Risk: If your house was built 
before 1994 and still has the original plumbing fixtures, you’re using 
30 to 40 percent more water than 
a comparable new home. Because about 70 percent of the water flowing through the showerhead is hot, 
that means higher heating bills too. A basic showerhead can cost just $15 and could pay for itself in reduced water and heating costs after just one month. Calculate your 
savings at epa.gov/watersense/watersense-calculator.
This summer, they decided to paint the frames black, which cost $900. Mr. Sievers, a special-education teacher, and his wife, a doctor, could have done the work themselves, a solution that do-it-yourself enthusiasts would suggest. But the doors face the street, and the couple wanted the end result to look polished. “My dad and my uncle used to always do home repairs and everything used to come out uneven or crooked,” Mr. Sievers said. So he paid a professional.
This summer, they decided to paint the frames black, which cost $900. Mr. Sievers, a special-education teacher, and his wife, a doctor, could have done the work themselves, a solution that do-it-yourself enthusiasts would suggest. But the doors face the street, and the couple wanted the end result to look polished. “My dad and my uncle used to always do home repairs and everything used to come out uneven or crooked,” Mr. Sievers said. So he paid a professional.
Upholstery shops charge almost $200 to fix tears in your seats. You can do it yourself in a few hours with a vinyl and leather repair kit (less than $20) from any auto parts store. You’ll have to practice a bit to get the right color mix and it might not be a perfect match when you’re done, but it’s a heck of a lot better than driving around with torn seats. Start by gluing reinforcing fabric onto the underside of the torn vinyl or leather. Then mix the heat-set filler to match your fabric color and apply it to the tear. Next, find a textured mat that most closely resembles the texture of your vinyl or leather and place it onto the liquid filler. Heat the patching tool with a clothes iron and press it onto the textured mat. Remove the patching tool, but leave the textured mat in place until the patch cools. Then peel it off. Get the full story on repairing leather here.
When you hire a contractor or specialist, they usually supply the materials, and often at a markup. If they don't provide the materials, they may not guarantee a repair, or your choices are limited to what they have in stock. When you choose your own materials, you know how much the product costs, and you can stay within your budget. You also get to choose the manufacturer, finish and register any warranty agreement.

If you are willing to buy and pick up the materials yourself, you avoid paying for shopping and pick-up time. But you may find it inconvenient, strenuous, and time-consuming to pick up a load of bricks, a few large sheets of plywood, or similar items. If the company will be doing the shopping and buying, get the company to commit to the time and cost for that task; some will agree that there will be no extra charge.
Inspect and replace your engine air filter. Just unscrew or unclip the air filter box retainers and remove the old filter. Then hold a shop light behind the filter to see how much light passes through. If the filter blocks 50 percent of more of the light, replace the filter. If not, put it back in, secure the air filter box cover and keep driving. Get the full step-by-step on changing your air filter here. It’s one of the easier things you can do to fix up cars.
This summer, they decided to paint the frames black, which cost $900. Mr. Sievers, a special-education teacher, and his wife, a doctor, could have done the work themselves, a solution that do-it-yourself enthusiasts would suggest. But the doors face the street, and the couple wanted the end result to look polished. “My dad and my uncle used to always do home repairs and everything used to come out uneven or crooked,” Mr. Sievers said. So he paid a professional.
Workers often have strong backgrounds in some areas—say, carpentry—and know enough to do small jobs related to other trades. If your list primarily consists of projects related to one type of work, ask prospective companies if they have workers with expertise in that area. We get scads of complaints from consumers who hire jacks-of-all-trades but get workers who don’t have the knowledge or skill to complete work satisfactorily.
Need your garage door repaired? Odds are, once you account for materials, labor and unforeseen hiccups, you’ll be writing a check for a grand. Your sump pump died? A new one could cost you around $600 for parts and labor, which doesn’t seem so bad considering the alternative is a flooded basement. But then the plumber might discover that the pipe carrying the water from the house to the street is clogged with years’ of debris and needs to be flushed out. And maybe there’s a blockage somewhere. There you have it: $1,000.
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