Top 4 Home Renovations for Maximum ROI [INFOGRAPHIC]

Some Highlights:

  • Whether you are selling your home, just purchased your first home, or are a homeowner planning to stay put for a while, there is value in knowing which home improvement projects will net you the most “Return On Investment” (ROI).
  • While big projects like adding a bathroom or a complete remodel of a kitchen are popular ways to increase a home’s value, something as simple as updating landscaping and curb appeal can have a quick impact on a home’s value.

 

Posted by The KCM Crew

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5 Signs You Need to Upgrade Your Kitchen

Brighten it, expand it, organize it — whatever it needs, your kitchen is an update away from ideal.

Your kitchen is likely the most loved room in your home — and the wear and tear proves it. It’s the hangout for hungry teenagers, the conversation station during the holidays and the catch-up room after a busy workday.

A functional and appealing kitchen is important not only for your family but for your guests, too. After all, a delicious meal is only so appealing in a messy and cluttered kitchen.

Here are five signs that your kitchen may need an upgrade.

1. Outdated appliances

Perhaps they were there when you moved in, or maybe they came with you decades ago when you bought the home. Either way, outdated appliances are usually less attractive and drain more energy than newer models on the market.

Consider their safety, too. If you have to press a secret combination of buttons and chant a spell to light your range, it’s time to upgrade to newer, safer appliances.

When you do upgrade, consult a professional electrician to make sure everything is wired properly and up to code.

2. Damage and wear

Nobody expects your kitchen to stay in like-new condition forever, but damage beyond normal wear and tear needs addressing.

Water damage from a leaking fridge or dishwasher can cause mold on and underneath the flooring or peeling on the countertops, floors and walls, depending on the materials.

Cracked, peeling or chipped countertops and floors are prime spots for dangerous bacteria to reside — and hide from cleaning supplies. Even clean counters and floors with stains can cause your guests to think twice when they’re invited over a second time.

Upgrading to newer counters made from a durable material like granite is a good investment that can last practically a lifetime.

3. Not enough counter space

If your counters are covered with appliances, utensils and food, you need an upgrade. Ideally, your counters should always be clutter-free, and everything should have an easily accessible place.

Adding more counter space doesn’t have to mean tearing down walls and rehauling the layout. If your floor plan allows, installing an island is a great and relatively simple way to add counter space.

If it’s not the space but the clutter that’s the problem, larger cabinets or deeper drawers will increase storage so you can reclaim your counters.

4. You can’t find anything

Do you look forward to cooking or dread the time commitment? How much time is actually spent on food prep versus searching for the right utensils, appliances and dishware?

A disorganized kitchen makes it difficult to find anything, which can cause anxiety over cooking and render your kitchen useless. A fresh design and organization strategy is a worthy investment to get you eating in your own home again and enjoying the cooking process.

5. Your house won’t sell

Saving for your new home is often the priority when moving. But upgrading your current kitchen before you go is an investment that may very well pay for itself.

Home shoppers often gravitate first toward the kitchen. So, if you’ve been having trouble selling your home and the kitchen’s outdated — that could be the reason.

Buyers are usually more interested in move-in ready homes that require little or no remodeling. A more appealing, upgraded kitchen can be a motivating factor for buyers, hopefully resulting in less time on the market and a better selling price.

Make the necessary upgrades when the time comes, and your kitchen will reclaim its rightful place as the heart of the home.

 

Posted by Luke Caldwell on Zillow

9 Signs It’s Time to Update Your Bathroom

If a bad layout, poor lighting and leaky fixtures are getting in the way, it might be time for some changes.

A bathroom should be a place of comfort — the optimal environment for a relaxing soak or getting ready efficiently during a harried morning.

“You’re going to spend time in there every day,” says Sarah Hurd, part of the mother-daughter team behind Short Story Renovations, a Baltimore-area design, rehab and staging company. “You should not hate your bathroom.”

If a bad layout, poor lighting and leaky fixtures are getting in the way, it might be time for some changes.

Here are nine signs that your bathroom could use a little work.

1. Not photogenic

“It’s weird how you can see in a picture what you can’t see anymore with your own eyes,” says Angela Hurd of Short Story Renovations.

The fix: She and her daughter, Sarah, recommend that clients take a photograph of their bathroom to get a better sense of what they might not otherwise notice. People can become blind to the discord — from a mismatched color palette to accumulated junk on the vanity counter, she says.

2. Outdated colors

Funky hues can be one of the most noticeable signs that a bathroom is out of date.

The fix: White, gray and black palettes will lend an element of ageless beauty to any space, says Michael Merschat, an architect with high-end residential design-build firm Wentworth Inc. of Chevy Chase, MD.

People are coming back to “that white, timeless look, be it a very modern-style white or something with a little more traditional flare,” he says.

 

Crisp, neutral palettes can lend calm sophistication to any bathroom. Photo from Zillow listing.

3. Smells like a bathroom

“With some bathrooms, you walk in and they just have an old bathroom smell,” Sarah Hurd notes. It’s another indication that it’s time for a renovation.

The fix: Replacing a toilet’s wax seal, fixing a persistent, mold-causing sink leak, or adding better ventilation to a windowless bathroom can all be sure fixes for a fresher-smelling experience.

4. Bad layout

Awkward bathroom layout is another indication that it’s time for an update. Odd arrangements, such as a toilet directly next to the bathtub, are typical in bungalows and houses built in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, when plumbing was a new phenomenon.

The fix: Installing a separate water closet can be a winning move, Merschat says. “It gives a nice bit of refinement to the room when the toilet isn’t sitting out in the middle of the space.”

An outside-the-box arrangement can refine an otherwise predictable space. Photo from Zillow listing.

5. Leaks

When brown water stains appear on the ceiling below the bathroom, it’s definitely time to make repairs and update.

The fix: Take the opportunity to put in modern fixtures that conserve water and speak to your style, Merschat advises.

6. Poor lighting

“If you’re either blinded by the lights that are overhead, or it’s so dim you can barely see yourself in the mirror, that’s a problem,” says Sarah Hurd.

The fix: Better light fixtures and brighter light bulbs may be the first step on your path to a bathroom redo.

New light fixtures easily brighten and modernize the space. Photo from Zillow listing.

7. Stylistic relics

If you have wallpaper or popcorn ceilings still hanging around from decades past, your bathroom is due for an update.

The fix: Wallpaper is making a comeback, so think about using it in a new way. “We’ve actually redone powder rooms where we’ve put wallpaper on the ceiling to give it a different pop,” Merschat says.

8. Low on storage

Can’t store all the things you need in the bathroom? This calls for action.

The fix: Install a larger vanity, or add shelves above the toilet. You could even knock out a wall and steal a little space from another room to create a linen closet.

Install a new vanity with broadened storage options, like open shelving. Photo from Zillow listing.

9. Time to sell

If you’re not interested in fixing up your bathroom for yourself, do it for your home’s next tenants.

The fix: A fancy new washroom can add just the right panache to spur potential buyers to action. “Redoing a bathroom that’s just an eyesore within the house might make a huge difference,” Merschat says.

If you’re ready to renovate, start thinking about the look you want for your new bathroom. At Short Story Renovations, the Hurds use Pinterest to share ideas with their clients.

“[We] start a board that all of us can put stuff on,” Angela Hurd explains. “That way [our clients aren’t] in the dark about what we’re trying to do.” This practice helps everyone involved get a feel for one look and stick with it.

 

Posted by Becca Milfeld on Zillow

 

Best Home Improvements For Every Month Of The Year

The best time of year to buy a refrigerator is right around the corner.

Does it feel as if your home improvement to-do list never ends? Try organizing your projects by month. Then knock these 12 items off your list.

Once you become a homeowner, the number of things you need (or want) to improve increases exponentially. There’s always something to be done. But certain times of year are better to tackle specific projects, whether your goal is to save money or sanity. Not sure where to begin? We’ve laid out a schedule below.

January: Clean your carpets and rugs

It may seem counterintuitive to do this when it’s cold out, but according to Jonathan Barnett, founder of Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning in Lakewood, CO, your flooring gets really dirty during the winter. Waiting until spring to remove all that grime can make it harder to get stains out. “Plus, the lack of humidity during the winter months allows moisture to evaporate quickly so wet carpets dry faster,” Barnett says. “And a clean carpet provides a healthier and better-smelling home, which is especially important during the winter, when most people spend the majority of their time indoors.”

February: Paint a room or two

Now is the perfect time to tackle an indoor project that you can enjoy year-round. “Indoor projects aren’t weather-dependent; it’s more of a supply and demand thing,” says Shaun McCarthy, president and owner of Handyman Connection in Colorado Springs, CO. If you’re hiring someone to paint for you, winter is a good time to do it. You’re likely to get a much better price than you’d get during the spring and summer, when many people book exterior painting jobs. But even if you’re planning to do it yourself, there are still benefits. Brisk winter air is good for curing paint, so cracking that window for ventilation serves a double purpose. (Unlike humid summer air, it won’t make your paint take longer to dry.) While you’re at it, if you haven’t weather-stripped or caulked your windows and doors, do it in February before the winds of March set in, says McCarthy.

March: Clean your gutters

“The most common problem I see in my home inspections is a wet basement or crawl space,” says Marc Shanley, a certified master inspector at Trinity Inspection, which services homes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. One common culprit? Clogged gutters, which do an ineffective job of directing runoff away from your home’s foundation. All that moisture can cause major foundation problems. Depending on your gutters (and whether you have overhanging trees), you may need to tackle this task more than once a year. Even so, it’s best to do this before the April rains hit.

April: Refinish your hardwood floors

If you’ve discovered hardwoods beneath your new home’s carpeting, wait until spring to complete this labor-intensive but transformative task. “If you wait until it’s really hot out, the finish can cure too quickly and the sheen might not dry properly, which leads to a glossy, uneven finish,” says Arne Johansson, owner of Arne’s Floor Sanding in Minneapolis, MN.

May: Buy a new refrigerator

Although most large appliances go on sale later in the year, refrigerators have their moment in May, in preparation for the summer. To make room for that new inventory, the older versions usually go on sale, which can mean big discounts for consumers. Want even more savings? Consider energy efficiency (look for the Energy Star certification) and ask if you can buy the floor model. Don’t forget to haggle!

June: Freshen up your exterior

Now’s the time to wash your windows (or pay someone to do it), power-wash your siding, and install screens in your windows. Before you power-wash, be sure that all your weatherstripping and caulking is secure (and your windows are closed). Otherwise, you risk shooting the cleaning liquid into your house, says McCarthy. He also advises testing the washer’s power on an inconspicuous area of your exterior beforehand. “You want to clean your house, not take the paint off of it,” he says.

July: Fertilize your lawn

“Your lawn needs a solid four to six fertilization applications throughout the year to keep it healthy and growing,” says Gene Caballero, co-founder of GreenPal, an app that matches customers with landscapers. “Fertilizing in July will give your lawn the vitamins and nutrients it needs to get through the rest of the hot summer months. Also, this midsummer application helps to prevent weeds from germinating — setting you up for less weed pulling in the fall.”

August: Paint your home’s exterior

The best time to paint your home’s exterior is when temperatures remain consistent from day to day and don’t drastically dip overnight. “The real key,” says McCarthy, is “to work your way around the house so that you’re always painting in the shade.” First, map out what time of day the sun hits each side of your home, then paint accordingly. Of course, you could always hire a pro for this task. You might want to get some estimates, especially for a multistory house. Investing in the equipment (including a tall ladder or two) might not be worth the cost or the hassle.

September: Replace your windows

Caulk adheres better when the temperature is between 40 and 80 degrees, so those glorious days of late summer and early fall are an ideal time to replace your windows. Plus, when the cold weather does hit, new windows will keep the heat where it belongs — inside your house.

October: Buy new appliances

Big-ticket appliances such as stoves, washing machines, and dishwashers debut their newest models around this time of year. That frequently means deep discounts on the old ones. Some retailers will even start their holiday sales early. Double savings!

November: Remodel your bathroom

Contractors are entering their slow season this month, so they’re more willing to jump on a small project and get it done quickly, says McCarthy. “A powder room is a good way to test a contractor out, especially if you’re in the market for a larger renovation like a kitchen,” he says. “If you like the way it turns out, great; if you don’t, it’s low risk.”

December: Build a deck

You’ll probably get a good deal, because deck builders will be winding down for the winter. But adding a deck onto your house when it’s cold out makes sense from a building perspective too. December is less humid, so if you’re using pressure-treated wood, it’ll dry more consistently and evenly. Also, the hot sun won’t beat down on it, which can cause warping and cracking.

Posted by Michelle Hainer on Truila

 

13 Ways To Spend Your Tax Refund On Home Improvements

Enjoy that hard-earned tax return money on summer evenings by adding a privacy fence or outdoor kitchen.

Your tax refund feels like found money, doesn’t it? Here’s how to use it to spruce up your living space.

April brings many lovely things: warmer temperatures, flowers beginning to bloom, and hopefully a check from Uncle Sam once you’ve filed your taxes. It’s enough to make you giddy with possibilities — no matter the size of your refund. “While it’s typically not sufficient to fund major home improvement projects such as a new addition or a kitchen renovation, it can often provide enough cash to accomplish a wide range of home up-fits and improvements,” says Leigh McAlpin, principal of Dwelling Interiors & Design in Charleston, SC. Here’s how to use your refund to refurbish or enhance your home.

$500 refund: It’s all in the details

Hire a professional organizer. “Since tax refunds often come during the springtime, you can tie this to spring cleaning,” says Sarah Roussos-Karakaian, co-owner of Nestrs, a construction, design, and organizing company in New York, NY. Most organizers charge a day rate, and if you work efficiently, a day or two might be all you need to banish clutter. Before you hire one, be sure to ask if they’re certified by the National Association of Professional Organizers, says Roussos-Karakaian. “It’s a good way to gauge how serious they are about their career.”

Recaulk and repaint your baseboards. “The top of the baseboard where the molding meets the wall gets really dirty over time,” says Roussos-Karakaian. “Caulking and giving it a fresh coat of paint can bring your walls back to life.” Contractors and painters typically charge anywhere from $2.50 to $6 per linear foot depending on the size of your baseboards, so if you don’t DIY it, this project may cost closer to $1,000.

Buy a new rug. The right rug finishes a room, and purchasing one is an excellent way to spend a smaller return. “A general rule for area rugs is that the outer edges of the rug should be between 6 and 18 inches off each wall, closer to 6 inches from the walls in smaller rooms, and up to 18 inches from the walls in larger areas,” says McAlpin. While it may be tempting to buy a small rug to save a few dollars, doing so will make your entire room look out of scale, she advises. “If it’s an open-concept floor plan, use area rugs to frame seating and dining areas, which will help to define the different uses of the space.”

Add curb appeal. Adding or updating some of the essentials, like a new mailbox, some flower boxes, new house numbers, outdoor lighting, and shrubs, can give your home a face-lift. Take your exterior upgrades to the next level by painting your front door. Want an even bigger payoff? Repaint the trim around windows and other features while you’re at it.

$1,000 refund: Think upgrades

Upgrade your water heater. It’s not a fun or sexy purchase, but swapping a standard water heater for a tankless model will save energy — and money — because it heats the water only as needed, says J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman, a network of home improvement professionals.

Give your ceiling a lift. Ceilings are easy to overlook, but revamping yours is an inexpensive way to add interest to a room, says Sassano. “If you still have popcorn ceilings, hire a professional to scrape them smooth,” he says. “Then look for DIY projects like installing crown molding or box beams for a fresh look.” A simple coat of fresh paint can do wonders too.

$2,000 refund: Add style

Upgrade your home’s lighting. If your entryway or dining room has flush-mount fixtures, swap them out for chandeliers, suggests Roussos-Karakaian. “It brings the light down, which makes it more purposeful, and aesthetically dresses up the room,” she says. But in any room, like with this semi-flush mount bedroom fixture at 629 Ames Way, Dover, ID 83825, swapping in new lights for those builder-grade finishes will give your home a customized look. And while you’re at it, swap out your incandescent bulbs for LEDs. “LEDs are really affordable right now. They come in warm and cool colors and all sorts of wattages,” says Roussos-Karakaian. Bonus: You’ll save energy too.

Treat yourself to wood flooring. You can expect to pay anywhere from $7 to $12 per square foot for quality hardwood flooring — potentially more if you choose professional installation. But this favorite home upgrade can return 1.5 to two times its cost when you sell, so it’s a worthy investment.

Build a deck or enhance the one you have. Of course, the cost of your deck will vary based on size and details, but a small deck typically costs about $2,000. And it’s a favorite feature for homebuyers — by far the most common amenity mentioned in Trulia listings across the U.S., with 22 states claiming it. It’s not a huge surprise that decks are so popular, though, considering they bring in an 80% to 120% return on your investment.

$3,000 refund: Add features with ROI in mind

Add a backsplash to your kitchen.Kitchen upgrades often have some of the highest returns on investment when it comes to home improvements. If you have neutral cabinets and floors, opt for tiles with big, bold prints, like the backsplash of the kitchen at 5769 Adair Lane, Plano, TX 75024, says Roussos-Karakaian. Or go super-DIY and buy peel-and-stick backsplash tiles, which are inexpensive and removable, but look luxe.

Splurge on French doors. “Consider turning two [adjacent] windows into an opening for beautiful French or sliding glass doors,” says Sassano. “Full-view glass doors can brighten up any space and help bring the outside in. And modern doors are energy-efficient, which cuts down on heating and cooling costs.”

$5,000 refund: Go big with projects you’ll enjoy

Put up a privacy fence or replace an old one. While cost will vary depending on the size of your yard and what materials you use, a sure way to keep costs down is to avoid common mistakes. If you have an in-ground sprinkler system, make sure you get the pipes marked beforehand to avoid damaging them. It’s also a good idea to have your property surveyed before you begin. Some fence installers won’t put in your fence without one! The reason? Installing your fence on what turns out to be your neighbor’s land can be an expensive error to fix. The privacy fence pictured above, at 12021 36th Avenue NE, Seattle, WA 98125, connects with the privacy fence of the home next door — another way to save costs.

 Create a simple outdoor kitchen. With warmer weather on the horizon for most of the nation, now’s the time to enhance your barbecue area. Keeping the essentials in one place, an outdoor kitchen gives you party access while you cook — no running back and forth from kitchen to grill. To create one, purchase a premade grill island or structure that has countertops and storage space (you can even get one with a built-in grill). Add a mini refrigerator and some outdoor furniture, and let the party begin.

 

Posted by Michelle Hainer on Trulia

7 Terrifying Things That Can Happen During Home Renovations

Firmafotografen/iStock

A home renovation isn’t for the faint of heart. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a good contractor who can take care of the heavy lifting. But even that doesn’t mean you won’t be exposed to your fair share of disasters—including some that can be scary, some that can be traumatic, and some that can even be harmful to your health.

You can’t avoid every terrifying possibility, but you can do your very best to minimize the risk. And that starts with knowing what terrors could be lurking behind that ordinary-looking brick wall or innocuous, if hideous, popcorn ceiling. We’ve got your back, friends!

Here are seven frightening and dangerous things to watch out for when you’re renovating or remodeling.

1. Flooding and electrical issues

Smart DIYers call 811—the service line that informs you where underground utility lines can be found—a few days before they dig. The helpful operator on the other end of the line will notify utility companies to send you indications of any water, gas, or electrical lines.

But maybe you forgot. Or maybe you hit a smaller water pipe in your wall, which the water company won’t know about.

“Mistakenly hitting a water pipe can have consequences much more serious than just getting your shirt wet,” says Dan Barr, a property restoration expert with 1-800 Water Damage.

Say you pop out for a bite after drilling a hole in the wall between your laundry and living rooms, not realizing you just punctured a pipe. When you return, everything is flooded. Including a puddle around your drill—that’s still plugged in. Yikes!

If you hit a line and find electric tools or appliances submerged, Barr recommends locating your home’s main electrical panel and turning off the power before you start wading through the water.

“It could be charged and extremely dangerous,” he says.

2. Creepy creatures

True story: My fiancé was unscrewing a can light in the living room of our brand-new house—and a handful of wasps smacked him in the face. Fortunately, they were dead.

But what if they weren’t?

“You can have really dangerous creatures fall or crawl on you,” says Texas designer Pablo Solomon. Dead wasps are just the beginning. Depending on where you live, shuffling around your attic or inching through your crawl space might bring you into contact with brown recluse or black widow spiders, scorpions, centipedes, or snakes.

While there’s no sure-fire way to avoid creepy-crawlies, full-coverage clothing will protect your skin from bites. As for the years of nightmares—you’re on your own.

3. Mold invasion

Skipping steps during a renovation is sure to cause you major problems down the line. And one of the most commonly overlooked aspects of a home renovation is proper ventilation.

“Most bathrooms have so little ventilation that they unintentionally become labs to grow mold and mildew,” says David Schneider, an interior designer in Chesterfield, MO, who focuses on sustainable, green remodeling.

So any time you remodel a kitchen or bathroom, make sure you’re installing enough fans—strong ones—to suck out all the moisture-ridden air. Most experts recommend one 100 cfm (cubic feet per minute) fan per appliance.

Plus, a whirring fan can cover up any unpleasant sounds. This is known as “value added”!

4. Release of asbestos and lead

You’re probably already aware of your home’s lead or asbestos risk. Unless you had a particularly unscrupulous seller, you should’ve signed a lead paint disclosure when buying any home built before 1978. And the second you Googled “popcorn ceiling,” you probably spotted the word “asbestos.”

But still, maybe that’s not top of mind when you’re in a hurry to yank out your ugly old cabinetry or rip up that garish old tile to start fresh—and you end up unleashing unknown amounts of those toxic materials.

“Inhaling or swallowing even small amounts of lead or asbestos is extremely dangerous,” Barr says. “Any time you remove walls or ceilings or do major work on floors, you run the risk of encountering both.”

Wear a mask during small renovation projects to help protect you. For bigger jobs, such as taking down a wall, contact an indoor environmental expert who can take samples. If asbestos or lead are present, plan to hire a professional for demolition.

5. Foundation damage

Have you ever used a drill to mount a pot rack or a flat-screen TV and found that your hands are a bit … wobbly afterward? Your walls feel the same thing—and the jiggling can cause major problems.

Constant shaking and hammering from power tools can create new fissures and other problems inside your walls. You might spot water leaks or even cracked Sheetrock, Solomon says. If possible, peek inside your walls after you drill for any new problems and repair them immediately.

6. Damage to your hearing

Construction is loud. You might think it’s tolerable, since it’s temporary. But if you’re, say, remodeling an entire kitchen, your ears will be under siege day after day for what could be a protracted period—and that could incur long-term damage.

“The noise of saws, hammers, power tools, and other construction machinery can wreck your ears,” says Bryan Pollard, president of Hyperacusis Research, a Hearing Health partner. “Noise damage is cumulative and presents with a delayed reaction. And the longer someone is exposed, the higher the risk.”

So maybe your ears feel fine the next day. But will they be fine a week later? A year later?Or 10 years later? Pollard warns of tinnitus—that annoying ringing in your ears—or hyperacusis, sound sensitivity, and noise-induced pain. Maybe those bulky protective headsets don’t look so dumb after all.

7. Exposure to high-VOC materials

Wearing a face mask can help keep you from inhaling fumes when painting, but their damage lasts long after the color is applied. Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are chemical-emitting gases found in a number of renovation materials, including many paints, carpeting, or upholstering. You know that funny smell your carpet gave off for a few weeks after installation? That’s probably VOCs.

Many VOCs are known carcinogens, and they can cause headaches, allergic reactions, or asthma.

You can purchase low-VOC paint and carpeting to reduce your risk. Keep windows and doors open to ventilate your home and reduce the VOC danger.

 

Posted by Jamie Weibe on realtor.com