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June 2014
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Top 10 unsexiest home improvement projects

Senior editor at Angie's List, Mike LaFollette

Senior editor at Angie’s List, Mike LaFollette

If you’re a first-time homeowner, the thought of home improvement probably conjures visions of installing a state-of-the-art kitchen with the latest appliances, or a sprawling patio that transforms your backyard into an outdoor oasis.

Not only do these projects boost the value of your home, but they’re functional and fun to show off to friends and family.

Your fantasies probably didn’t include sump pump failure, backed-up toilets, overflowing gutters or black mold lurking in your crawl space.

The reality is that home ownership often proves extremely unpredictable. However, one thing you CAN count on is spending a considerable amount of money on unglamorous maintenance projects you can’t show off to neighbors, but will keep your home healthy.

10. Cleaning gutters. This seasonal task involves climbing on a ladder and scooping out decaying leaves, animal waste and other random sludge that have been marinating in your gutters for months. But you’ll have bigger problems when a blockage sends water spilling down the sides of your home, which can ruin siding, flood your basement and rot the fascia boards that hold the gutters.

9. Installing windows. Adding one window will set you back a couple hundred dollars, and a major window replacement job can cost thousands. New windows offer increased efficiency and should lower your energy costs, but unless you install stained glass or security bars, your neighbors are unlikely to comment.

8. Repairing the foundation. You might crack up at the thought of spending hard-earned money to repair the slow-growing crack that stair-steps up the basement wall, but foundation fissures are no joking matter. Not all cracks signal impending collapse, but have it checked out before it’s too late.

7. Removing mold. Eliminating the patch of black mold hiding behind the bathroom wall may not be at the top of your to-do list, but failure to remove mold can cause serious respiratory problems. Make sure to hire a remediation company that pinpoints the source of the mold. Avoid the contractor who wants to paint over it.

6. Fixing the toilet. Although the insides of some toilet tanks resemble the cockpit of a fighter jet, resist the temptation to put off toilet repairs. You’ll be glad you called a plumber the next time nature calls.

5. Adding insulation. Insulation stays out of the spotlight, but performs an important role. It’s dirty and expensive to install, but offers a good return on your investment through lower utility bills and increased comfort. Just don’t count on anyone showing up to your insulation viewing party.

4. Replacing the sump pump. You won’t be pumped when your basement floods because you failed to replace your sump pump. Make sure to install a sump pump with a battery backup and alarm system for extra security.

3. Updating electrical wiring. It costs several thousand dollars to rewire a home or modernize an aging electrical system, and what do you get to show for it besides a bunch of wires hidden in your walls and attic? You should at least sleep better knowing there’s a decreased risk of fire because you removed the 1920s-era knob-and-tube system.

2. Pumping the septic tank. Pros recommend pumping your septic system every three to five years to prevent backup. It’s not a glamorous job, but it’s better than sewage backing up in your toilets and spilling on the lawn. Just don’t be like Cousin Eddie from “Christmas Vacation” and empty it into the sewer.

1. Replacing the sewer line. This unsexy situation starts with raw sewage backing up in your home and ends with contractors digging up your front yard and landscaping to bury a new sewer line. Trenchless replacement methods exist that bypass the backhoe, but often come at a higher cost.



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