Ask Angie’s List: When is it a good idea to save or splurge?


When it comes to home maintenance projects, does it make sense to invest in the best? Short answer: sometimes, but not always. Sometimes, you can get away with middle-of-the-road options without much sacrifice in function. Other tasks are worth paying more for the best possible quality.

Check out the tasks below to learn where you can save and where to splurge on home maintenance projects.

Where to splurge

Replacing windows

Spend more upfront for quality windows, and you’ll be rewarded with lower energy bills. You need specialized tools and expertise to ensure a well-insulated and secure fit, so better to leave installation to the pros.

Repairing or replacing roof

The roof protects your entire house, so hire a reputable roofing contractor to install the best quality product you can afford. Plus, some roof materials have 50-plus year warranties, so you’ll likely only have to pay for this maintenance project once.

Cleaning and repairing gutters

Neglect this task and you risk causing costly damage due to clogged gutters and leaks, which can cause interior and exterior water damage and pest infestations.

Trimming trees

Working with sharp tools several feet off the ground presents a double danger. Not to mention that if you lack tree-trimming expertise, you risk injuring passersby below and causing damage to your tree. Spend the extra money on hiring a pro to complete this task.

Where to save

Mounting expensive smoke detectors

In most cases, standard battery-powered and hardwired smoke detectors work well for their intended purpose. Wireless models with special features like remote control silencers and voice alarms are nice if you love smart-home technology but not must-haves.

Experts generally recommend having a smoke alarm on each level of your home, including in your basement, each bedroom and the hallways. Check local fire codes to make sure your home is fully equipped.

Installing a programmable thermostat

You don’t need a top-of-the-line thermostat to save money on heating and cooling costs – basic programmable models start around $100. You can install yourself or have an HVAC Pro handle it. While an easy enough DIY project, most HVAC companies can install them if you don’t feel comfortable.

Changing HVAC filter

Inexpensive pleated HVAC filters work just as well as more expensive high-efficiency electrostatic ones in most cases, as long as you replace them every three months. Sometimes electrostatic filters trap so much dirt and debris that they cause HVAC systems to work overtime.

If you have allergies or live with smokers, the extra purification electrostatic filters provide may be worth the higher air quality.

Ceramic tile

Designer tile made of natural stone or glass is certainly striking, but an affordable ceramic tile can deliver an elegant look for a fraction of the cost. Plus, it’s often much easier to maintain. If there’s a particular designer tile you like, consider using it as an accent to really stand out.

Paul F. P. Pogue is a reporter for Angie’s List, a trusted provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services from top-rated providers. Visit

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