $3,500.

How to know when there’s a problem: Flooded basements, pooling water around the home’s foundation, or gutters that are disconnected, dented, or peppered with holes.

5. Project: Exterior walls