Monday, August 26, 2013

Best money saving DIY Jobs done around the house (so far)

As you may have gathered from my last post, I am not one to try to save money by DIY wiring or running my own gas mains. Largely I try to keep my work to things I know I can do properly and that have miminal chance of burning my house down in the middle of the night.

There have been a few DIY jobs however that have saved me big dollars were pretty simple and were able to be completed over a period of time for next to nothing. Importantly, not only did this work save me from upfront costs of hired labor, they have also probably headed off expensive repairs that could have resulted from ignoring them.

The jobs that spring to mind specifically are:

1) Clearing the storm-water drains: Although I had to hire a plumber with a high-pressure water jet to finish the job, the majority of labor was performed by me. This involved locating the storm water access points (including several risers which were buried in garden beds around the house), as well as clearing mud and other surprises from the drainage pit at the side of the house. Several hours spent flushing the drain with a garden hose retrieved all sorts of rubbish from the drain, the entrance to which had been lost under 4 feet of solid mud. 

2) Clearing rubbish from under the house: While the previous owners seemed to enjoy stockpiling old cardboard, televisions, broken window blinds and every other piece of garbage imaginable in the crawl space, I figured this could only lead to problems with roaches, termites or who knows what, not to mention making under-floor access next to impossible for plumbers and electricians. This hidden cache of garbage which somehow didn't get mentioned in the brochure when we bought the place transformed into a small mountain of cr*p in our carport until finally council clean-up day arrived along with the usual procession of scrap collectors who were only too willing to take away anything made of metal. I had been quoted $450 to have this load hauled to the dump and ended up needing only to drop off at our community recycling depot the long abandoned CRT television which had lived happily under my front porch for who knows how many years. Total cost zero.

3) Trenching: It turns out that plumbers don't particularly enjoy digging holes in people's yards, especially when they have to be 40 feet long and a foot deep. $500 (at least) saved by doing my own trench (necessary to replace rusting water mains and for the installation of new gas pipes). The key to this job was not bothering trying to following existing plumbing work and simply establishing where the pipes were not then digging away. Costs nothing for the man who owns a duck-bill shovel although beer consumption rose noticeably that week.

Some nasty (and a few expensive) surprises that come with a new house

2 years in to living in our new house and I seem to still be finding unexpected surprises.

One of our ceiling fan-lights had recently died in the lighting department and being a cheap import the ballast proved to be an impossible item for our electrician to replace. Biting the bullet, we decided to replace 3 existing fan-lights and install another 2 in the kids rooms. Buying 5 units in one hit proved quite attractive as the supplier was practically throwing a 20% discount at me (I did not even mention it) but couldn't argue with getting the 5th fan for nothing.

The main reason for replacing the existing fans that came with the property was that they were all equipped with very dim circular fluoro bulbs (16 watt T4 style) which proved difficult to replace and provided barely enough light to read by. Although the fan function still worked well enough ,upgrading to 80 Watt halogens mean we would actually be able to see what we were doing from now on.

The nastiest surprise however was the installation of the existing fans - all 3 units were improperly mounted and none were earthed. Whoever had installed these fans in the past clearly saw no reason to actually screw them into solid timber nor to run any earth wires. Getting my electrician to do the job properly (which ended up requiring a touch of carpentry in the roof to install new timber battens (not to mention yards of new earth wire) cost me more than twice what I paid for the 5 replacement fan-lights ($700 for the lights, $1600 for the installation which included a few other bits of electrical tidying up).