Tackling unglamorous home projects

Angie Hicks /

Published Jun 3, 2014 at 12:01AM

— Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, which offers consumer reviews on everything from home repair to health care.

It’s almost painful to shell out hard-earned money for some home projects. Unlike adding a new deck or remodeling the kitchen, replacing a sump pump is hardly cause for a party.

But that’s precisely the kind of job you need to invest in occasionally, if you want to keep your home in good shape.

Bowing to that reality, and hoping to inspire homeowners to plan any necessary maintenance they’ve been putting off, my team compiled a list of dull but important home improvement projects:

• Gutter cleaning. This involves ladders and getting your hands (and everything else) dirty with leaves and other gunk. It’s unpleasant, especially if you do it yourself, but you’ll have a bigger and more costly problem to deal with if clogged gutters and downspouts cause water damage outside and inside your home. Of course, you can always decide to hire a reputable gutter cleaner or handyman for the job.

• Window installation. Replacement windows can set you back thousands of dollars and even though they make your home more comfortable, reduce energy usage and are easier to clean than old-style windows, it’s likely the neighbors will look right through your efforts.

• Foundation repair. Who wouldn’t rather spend money on new furniture instead of on a fix for fissures or cracks in basement walls? But ignoring wall cracks, separations and crumbling concrete won’t sit well if you want your home’s basement, crawl space or slab to properly support your house.

• Removing mold. Mold can cause serious respiratory problems. Make sure to hire a reputable company to inspect for mold and to remove it. Don’t just paint over mold.

• Toilet repair. Resist the temptation to close the lid on those icky issues. If a plunger won’t take care of a clog, or you’re unable to take care of a perpetually running toilet yourself, contact a reputable plumber.

• Insulation. It’s easy for the insides of your attic and walls to be out of sight, out of mind. But it’s important to invest in insulation if you want to be comfortable at home and wise about your energy spending.

• Sump pump. Failing to maintain your sump pump and backup battery could lead to many more dollars eventually draining from your bank account.

• Wiring. Modernizing an aging electrical system costs thousands of dollars, and all that work will end up hidden behind walls. However, you’ll probably sleep better knowing you have a decreased risk of fire from outdated wiring.

• Septic tank pumping. Pros recommend doing this every three to five years to prevent a backup. You’d probably rather spend your money on a weekend getaway, but you’ll breathe easier knowing you’re keeping a smelly situation from bubbling up.

• Replacing the sewer line. This is probably the epitome of a dirty but important job. It starts with sewage backing up and ends with contractors digging out your yard. Trenchless replacement methods exist, and are less intrusive, but they’re often more expensive than the traditional big dig.