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ShopSmart’s simple fall fix-ups

Posted Tuesday, September 27, 2011

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An Easy Checklist to Save Big Dollars on Major Home Repairs

Yonkers, NY — Fall is the best time to get your house in order because come winter, small problems can turn into big-dollar nightmares. The October 2011 issue of ShopSmart magazine, from the publisher of Consumer Reports, highlights key household maintenance tasks for the fall that can save readers more than $20,000 in repairs.

“People need to take home repairs seriously, especially with winter just a few months away,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. “Now is the time to check and service any small problems before snow, ice, and freezing temperatures accentuate them.”

Get some leaf relief

Fallen leaves can kill grass when they’re matted down by snow. Leaf piles can also attract rodents. But using leaf bags means work and waste if they go into a landfill.

What to do: Don’t overlook your mower’s mulching mode! Grinding up leaves feeds your lawn and saves money. You may need to make a few passes to slice the leaves small enough to decay.
What you save: Along with saving the cost of leaf bags (Americans spend millions of dollars a year on them), you sidestep the stooping and bending of raking and bagging.
Smart Pick: Time for a new mower? The $350 Toro Recycler 20332 self-propelled gas mower aced our mulching tests.

Check the roof

Leaks can eventually damage the wood sheathing and rafters below the shingles, leading to thousands of dollars in repairs.

What to do: Use binoculars to spot cracked, curled, or missing shingles safely from the ground. Consider having a roofing pro check flashing around chimneys, skylights and roof valleys for leaks, and the rubber boots near vents for cracks that can let moisture seep in.
What you save: At roughly $3 per square foot installed, new sheathing would total $6,900 for a 2,300 square foot house if you had to replace all of it. Figure on an additional $7,000 to $10,000 to install new shingles, plus added costs if the roof rafters need replacing.
Smart Pick: Certain Teed Landmark asphalt shingles were top performers in our tests and deliver the layered look of cedar shakes. And at just $65 per 100 square feet, they’d save you about $7,000 on a typical home over the priciest shingle we tested.

Find air leaks

Air leaks lurking inside your home can send up to 10 percent of your home’s heat out the window during the winter.

What to do: A professional energy audit (about $300 to $800) is best; some utilities help pay for it. On a windy day you can do your own check. Close windows and doors, and shut off the furnace. Turn on bathroom and other fans that blow air outside. Then pass a lit incense stick over door and window frames and other leak sites; smoke that’s blown into or out of the room signals a leak.
What you save: Plugging leaks can slice your heating bill by 10 percent, or about $66 per year, based on the $660 average annual cost of heat per household nationwide. Those yearly savings could help pay for a new range, refrigerator, or dishwasher after 10 years. And that’s if you’re using natural gas. Got oil or electricity? Annual savings could exceed $200.

Close your hoses

Pipes can burst when water inside expands as it freezes, creating an expensive mess in your home.

What to do: Shut off inside valves that control water flow to hose spigots. Then briefly open the spigots to drain any leftover water in pipes and hoses. Also drain water from supply lines for water sprinklers and pools, and shut off inside valves that control them. And help prevent freezing by insulating pipes in unheated areas.
What you save: Thousands of dollars in plumbing repairs and water damage, especially if pipes burst and cause a flood while you’re away.

About ShopSmart magazine:
Launched in Fall 2006 by Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, ShopSmart draws upon Consumer Reports’ celebrated tradition of accepting no advertisements and providing unbiased product reviews. The magazine features product reviews, shopping tips on how to get the most out of products and “best of the best” lists. ShopSmart is ideal for busy shoppers who place a premium on time. ShopSmart has a newsstand price of $4.99 and is available nationwide at major retailers including Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart, Borders, Kroger, Safeway and Publix. ShopSmart is available by subscription at www.ShopSmartmag.org.

ShopSmart is now available 10 times a year. Subscribe at www.ShopSmartmag.org.

 
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