Are you one of those DIY people who just love to do things around the house like paint fences or install doors? Well, we’re not and neither are millions of other Americans. If you’re like them and would like to reduce your home maintenance chores to a minimum there are things you could do. For example you could install vinyl siding over wood shingles and would never have to paint the exterior of your home again. This might require a sacrifice in the home’s architectural charm but just think how good you’d feel 10 years from now when all your neighbors are painting their homes and you’re sitting in your backyard sipping a cold one. In addition, there are six other things you could do to make your home more carefree.
Cellular PVC trim
This is a good looking trim made from the plastic used for plumbing drains and can be cut, shaped and installed just like lumber. The good news is that PVC doesn’t require painting though you could put on a couple of coats to add realism. If you do, you’ll need to repaint every 25 years versus the 5 to 7 years you have to repaint wood. If you choose to go with cellular PVC trim, figure on spending about $75 to trim a window or $3500 for your entire house. Both these prices are about 10% higher than wood trim.
These countertops are fabricated from chips of natural quartz mixed with high-tech pigments and resins. It is what’s called engineered stone but has hyper-realistic veining and a variety of versions that were unavailable just a few years ago. You can buy slabs of quartz countertops in just about any color at stone yards or find them online at sites like cambriausa.com. You clean these countertops using just a sponge. In comparison, you would have to seal a granite countertop annually and marble and limestone countertops sometimes have to be sealed twice a year. The lifespan of a quartz countertop is probably the same as your house – assuming you don’t drop something heavy on it. How much do they cost? You’ll pay about $4500 to $6000 assuming you have an average sized kitchen, which is roughly equivalent to mid-grade granite.
Solid vinyl fencing
If you put up a wooden fence, you will be in for endless repainting. Hollow aluminum and vinyl fencing needs no paint but doesn’t ever look the same as wood. If you want the look of wood, you should choose solid vinyl. This is a product made from the same cellular PVC used for trim. However, it has factory-applied paint. All you will need to do to care for this fencing is power wash it now and then. Its lifespan is at least 25 years. The cost? If you were to fence a small yard with a six-foot, open picket design, you’d be looking at around $12,000-$25,000. This makes solid vinyl fencing at least twice the cost of cedar. So chose this only if you’re planning to stay in your home for a little very long time.
Fiberglass entry doors
These doors are faced with thin, waterproof fiberglass skins that have been embossed to look as if they had traditional panels, moldings and even wood grain. Below the fiberglass is an insulating foam that’s three times as energy efficient as wood. You will need to touch up the paint of these doors or apply a fresh coat of varnish about every five years. But they will never crack, warp or split. They usually come with a lifetime warranty whereas wood door warranties are generally for only five years. The cost of these doors is about $2000-$4000 or more installed. This is 10% to 20% less than a wood door.
The most affordable alternative to wood windows is vinyl windows. But experts say that you would be better off with windows made from real wood that’s covered with an exterior aluminum skin. These come painted at the factory and are guaranteed for 20 years but generally will last at least 30 years. Compare this with wood windows that would probably have to be painted every 5 to 7 years. You would pay about $600-$1200 per clad window, which is 15% to 20% higher than unclad wood. But this can be a wash when you factor in the initial paint job for a wooden window. Plus, you will have a product that looks better, lasts longer and creates greater value.
These are shingles and clapboards that are cut from sheets of special cement mixed with wood fibers. They `won’t warp, right or cup. The individual pieces are typically painted at the factory then nailed one by one onto your house – just like the real thing. This yields an authentic, handcrafted look. The factory paint can last 15 years compared to the five or seven years for wood. The warranty is usually for 30 years whereas red cedar has no warranty but will last 20 to 50 or more years – depending on the climate. How much does this cost? Re-siding an average-sized home will be somewhere between $13,000 to $18,000 or about 10% less than wood when you include painting.
As you can see from the cost of these renovations, they’re not things you should do unless you intend to stay in that house for a fairly long amount of time. If you do decide to make some of these changes, you could finance them with a home equity line of credit or a home equity loan. Both of these come with pluses and minuses. Their biggest minus is, of course, the fact that they are basically second mortgages. Many financial experts believe that the best way to finance home improvements is with a home equity line of credit. These are variable-rate loans where you would be pre-approved for a certain spending limit and would then borrow money as you need it via special checks or a credit card.
Your monthly payments would be based on the amount of money you borrowed and the current interest rate. Homeowner equity lines of credit are like fixed-rate loans in that they have a set term. When you reach the end of that term, you must then repay the outstanding loan amount in full.
In comparison, a home equity loan is a fixed rate loan that you repay over a set amount of time at an agreed-upon interest rate. The interest rate and payment remain the same over the life of the loan. So if you were to get a home equity loan for $10,000 you would owe the entire $10,000 even if it turned out that you didn’t need all of it. On the other hand if you were to take out a home equity line of credit for $10,000 but ended up using only $8000 of it, that’s what you would owe.
The best place to get a loan
Whether you decide that a home equity line of credit or home equity loan would be your best option, a credit union would probably be a good place to get it. They generally offer loans at 1% less (or better) than if you were to get a bank loan. While credit union membership used to be limited to the employees of a certain company or members of an association like a union, many community credit unions are now open to everyone. You could find if there’s one in your area you could join by going to the website www.movecu.com/.