Title: "Home Repair That Pays Off: 150 Simple Ways to Add Value Without Breaking Your Budget"
Author: Hector Seda
Publisher: Adams Media, 2009; 304 pages; $11.96
These days, homeowners canâ€™t simply rely on market forces to appreciate the value of their homes, nor can they simply write a check against an easy-to-get equity line to pay their contractor for various projects. Many who want to grow the value of their home are transforming into do-it-yourselfers, using their weekends and vacations to tackle home improvement projects.
In "Home Repair That Pays Off: 150 Simple Ways to Add Value Without Breaking Your Budget," remodeling pro and syndicated home improvement columnist Hector Seda provides a comprehensive instructional toolkit and return-on-investment analysis for many of the tasks and projects todayâ€™s smart homeowners are taking on.
This is not the sort of book youâ€™d read cover-to-cover for entertainment purposes. Rather, itâ€™s a reference guide, the sort of thing youâ€™d use to (a) help decide which projects to do, (b) decide whether you are comfortable doing them on your own (rather than hiring them out to a contractor), and (c) organize and carry out the projects you decide to move forward with.
In fact, organization is the key strength of "Home Repair That Pays Off." It is divided into two parts: one devoted to maintenance and upgrade projects to the exterior of your home, the other filled with tutorials on interior home projects. Within the two parts, each chapter is designated for a specific category of home improvement project.
To wit, Part I, "Your Homeâ€™s Exterior," covers exterior upkeep, landscaping, driveway and garage, roof, cleaning and draining, and masonry and foundation maintenance. For your homeâ€™s interior, Part II is broken down into doors, locks and hinges; windows; floors; walls; kitchen; bathroom; heating and cooling; fireplaces and chimneys; electrical issues; safety and cleaning; and, finally, small projects to turn your home into a more eco-friendly building.
Seda wraps up the book with two appendices: "How to Choose a Contractor," and "Kicking Up Curb Appeal."
But back to the organization I was just talking about. Each chapter is basically a set of worksheets and task lists. For each of the 150 individual home improvement projects he discusses, Seda also rates the project based on the skill level required, empowering readers to make informed judgments about which tasks they should attempt and which might be over their heads.
Seda also estimates the time each project will take and provides a list of the tools needed â€” turning the book from a normal home improvement guide into the sort of reference Bob Vila wannabes should carry along with them on their Home Depot or salvage-yard shopping excursions.
Also helpful are Hector Hints: little sidebars sprinkled throughout the individual tasks with handy need-to-knows about how to select from the dizzying array of lumber types, how to ensure you buy enough mulch to keep your plantings from being washed away by the rain, and how to pick your polyurethane wood floor finishes, among other things.
On top of these checklists, time and skill estimates and the handy Hector Hints, this book also makes a mighty effort to speak directly to what post-bubble homeowners really care about: return on investment. Each of the upgrade and maintenance projects discussed in the book is also assigned an estimate of monetary return.
Now, the accuracy of these return estimates is somewhat debatable. Industry insiders are well aware that the return on any given home improvement project or home upgrade is highly dependent on the specific geographical region where the home is located, the time period between the upgrade and resale, the quality of materials and labor, and many other factors.
Additionally, many of the maintenance projects in "Home Repair That Pays Off" may not, in fact, generate a true monetary return but, rather, protect the value of the home from depreciating due to disrepair.
However, because the book focuses on small, accessible projects rather than trying to teach owners how to build on additions and rewire their whole homes, the monetary return estimates â€” even if not precisely accurate for every situation â€” do underscore the value of diligent, strategic home maintenance and small upgrades.
Long story short: "Home Repair That Pays Off" presents an orderly, helpful approach to many of the projects that frugal homeowners will want to tackle themselves, and provides a solid, clear education on projects that some homeowners may want to hire out.