Browse Month

March 2016

Recession-Resistant Renovations

Upgrade Siding
When your siding has seen better days, upgrading it just might be one of the best investments you can make for your home, no matter what the economic climate. Since siding functions as a shield for the materials it covers, the better siding you have, the longer those materials are likely to last. Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value report revealed that installing fiber-cement siding generally recovers over 87% of construction costs in added resale value. This makes upgrading from vinyl or aluminum to fiber-cement the best investment nationwide when it comes to recouping your costs!

Bathroom Enhancements
Though often the smallest rooms in the house, your bathroom can have a dramatic impact on your day-to-day life. Bathrooms also pack quite a punch when it comes time to put your property on the market, and remodeling your bathroom can mean the difference between a home that’s sold quickly and one that stays on the market for years.

The average cost of a bathroom remodel over the last quarter was around $10,200. Out of a pool of 3,000 homeowners who found their bathroom contractors through SM, 9 out of 10 were not only pleased with their project, but would recommend it to others. When you think of the money and resources that get wasted by leaky pipes, dripping faucets, inefficient shower heads and obsolete toilets and, add the hassle of waiting for mirrors to clear up, waiting for hot water (or running out too soon) and dealing with water pressure problems it’s easy to see why so many folks are so happy with their new bathrooms!

While not technically a renovation, an inspection is a sound enough investment in shaky economic times that we had to include it in this list. The beauty of an inspection lies not in what it does for your property, but what it prevents. For instance, a chimney cleaning will often cost around $310, where a chimney fire can cost you thousands in property damage. Inspections are available for many of your home’s systems (roofing, foundation, waterproofing, etc.) and can either identify small problems before they become large or give you peace of mind that your home is in good shape!

Enhance Flooring
Few things can make a room shine like good flooring. Fortunately, flooring upgrades are also an excellent investment in just about any home. One of the nice things about replacing a floor with a more durable material is that you can really get your money’s worth. For instance, while carpet remains the least costly flooring material, the National Home Builder’s Association puts its life expectancy at 8 to 10 years “with appropriate maintenance and normal foot traffic.” Though definitely more costly, natural hardwood’s life expectancy is “100 years or more.” So, by upgrading, you might be spending a little more in the short term, but you can rest easy knowing that you (or even the next owners of your property) won’t have to bear the expense of flooring replacement!

Small Kitchen Remodels
In much the same way as bringing a bathroom up to par is almost always a good investment, minor kitchen improvements are generally a safe bet. Unfortunately, going overboard during a kitchen remodel is common, and many folks end up spending way more than they planned before the job is finished. To keep your investment budget-friendly, focus on the things that really need attention, and leave the elements of the room that are functioning just fine intact.

General Guidelines for Recession-Proof Remodeling
During uncertain economic times, the adage “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it” is certainly appropriate in many cases. However, to be completely accurate, you may want to add something to the effect of “If it’s slightly broken, fix it now.” “If it’s working fine, but it’s costing you plenty to operate, get a better model” might be another good phrase to live by. Basically, any remodeling project runs the risk of being more trouble than it is worth, but, in a nutshell, hard times call for projects that will not only make your property look better, but will help it function more efficiently for years to come!

Simple Ways to Transform a Room on a Budget

Simple Ways to Transform a Room on a BudgetInterior designers know the quickest and most inexpensive way to dramatically change a room’s style is to attack those boring white walls. Sure, you could try painting the room a bold new shade, but the newest design techniques go a step further with drywall, faux painting, and nontraditional wall coverings.

1. Drywall Textures

Once purely functional, drywall techniques are now a designer’s trick. Using drywall techniques to add new architectural or design touches, or simply re-texturing ceilings and walls, can update the overall appearance of a home with a relatively small investment.

Walls and ceilings can be finished in many different ways. Re-texturing or smoothing walls can freshen and modernize older homes or even return the original character to period homes that may have been carelessly remodeled.

Changing up the old-fashioned styles of texture (such as skip & trowel or brushed) can significantly freshen and update a 30-year-old home.

On the other hand, covering those styles of texture with a new layer of hand-troweled joint compound to resemble plaster could restore the charm to a 1900 Victorian. Custom textures and treatments, such as combining textured walls with totally smooth ceilings, can give a home a unique look.

Try the Orange Peel Finish: Very popular right now, the orange peel finish is created by spraying texture compound onto a smooth wall and then letting it dry. Paint when ready for a brand new look.

2. Faux Painting

One of the most popular ways to create a change in your home today is through faux painting. Faux painting incorporates decorative and special paint finishes, as well as techniques that resemble wallpaper, such as glazing, sponging, ragging, wood graining and even freehand designs.

Although many illusions can be achieved with faux finishing techniques on flat surfaces, textured products can create three-dimensional effects. Products applied in layers to walls, fireplaces and ceilings can look and feel like real stone, crumbling masonry, or peeling paint for a European country look. Other popular finishes resemble linen, grass cloth or denim.

With a little skill, a great idea and a new color scheme your home’s interior can resemble an ancient Tuscan building, a marble wall or even a cloudy day.

Try a suede finish: To warm up a formal room such as a dining room, library or office, consider a suede finish. Textured paints containing solid materials like silica can make walls look—and even feel—like suede.

3. Non-traditional Wall Coverings

Wallpaper has always been a popular alternative to painting a room. But in addition to buying & installing traditional wallpaper, there are many types of wall coverings that will enliven a room. Bright fabrics, grass cloth, even cork are becoming popular as unique ways to dramatically change a room’s appearance.

Some non-traditional wall covering options:

  • Foil (some people refer to it by the brand name “Mylar”) can be difficult to work with because it shows imperfections in the wall surface and because it can get wrinkled easily. But the silver, reflective surface and the patterns on many foil wallpapers can be strikingly contemporary.
  • Cork-faced wall coverings are thicker because they have a surface of cork. They make for a cozy, dark and woodsy effect and can often be seen in family rooms or offices.
  • Paper-backed fabric shows the high-quality look of a fabric wall covering but can be installed with the ease of a vinyl-coated paper. The backing adds a stiffness that both hides defects in the wall and makes it easier to manage the fabric.

Could your House be Making you Fatter?

Wouldn’t it be great if you could keep your body fit by simply designing your home properly? While choosing a certain style of counter or a particular color of paint for your walls might not lower your blood pressure or help you fit in your prom dress again, it doesn’t seem too far fetched for there to be a few common threads that are often present in homes of healthy people but absent in homes of less healthy folks. To test this theory, we looked at some stats from (a nationwide resource matching homeowners to contractors in their area) and compared the types of home improvement projects preferred in “healthy” cities to those that are more common in less healthy areas. Here’s what we found!

Projects “Healthy” Cities Prefer
According to Men’s Fitness Magazine, Minneapolis, Albuquerque, and Denver are all pretty high on the healthy city list. So, what projects do homeowners in these areas enter most? Appliance repair is extremely popular in each of these cities, as is hiring a handyman for multiple small tasks. Landscaping and lawn care seem to be a priority in all three cities, too.

Common Projects in America’s Least Healthy Cities
Few will be surprised to know that Men’s Fitness voted Las Vegas as the least healthy city (or that, once again, Texas kills the competition, sporting 6 of America’s top 10 least fit cities). What is surprising, however, is that in these “unhealthy” cities, homeowners opt for nearly the exact same projects that are found in the healthy cities. Since so many cities on the second list are in the south and southwest, it’s no shock that each boasts a high amount of requests to install solar panels and to repair air conditioning, however, other than these two tasks, the lists of what projects are most common is quite similar to those of their healthier counterparts.

Where to Spot the Real Differences
While looking at lists of total numbers of requests in healthy and unhealthy cities hasn’t really turned up much, one big statistic rears its head when you start examining what types of projects are becoming more popular. San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston have each seen some pretty dramatic increases in the popularity of TV wall mounting and/or home theater accessory repair. According to HomeAdvisor statistics, homeowners in these cities have been calling for TV services sometimes 10 or even 20 times more often per month than what was recorded last year!

Other Conclusions
It seems as though, no matter where you go in America (or how rotund the people in your neighborhood are), the average homeowner tends to focus mostly on small home improvement tasks like appliance repair, plumbing fixture repair or replacement, or shingle repair. The absence of large, expensive projects makes sense, of course considering the current economic environment. To be sure, homeowners in healthy cities and unhealthy cities have far more in common with each other than they do with themselves 6 years ago, when some of the most common tasks HomeAdvisor processed were building water docks, installing central air conditioning, and installing radiant heating panels and flooring. Homeowners (both big and small) seem to be focusing on repairs rather than replacements and increasing the function of what they already have rather than building something new; and while following this trend might not help you lose 15 pounds, it could certainly assist in keeping your finances healthy!

Simple Room Makeovers in No Time

The biggest problem with any home improvement project is the clock. You want to spruce up the bedroom, renovate your bathroom or transform your kitchen, but where are you going to find the time? Oddly enough, a main anxiety among homeowners isn’t how much the job costs or how much work is involved. Instead, the chief concern is how long it’s going to take. That’s a valid question: the longer the job, the more money and labor it’s going to require. Plus, it’s the weekend and who wants to be stuck inside doing even more work. Initially, it’s hard to guess how long a chore will take, so here is a timeline guide to help you organize any home remodel around your schedule.

One-Day Bedroom Makeovers
Bedroom makeovers don’t have to be a chore since several small touches can be accomplished in a single day. The point of any remodel is to keep it simple and not get overwhelmed. So take one Saturday at a time and schedule a small renovation each week.
Painting: A fresh coat is a quick and comparatively inexpensive way to rejuvenate any room. For bedroom makeovers, it’s best to stick to warm, rich colors such as tans, maroons or blues. Plus, to save even more time, just paint a single accent wall to create some spice.
Redecorate: Spend a day at the store. Buying a few knick-knacks, pillows and sheets is a fast way to reinstate a new sense of style. The hard part about this bedroom makeover is finding the perfect item, so take your time during the selection process.
Reupholster: In one morning, you could buy new fabrics for your chairs, loveseats, and drapes. Then in the afternoon, replace the window treatments and reupholster your furniture to create a seamless pattern throughout the room. By taking one step at a time, a bedroom makeover may take an entire month, but in reality it only takes a few hours.

Bathroom Makeovers in Single Weekend
Bathroom makeovers are little trickier since more is involved beyond the decor. Though decoration is important, there is also flooring, plumbing, cabinetry and countertops. Plus, you want it to remain functional as well as beautiful, so most projects take a couple of days. Here are a few things that can be accomplished in a single weekend.
Fixtures: Replacing your plumbing fixtures can quickly transform a lavatory. And though you could replace the bigger items, simply swapping out the faucets, showerheads and handles can give a restroom new life and a fresh focal point.
Lighting: Do you have old-fashioned brass fixtures, rounded bulbs or glaring fluorescents? If so, you may need to switch out your lights. Go for track lighting, smaller fixtures and always focus on natural lighting (skylights, windows, etc.) if you’re able to.
Sinks: Toilets never change. Showers create more renovations. But a sink is a perfect two-day bathroom makeover. To make more room, tear out the vanity and counters and install a pedestal sink. But if square footage isn’t a problem, a larger his-and-her sink system may be the solution since it’ll always adds value to the home.

A Month of Kitchen Makeovers
There’s a reason they’re the social hub of any household: they have it all. Plumbing, appliances, lots of square footage and it should be the focal point of the home. It takes time to accomplish a kitchen makeover, but it’s always worth the hassle in the long run. And if you hire remodeling professionals, the job may not take as long as you think.
Cabinetry: The first thing to become outdated is usually the cabinets. Old-fashioned wood, dark-stained grains or tacky brass hardware can quickly devalue the space. So replacement is always a great option, although if you want to save time and money, re-staining or painting is an efficient alternative.
Flooring: Nothing modifies a room more drastically than new floors. Of course hardwood is all the rage. It certainly adds value and never goes out of fashion, but it’s also pricey and takes skill to install. Tile is also a great substitute with its clean lines and polished look. But even fresh linoleum is a great way to restore a faded, curling floor.
Appliances: Not only can new appliances make the space more effective and easy-to-use, they also add to its appearance. It takes time to slowly replace each electrical item, so don’t rush. You can never go wrong with stainless steel (it’s sleek, modern, and fashionable), yet no matter the veneer make sure it all matches. But beyond beauty, you also want to think efficiency, so EnergyStar products are always a good investment.