DIY

13 Ways To Spend Your Tax Refund On Home Improvements

Posted on

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

Posted on

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

Easy and Inexpensive Ways to Fix Up Your Home Like a Flipper

Posted on

Flipping homes is a thrill, but don’t forget your own home’s potential. Enjoy that new-home feeling again with these simple tips.

If you’re anything like me, you may find that it’s all too easy to get caught up in the rush of flipping houses. I’ll admit — buying an old house, fixing it up, and flipping it for a profit is pretty exciting. But if you get too distracted by flipping houses, it’s easy to let your own home fall by the wayside.

While profitable remodeling projects can be more tempting to work on, you can still benefit from tackling projects in your own home. Remodeling your home will not only up its value, but also improve the way you feel about it. After all, who wouldn’t love to cook in a newly remodeled kitchen?

Here are five easy, inexpensive projects that will really make a difference in how you feel about your home.

Add a new coat of paint

Whether you decide to paint your kitchen, bathroom, or bedroom (or all three!), a coat of paint can instantly transform the look and feel of a room. The best part about painting your own home is that you don’t have to stick to neutrals, because you aren’t trying to attract any buyers.

If you’ve been dying to paint your kitchen red or your bathroom blue, then do it! This is your chance to paint your home the colors that make you happy.

Refresh your kitchen

The kitchen is one of the most used rooms in a home, so it should be one of the first rooms you remodel. And unless you moved into a brand-new home where you were able to design your kitchen from scratch, chances are there are a few things you’ve been eager to change.

If you’re lucky enough to have nice wood cabinets, don’t worry about replacing them. A splash of paint and some new hardware can work wonders and make your kitchen look brand new, without having to spend hundreds on new cabinets.

The same goes for laminate or wood countertops. There are plenty of DIY kits you can buy to transform your countertops for a fraction of the cost.

A new backsplash is also an inexpensive way to add some life to your kitchen — plus it’s a cinch to install.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Install new doorknobs, faucets, and light fixtures

While they are probably the easiest feature to overlook, new doorknobs and fixtures can make a huge difference in a room. Depending on the type of doorknobs you purchase, and considering that most homes have quite a few knobs, the price can add up pretty quickly.

If you don’t have the time or money to replace all your doorknobs at once, work on replacing just a couple every month, starting with the most obvious ones.

Faucets can get pretty expensive as well, especially if you want to replace them in both your kitchen and bathroom(s). If you want to save some money, I recommend searching online or heading to the clearance section of your local home improvement store.

If you’re lucky, you can find great deals on some beautiful faucets. Replacing all your faucets at once might not be feasible, so don’t be afraid to take your time with this project. Before you know it, you’ll be able to enjoy the luxury of attractive faucets in all your rooms.

As for light fixtures, you may already have fixtures that you like, but they just need a color update. Instead of buying new fixtures, grab a can of spray paint and go to town. It’s amazing what a difference a $3 can of spray paint can make!

Revive your bathroom

A coat of paint, wainscoting, and a fresh shower curtain and linens are all super easy ways to instantly transform your old and tired bathroom.

If you’re feeling a bit more ambitious, you could even replace the flooring or change up the vanity. Getting ready in the mornings will be that much more enjoyable if you can do so in a beautiful bathroom.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Boost your curb appeal

While it’s always satisfying to remodel the interior of your home, you don’t want to forget about the exterior. Fortunately, there are a couple of simple changes you can make to really boost your home’s curb appeal.

If you can’t afford to replace the front door, try painting it instead. A new porch light fixture, house numbers, and a mailbox can also make a huge difference for your home’s exterior.

So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to stop coming up with excuses. Go fix up those kitchen cabinets that you’ve hated since you moved in!

 

Posted by Christina El Moussa on Zillow

8 DIY Ways to Redo Your Bathroom (Without Remodeling)

Posted on

Ready for a revamped bathroom space, but nervous about taking on a big renovation project? These easy updates can give you a whole new look on any budget.

The bathroom is probably the best room in the house for a mini-makeover. When you realize how dramatically, quickly and inexpensively you can completely update the space without an actual renovation, you’ll wonder why you’ve waited so long.

Before you dive in, take a minute to consider what you’re going for in terms of style. Your bathroom should be a peaceful, relaxing space. Are you more soothed by rich, dramatic tones and style, or are you going for a more simple and serene spa-like space? Once you know what you want, take a look at these simple tips for getting the bathroom upgrade you’ve been dreaming of.

Source: Pottery Barn

Paint

This is obviously the place to start, since doing it yourself results in such fast and dramatic change. For the simple and serene look, choose soft and soothing tones to give you a greater sense of space and light. If you’re looking for a rich, dark hideaway, choose warm saturated tones to strike the right mood.

Hardware

Now choose drawer pulls that keep the style makeover moving forward. They’re available in all styles and at all price points, and this is another big change you can make on your own. Typically, a nickel or stainless finish goes best with the spa look, while oil-rubbed bronze tones will add the richness you’re looking for in a sophisticated atmosphere.

Storage

Because our bathrooms are also spaces that our guests may see, keeping them clutter free is essential. Organization is also important for keeping stress on the other side of the bathroom door.

A quick and functional fix here are simple storage cubbies. Stash toiletries, makeup and other beauty and grooming equipment in small caddies that you can pop out and put away easily.

Source: TerraCotta Properties

Lighting

Good grooming requires good light, but when you’re just looking to slip into the tub and relax, you want something softer. Start your lighting makeover with a simple dimmer switch.

Replacing the vanity lighting fixture is easier than you think, too. To keep the job a simple and quick one, simply choose vanity lighting that covers the same space the original fixture did. You can maximize your options, though, if you tackle the lighting when you do the painting.

To take it up one more notch, consider a dramatic piece of statement lighting such as a chandelier or pendant that adds a sense of style.

Shower, sink and tub faucets

Now we’re moving into the updates that really make the space feel new. Look for sink fixtures that offer a little more height over the bowl and length extending into the bowl for the most functional effect.

Then, upgrade to a new showerhead that makes your morning feel anything but routine. A handheld showerhead that ties into the shower arm and can extend from the wall via a hose is another indulgent and functional option.

Source: KellyBaron

Mirror and medicine cabinet

Most standard medicine cabinets are not much to look at, and there are now plenty of options that will your replace your current cabinet. A simple beveled mirror version with a plastic wipe-able interior can update a rusted metal version.

But another simple fix if you don’t want to replace the whole cabinet is to build a simple picture-style frame right over your basic wall mirror. Just choose the frame according to the style you’re going for, and make sure the surface is moisture resistant.

Towel warmer

Even if you don’t have the most spacious bathroom, this is an amenity worthy of serious consideration. In case you think you just can’t spare the space, you’ll be glad to hear that they also come ready to plug-in or hard wire and hang on the wall.

Source: Zillow Digs

The final touches

New towels and a fresh bathmat can change the appearance of your bath space with little effort. Pick a monochromatic color scheme to dry off in style, or go all white for the spa-like aesthetic.

For a little added detail, consider monogramming your towels with your initials or “His,” “Hers” and “Guest.” This added touch will make all your efforts well worth the time and consideration of your bathroom update.

Posted by Kerrie Kelly on Zillow

17 Affordable Luxuries For Your Apartment Bathroom

Posted on

You don’t have to be a homeowner to pamper yourself with spa-like bathroom features.

There’s no denying it: Sometimes it’s hard to turn off the water and step out of a hot, soothing shower. But your shower doesn’t have to be the only relaxing moment of your day. You may think the 10-foot-by-10-foot bathroom in your studio apartment in Washington, DC, is hopeless when it comes to Zen design potential, but it is possible to turn even the tiniest space into an oasis. Tackle these 17 bathroom DIY projects and be well on your way to enjoying a luxurious bathroom every day.

1. Dim the lights

Add a dimmer to ease into your morning or set the tone after a long day. The process is relatively easy, and with your landlord’s approval, your security deposit should be safe. Once you’re able to customize the lighting every morning, you’ll wonder how you survived without it!

2. Set a cozy mood

Creating a cozy, relaxing space can be as easy as leaving a few candles out in your bathroom. They’ll give the place a pleasant smell even unlit, and who doesn’t enjoy lighting a few candles before stepping into the shower or bath after a long day? Just remember to blow them out before you leave!

3. Add shower tunes

Catch up on your favorite podcasts or jam out to your favorite tunes while getting ready in the morning with a Bluetooth shower speaker. You can purchase a waterproof speaker for less than $20.

4. Warm your towels

You know that feeling of throwing on a sweatshirt right out of the dryer? Enjoy that luxury every day by hanging your towels on an electric towel rack that heats them up while you shower. Ahhh.

5. Keep your toes cozy

Don’t wait until you’re a homeowner to enjoy the luxury of a heated floor while getting ready in the morning. Throw a foot warmer mat by your bathroom sink on chilly mornings and enjoy getting ready without shivering on the tile.

6. Heat up the room

If toasty towels and toes aren’t enough, heat the entire space with a space heater — seek out a unit that’s small, sleek, and equipped with emergency shut-offs in case it overheats. Save money on energy bills by keeping the central heat on low and heat only your bathroom while you get ready in the morning.

7. Create the perfect pressure

Replace your rental showerhead with an adjustable rain-can version. If you’re tall, you can even add an extension to avoid the bent-over, crooked-neck shampooing experience. Pro tip: Especially if your rental has low-flow showerheads in place, you’ll probably have to get approval from your landlord before you break out the toolbox. Make sure you hold on to the original showerhead to reinstall at the end of your lease.

8. Sit pretty — and hygienic

Swap out your rental’s toilet seat with the seat of your choice, as long as you have approval from your landlord. Most are more than happy for renters to make this upgrade, and some will even cover the cost.

9. Add some art

Adorn your apartment’s bathroom walls with paintings or photography to add a bit of character. Kylee Trunck, senior staff designer at Havenly, recommends incorporating light-blue and green hues, which are known to be soothing — that’s why you see these colors at the spa! “Steer clear of fabric wall hangings that could also be potentially damaged by steam, and instead select prints that can be framed with a protective glass insert,” says Trunck.

10. Pull on pretty hardware

Replace drawer pulls and cabinet knobs with some prettier options. “Replacing drawer knobs and pulls is an easy and inexpensive way to change the look of a bathroom,” says Trunck. Look for options that are “the same size that can easily be screwed in and out” of the existing hole. You’ll also want to hold on to the old knobs, to screw back in place at the end of your lease.

11. Get a better look

Add a magnified mirror with a light to perfect your hair and makeup before heading out the door. You can opt for a free-standing version for your sink or one that screws into the wall.

12. Take in the full view

And don’t forget to check your entire reflection before heading out the door. Over-the-door full-length mirrors are a great option to save space (and your walls!), or pick a wall-mounted option with storage space inside.

13. Create a unique entry

Start by bumping the tension rod for your shower curtain close to the ceiling and invest in a longer shower curtain and liner for a taller, more luxe look. The added height will make your shower feel more spacious from the inside too. For an extra boost of design goodness, use two shower curtains instead of one to lend a symmetric, window-curtain effect.

14. Shower in a rainforest

Hang plants from your shower curtain rod or showerhead. Aloe vera thrives in hot, humid environments, and the leaf’s juice is filled with vitamins and minerals. If you have a sunny window in your bathroom, plant ivy for a natural air purifier: The plant helps keep spaces hygienic by removing mold, dust, and other icky particles from the surrounding air. Pro tip: Place the plant on a high shelf and let the stems grow long enough to elegantly trail down.

15. Add eucalyptus

Hang a bundle of eucalyptus from your showerhead to ward off colds. The plant emits a soothing smell, and its essential oils can help ease congestion. Bundles of eucalyptus can be found at flower shops and craft stores and can last up to a month in the shower.

16. Make an au naturel bathmat

Forget soggy bathmats: opt for a natural, wood mat made from IKEA outdoor decking. This “bathmat” is relatively easy to make — just click the pieces together and remove the edges once your mat is the desired size.

17. Sit back in some bubbles

Create your own bathtub shelf out of some reclaimed wood or two-by-fours and a bit of wood stain. Being able to eat, drink, and read a book in your tub? Completely unnecessary but totally worth it.

Posted by Nicole Esplin on Trulia

The Most Rewarding Fall Home Improvement Projects, Ranked For ROI

Posted on

New windows and a freshly washed exterior can update your home’s look—and boost its value.

Spending a little time on DIY and professional upgrades now can pay off big come spring.

Fall is the season for posting apple-picking photos on Instagram, enjoying pumpkin spice–flavored everything, and spending weekends enjoying the autumn scenery. Just peek out your window —whether you live in Boston, MA, or own a piece of Atlanta, GA, real estate — the cooler temps and changing leaves are hard to resist. While beautiful, fall is also the perfect time for rolling up our sleeves and tackling those home improvement projects we put off during the summer.

“Enjoying the weather can put you in a great state of mind and allow you to focus on the task at hand — and do it well. Beyond that, most building materials are at their best when they are installed at moderate temps,” says Phil Eby of Eby Exteriors in Akron, PA. Plus, contractors typically have fewer projects during the fall, so you’re more likely to find help quickly if you don’t want to go the DIY route. Especially if you plan on listing your home in the spring (or anytime within the next year), you’ll want to prioritize the best home improvements for resale. To figure out what’s worth your time and budget, we asked real estate agents and other professionals for their expert opinions. Here’s what they had to say.

1. Paint the front door

ROI: 80% to 140%

Hands down, the easiest exterior project is also the one that reaps the biggest rewards. A freshly painted front doorhelps your home stand out from the block, and it can be finished in less than an afternoon. Fall is usually the perfect time for this activity; just pick that afternoon wisely. “Normally, exterior painting should be done at a time when the temps are at least 50 degrees or so and aren’t dipping below the 40s at night. This allows the paint to adhere properly and prevents it from freezing before it is fully dry,” Eby says.

2. Refresh (or repair) the deck

ROI: 80% to 120%

A deck is only as good as its condition. If the wood is splintering, the finish faded, or the rails shaky, call in the experts. “A buyer who sees a dirty deck that’s in disrepair may sour their feelings about your house, and even if they still want to buy your home, they will certainly use it as a negotiating point,” says Eby. Even if you have to outright replace the deck, it’s worth the expense. (Just remember to get a permit!)

3. Enhance the exterior

ROI: 60% to 100%

If your exterior paint job is in decent shape, a few touch-ups could suffice. But for those with chipping paint or a 1970s color scheme? Call the pros immediately. “The last thing you want is to scare buyers away before they even get inside,” says Than Merrill, former host of A&E’s Flip This House and CEO of FortuneBuilders. On average, you’ll spend $1,000 to $3,000 (for a 500- to 1,500-square-foot single-story home), but he estimates that the investment in curb appeal can help properties sell for up to 10% more than others on the block. Just stick to neutrals: This isn’t the time to try out a statement color.

4. Replace or repair your roof

ROI: 50% to 110%

“The peace of mind offered by a functionally sound roof is invaluable to its respective occupants and is weighed heavily by those intent on making a purchase,” Merrill says. A new roof can be basic or with details that enhance curb appeal, but its main value comes from instilling confidence in a prospective buyer. This holds true for repairing leaks and for cosmetic damage, which buyers often use to negotiate a lower price.

5. Power-wash the exterior

ROI: 40% to 110%

The ROI for this project can vary based on just how dirty your home was before the wash. If the home was merely a little dirty, the ROI may not be as great as it is for one that will look almost new after the wash. If your home falls into the latter category, it can be worth it to hire a pro. “The ROI could be 100% or more, even if done by a pro for $1,000 or more,” Eby says. If you decide to go DIY, Eby cautions to take care to avoid spraying water in a direction that’ll force it behind siding or under shingles.

6. Window replacement

ROI: 50% to 80%

Windows can be hit-or-miss investments, mainly because they are expensive to replace and almost invisible to buyers. “It’s been my experience that unless the windows are damaged or so poorly insulated that your utility bills are sky-high, most buyers don’t consider windows to be a major deciding factor,” says Wingfield.

7. Update your HVAC

ROI: 20% to 50%

This project ranks as one with the lowest payoff, simply because current buyers have come to expect all homes have central air. An upgrade isn’t a selling point unless the system was old to begin with. “If your existing system has been in place for more than 10 to 15 years, it’s likely that you’ll soon need a new one. It becomes an area that a potential buyer will most likely use to negotiate a lower price,” Eby says. Even then, you might have to show proof of gains in efficiency to recoup your costs.

8. Clean the gutters

ROI: Priceless

Here, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. “While you may need to wait for inclement weather to realize your return on investment, a mere 30 minutes of routine rain gutter maintenance could prevent thousands of dollars in damage to the foundation of a home,” Merrill says. If you outsource this chore, expect to pay $3 to $9 per foot.

Posted by Brie Dyas on Trulia

8 DIY Projects That (Surprise!) Require Permits

Posted on

Your insurance company won’t be on your side if something goes awry with your renovation and you don’t have a permit.

You might roll your eyes at having to get a permit before doing a DIY project around the house, but permits serve a purpose.

Permit requirements are just ways for the city to nickel-and-dime you to death, right? Is your city invading your privacy by caring whether you want to replace your overhead light fixture with a ceiling fan?

Before you get too worked up, realize that cities have their reasons for requiring permits. “Obtaining a permit means that someone knowledgeable will review your plans and help spot mistakes before you begin the work,” says Rick Goldstein, an architect and co-owner of MOSAIC Group in Atlanta, GA. If you make improvements without a permit, you might receive a big, fat denial letter from your insurance company when something goes wrong and you want to cash in.

You know the phrase “You don’t know what you don’t know”? Well, that’s the way it is with permits. That ceiling fan might be too heavy to hang from a box designed for a simple light fixture, especially when it’s going full blast and vibrating. You don’t want the fan falling on you while you sleep!

You might know some projects that require a permit, but you might be surprised by these eight DIY projects that typically require a permit too.

1. Installing a gas stove

Many people are making the switch from an electric to a gas stove. Depending on where you live, gas could be much cheaper, and if you’re a foodie, food just tastes better cooked over fire. But if installed incorrectly and the gas leaks, it could be extremely harmful. Get a permit and make sure someone is checking behind you to catch any mistakes.

2. Replacing windows or doors

If you think this project seems pretty straightforward, think again. For windows, you need a permit to ensure emergency egress requirements are met in case first responders need to get in. If windows and doors aren’t properly installed, water could get into the house. No one wants a side of mold with their renovations.

3. Building a deck

When dreams of outdoor living beckon, first call the permit office. If your deck isn’t structurally sound, or if you used untreated lumber that decays, your deck could collapse, and that could really interfere with your meditation mantra. And don’t even try to guess how to meet building codes for railings. Be safe and get that permit.

4. Putting up a fence

“Building a fence requires a survey and a permit,” Goldstein says. The reason for this is usually to ensure you aren’t violating city ordinances by building a fence too high in your residential subdivision or choosing one with barbed wire in the middle of the city. If you build a fence without a permit, you might receive a stop-work order.

5. Installing a storm shelter or safe room

If you want protection from tornadoes (and hurricanes), you might consider installing a shelter. But unless you design and construct this room to FEMA specs, you might not be so safe after all. A huge benefit of a prebuilding permit is that you can register it. “If there is a tornado in your area, first responders will know who has storm shelters and where they need to look for you in case you get trapped inside,” says Blake Lee of F5 Storm Shelters in Tulsa, OK.

6. Remodeling a kitchen or bathroom

Picking out the perfect granite for your countertops and finding just the right fixtures and cabinetry aren’t the only things on your checklist. If you neglect to get a permit for major remodeling work, you might not be able to easily sell your home in the future.

“If an inspector catches this kind of thing, or if a bank wants to make sure it’s covered against all liability and demands to see the permit before funding a mortgage, this can potentially be a major time and money sink to rectify,” says Kimberly Wingfield, a Philadelphia, PA, real estate agent and DIY fanatic.

7. Installing new electrical wiring

Your house in the historic district simply isn’t wired for all your gadgets — but an amateur electrical wiring job could cause a fire. This project definitely needs a permit.

8. Replacing a gas water heater

Surely you can replace your old water heater without a permit, right? Nope. Although many DIY enthusiasts do it all the time, if it’s done wrong, a fire or flood could ensue, or if gas escapes …kaboom. These risks leave a huge potential for serious injury. A permit also means that an inspector looks over your completed job to ensure it was done properly. This is a huge confidence boost in the knowledge that your work is up to code — and minimizes the potential for home-sale complications down the road.

– See more at: https://www.trulia.com/blog/8-diy-projects-that-surprise-require-permits/#sthash.WALE0aVT.dpuf