Frugal Ways to Fix-Up Your Home

Dear Rich Lifer,

How can you make your home the best possible place for your retirement?

Should you stay in your current home?

Should you downsize into something similar, but with fewer bedrooms and bathrooms and less square footage?

Should you move into a more future-focused home such as a one-story with wider hallways?

Or should you plan on moving somewhere down the line, like a senior apartment complex or – if it came down to it – an assisted living facility?

For most people, it makes good financial sense to retrofit their current home into one that’s geared towards aging in place.

But remodeling can be costly and stressful, and, at the end of the day, who’s to say you’ll even use these upgrades? No one wants to spend money and time on a construction project that doesn’t pan out…

I’ve rounded up the most common upgrades and changes for aging in place, and whether or not they are worth making. Let’s start in…

The Kitchen

Change Up The Appliance Configuration

Instead of an over-the-range microwave, consider a lower built in microwave or even a countertop model. Because you’ll no longer be lifting hot and potentially heavy dishes from up high, you’ll stay safer from burns – and less likely to damage your cooktop with a dropped item.

This change isn’t cheap, but it is one that affects your everyday life, so consider it a high priority.

Add Ergonomic Drawer and Cabinet Pulls 

Manual dexterity can be a challenge for people suffering from arthritis or other nerve issues, so opening a full or partial overlay cabinet with just fingertips can be a real problem. To circumvent this, add in easy-to-grip drawer and cabinet hardware. Focus on handles instead of knobs – they’re much easier for aching hands to grasp.

There’s no need to splurge on this hardware, either, If you want the expensive stuff, go for it, but the bargain stuff from Home Depot works just as well.

Lower Switches And Raise Outlets

Being in a wheelchair or walker is a reality many of us will face at some point in our lives – either because of some long term malady or because of a need to recover from surgery or injury. If you hire an electrician to adjust your outlets and switches, you’ll be prepared for this instance well in advance.

An electrician can be on the pricey side, and you’ll need a drywall and paint touch up, too, but this is a nice convenience to have. If you have extra cash for your remodeling plan, add this in.

Moving on to…

The Bathroom

Change Up The Shower

From roll-in showers to accessible tubs, there are many ways to upgrade your bathing situation. You want to make sure you can get in and then get out safely without a slip, fall, or head injury. This is the difference between relative freedom and having to get help every day of your life.

As in other overhauls, this change is costly, but it’s completely worth it. If you want to save on this remodel, consider simple ceramic or porcelain tiles for the surround. Decorative tiles are nice, but not necessary, so don’t add them to the job unless you’re sure you can.

Add Grab Bars

While you’re retrofitting your shower, add in blocking and then grab bars, too. Another great place to add these helpful holds is in the water closet or around the toilet area.

There are few things more humiliating than asking for help after toileting, so this inexpensive little addition will help you maintain your home and your dignity. This small addition is completely worth it.

Won’t you please join me in…

The Common Area

Clear Up The Flooring

If you have tile, hardwood, or linoleum, congratulations! These are the easiest types of flooring to maintain and enjoy throughout your golden years. If you absolutely must keep carpet, consider a low-pile or looped berber style of carpeting – they’re easier to maneuver over and less likely to cause trips.

Oh, and while I’m on the topic of tripping, get rid of all your area rugs ASAP. These pretty design elements cause more trips and falls than any other flooring material.

In terms of cost, you can save big if you buy your flooring materials from a discount flooring store like Floor and Decor or a big box retailer like Home Depot. Many of Home Depot’s floor tiles and wood products are manufactured by Daltile, American Olean, and Mohawk – and they’re basically identical to what you’d get in a high priced flooring showroom. Saving this way is practically a no brainer.

Swap Door Knobs for Door Handles

As mentioned above, knobs aren’t as easy to grasp as lever-type handles. Luckily, this is such an easy fix you can do it yourself, and it’s usually only two screws to remove and then add back.

Start changing your knobs out a few at a time now and you can amortize the cost out over time, so you won’t even have a big outlay for new handles.

Open Up The Walkways

Narrow hallways are difficult to navigate when your physical wellbeing is compromised. Removing a wall or simply moving it to widen a hallway sounds like a huge undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be for the right contractor or a skilled handyman.

This change is usually available at a medium price point, but a wide enough walkway could mean the difference between staying in your home and being forced to move out, so it’s definitely worth the cost.

No matter what changes you decide to make around your home, consult a few highly-recommended and licensed tradespeople before you pay any of them a dime.

Make sure they understand the scope of your project, and of course work from a contract, and then choose the one who fits your needs best.

Spending a little more on good contractor is always worth the expenditure. After all, the price of paying a cheap guy who turns out to be a fly-by-night loafer is a cost no one wants to bear.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

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Nilus is the editor for the daily e-letter The Rich Life Roadmap and a Paradigm Press analyst.

Nilus began his professional career at Jono Steinberg’s Individual Investor Group, where he published his original research through a regular investment column. Later, he worked for a private equity business and spent five years editing Standard and Poor’s...

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