To many Latinos, owning a home IS the American dream. And to be honest, for most American families, Latino or not, it is the biggest investment they will make in their lives. So it is important to note that investing in a home will require more than a down payment and mortgage payments. Regular maintenance and home improvement projects are necessary to protect the home. Sometimes we forget this, or for families who are new to home ownership, it is a learning process.
Luckily, not all home improvement projects cost tons of money or take lots of time. These seven small projects take anywhere from 15 minutes to a couple of hours to complete, but they can make a huge difference in your home.
Catalog Your Belongings for Insurance
Open your laptop and walk from room to room cataloging everything you see. Make a spreadsheet listing your furniture, how many DVDs you own and how much that Oriental rug cost. Document every dish, toy and electronic device— anything that has worth— and record its price value if you can. Better yet, photograph or video each room. Burn a disc and send it to a trusted friend or family member, or save this information in the cloud.
Clean a Stained Appliance or Fixture
Forget about cleaning with harsh chemicals and instead use natural products you probably already have around the house. Combine equal amounts of baking soda and cream of tartar with a few drops of lemon juice to make a paste. Using your fingers or a rag, rub the mixture into the dirtiest parts of the tub, sink or oven. Let it sit for about a half hour, then rinse with water.
Secure Your Home
Go outside and see your house as a thief would— what are your weakest areas that could be seen as a target, hiding place or escape route for a criminal? Address those areas. Trim overgrown shrubbery. Illuminate dark corners. Seal windows and consider using a protective film to defend against broken glass. Talk to your neighbors about establishing a neighborhood watch, and stay up to date on your community’s local crime rates so you can know what’s common in your area. For example, home security in Georgia may differ from Philadelphia home security.
Check for Termites
Because termites rarely emerge from the tunnels they’re digging, most people aren’t aware they have termites until they see damage during construction, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Search for termites by looking for mud tubes with small, creamy-white insects, examining exposed wood for hollow spots and identifying insects if you see a swarm (sometimes ant swarms are mistaken as termites). Make your home less appealing to termites by not piling or storing firewood or debris next to the house, keeping vents from blockage and reduce openings that could offer them access, such as cracks in cement foundations.
Look for Leaks
Every year, on average, leaks account for 10,000 gallons of wasted water in the home, according to the EPA. Check for leaks by trying either of these two tricks:
- Put a drop of food coloring in your toilet’s tank. If the color shows up in the bowl within 15 minutes without flushing, you have a leak (if you have a leak, flush to avoid staining the tank).
- Check your water meter, then don’t use any water for two hours. Check the meter again and if it doesn’t read exactly the same you probably have a leak.
Fluff Flattened Cushions
If your couch cushions or bedroom pillows are feeling a bit flat, put them in the sun for a few hours. The heat will evaporate the moisture that gets stuck in the filling over time, and they should plump back up in no time. Flip them halfway through to evenly distribute the heat. Be careful though, too much direct sunlight could fade the fabric.
Fix Squeaky Door Hinges
If spraying a little WD-40 onto the hinges doesn’t work, try rubbing petroleum jelly in and around the squeaky joints. Move the door back and forth to work in the lubricant. If your doors are still squeaky, lift the hinge pins halfway out and wet them with a three-in-oil. Have a rag handy to catch drips and wipe away excess.