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A Single Mum's Guide to Home Improvement

Jamie Smale - Thursday, October 29, 2015

Home improvement tips for single mums.

When I bought my house four years ago, my daughter was about to turn three and I revelled in the security of owning my home. Being a single mum was (and is!) both a challenge and very rewarding, but I knew that having a house to call my own was the best thing that ever happened to my daughter and me.

My house was twenty years old when I bought it, and it was in fantastic condition. Still, as time passed, a variety of issues cropped up. I think my way of dealing with home improvements is pretty typical for single a woman who owns her own home. Hopefully, my experiences will help you manoeuvre through the waters of home improvement and maintenance. Here is what I have learnt:

You can do wonders with a good book and a toolbox.

For my birthday the year I moved in, my sister-in-law gave me a toolbox filled with the basics: screwdrivers, wrenches, a hammer, nails, nuts and bolts, and so on. She also gave me a book on basic home repairs. Her gift literally provided me with the tools I needed, but it also gave me the confidence to tackle minor home improvement tasks. My advice: invest in some tools and use a book or online sources to guide you through the routine maintenance that your house will need.

Ask for advice.

As a single woman who is now 48 years old with a very limited knowledge of more complex home improvement issues, I am always scared that I'll be taken advantage of by a repair company. When my tumble dryer quit on a very wet day I had no way of knowing if I really needed a new appliance or just a part replaced. I have learnt to call on family members (mostly my dad) and friends - whose combined knowledge far and away exceeds mine - to get their advice. They have pointed me in the right direction on a number of occasions.

Keep an eye out for what is happening with your neighbouring houses.

All of the houses closest to me were built by the same builder at the same time. Getting to know my neighbours and talking to them about home improvement has helped me get a sense of what I need to plan for. For example, two years ago I began to see that the houses around me were starting to get new roofs. Although I didn't have any leaks yet I decided to replace the roof a few months ago. I thought it would be worth it to do now before there were any secondary problems from a leaky roof.

Always ask for referrals, and then check them out for yourself.

Through my neighbours' referrals, I have been able to find a great roofer, a faultless exterior house painter, and a terrific tile guy. But I don't just rely on their word. It is always best to check with your local council to see if they have a list of approved businesses. I get all estimates in writing, and ask for proof of Public Liability Insurance.

Do not put your head in the sand.

On several occasions when I have chosen not to deal with a home improvement issue I have always regretted it. For example, I knew there was a damp patch on my bedroom wall, unfortunately, by letting it go for so long it cost me much more than if I had dealt with it immediately.

Make a list.
This last piece of advice is basic, but crucial. Start and keep a home improvement list. As a single mum, it is all too easy to get caught up in the hectic pace of daily life and let routine home maintenance fall by the wayside. I divide my home improvement list into three sections: one for items that need attention in the next couple of months; one for home improvement projects for the coming year; and one that sets out what I want to accomplish over the next five years. The short- and medium-term lists keep me motivated, while my long-term list helps me save the money needed for the bigger items.
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