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ELECTION 2022

Constant repair saves your money

CARTOON
By | Feb 27th 2012 | 4 min read

By JOHN KARIUKI

A popular Kiswahili proverb goes, Usipoziba ufa utajenga ukuta. Literary, the proverb means one is bound to build an entire wall if he or she fails to seal a crack in good time.

Unfortunately, scores of people fall in this category financially. They periodically replace everything at once, ranging from cars to clothes, at colossal sums whereas little constant repair would have saved them this fortune.

Such demand has resulted to the cleverly soothe loans going by the names of "home improvement" and "personal makeover?"

Such financial products and the discordance with which they are marketed make them appealing.

The way they are promoted cuts a line, marking a clear departure with the old and familiar items.

They present new and exciting versions that give one the same service at a higher cost. This creates a costly "use and dump" consumer culture without thoughts of repairs.

Markets have conditioned us to sexy and progressive appeals to sell off electrical appliances, cars and mobile phones and so on at the slightest signs of faults than seek specialists who can restore them.

The consequences of neglecting routine fixes include preventable household accidents and deaths.

Alfred Nyambu, a Nakuru landlord, had been ignoring the chipped tiles paving the paths outside his rental houses for many years. "I would hire young men to collect the chipped pieces and fill the resulting gaps with stones," he says.

The paths held on but a new problem arose. "As that paving tiles were gradually replaced by stones, rain water started seeping into the foundation from the virtually porous footpaths," says Nyambu. Some clients started complaining of dampness in their rooms.

Nyambu had to engage a professional contractor who diagnosed the problem as poor drainage due to the unpaved paths. "The total costing for fixing the problem came to Sh200,000," says Nyambu.

Nyambu’s only option was to handle the repairs or wait to see the seepage erode one wing of his rental houses with the possibility of sinking them down in a matter of years.

Nyambu has learnt importance of repairs and maintenance from the problem. "Whenever a problem is reported, be it a broken windowpane or faulty hinges, a repairman fixes it the same day," he says.

According to Ms Margaret Okutoi, a personal finance expert and banker, the seemingly little costs of replacing small things adds up to an arm and a leg cumulatively.

"If you add up the cost of replacing unserviceable umbrellas, torn school bags and shoes and other reparable items, it comes to a tidy sum," she says.

Ms Okutoi adds that many people have lost the basic skills of mending clothes with sewing needles, repairing furniture, electrical and water fixtures and so on. "As a result, minor faults progress into major breakdowns that are costly to rectify," she says.

Prioritizing issues

She advises the affected to hire reputable contractors and renovators when carrying out maintenance in their homes. "But often this is easier said than done and people engage quacks who don’t do a good job but charge exorbitantly in the long run as many of them may address the same problem without fixing it," she says.

In the course of her work, Ms Okutoi has seen clients battle termites at their houses at huge cost, until she engaged the right professionals who solved the problem permanently. "This man would hire ‘village experts’ who would come with all sorts of remedies from used engine oil to turpentine but the professionals came with fumigation chemicals, treated the timber and destroyed the insects’ breeding ground," she says.

She adds that people should plan and budget for repairs every year, and hire qualified contractors and renovators.

Increasing frequency

Ronny Mwaniki, an artisan says home repairs should be done often to save money. "Since everything does not have to be done at once, one should have a timetable for fixing things in their order of priority," he says.

He adds that one should tackle the safety concerns first like door locks, gates, light fixtures, windows and fences. "If your budget allows, you can repair things that are of cosmetic value like water sprinklers, chandeliers, picture frames and painting a house and so on," he says. "If this is done regularly, one can avoid taking loans to finance his or her repairs when everything comes to a standstill.

People can save money by doing small to moderate home repairs themselves. And if one is not the "handy" type, a little investment in Do-It-Yourself books is advisable.

Like any other job, bargain with contractors to handle major repairs.

The trick is hiring them when they are idle with no major contracts. If one has a series of jobs that need to be done, he or she can engage one contractor and negotiate for a discount.

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