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Home Repair Decision

June 5th, 2008 at 02:00 pm

Now that I've been a homeowner for 2.5 years, I have my first major home repair to make--the gutters on my front and back porches have rusted through (they're old steel half-rounds).

So I've been getting estimates--I contacted 5 contractors; 4 have been by so far, and I have 3 estimates in hand.

In any case, I'm going to get seamless aluminum "K" gutters--no need to worry about rust again.

The choice seems to come down to either spending about $600 for .027 gauge "industry standard" gutters, or spending about $1200 for .032 gauge gutters--he showed me a piece of one and it really does look much more sturdy than the typical gutter. The .032 gutters come with a 10 year warranty on workmanship and 20 years on the parts.
I need to call back the contractors for the .027 gauge gutters and ask about a warranty, since neither contractor whose estimate was in this range spontaneously mentioned one.

As I'm writing this, I'm convincing myself to go for the $1200 gauge gutters, at least in the front. The front porch has a roof that still is under warranty for another 10 years and is in good condition. I'm not sure about the condition of the "soffit" or section underneath. The back porch has a stationary aluminum awning which the gutter hangs off of--it's attached to wood strips that are screwed to the awning supports. The awning supports are beginning to rust a bit, and one contractor (the one who hasn't gotten back to me yet) said that he recommended replacing the awning instead, and said he'd give me the name of the contractor. He tried to scare me that during an ice storm it could collapse on my dog. While it might need some new supports on the far side of the porch, the awning itself is perfectly good, and it is firmly attached to the house, so I just vowed for the moment to get a roof rake before next winter. I'm hoping to have that awning last another 10 or so years--if I'm still in this house (and the only reason I wouldn't be is if DBF & I get married), I'm hoping to renovate the kitchen and expand the house by about 3 feet into the patio, which would entail redoing the concrete patio as well.

Also this summer I need to have the roof silvercoated, the furnace serviced, and I desperately need new glasses (it's been 4 years and I'm reading thru scratches). That's at least $1000 in additional expenses there--and, to be prepared, I should probably expect about another $500 in unexpected expenses, either a big car repair or a big vet bill. Praying neither comes to pass, but I can't ignore history, and I haven't had either of those since a $500 vet bill in February, and I usually experience about 3 major "unanticipated expense" events a year. (Hopefully the laws of probability will work in my favor--if things work out to average, I'm still way ahead in expenses paid on based on the $8000 I spent on Henry the year I adopted him!)

Also I really should travel to L.A. and visit my mother this summer--another $500 expense.

Summers always end up being pricey, and this summer my income is low, which means that some of these expenses will get paid for out of savings. I have one more year on my job and then need to make the big career change, so I hate going into savings to do this--which is the one temptation to go for the $600 gutters. They might not last as long or look as pretty, but that's about what I had originally planned to spend (based on the first estimate that I got way back in March when a contractor was working on a neighbor's roof).

3 Responses to “Home Repair Decision”

  1. luxlivingfrugalis Says:

    Is there a reason one must have gutters? We don't have them on our house.

  2. Dido Says:

    Wow, I actually got to get advice on this from a Personal Finance columnist, Michelle Singletary. She was running a "live chat" over at and so I asked my question (in briefer form).

    Here's the brief form of the question and her reply:

    "I'm trying to make a decision. My house needs new gutters (old ones are rusted through). The estimates I've gotten are for higher quality gutters w/a 20 year warranty for $1200 or standard quality gutters (have to ask about the warranty but presume it's less if any) for $600. Normally I'd go for the better quality without question as this is part of my home investment--but I also know that I only have one more year at my job and will have to change careers, so I'm trying to build up my emergency fund (currently $9000). Do you think I should go for the higher quality given that means $600 less in the emergency fund?"

    Michelle Singletary: This is a hard one. But if you think the higher quality will last longer (be sure, shop around, check Consumer Reports) it may be worth the extra money in the long run.

    But always, always do what you can afford. It also may be the case that you can cut other places and still build up your cash reserve.


    So that fits with my gut instinct about going for the better quality. Now to think about where else I can cut? Desperately trying to cut my food expenses now (which run higher than they should)--if I'm successful in that, I should make up the additional $600 by the end of the summer.

  3. Dido Says:

    LuxLiving: Gutters shunt rain away from the house and prevent water from getting in to your basement. I guess you might not need them in a really dry climate or depending upon the slope of your house. But where I live it's pretty wet, and every house on the block has gutters (they're all similar construction), so I'm presuming gutters are necessary for my house.

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