Plug your money leaks

You don't need to spend big bucks to tackle sorely needed home-improvement projects. These smart short-term fixes can do the job.

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Even the merest bit of moisture seeping in during rainstorms can lead to rot and mold inside walls.

Cheap fix: Patch the problem areas. For example, hire a handyman to apply mastic to a leaky plumbing vent stack (cost: about $100) or chimney (about $150) or repair flashing around a skylight ($250 to $500). These methods should keep water out for at least a year or two.

Slightly less cheap fix: Replace just a section of the roof -- say, the south side, which gets the most sun and therefore has likely degraded the most. Cost: about $2,000 to $4,000 for a 20-by-30-foot area, including labor.

Make the fix last longer: Trim back any trees that overhang the roof; they can foster mold growth and other problems. Keep limbs five to 10 feet away. Cost: $150 to $600 a tree, done by a pro.

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Last updated September 03 2009: 5:14 PM ET
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