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DIY home improvement: you don't have to be scared to tackle some projects on your own, says contractor Terry White.

Q: With the current economy, I want to save money wherever possible. What are some home improvements, especially to weatherize, that I can make myself? (I don't have much experience with renovation projects.)

--Jeremy J., Asheville, NC

A: You can do a lot of the typical improvements yourself, i.e. caulk around your windows, install weatherstripping, put up a fresh coat of paint, etc. And while it takes planning to do bigger and more complicated projects, you can tackle some, even if you lack confidence and have never done a home improvement project before.

For example, homeowners can remodel a kitchen or a bathroom, build a deck, change interior walls, hang doors and trim, and even add an addition themselves (with the right guidance).

Replacing old windows is a good project to start with and one that Will improve your home and help get you ready for fall and winter.

Typical older windows utilize ropes and weights to help them slide up and down, and they usually, but not always, have access covers on either side in order to get to the weights to repair the ropes. If you remove the wooden stops around the inside of the window, you can remove the bottom window. Then, if you remove the small square stops that nun the full height of the window, you can remove the upper window. With just these few steps, you're more than halfway through the replacement!

The cavities where the window weights are held are often neglected areas when installing replacement windows. You have a one-inch or a three-quarter-inch trim board on the outside of the window and a three-quarter-inch trim board on the inside, with nothing in between except a way for cold air to penetrate. Once you have the access panels removed, you can take out the weights and stuff insulation in the cavity using a flexible stick or plastic pipe. Break out the pulleys, and you're ready to insert the new window.

Once the windows are in, you can replace the wooden stops that you removed from the very inside of the window. Caulk around the inside and the outside of the new window and you have an airtight window ready for winter.

To shop for replacement windows, contact a window company; they'll usually send a representative to your house and measure all the openings and give you a price, based on the style of window you want. The majority of companies will give you a free estimate.

Remodeling magazine's Costs vs. Value Report for 2008-2009 states that the average cost in this part of the country for installing 10 three-by-five foot replacement windows of mid-range pricing is $9,496. You can purchase these windows for $200-$300. Multiplying that price by ten equals $3,000. So you can see, the money you save from putting in your own sweat equity is definitely worth it. The savings also gives you financial wiggle room to purchase a compressor and nail gun kit, which will make the window, and any other project, go much faster and easier.

I recently helped replace the windows at my daughter's house. She nailed all the window stops herself, and it looks like an expert did it. She had no trouble with the nail guns, as she may have had with a hammer and nail set. The typical cost of the compressor and guns is $275 or less at your local home improvement store. Also, check for tax credits for improvements at

Terry White, licensed contractor and owner of Earth Wise Builders, offers a DIY home remodeling mentoring service to make home improvement projects affordable and possible for anyone willing to put sweat equity into their home. Find more information at
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Title Annotation:HEALTHY HOME Q&A
Author:White, Terry
Publication:New Life Journal
Date:Sep 1, 2009
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