Saving on Home Improvement Projects This Fall

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Fall marks the perfect time for home improvement projects. With summer’s heat gone, and winter’s storms not yet begun, now is the time to prepare your home for colder and wetter months ahead. Better Homes and Gardens recommends cleaning gutters, patching roofs, caulking cracks, weather-stripping doors and windows, protecting plumbing and improving the insulation in your home. But before you start on any DIY work around the house, here are some ways to save money this fall.

1. Borrow when you can

If you need expensive or bulky equipment, like a miter saw, power snake or a large clamp, reconsider buying your own. A number of cities feature tool-lending programs that let residents check out tools at no cost for short-term projects. Some tool libraries are part of a public library system, as in Berkeley, California, and others may be standalone organizations, like the Mount Rainier Community Tool Shed in Mount Rainier, Maryland. When looking for tool libraries in your area, ask if there are any restrictions on use of the tools. For example, the PEC Tool Lending Library supported by PG&E in California is designed specifically for energy-efficiency projects. Also, beware of late fees for overdue items.

If you can’t find a tool-lending program in your area, ask around. You could set up an informal lending program with friends and family or split the costs on expensive items you plan to share. Some retailers, such as Home Depot, let you rent items for a daily fee.

2. Buy used tools

When it comes to tools you want to own, consider buying used items. If you choose high-end brands known for quality tools, a secondhand item should be as sturdy and effective as a new product, and you’ll save money, too.

Before buying used tools, it helps to learn about the product. Go to a local hardware store to see the new items, so you have a foundation for comparison. Pay attention to the specs of your tool, and visit a variety of retailers to find the price range.

You can find used and reconditioned items at a number of retailers, including Home Depot, Acme Tools, Big Sky Tools and CPO Outlets. One benefit of a reconditioned item is that it may come with a warranty. Pawnshops are another source of used tools, since they carefully examine their merchandise and sell only functional, quality items. Using stores that are members of the National Pawnbrokers Association will help you avoid businesses with unethical practices. Thrift stores whose inventories don’t come from donations are also likely to have quality tools. If you need more flexibility to negotiate prices, check out flea markets, garage sales and live auctions.

No matter where you buy used tools, be sure to look them over carefully before you pay. Make sure all parts are there. If the manual is missing, you may be able to find it on the manufacturer’s website. Check the motor vent for dirt, buildup of grime and burn marks. With power tools, thoroughly examine the cord for any signs of defects, such as dents, bends and taped-over areas. Look at the plug’s prongs for signs of wear. In general, corded tools are a better choice than cordless, since there’s no way to know how long the battery will last. But if you find good used cordless tools, stick to ones that aren’t more than a year or two old.

If you’re shopping online, eBay, Craigslist, Overstock and Amazon can be great sources for used tools, but read the return policies carefully, since you won’t be able to examine the product before buying it.

3. Look for sales and discounts

Lowe’s, Home Depot and local Ace Hardware stores often feature post–Labor Day sales in early fall that feature discounts on paint, tools and more. If you’re planning a yard project, September is a good time to find deals on shrubs, bushes and landscaping plants.

For online shoppers, Amazon offers a wide selection of new tools at significant discounts year-round.

Written by Melinda Szell


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