When times are tight, the previously disposable becomes a little more valuable—or at least worthy of a second look. Instead of tossing something out, we’re more inclined to fix it, care for it or maybe just shine it up a bit. So before you replace, reconsider what you have and how to make it look better or last longer. Here are some suggestions on what to fix—and who can help you do it.
In a sagging economy, homeowners are inclined to curtail “capital expenditures” —a fancy economist’s term for money spent on existing facilities or operations. But your home isn’t a factory or an office building. It’s where you live. And if you’re simply unable to live with the sorry condition of wood floors distressed by years of use and abuse, you might want to turn to Vincent Rodriguez of Vincent’s Hardwood Flooring (10 Glenbrook Road, Ardmore; 610-896-6380, vincentsfloors.com). He’ll visit your home, assess your needs and recommend a level of service appropriate for your floor’s condition—whether it’s severely damaged or scuffed from daily use. For most refinish jobs, Rodriguez sands down to fresh wood, applies stain, and tops things off with three coats of oil-based polyurethane to seal and protect his work. The company is bonded and insured, and Rodriguez personally supervises all work.
Average cost to repair: $1,100 to refinish 400 square feet.
Cost to replace: $4,000 (including materials and labor) for a new oak floor from Lowe’s.
In our modern world, computers may well be the most disposable electronic devices ever, their usefulness expiring in the wake of vast memory expansions and software changes—often in little more than six years. But for younger computers, there is still some potential for salvation, says David Umpierre of Om3ga PC Services in Exton (610-955-1052, om3gapcrepair.com).
For machines still running Windows XP, Umpierre recommends an immediate upgrade to Windows Vista (soon to become the sole platform Microsoft supports). It’s likely that the same unit—assuming it’s a desktop rather than a laptop—could easily handle a memory upgrade from 512 megabytes of RAM to two gigabytes. Also frustrating is a computer bogged down by viruses and other unwanted online bugs. Om3ga can perform “disinfections” and install anti-spyware programs to keep those little buggers from returning.
Average cost to repair: $137.50 for a two-gigabyte RAM upgrade on a four-year-old 512-megabyte unit.
Cost to replace: $498.99 for a Gateway Desktop with Intel Pentium Dual Core Processor at Best Buy, King of Prussia.
Utility companies have us by our turtle-necked throats as we attempt to achieve some level of affordable warmth during the colder months. In response to ever- rising energy costs, many homeowners have turned to their fireplaces. But before you go snuggling in front of that blazing stack of wood on a regular basis, get your chimney checked by D.J. Cross Inc. (2 Old Pennell Road, Media; 610-494-4390, djcrossinc.com). In homes more than 100 years old, masons often cut corners on chimneys, leading to significant problems in modern times. Second-generation chimney sweep Ben Cross will make sure there aren’t any major blockages or structural problems that could lead to a potentially devastating house fire. Should you decide to burn your fireplace more frequently as a primary or secondary heat source, he also recommends an annual inspection. And because many oil and gas central heating systems vent through a chimney, those outlets should be checked and cleaned regularly, too.
Cost to repair: $281 for service call and cleaning of fireplace flue.
Cost to replace: How much is your house insured for?
Savings: In energy use, potentially hundreds of dollars. In avoiding a tragedy, incalculable.
A couple’s declining financial health can have a profoundly negative effect on a relationship. Just looking at the short-term costs of breaking up a long-term marriage (10 years or more) can make your blood run cold. So, if things around your house aren’t exactly the very picture of nuptial bliss, you might be better served by taking some preemptive measures against dissolution. Arlene Foreman, a member of the Philadelphia Area Couples Counseling Alliance (Ardmore, acenterformarriage-counseling.com, 888-528-6407), can help you recognize underlying problems and come to terms with issues like job loss and infidelity.
Cost to repair: $1,800 for a weekly one-hour marital counseling session (at $150/hour) for three months.
Cost to replace: Perhaps as much as $500,000-plus for a divorce, including spousal and child support over the lifetime of the judgment.
It’s an unfortunate truth that people are filthy—and so are their cars. But nowadays, if that S Class runs, stops when it’s supposed to and passed its last inspection, it’s hard to justify a new one simply because of a little dirt. Instead, swing by Lyons Detailing in Wayne (236 E. Lancaster Ave., 610-989-WAXX, lyonsdetailing.com) and get your internal-combustion baby the full automotive spa treatment. Lyons handles detailing duties for many of the Main Line’s high-end car dealers. Services run the gamut from a simple wash/vacuum to a complete makeover that includes an exterior wash and wax, as well as an interior cleaning.
If your car’s defects go beyond the cosmetic, turn to the folks at Classic Coachwork of the Main Line (228 E. Lancaster Ave., Wayne; 610-687-0799, classiccoachwork.com). They’ll smooth out the dents and flatten the dings with all the expertise that more than 20 years in the business can bring.
Cost to repair: $275 for a complete detail at Lyons.
Cost to replace: $87,475 for a Mercedes-Benz S550 at Mercedes-Benz of West Chester.
With spring on the way, and these lean economic times showing no sign of fattening up by summer, mowing your own lawn may be looking more like a viable option. Of course, it helps to have a machine that works. Bill Neff, president of Main Line Mower (526 Lancaster Ave., Berwyn; 610-647-6047, mainlinemower.com) has seen just about everything in his 31 years of selling and repairing lawn- and tree-care equipment, and he knows how to ensure that your machines work when they should. Lately that’s become even more important, in light of the widespread use of ethanol-fortified gasoline, which eats away at the carburetors and plastic and rubber parts of engines. “To play it safe, you shouldn’t buy any more gas than you’re going to use in the next 30 days,” he says.
To avoid engine damage and costly repairs, Neff recommends high-quality gasoline with a lower ethanol content. At the end of the season, winterize equipment by draining or burning all fuel and oil prior to storage. Closer to spring, visit Main Line Mower for a tune-up that includes flushing the fuel system, cleaning the carburetor, inspecting the air filter and blade, and installing a new spark plug.
Cost to repair: Around $100 (depending on parts) to tune up a push mower.
Average cost for a season of landscaping service: $2,100 weekly.
Are those leather-soled Kenneth Coles you bought after that last promotion a little worse for wear? Never fear. You didn’t make a purchase so much as an investment, and Joe Pisano of Pisano and Son Shoe & Orthopedic Service (108 W. Market St., West Chester, 610-436-4883; 5 Channing Ave., Malvern, 610-647-4583; Village of Eland, Suite 704, Phoenixville, 610-933-1599) can help you get the most from your initial outlay. A pair that set you back more than $200 new can often be made as good as new for around $50. And women’s shoes—which are especially prone to wearing out—can be repaired for as little as $10, regardless of quality. There’s less Pisano can do for rubber or plastic soles. But if the wear isn’t dramatic, a good shine and a pair of new laces can turn back the clock.
Average cost to repair: $30
Cost to replace: Men’s Kenneth Cole Tea Time Oxfords, $185 at Benjamin Lovell Shoes, Glen Mills Center, Chadds Ford.
Perhaps your corporate attire is a little out of style—or maybe even pinching a bit from all that recession-fueled binge eating. These days, instead of buying high and hoping for the best, aim for what’s already in the closet and sharpen it up. That in mind, a great tailor can be the perfect remedy for the minor wardrobe blahs. The experts at Parisian Dry Cleaners & Tailors (11 N. Walnut St., West Chester, 610-696-0731) can update and revive tired suits with a few tweaks and a good dry cleaning. Even if it’s something as small as taking in a jacket, looking fresh and fitted will carry you a long way past those other schlubs.
Average cost to repair: $60
Cost to replace: Men’s Dolce & Gabbana classic suit, $1,395 at Neiman Marcus, King of Prussia.
Granted, you can always take pictures with your cell phone. But nothing beats the quality and reliability of the real thing. After all, do you really want to burden Grandma with the grainy, low-quality images of Junior’s sand castle you snapped between calls? We think not. So you’d better get that camera fixed—and soon. At Larmon Photo (111 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne, 610-688-8755; 31 E. Wynnewood Road, Wynnewood, 610-649-2627; larmonphoto.com), repairs are done in-house by a certified technician. “In most cases, we do them cheaper than the factory, and we also guarantee our work for three years,” says Larmon’s Daniel Stahlecker.
Most of the problems Stahlecker sees are the result of the camera being dropped, or damaged by water or sand. Most are easily fixed with a new lens or computer board—or something as simple as a good cleaning. And those wedded to their point-and-shoots can take heart—Larmon fixes those, too.
Average cost to repair: $120
Cost to replace: $1,300 for a Nikon D90 kit with an 18-105mm Nikkor lens.
So you’ve transformed your kitchen into the sort of culinary laboratory that’s the envy of foodies far and wide. Naturally, you’ve included a high-end Sub Zero refrigerator therein. Good for you—but just because you paid a premium doesn’t mean there’s zero maintenance. Robby Keith, owner of Appliance Repair Service Inc. in Havertown (860 Sussex Blvd, appliance-repairservice.com, 610-544-7500)), estimates that nearly one third of his service calls could be eliminated if customers simply read their owner’s manuals and followed the recommendations for minimal upkeep. Keith’s crew specializes in Sub Zero and Wolf appliances, using only factory parts.
Cost to repair: $100 for annual cleaning, service and safety inspection of any Sub Zero product.
Cost to replace: $15,000 for a Sub Zero Pro 48 refrigerator.
Should you choose to shop for furniture these days, now’s the time to look for steals—those hidden gems collecting dust at your local antique shop or consignment store. But once you acquire said diamond in the rough, how best to make it shine again? Leave that to Jim Hoffman at A.QuarterSawn in Upland (555 Upland Ave., 610-368-7889, aquartersawn.com). Hoffman is a craftsman adept at restoring—or, if need be, completely rebuilding—everything from family heirlooms to flea market finds. His services entail everything from touch-ups and brightening to complete restorations. The latter usually involves removing fixtures and the old finish, starting again with color-matched stain, and applying a catalyzed lacquer that seals and protects.
Cost to repair: $625 to refinish a 1930s-era maple bed (headboard, footboard and side boards, including tightening/repairing of fittings, joints and hardware).
Cost to replace: Stickley Mission Harvey Ellis Oak queen bed, $2,545 at Sheffield Furniture, Malvern.