10 years after I bought my house, I spent over $21,000 for updates and repairs. Here are 6 expenses I never saw coming.

Courtesy of Kate DoreKate Dore, with her home in Nashville, Tennessee.
  • The author, Kate Dore, bought a 1,400-square-foot home in Nashville, Tennessee in 2009.
  • Over the past six months alone, she spent $US21,140 in home repairs and improvements.
  • After 10 years in the house, she had to take on projects including replacing the roof and gutters, repairing a ceiling, restoring and squirrel-proofing her attic, and adding insulation.

It’s hard not to cringe when someone says renting is throwing money away. For most people, that’s not true – especially with home repairs and improvements. The average family spends $US3,021 a year on maintenance, according to a report from Zillow and Thumbtack. But depending on where you live or the condition of your home, it could be a lot more.

Over the past six months, I’ve spent a whopping $US21,140 on my 1950s ranch home in Nashville, TN. I’ll admit procrastination made some of the problems worse. But the rest – well, they are part of owning a home. Here’s a line-by-line breakdown of every penny I spent.

Replacing the roof and gutters: $US7,873

When I bought my home, the inspector didn’t flag the roof for problems. But it wasn’t brand new, either. Ten years later, it wasn’t a complete surprise when I needed to replace it. Plus, squirrels managed to chew their way in – damaging the shingles, gutters, and attic.

Fixing the cracked ceiling in my den: $US3,900

About a year ago, I noticed a hairline crack forming on the ceiling in my den. As the crack deepened and the ceiling started to sag, I could see it was more than a small, cosmetic fix. A little drywall patching wasn’t going to solve it. To be safe, I replaced the entire ceiling.


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Restoring attic after animal damage and squirrel-proofing the home: $US3,602

Squirrels are relentless. My crumbling roof made it easy for critters to chew holes at every corner. Before I knew it, an entire family had moved in. The longer they stuck around, the more damage they caused. They gnawed on wires, destroyed insulation, and left the attic filthy. The attic repairs and cleanup took several hours. To prevent them from coming back, I added a fortress of squirrel protection: roof guard, vent covers, and flashing around the gutters.

Adding new insulation to the attic: $US2,575

My attic’s insulation wasn’t exactly robust to begin with. At only four inches thick, my HVAC and heating systems worked overtime to heat and cool my home. Once squirrels made it into the attic, they damaged the insulation even further. My only choice was to replace it.

Improving the air sealing in basement and attic: $US1,690

At some point, I received a coupon for a free energy audit through our local electric company. In addition to poor insulation – which wasn’t a surprise – I scored low on the air sealing in my basement and attic. Before putting in new insulation, I took care of these energy leaks, too.

Ongoing electrical projects: $US1,500

As a homeowner, there are projects you can try to do yourself. Others, like electrical work, are better left to licensed professionals. Over the years, I kept a running list of minor electrical problems. First, there wasn’t enough power in the kitchen for all the appliances. Then, the bathroom light broke and the floodlight above the garage wouldn’t stop flickering. After the squirrel damage, I hired a professional to spend a couple of days working on everything.

How I paid for $US21,140 of home repairs and improvements

When things went wrong, my biggest concern was paying for the repairs. I’m not much of a spender, so dropping thousands made me anxious. Some folks empty their emergency fund, rely on a home equity line of credit, or apply for a personal loan. None of these appealed to me.

Instead, I used credit cards – Citi Simplicity and U.S. Bank Visa Platinum – two of the longest 0% offers available. These cards have 0% interest offers for 18 and 20 months. It’s a risky move. If I’m still carrying a balance by the deadlines, the interest rates for each card will spike. But paying them off before the deadlines could save me hundreds or even thousands. As far as I’m concerned, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to pay for home repairs. If the timeline is realistic, aligns with your budget, and helps you sleep better at night, it’s a good decision.

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