Home Improvement Projects That Need Extra Help

electrician-1080554_960_720Every home eventually requires repairs. For whatever reason you’re looking into home improvement, it’s sometimes necessary to seek professional help. Adding crown molding or building a shelf is one thing, but when you’re looking to alter plumbing or electrical work, it’s best to hire help. Take a look at some of the ways an expert might benefit your plans for home makeovers and maintenance.

 

Accessibility Modifications

 

There are plenty of reasons to make your house more accessible. You or a family member may need expanded access or assistance, or you may simply want to make your home more inclusive if you plan on putting it on the market. However, such modifications often need a contractor to be done safely and properly. Adding extra-wide doorways to accommodate wheelchairs, ramps or entrance ways with no steps, and handrails on stairs and in restrooms are all best done by professionals. You may want to convert your shower to offer wheelchair accessibility, which may require complex work. As a good deal of the alterations will be done in the bathroom, kitchen, or bedrooms, it’s best practice to have an expert on hand to avoid broken pipes, flooding, or the unnecessary damaging of walls.

 

Outside Help

 

If you want to clean and maintain the outside of your home, there are numerous things you can do yourself. You can use a pressure washer on your walls and windows to remove dirt and grime safely, and even to clean your driveway. While you may run the risk of scratching your paint, no permanent damage will be done to your home. However, once you think about cleaning your gutters, you may want to hire the help of a professional. Not only will they have the right tools and make sure no leaves or debris remain blocking your drains, they are trained and less likely to injure themselves when working at great heights. Additionally, regular maintenance can prevent animals and insects from nesting in your gutters themselves.

 

Installing a Fence

 

There are various benefits to fencing your home. Fences offer extra privacy and security against a pet escaping. They also provide an additional layer of protection against burglary or home invasion. Professional help can be advantageous for a project of this complexity, especially if your fencing extends underground. When installing or repairing a fence, you may be surprised to learn that a contractor is often required. Not only will you need to make sure that your yard is properly fenced, but there may be restrictions you are unaware of. For instance, some cities have height limitations on fences, and a contractor will be aware of these and ensure that there are no city policy violations.

 

Help with Wiring

 

This is another area where you do not want to risk injury or property damage if you’re inexperienced with home modification. Even if you successfully get wiring working properly, you may accidentally create a fire hazard without being aware of it. You may overload your circuits, and end up creating an expensive problem that could have been avoided if you’d used a professional. There is the possibility of injuring yourself during the process, too, without having the proper equipment or training of an expert. While hiring a professional is an added expense, it is worth it to protect both your health and your home.

 

It’s good to keep up to date on your home’s maintenance and to invest in worthwhile improvements. However, no matter how confident we are in ourselves, it’s always important to be certain of what we’re doing, especially when it involves wiring, plumbing or great heights. Professionals have tools we don’t and knowledge gained over years of work. Do some things yourself, but know when it’s best to get an expert’s help.

Being Wise with Your Windfall: Tips for Using Your Tax Refund

coins-currency-investment-insuranceIf you’re expecting a hefty tax refund this year, you may, like many people, intend to have some fun with your windfall. After all, it’s your money and you worked hard for it. There’s nothing wrong with heading out for some much-needed vacation time or buying a big gas grill for those summer cookouts. As tempting as that may sound, before you buy anything, consider the benefits of using a tax refund to better your financial situation.

Savings

If you’re among the many Americans who lack a rainy-day fund, think about setting all or part of your refund aside in an interest-bearing savings account. You never know when the transmission in your car may give out or an aging roof might start to leak. These are costly repairs, and the average American is unprepared for them; in fact, just 39 percent of Americans are capable of covering an emergency costing $1,000 or more. If you lack at least three months worth of emergency savings, that tax refund may serve you better as an emergency financial reserve.

If your roof could use some work, repairing it is an excellent use for a tax refund. You’ll head off more serious problems resulting from neglect somewhere down the line. But be diligent in looking for a qualified roofing contractor, and ask yourself several questions to determine what, exactly, you need. Check with the Better Business Bureau to make sure your contractor is accredited, and check out the BBB website for complaints or any disputes or scams a company may have been involved in, as well as tips regarding what to look out for.

Pay Down Debt

Debt is a fact of life for most Americans. If you struggle with credit card debt or are behind on the mortgage, your refund can help you out. Paying off debt is a smart move because the high-interest merry-go-round can be very hard to get off when you’re just managing it by paying the minimum every month. That can take you years to pay off even a moderate amount.

College Savings

According to CNN Money, most Americans can expect to pay about $57,000 for a degree at a public college, and more than $100,000 at a private institution. That’s a lot of money for anyone. Why not use your refund to open a 529 or Coverdell education savings account? And investing in your state’s 529 plan may result in a nice state income tax deduction. However, beware of using the money for unqualified purposes, which can earn you a 10 percent penalty.

Roth IRA

A Roth IRA lets you stash money away that becomes tax-free after age 59.5 as long as it’s been open for at least five years. You can contribute to it as you wish and withdraw the sum of your contributions without being hit with a tax or penalty. Your Roth earnings can be used tax-free for education expenses or for a first-time home purchase.

Invest in Yourself

You are your own most valuable resource, your best hope for earning and growing your assets. Improve your ability to do that by investing in training, additional education, or by joining a professional association. It’s a good way to sharpen your skill set, pick up new knowledge, and make valuable new professional connections. The more you can improve yourself, the more valuable you’ll be to an employer or to clients.

Travel

Speaking of self-improvement, are you aware that travel broadens perspective and helps you keep problems, challenges, failures, and successes in their proper context? Think about spending a portion of your refund to go someplace new, a destination that’s always interested you.

Think of a tax refund as an opportunity, an annual chance to improve your financial situation and personal prospects. Think carefully before heading off to the Jacuzzi store or ordering a season football ticket package. By being strategic with your financial prospects, you can put yourself in a much better position to acquire those “toys” you really want and achieve financial security.