There are plenty of common misconceptions when it comes to the projects in your home, and it can be difficult to know which opinions are true when there are so many out there. Should I do it myself or should I hire a professional? Will bleach really get rid of mold? Will the installation of a pool add value to my home?
Over the years, I’ve heard these questions countless times from homeowners all over the country. They are certainly valid questions to ask, but if you did a quick search on Google you’d probably find a sea of varying opinions. That’s why I’ve compiled this list of the top 10 most common home repair myths; to help shed some light on the shadowy misconceptions of modern home improvement projects.
Myth #1: Bleach Kills Mold
Have you ever spilled bleach on a shirt or a pair of pants? It stains, doesn’t it? Well, this analogy is the best one I’ve been able to come up with to explain why bleach is ineffective as a mold killer. The fact that the bleach just stains the cloth, rather than eating a hole through it, is a perfect example of why it doesn’t work.
Bleach camouflages the mold by taking care of the top layer so it blends in with the rest of the surface. The reason this happens is because bleach can’t get past the surface while moisture can, which leaves entire colonies hidden from the naked eye. After a while, the colonies get stronger and stronger, and they pop up on the surface more frequently. It’s like the Greek myth of the Hydra; the more action you take, the worse the problem gets. That’s why even Clorox, the leading manufacturer of bleach, says that it shouldn’t be used to get rid of mold. The best and most reliable ways to kill mold are by using a product specifically designed for that use, such as Shockwave.
If you’re considering mold removal as a DIY project, then you should think again. In order to be sure the mold is completely gone, professional equipment is required, as well as accurate testing. If there is a small amount on a window sill or exterior door jamb, then the DIY mold killers can do the trick if you catch the problem early. However, most jobs will have to be done by a professional. Whether you hire a professional or do it yourself, just remember: bleach doesn’t kill mold.
Myth #2: You Have to Hire a Professional
This is one that I’ve seen more and more these days; the idea that most projects in the home must be done by a professional, and that you can actually end up spending more money if you do it yourself. I’d say this is true for about 30 percent of all home improvement projects or repairs while the other 70 percent can be done on your own for less money.
Even if you don’t have any previous experience with a project, you can still get the job done right. All you have to do is a bit of research, make sure you know step by step what work has to be done, educate yourself on how to do it, and if the project involves something that can be permanently messed up, then practice on something else first.
Sure, there are certainly projects and repairs that you can’t do on your own (and I’ll get to those in the next section), but as long as you’re willing to learn and take the time to do it right, you’ll rarely have to hire anyone to work in your home.
Myth #3: A DIYer Can Do It All
As I just mentioned, there are some projects that have to be handled by a professional, but there are always strong-willed do-it-yourselfers who think they can do it all. It’s easy to see how it happens, if you’ve successfully replaced the flooring in your living room, installed new cabinets and countertops, and maybe even built a deck, you may think it’s a small leap to replace a few light fixtures. The problem is that, even though in most cases it may just be three wires to get it done, if you aren’t experienced then you won’t be able to recognize when something’s wrong.
For instance, some lazy electrician in the 80s may have used the white wire as a hot without marking it, the bare copper are a neutral without marking it, and the black wire for something else entirely. Then you go to wire your “easy” three wire fixture and it won’t work (and could even start a fire if wired incorrectly). That’s where the tenacious spirit of a seasoned DIYer, which is usually an admirable trait, can become dangerous for everyone involved.
Electrical work (with the exception of light bulbs and smoke detector batteries), main drain pipes that carry waste out of the house, all septic tank work, any foundation work for houses and garages, and any HVAC work (except changing thermostat batteries and furnace filters) should all be left to licensed, qualified professionals. Attempting any of these without the required credentials can result in a fire (electrical and HVAC), death (electrical and HVAC), community health risk (main waste pipes and septic tanks), or even structural instability (foundation work). So, even if you do tackle a lot of projects on your own, please, for your own sake, leave the ones I just mentioned to a professional.
Myth #4: All Upgrades Add Value to Your Home
This one is a partial myth. Many people believe that whatever you add to your home (pool, spa tub, sunroom, etc.) increases the value of your property by the amount it cost to build and install it. The reason this isn’t the case is because the value of a house is calculated in a very specific way, and the criteria is a lot more logic-based than anything else.
For example, a pool without a fence around it can be seen as a liability, rather than an improvement, and something like a new chandelier instead of old globe lights won’t make any difference at all. There are also some projects that should add a lot more value to a home than they do. Repairing the foundation of a home, for instance, should absolutely add to its worth, but for some reason it often doesn’t. It makes the home structurally stable and it increases the lifespan of the building, but it goes unnoticed.
So, do whatever you want to improve the safety and enjoyment of your home, but if you’re just doing it to increase the resale value, you may want to do some research beforehand.
Myth #5: Don’t Put Eggshells in Your Compost
I have to admit, I’ve been guilty of perpetuating this myth myself in the past, but as it turns out, I’ve been proven wrong. Well, at least partially. The story is that if you use egg shells with your compost, and are using it for growing fruits and vegetables, then salmonella can actually stay alive and make its way into the food. This is believable because salmonella can survive for an extended period of time outside of a host, and can stay alive through a wide range of temperatures.
The reason this is partially a myth is because the heat of the composting process actually gets to the temperature required to kill salmonella, and if you’re growing vegetables, then it’s usually going to take longer than the 3 or 4 weeks salmonella can survive outside of a host.
However, I said this was partially true because there is still a risk for people who don’t go through the hot composting process, and for those who put the eggshells directly into the ground to add calcium. If you do want to use them for that purpose and aren’t using hot compost, then just throw them in the oven for a half an hour at anything above 140F, and you’ll be good to go.
Myth #6: Home Improvement Projects Are Expensive
All too often I’m talking to someone about the work they’ve had done in their home, and it’s followed by a shake of the head when they tell me how much they were charged. A lot of times, people just accept the price they’ve been given and pay it without thinking twice, which is exactly the type of attitude bad contractors depend on to survive.
Most of us in this industry are pretty honest, and we get mad at those types of contractors because not only are they lying to people about the cost, but they’ll usually end up getting the job since they offer a lower quote. And once they get the job, they add “unexpected” costs in the middle or towards the end. That’s how a $2,000 job can turn into $3,500 without anyone noticing until it’s too late.
The best way to avoid this is by getting multiple quotes (at least 3 to 5, but as many as you need to feel confident that you’re getting a good price), and by going with the most detailed estimate instead of the cheapest one. It may not be the number that you like the best at first, but I promise you’ll end up spending less in the long run. So, the next time you have a project that needs to be done, do yourself (and honest contractors) a favor by shopping around for multiple detailed estimates.
Myth #7: Appliances Last Forever
Most people don’t actually think appliances last forever, per se, but there is a common misconception they can be pushed a lot further than they are meant to. Not only does this leave you with a surprise cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars when they eventually die, but they can also cost you more money in the immediate future.
Old appliances, especially ranges and dryers, end up using more electricity when they’re at the end of their lifespan. That’s why it’s always best to start planning on getting a new one long before you need to replace it, that way you can start shopping around for the one you want and set aside money to lessen the financial impact. If you’re not sure when your appliance should be replaced, here is a cheat sheet to help you out.
Range: 15 to 18 years
Water Heater: 8 to 12 years
Dryer: 10 to 15 years
Washing Machine: 10 to 15 years
Refrigerator: 10 to 15 years
Dishwasher: 7 to 10 years
Microwave: 5 to 8 years
Myth #8: Energy Efficiency is Expensive
There are many people out there who only think of solar panels, wind turbines, and electric cars when they think of “going green.” All of these investments can certainly be expensive, however, there are plenty of ways to make your home more efficient without spending more than $100.
You can use Great Stuff to fill the gaps and cracks in your siding, brick, or basement. You can also use weather stripping around windows and doors to help keep good air from escaping and bad air from entering, as well as window film to increase the R-value of single-pane windows.
On top of those, there are dozens of other little things that can be done for free to make your home more energy efficient, such as; shutting lights off when you leave a room or turning off breakers when you leave the house.
Myth #9: Lawns and Gardens Take a Lot of Work
This one should really be a no-brainer, but people tend to think that their lawns, gardens, plants, and trees require a lot of maintenance. This can certainly be true sometimes, but more often than not those chemicals you use end up doing more harm than good.
The problem is some people think more fertilizer (lime, sulfur, soil amendment, etc.) means healthier soil, but when used too frequently they can actually deplete the soil of their nutrients, causing everything to die. So remember, use a fertilizer only 3 times per season (late March, mid-May, and mid-July), balance the soil at the beginning the season, and test the soil regularly.
Myth #10: Owning a Home Has to be Stressful
Owning a home is just a matter of finally getting around to things you’ve been putting off. As long as you don’t get too far behind, and you keep up with regular maintenance, you shouldn’t run into anything that you can’t handle.
If you do, just take a breath, do your research, and tackle the problem head on.