Home improvement (ARA) – A little preparation and pre-project know-how can help save the average do-it-yourselfer time and money, both of which can be used to enjoy more time with family and friends and less time working around the house.

Dean Johnson, co-host of the nationally syndicated home improvement TV series "Hometime," offers up the following home improvement tips that will help you work smarter, not harder:

Make Maintenance Routine

By far, the easiest way to save yourself time and keep expenses down is by keeping your house in good working order to begin with. This requires some planning and skill, but in the long run could help you avoid spending lengthy hours making repairs, not to mention the costs involved.

"Naturally, most people tend to focus on the exterior of their homes during the summer, but it's important not to forget about the interior," says Johnson. "There are some simple monthly jobs that should be completed to keep appliances and mechanicals in working order."

For example, start in the kitchen and inspect the dishwasher for leaks. A leak that isn't caught in time could ruin your flooring, and possibly your sub-floor, as well. Then, move to the kitchen range hood and clean the fan filters to prevent clogging — a potential fire hazard. Also, be sure to wash out the refrigerator frost-free drain pan to keep it in proper working order.

In the bathroom, inspect and clean faucet aerators and shower heads to prevent build-up and potential clogging. If you notice build-up on fixtures, tubs or shower doors, you may have a hard water problem. But, don't worry, 85 percent of homes do. Hard water contains significant levels of dissolved calcium and magnesium that can cause scale and lime build-up on sinks, faucets and water-using appliances, decreasing their life and making them less efficient. And don't forget the time it will take you to scrub things clean — time that could be spent outdoors enjoying the weather.

Johnson goes on to say, "To combat hard water have a professional test your water to determine its hardness. If you do have hard water, consider purchasing a water softener, such as the 2040c from Kinetico. It's a compact unit that possesses superior water softening capabilities for very hard water applications. And unlike other bulky, unattractive water softeners, there's no need to hide it thanks to its fashionable, modern appearance. Just remember, in the long run, not treating hard water could prove more difficult for your pocket book to tolerate than installing a water softener."

Remodel the Right Way

According to Census Bureau statistics, home improvement projects account for almost 75 percent of the $198.6 billion American homeowners spent in 2004 on their homes. However, starting a remodelling job, whether you do it yourself or hire a contractor, can be a frightening prospect for a homeowner. To ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible, a well-thought-out, detailed plan is the first step in any large remodelling project.

One of the most popular home renovation projects is updating the kitchen. When formulating your plan for the kitchen, take into consideration two thoughts: form and function. Typically, kitchens are designed in U-shaped, L-shaped and galley configurations, but a remodel is your chance to start from scratch and truly create the kitchen of your dreams. Carefully analyze how you currently use the kitchen and what design changes would make it more convenient and practical for your individual needs.

"Think about the space in terms of several work centers or stations that allow multiple people to complete tasks simultaneously," said Johnson. "Work centers are a little less formal than the traditional U-, L- and galley-shaped designs but have been growing in popularity in recent years. Adding an island, for example, creates an additional two to four small work stations along its perimeter."

In addition to pre-project planning, also take some time to think about post-project goals. Consider investing in some items that will protect your new kitchen investment and ensure your water-using appliances will last for years to come. This could be preventing hard water build-up with the use of a water softener, or simply purchasing cleaning products specifically designed for those appliances.

No matter what projects you might be tackling this summer, remember it's always better to work smarter, rather than harder. Routine maintenance and pre-project know-how can be the key to saving your summer.


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For home inspection services in the Sacramento and Bay Area please contact Golden State Home Inspections at 800.441.0804 or visit http://www.goldenstatehomeinspections.com.

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