Here are our top picks for home improvement projects under $500:
You might think that you've done everything when you check off your spring cleaning list, but few people have the time and means to complete a truly comprehensive housecleaning schedule. While homeowners may be hard-wired to focus on dusting and interior surface cleaning, no component of housecleaning should be left unattended.
- Clean chimney or fireplace ($250-$350). The cleaning task most likely to get left off your list, chimney sweeping will prevent lethal, creosote-burning fires.
- Window cleaning ($200-$250). If you have easy-clean windows, go for it. Otherwise, use the pros to avoid injuries that can result from exterior window cleaning.
- Carpet cleaning ($200-$250). Rented carpet cleaning machines don't have the high- pressure steam needed to do this job right.
- Gutter cleaning ($150-$250). It takes more than throwing leaves down from a ladder to clean gutters. Pros will flush out downspouts and inspect the entire gutter system.
- Maid service ($150-$200). Whether you need help finishing a spring cleaning list or with weekly chores, a housekeeping service can give you time for other home projects.
One of the frustrating parts of homeownership is the consistent costs of basic home repairs. Renovations add something new, but repairs only return the home to its previous condition. While cleaning is as inevitable as it is expected, the need for repairs often occurs suddenly and, it seems, at the worst possible time. But you do yourself no favors by postponing these repairs.
- Furnace or A/C repair ($300-$375). If you know something is ailing your system, you may get a discount if you call the pros during the off-season.
- Repair faucets, fixtures or pipes ($300-$400). No plumbing problem is minor. Leaks can cost you real money, needlessly waste water and create even bigger problems. (Find highly rated professional plumbers in your area.)
- Garage door repair ($225-300). Don't underestimate the urgency of this repair. Between energy costs and home security, a working garage door is a must.
- Carpet repair ($200-$300). Many homeowners leave carpet stains and burns on their carpet for years. Usually cut-and-plug carpet repairs are easier than you fear. (Find highly rated professional carpenters in your area.)
- Hire a handyman-$400-$500. If you have more than one simple home repair, hiring a handyman for the day is usually the most cost-effective and timely solution. (Find highly rated handymen in your area.)
Compared to fifty-grand kitchen remodels and bathroom additions, it's hard to imagine a $500 budget is enough to enhance the look or function of your home. But homeowners don't realize just how many small, around-the-house projects there are. This list is far from comprehensive, but it does include some classic home projects and a few, new tasks that are catching homeowners' attention.
- Install a TV wall mount ($350-$450). Don't worry that the otherwise perfect HDTV doesn't have the right mount. The pros can build you a custom wall mount.
- Install concealed wiring for home theater ($300-$400). You shouldn't have to look at unwieldy wires when you can hire a professional to hide them.
- Install garage door opener ($300-$400). With added convenience, better security and less noise, automatic openers have become a staple in U.S. homes.
- Install ceiling fan ($300-$400). This tried-and-true energy-saver still has teeth. Look for one that's properly designed for your needs and properly sized for your room.
- Install electrical switches, outlets or fixtures ($300-$400). You may need to take a look around the house to realize how much you can benefit from moving switches and adding outlets.