Live Well for Less

Want to beat the high cost of living in the Islands? Move to Minneapolis. Barring that, you can read this story, which has ideas on how to stretch your dollar.


(page 7 of 9)

Build In

You can live well for less, by having built-ins installed. Built-in furniture has recently seen a resurgence in Hawaii’s building and remodeling industry, because they: 1) maximize space and function 2) add a rich, classic look, and 3) custom fit storage into odd spaces, such as alcoves, unusual corners and recessed walls.

While a well-crafted built-in will make your house more enjoyable to live in, it can also increase your home’s value. “Built-in bookshelves, closets and pantries are all perks,” says Cedric Choi, realtor associate and managing director of Choi International. “It makes the property more attractive.” Experts say that potential buyers view built-ins, such as entertainment centers, art niches and wall units, as “free furniture.” But they have to be done right, Choi warns. “If you’re wrong on that yellow-and-paisley plastic kitchen chair, people can take it out,” he says. “But, if you install a schlocky built-in, it’s only going to hurt you.”

Rick Cowan, president of design firm Archipelago Refined Island Interiors, agrees that built-ins should be well thought out. “Since a built-in is a permanent part of the home’s structure,” he says, “it should blend into the home’s architecture and add to its character.”

Every custom touch brings you one step closer to your ideal living space. The downfall? You can’t pack it up and take it with you when it’s time to move on.

QUICK TIP: to prevent sagging shelves or separating drawers, make certain the installer uses substantial materials and does quality work.

(left) photo: Augie Salbosa/courtesy of Archipelago (center) Even a small place can be turned into a chic office area. photo: Augie Salbosa/courtesy of Archipelago (right) Expand your culinary repertoire--and your cabinets.


Home Improvement: DIY vs. Professional Help

When is it cheaper to do a home-improvement project yourself? When is it smarter to hire a professional? Frank Suster of City Mill offers the following rule of thumb: If you’re replacing or repairing a preexisting part, consider it a DIY project. If you’re installing something new, think about professional help.

“Homeowners can attempt a replacement project like a light switch, because many times installing a new one is just a matter of reversing the steps you took to remove it. It’s pretty simple.” On the other hand, he says, to install a switch where one doesn’t exist, the average homeowner should call a professional electrician.

Ask yourself the following five questions:

  1. Do you have the time and patience for a DIY project? “For example, painting can certainly be a DIY project, but the painting is the easy part,” Suster explains. “The hard part is cleaning, spackling and taping off the walls and windows. It’s not instant gratification.”
  2. Have you read up on it? Get online, buy a book or pick up a “Do It Yourself” pamphlet at any home center.
  3. Do you have the time to learn as you go? “When people go to the store, they want to buy everything they need to complete the project. But it’s almost impossible,” Suster says. “You’re going to forget something or end up needing something you didn’t expect.” Expect a trip or two back to the store.
  4. Do you have the tools you need to do the job right? If not, is the cost of new tools cheaper than hiring an expert? Are the tools ever going to be used again, or are they just for a one-time fix?
  5. Can you bring the broken item with you to the store? Suster explains, “Toilet seats are the No. 1 returned item at City Mill. And homeowners only really have two choices—round or elongated. It’s a 50/50 proposition, and they’re wrong half the time.”


>> Home-Maintenance Checklist:

Regardless of the age of your house, it needs a biannual check-up. Here’s a top-to-bottom checklist to keep your home in shape year round. —Aimee Harris

Air conditioner: Air-conditioning systems must be kept clean in order to cool a home efficiently. Grass, leaves, fuzz and dust can accumulate on the air conditioner’s coils, causing it to work harder and wear out sooner.

Bug check: Inspect exposed wood for signs of termites and rot.

Filters: Clean or replace filters once a month, or as needed. Check and clean dryer vent, air conditioner, stove hood and room fans. Keep cooling vents clean and free from furniture and draperies.

Garden: Cut back trees or branches touching the sides of the roof or house.

Gutters: Clean gutters and drain pipes so leaves don’t clog them. Make sure they drain away from the house.

Hot-water heater: Drain hot-water heater. Remove sediment from the bottom of the tank.

Refrigerator: Make sure the seals on the refrigerator and freezer are airtight. Test them by closing the door over a dollar bill. If you can pull the bill out easily, the latch may need to be adjusted or the seal may need to be replaced. In addition, if you have a coil-back refrigerator, vacuum the coils to make it run more efficiently.

Roof: Check roof, vents, skylights and chimneys for leaks. Repair as necessary.

Safety equipment: Ensure that all smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers are in good working order. Replace batteries as needed, or at least twice each year. The Honolulu Fire Department says that one out of every three smoke detectors in Hawaii does not work because the batteries are dead.

Siding and paint: Look for cracks and holes in house siding or paint. Replace caulk if necessary.

Water sources: Once a year, turn off every water source in the home, and then check your water meter outside. If you see the arrow moving, that means you have a leak. It may be a broken pipe underground or your toilet flapper may be dripping water. Turn the water back on and check for leaky faucets in the kitchen and bathroom(s). Replace washers as necessary.

Windows and doors: Seal drafty doors and windows. If you added up all of the small cracks where cooling escapes from a home, it would be the same as having a window open. Replace seals as needed. Take off the screens (if removable) and spray them down with a hose. Check and patch them, if necessary. Dust louvered blinds.

Cleaning your stove? Don’t wrap stovetop drip pans in foil. Instead, run them through the dishwasher to clean them, or replace them.

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Honolulu Magazine June 2018
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