Contractors say you can save a sh*t load of money around your home with any of these genius tricks

You can save so much cash.

ByChristina X. Wood
Originally Published: 
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Typically, calling a contractor or handyperson leads to a hefty bill. Therefore, it’s usually a call made only after checking the balance in your checking account. Not this time, though: Mic called contractors and asked them how to save money around the house, and they provided their go-to tricks.

Some of these tricks are dirt-cheap to implement and can save untold dollars. Others pull back the veil on home repairs that are so easy, you can do them yourself — if you know what product to buy and a couple of simple tricks. All that and more follows.


Keeping drain de-cloggers on hand instead of calling a plumber

“Plumbers are super expensive these days, largely due to the short supply of them and the high demand,” says Jake Romano, manager of John The Plumber. “As such, even a simple drain clog removal can cost hundreds of dollars.”

But you won’t have to pay that if you have these handy drain clog removers on hand, he says.Just push one of the three plastic sink snakes into the drain and pull it out again and the reverse barbs grab the blockage — usually hair — and pull it out. The long claw can be used to grab stubborn blocks that are deep in the sink. Just push and release the button on the handle to control the claw so it grabs your offending item and hauls it out.

“I love these things,” says Romano. “Something like that is really great at pulling hair and gunk from your shower and bath drains, which are some of the most common drain blockages.”


Using drain strainers to prevent unnecessary clogs

Sometimes you can’t avoid it when something wants to go down the drain. Hair washes away when you shower and shave. Dirt washes off your body or the pet when you use the bath. For those instances, you should keep a strainer on the drain to catch those materials before they become major clogs.

“Drain strainers cost around $10 or less, usually,” says Romano. “And they can prevent expensive drain cleaning and repairs.” This four-pack of drain hair catchers in various sizes will protect most of the drains in your house for less than $10 and it comes with a drain stopper so you can fill the sink with water.


Sealing wall cracks & leaks with a can of foam sealant

When you locate a leak, you can easily DIY the fix with this handy can of gaps and cracks foam sealant. The dispenser attachment lets you reach the leak and aim the foam precisely. Once deployed onto your pipes or small holes, the foam expands to fill the gap and stop air — and also bugs — from getting through.


Sealing up leaky windows & doors with insulation tape

“One of the easiest ways to save money on your bills this winter is to seal up leaky doors and windows,” recommends Andre Kazimierski, CEO of Improovy Painters Chicago. “This is especially true for those of us living in older homes. I add weatherstripping to my windows in order to prevent drafts from coming in through the colder months.”

This foam insulation tape is exactly the tool for the job. The neoprene has terrific insulating properties, molds to fill a space, is slow to deform, and is nontoxic. Just cut it to fit, tear off the backing, and tape it where you need it.


Shrink-wrapping inefficient windows with an easy insulating kit

If your house is drafty because the windows are old and uninsulated, you are losing money through those, too. “I’ve even sealed windows with self-stick plastic wrap through the winter,” says Kazimierski, “which does keep my house warmer.”

It’s easy to install and easy to remove again when the weather warms up. So it’s a quick, cheap, and easy fix if you don’t want to replace the windows at the moment. Just tape this clear window shrink film to the frames and use a hair dryer to shrink it to fit. It traps a layer of air against the window, which provides good insulation. You can see through it and you’ll barely notice it’s there if you have curtains up.


Not ignoring the sound of running water from the toilet

Is there a vague sound of running water coming from your bathroom? That’s the toilet running and it’s a huge waste of money. “The amount of running toilets we see is wild!” says Romano. “And, if your toilet is running ... you could be paying hundreds of dollars a year in extra water usage.”

So don’t ignore that sound. Fixing it isn’t expensive or hard. “Most of the time, it's a $10 flapper,” he says. “It's super easy to fix it and can save you tons of money.”


Extra tip: Cleaning your drains with at-home solutions helps prevent expensive emergencies

“An easy way to avoid blocked drains and expensive plumber bills is monthly drain cleaning,” offers Romano. “A popular recipe on the internet is half a cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by half a cup of white vinegar. Let it fizzle for half an hour then flush it with really hot water. This is certainly a good move. But even flushing with generous amounts of hot water after washing your dishes or face is a great way to prevent gunk from building up.”


Putting candles to work finding mystery air leaks

If you want to play detective and find the mystery leak that’s costing you money by letting in cold, Romano has an old-school trick for that: “I'd recommend slowly walking around your basement with an incense or candle and watching for the smoke or flame to dance,” he says. “If you follow the perimeter of your basement and you come across a section that blows the incense smoke, then you might need to seal a hole!”

These dripless taper candles will add an element of decor to the endeavor. And they will look great in some candlestick holders on the dinner table afterward when you tell your dinner guests about your money-saving adventure.


Stopping leaks around windows with silicone sealant

If you find air leaks around your windows, though, use this waterproof silicone sealant to stop those. It’s not as visible as a gap-sealing foam and is just as easy to apply. It’s clear so it’s nearly invisible but it seals out air leaks as well as watery ones. Many reviewers report that it’s easy to use and works well.


Wrapping your pipes with an electric heat kit so they don’t freeze

“Making sure your basement is sealed and insulated is a proper way to avoid frozen pipes,” says Romano. “If your pipes freeze and burst — then you'll be out a ton of money.” Avoiding that expense is all about prevention. “If your basement gets cold,” he says, “consider getting heating cables for your pipes. Heating cables can self-regulate and they're a useful tool to protect against frozen pipes.”

This automatic heat kit has everything you need and is so easy to install — plug it in and tape it to your pipes — and can save you so much money.


Changing the filters for your furnace

You probably know where the filters are in your home. But when did you last change them? “The amount of homes we see with a furnace filter that has pet hair and dust caked onto it is wild,” says Romano. “This is going to make your furnace work less efficiently. If your furnace is working harder, you're going to use more energy and age your machine faster.”

It’s so easy to put this on a schedule. Put the filters on Subscribe & Save at Amazon and change them when they show up (every three months is just right). This two-pack of air filters traps microscopic particles like bacteria and viruses and those in smoke so your air will smell better and be healthier to breathe, too.


Extra tip: Keeping an eye on what goes down your drains saves major headaches

“Be mindful of what you put down your drains,” warns Romano. “Everybody thinks that flushable wipes are safe ... But they’re actually one of the leading causes of drain issues in homes. Our toilets and drains are meant to drain water, human waste, and toilet paper. Anything else is a gamble (with very little payoff, but a high cost).

“Things to avoid putting down your drain: Grease (This is a huge one. Grease clogs are brutal.), paper towels, napkins, dental floss, q-tips, condoms, tampons, cat litter, food, oils, chemicals, etc.”


Using leak detectors so you catch water leaks fast

A water heater — hidden in a closet or the basement — can start leaking for a host of reasons. And that leak might be completely off your radar until it has done serious damage. The same is true of pipes behind walls or out of sight. “You can get leak detectors that notify you on your phone if your pipes or water heater is leaking,” suggests Romano. “It's fantastic and can help prevent a lot of damage to your home.”

This leak detector home starter kit has four sensors so you can monitor for leaks all over the house. It will inform you on your phone or through Alexa the minute it detects water where it shouldn’t be. Reviewers mention enjoying the peace of mind these allow and describe them as “worth every penny.”


Using updated appliances & items to help save power

“An excellent way to make your home more energy-efficient and save money is by using smart appliances,” says Sonia Navarro, founder of Navarro Paving. “Outdated gadgets, including items as simple as lights, consume more energy. So, opt for the latest appliances.”

This two-pack of smart light bulbs is an easy place to start. Screw them into a socket and connect them to your phone or a hub like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to enjoy customized lighting scenes, lights that turn on and off on a schedule, and power savings of up to 80 percent.


Using smart plugs to put lamps & other appliances on schedules

You can make coffee machines, lamps, and other appliances that plug in “smart” by plugging those things into one of these four smart plugs. Then, link the outlet to the Kasa app on your phone or your smart home AI. They are very easy to set up, affordable, and get nearly 36,000 five-star reviews.


Sealing your driveway before cold weather becomes a problem

“My top winterizing advice is to seal any cracks in your driveway,” says Navarro. “Otherwise, the snow will enter these cracks and cause further damage. Make sure to use the right sealant. To put it another way, don't use a concrete sealant on an asphalt driveway or vice versa.”

This asphalt filler and sealant is the right tool for this job and it’s premixed and ready to use.


Protecting your floors by putting area rugs in high-traffic spots

“Protect your hardwood floors,” says Phi Dang, director of Sidepost, a home services cleaning and contracting company. “Hardwood floors can be damaged by dirt, dust, and moisture. To protect them, you can use rugs or mats in high-traffic areas.”

Choose the color and size that suits your particular high-traffic area and cover your expensive floors with one of these area rugs that look beautiful and are sturdy and easy to clean.


Using a durable runner in your entry or kitchen

Entryways are typically subjected to the most foot traffic in a home so it’s a prudent move to protect the floors there. This runner rug is a great solution. The vintage look is elegant and versatile and the low-pile synthetic is easy to clean and durable. The shape is perfect for a hallway or entry but also works well in a galley kitchen or in front of a kitchen work area. This style comes in 11 colors and many other sizes.


Protecting floors from your furniture with furniture pads

Dang suggests “[placing] furniture pads under heavy furniture to prevent scratches,” as furniture movements and sharp furniture legs can cause serious floor damage.

This is easy to do and also helps reduce noise. This 12-pack of furniture pad grippers has a felt core and rubber grippers on both sides that stop furniture from moving while protecting your floors. They require no adhesives or screws; just put them under the furniture legs. They can also be trimmed to create any size pad you need.


Keeping your gutters clean

“Clogged gutters can cause water damage to your home’s foundation,” says Dang. “To avoid this, you should clean your gutters regularly. You can do this yourself or hire a professional.”

The uniquely shaped hook on this gutter cleaning scoop is perfect for dragging leaves out of gutters and reaching under the gutter hangars. You can screw it onto an extension pole so you can do large swaths of gutter from one location.


Using a telescoping extension pole to extend your DIY reach

This telescoping extension pole is just the tool for making that gutter-cleaning chore easier. It extends from five to 12 feet long and you can change the angle of the head. You can also reach for it when you need to dust a high place or wash windows or change lightbulbs that are out of reach.


Extra tip: Remembering to inspect your roof before problems start puts you ahead of the game

“Leaks and other damage to your roof can lead to expensive repairs,’ explains Dang. It’s easy to forget about the roof because you can’t see it. But don't wait till it starts leaking into the house to think about it. “You should inspect your roof regularly for signs of wear and tear. If you notice any damage, you should repair it immediately.”


Using LED lightbulbs to save on power (& replacement bulbs)

“Switch out heat-emitting incandescent light bulbs for LED bulbs,” suggests Susan Frew, HVAC expert and co-owner and president of Sunshine Home Services. “The average light bulb is 60 watts. In contrast, a LED bulb can put out the same amount of light for only nine watts, providing you with significant savings.”

These LED Edison bulbs look great, emit a soft white light, and are just six watts. They will look beautiful in your lamps and fixtures and last for an average of 20,000 hours so you don’t have to replace them as often.


Adding a humidifier in winter to help hold heat in the air

“Add a humidifier during the winter months to help trap heat,” says Frew. This aromatherapy-capable humidifier emits a cool mist and has a 2-liter water capacity, making it suitable for a large room. You can even add essential oils to it to give the room a scent that encourages relaxation, focus, or calm. It’s also a lighting element with seven color options.


Using a dehumidifier in summer months

“In contrast,” says Frew, “A dehumidifier in the summer months keeps your home cooler if you don’t have an AC system.” The muggy and hot feeling in summer is made worse by humidity but this dehumidifier will pull nine ounces of water out of your air every day, helping make your space feel cooler. It shuts off automatically when the tank is full. Just empty the water — which your plants will love — and it will keep right on cooling.


Using an electric leaf blower to clean your yard fast

“Your yard is in dire condition when one season ends and the other starts,” says Andrew Johnson, CEO at Prime Seamless Gutters & Roofing. “Wherever you look, you'll see leaves that become a hassle to clean, especially with a rake. Having an electric blower can ease your troubles.”

This version has two different speeds for different types of jobs — the highest blows at 110 mph (recommended for open lawn space). It’s super powerful yet is designed to be controlled one-handed, and gets 4.7 stars after over 10,000 ratings.


DIY-ing your own fence or deck stain

“One way to really save a bundle is to DIY your fence or deck staining,” says Matt Stone, owner of Hometown Painting LLC. “It may be a little intimidating for some homeowners but there are some new products on the market now that are almost impossible to mess up. They are super user-friendly and make it so much easier for a homeowner to do it themselves.”

This fence stain from Wood Defender is a good example. The five gallons are easy to apply with a brush or simple sprayer and the results are, according to reviewers, “awesome,” “dramatic” and “great.”

“We often charge between $1000 and $3000 for the labor on a fence or deck stain (depending on the size of the job) so it's definitely a great way to save money,” he says. “Plus, by staining your fence or deck, you will make it last longer, saving even more money in the long run.”


Washing decks & fences once a year to prevent mildew

“I think the best thing for preserving the wood after it has been stained,” offers Stone, “is just to give it a good washing once a year, probably in spring. This will keep help keep mildew from growing on the wood.”

For this task, Stone recommends this deck and fence cleaner, which you can load into your pressure washer or sprayer. It’s quick and easy and uses peroxide to remove oils, grease, dirt, and stains. “It is not toxic and is environmentally friendly,” he says.


Using this high-quality sprayer to wash decks & apply stain

If you don’t own a pressure washer or sprayer, choose this two-gallon handheld sprayer, from Huqvarna, says Stone. “This could be used to apply either the stain or the cleaner,” he says. “I have used cheaper ones and they almost never work very well. Husqvarna is a great brand I would recommend.”


Insulating your home to save energy

“First and foremost, insulate your home properly,” says Matt Hagens, carpenter and founder of Obsessed Woodworking. “This will help to reduce the amount of heat that needs to be produced in order to maintain a comfortable temperature, and it can also prevent damage caused by cold weather.”

This foam insulation shield is a great way to do that without getting involved with those itchy fiber insulation products. Just cut it to size and tack it in place to reflect 97 percent of radiant heat.


Treating your wood furniture right

“Many people often overlook the importance of properly preserving and maintaining wood furniture,” says Hagans. “This is because most people don't realize that wood can actually lose its color, grain, and even structural integrity over time. If you're planning on keeping your furniture for an extended period, it's essential to treat it properly.

Some tips include applying a sealer every two years or using oil-based finishes instead of water-based ones.” Reviewers describe using this finish on butcher block, walnut, and PaperStone countertops with great success and describe it


Keeping a basic toolkit on hand so you can do small DIY projects easily

“When it comes to having a budget set of staple tools in the house to get even the most basic of DIY jobs done, I recommend the IKEA Fixa Tool Kit,” says Barry Gray, woodworker and the founder of The Tools Square.

“It's not flashy, but they are well-made and excellent value for money! [The tools] can be used to fix various items in your home, including furniture, mirrors, doors, windowsills — even bicycles! This kit comes with all the tools you need to get started.”


Installing blackout curtains to keep your heat from escaping

“Get rid of [inefficient] draperies and window coverings,” says Gray. “You can find polyester curtains or blinds made out of recyclable materials instead.” These polyester room-darkening curtains, for example, will help keep your energy costs down by keeping your heat and AC inside instead of letting it leak through the windows. There are so many colors and sizes available it’s almost like ordering custom curtains.