The Northwest Indiana Home Improvement Round Table

Ah, spring. The sun shines a little longer, the weather is a little nicer, and all that energy we have saved up hibernating in the winter manifests itself in the form of productivity.

And if you’re like many in Northwest Indiana, that productivity usually comes to fruition in the form of fixing up our home.

But before you go out and break out the power tools, Tim Taylors of The Region (insert: grunt), here’s a roundup of advice from some of the leading home and lawn improvement experts from around Northwest Indiana. Including: Bill Kaye from Von Tobel Lumber & Hardware; Mike Lovings from Lovings Heating and Cooling; Jack Hines from Hines Plumbing; Thomas Holley from Holley's Landscaping; our friends at One Guy With Tools, and Greg Rentschler from Timberseal.

Think Before You Whack:

When we spoke to our experts, the first piece of advice we heard across the board was simple: Know what you are doing before you start it, and for the love of Bob Vila, if you don’t know what you are doing, talk to an expert. They have all been there before and watched people spend way more money than they should because they thought they could just break out the hammer and weed-whacker and go to town without any long-term consequence.

“I see it all the time in landscaping,” said Thomas Holley of Holley’s Landscaping. “People spend a bunch of money on the wrong plants in the spring, or they don’t do anything to their lawn and then all the sudden there is a huge project in front of them that they spend way too much of their own money on trying to fix themselves.”

Holley says if this is the position you find yourself in, with a “yardageddon” looking lawn after winter, there’s no need to panic. It’s probably not as bad it looks.

“The reality is a lot of the projects, no matter how big they may appear,” Holley added, “might be a lot easier to do (thus, more cost effective) when put in the hands of people that know what they are doing.”

Which is great to know, because according to the experts we spoke with backyard and curb appeal is hot these days if you’re looking to spruce up your home to sell it on the market this summer.

“Backyards are up-and-coming,” said Holley. “Especially if you are selling a home. More and more people are putting the backyard as an important factor in purchasing.”

And Timberseal’s Greg Rentschler agrees.

Curb Appeal is a Big Deal:

“Curb appeal from any standpoint is huge,” Rentschler said. “And it’s important to stay on top of the maintenance. It’s kind of like a child, you don’t see them for a few years and all the sudden you do, and it’s like ‘wow, where did this person come from’?”

Rentschler and Timberseal specialize in cleaning and sealing decks and fences, as well as siding and log home restoration. As the name implies, they do a lot of work with wood; which as we all know, can rot if not maintained properly. This not only is a major curb appeal “no no,” but also an issue that can cost you a lot of money to make safe if left untreated until a little problem suddenly becomes a big one.

“The cleaning and sealing we do is not only cosmetic,” Rentschler added, “but also is essential to the long-term stability of your home.”

And that’s another point that the experts wanted to hammer in: That doing your job the right way, or investing in the right kind of materials and products will save you money in the long run.

So Invest Your Hard-Earned Money - Don't Just Spend It: 

Take Mike Loving, from Lovings Heating and Cooling for example, who’s walked into houses with heating and air conditioning units old as the homes themselves. These older models of A/C units and furnaces are essentially just freezing and burning your money on a monthly basis with how inefficient they are.

Mike said he’s seen people replace their old heating and air conditioning units with new ones and save up to 40% on their monthly heating and cooling bill. And if you’re spending on average of $100 per month, think of all the new gadgets you could buy with an extra $480 per year in your pocket.

“When fixing up your home, it’s important to think of the behind the scenes machinery as well,” Lovings said. “A new A/C unit is a great way to keep your home cool and cozy, while also saving you money. And, honestly, there’s really no better time to buy than now in the spring because of the fact that less people are thinking about an air conditioning unit when the weather is nice and comfortable.”

And Don't Flush Your Money Away:

And Hines plumbing’s Jack Hines reminds us that as important and cool as big, huge projects seem, don’t forget about the little changes you can make to save a lot of money as well.

“Older toilets are 3.5 gallon flush,” Hines said. “Replacing that with a newer, 1.6 gallon flush can save you money on every flush.”

“Or placing a water saver on your shower head,” Hines added. “These little, inexpensive things can make a big difference in saving you money.”

Hines also reminds you to think about, as many of the experts have said, the things you don’t see around the house during everyday life; like valves, drains, and lines under your sink.

“Backed up drains can cause a lot of damage, and in most cases insurance companies won’t cover this,“ Hines said. “Call someone out to have your main drain line snaked and videoed to see if it needs replaced to prevent a backup of sewage. Again, a small thing you can have someone do to prevent long-term damage.”

Get a Little Help From Your Friends:

Lastly, the experts want you to know that if you take a project on yourself make sure you have a plan, have the right materials, and don't be afraid to ask for help.

Because there are experts out there, like our friends over at One Guy with Tools, who specialize in assisting and taking care of some of the bigger projects around the home that can help you take care of the other projects on your to-do-list.

But in the end, no matter who's helping or doing the project, remember that you need the right tools and materials for the job.

"Using the right materials is essential in making sure the project you start lasts," Bill Kaye, Marketing Director for Von Tobel added. "We're always here to help at Von Tobel, and would be happy to point you in the right direction, and make sure you have the right materials to for the job."

"Like most things in life," Kaye concluded. "If you do it the right way the first time, you'll save yourself a lot of trouble going forward."

We couldn't agree more.