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If you're a first-time homeowner, the thought of home improvement probably conjures visions of installing a state-of-the-art kitchen with the latest appliances, or a sprawling patio that transforms your backyard into an outdoor oasis. Not only do these projects boost the value of your home, but they're functional and fun to show off to friends and family.

Your fantasies probably didn't included electrical hazards, foundation problems or black mold lurking in your crawl space.

The reality is that home ownership often proves extremely unpredictable. However, one thing you CAN count on is spending a considerable amount of money on unglamorous maintenance projects you can't show off to neighbors, but will keep your home healthy.

Angie's List knows home ownership is unpredictable and chances are, you'll have to spend some big bucks on unglamorous maintenance projects. While you won't want to show these 3 projects off to the neighbors, they will keep your home healthy.

1. Repairing The Foundation

You might crack up at the thought of spending hard-earned money to repair the slow-growing crack that stair-steps up the basement wall, but foundation fissures are no joking matter. Not all cracks signal impending collapse, but have it checked out before it's too late. Problems can also arise over time due to various weather events such as drought and geological changes like soil's natural tendency to settle. Some of the signs of foundation problems are cracks in the interior walls, separations between the concrete blocks in a block foundation or cracks and crumbling of a concrete foundation. Other signs are doors that will not close properly and bulging floors.

Hiring Tip: Before you hire a foundation company to repair the damage, it may be a good idea to call a structural engineer. Rather than trying to sell a certain foundation repair system or product, a structural engineer will be able to provide an objective analysis of the problem and recommend the most effective and economical repair, which could save significant money. Although licensing is required for professional engineers in every state of the country, state regulations may vary. Make sure the professional engineer you hire is licensed to work in your state. A reputable engineer should have no problem providing his or her license number.

2. Removing Mold

Eliminating the patch of black mold hiding behind the bathroom wall may not be at the top of your to-do list, but failure to remove mold can cause serious respiratory problems. Make sure to hire a remediation company that pinpoints the source of the mold. Avoid the contractor who wants to paint over it.

Hiring Tip: If you suspect mold, have your home tested, but avoid having that same company do the remediation work. You want a separate, independent company to get rid of the mold.

3. Updating Electrical Wiring

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, half of all residential electric fires are due to a wiring issue, in particular, faulty outlets and old wiring. It costs several thousand dollars to rewire a home or modernize an aging electrical system, and what do you get to show for it besides a bunch of wires hidden in your walls and attic? You should at least sleep better knowing there's a decreased risk of fire because you removed the 1920s-era knob-and-tube system. Some signs of trouble include a spark from an outlet when you plug something in, a loose connection or a flickering light.

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