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.
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.
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.
Every home will need new windows at some point. Here’s how to know when the time is right.
Your house may not be able to talk to you, but nevertheless it gives you signs when something’s not right. A home’s windows are particularly communicative. Although they don’t last forever, high-quality, well-maintained windows could last for 20 years or more, but there are many factors at play. (Windows in a coastal city like Charleston, SC, might age faster than they would in Los Angeles, CA, for example.) If your windows are more than a few decades old, listen carefully to what they’re telling you, so you’ll know when they need to be replaced. Here’s what to be on the lookout for.
1. They’re damaged, warped, or broken
It’s sometimes possible to repair a window instead of replacing it. If your window’s problem is minor, such as needing new weatherstripping or hardware, a repair might be the best option. But replacing a damaged, warped, or broken window sash or frame is almost always preferred to attempting a repair. “Even if the windows are still operable, they can develop problems,” says Kris Hanson, Senior Group Manager in Product Management at Marvin Windows and Doors. Do your windows fog up? Are they drafty? Do they stick when you try to open or close them? Do they refuse to stay open? If your windows are communicating in those ways, they’re telling you to replace them.
2. You want to reduce your energy bill
Windows provide some heat in the winter by letting in sunlight. But drafty windows can cause your energy bills to be about 10% to 25% higher, according to Energy.gov. Replacing your windows with energy-efficient ones can reduce your heating and cooling bills. Bonus: If you’re considering listing your home for sale, those new windows — and the resulting energy cost savings — can be a big selling point.
But don’t assume all windows are the same; it’s important to consider your specific needs. One factor? Your location. “Marvin offers a wide range of energy-efficient options and can tailor your windows to best suit your climate,” says Hanson. “Insulating glass is standard in all Marvin windows, along with thousands of options that meet the Energy Star Most Efficient designation, the highest standard for efficiency for the program.”
3. Your home needs a makeover
Windows are one of the most prominent features of a home, and if they look worn, your house will too. Look to see whether the color is fading or the window material is warping, or whether old screens or storm windows detract from the curb appeal of your home, suggests Hanson. “Architects and builders know that good design is critical for the longevity of a structure. Design considerations are a close second to quality when selecting new windows, and the overall vision or design theme of a home or space should be a driving force in the window selection process,” he adds.
While you’re upgrading your home’s appearance, you might also wish to change the type of window from a fixed sash to a window that opens. This way, “you can create a more comfortable interior and improve airflow through your home,” says Hanson. Another option? Install larger windows to increase a room’s natural light, which has aesthetic and health benefits: According to the Lighting Research Center, daylit environments increase productivity and comfort, plus help regulate your circadian rhythms for better general wellness.
4. You just survived a severe storm
If you live in a hurricane impact zone or other area prone to severe weather events, you’re probably prepared for the possibility of damaged windows. In fact, just living near the coast can do a number on your home’s exterior, including your windows. “If you worry about the effects of sea salt, humidity, or coastal winds, consider Integrity windows made with Ultrex fiberglass,” says Hanson. “These windows resist corrosion and remain stable in extreme temperatures because of a material that expands at the same rate as glass.” But even if you don’t live in a coastal region, if your top priority in a window is low maintenance, windows made with Ultrex fiberglass would be a smart choice. “The finish is three times thicker than the competitors’, which ensures Integrity windows won’t crack, dent, chip, or peel — they’re virtually maintenance-free,” adds Hanson.
5. You’re renovating a historic home
Maybe you moved into a historic home that suffers from vinyl replacement windows that detract from the home’s historic charm. The wrong window can dramatically change the overall look of a historic home and can even interfere with its integrity. If your goal is to install historically accurate replacement windows, a company that can handle custom requests should be your go-to. “Marvin specializes in creating customized windows to match one-of-a-kind spaces as well as producing exact replicas for historical homes,” says Hanson.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Your kitchen is calling from 1988, but your bank account doesn’t want to answer. We get it: According to Remodeling Magazine, a minor kitchen makeover averages $20,122, while a major renovation can hit a you-gotta-be-kidding-me $60,000.
If you’re looking for something a whole lot more budget-friendly, a mini kitchen makeover for about $500 can go a surprisingly long way. Check out these eight cheap remodels to get your kitchen renovation cooking for a whole lot less.
1. Declutter the counter space
Kitchens tend to collect tons of stuff—like Mr. Coffee coffee makers, George Foreman grills, and weird canisters of wooden spoons—on countertops. An easy way to dramatically transform a kitchen is to simply put all that junk away. For around $490, you can install two separate shelving units to transform the dead space in that cabinet under the sink that no one ever uses.
“Glide-out shelving can get around obstructions like pipes or disposals and make the kitchen a more useful space,” says Nina Ward, interior designer and regional director for ShelfGenie. Plus, the shelves can hold up to 100 pounds of kitchen detritus—that’s a whole lot of paper towels.
2. Paint just about everything
A chorus of experts says the most affordable and transformative kitchen makeover is to paint, paint, paint—and not just the walls, points out Tracy Kay Griffin, lead designer at Express Homebuyers, a real estate investment company based in Springfield, VA.
Colors such as orange or red immediately “spice up” your kitchen, says Sean Juneja, co-founder and CEO of Decor Aid. A new Viking red stove can cost upward of $5,000. But a stove panel that’s easy to install can quickly and easily cover your existing dishwasher. It costs about $500 and comes in vibrant shades like cherry red and pink lemonade. It’s like a quick shot of decor adrenaline.
5. Amp up the lighting
One of the single most important elements that have a profound effect on any space is whatever devices are holding the humble lightbulbs.
“Changing out fixtures can not only update your space but also provide ambiance,” says Juneja. “A new pendant upscales the kitchen instantly and provides the biggest bang for the buck.” He likes this West Elm pendant style for a sleek yet warm look, or you could go for a bit of drama with this bundle of glowing orbs from CB2. Handy? Buy black cables from your local hardware store and hang generic lightbulbs for approximately $100 plus an electrician (maybe another $100 to $150) to make sure everything is safe.
6. Reface upper cabinets with glass
There are some things in your kitchen you definitely want to hide, like that family-size bag of Cheese Balls. Other stuff you want people to see: the vintage barware you scored at a garage sale. Swap out the heavy wooden doors on your kitchen cabinets for ones with glass to display your cute dishes and glassware.
“It instantly modernizes and opens up a kitchen,” says Juneja. It costs approximately $500 for an average-size space.
7. Update tired flooring
“If you have outdated vinyl or linoleum flooring in your kitchen, a fresh wood-looking floor can make a huge difference in the overall appearance of the room,” says John Horner, founder of Central Ohio Home Buyer.
Depending on the size of your space, a nice wood laminate can easily be put in for about $500 in material.
“Many of the laminate flooring found in your local home improvement store is either click together or stick down, and very simple to install yourself.”
Another inexpensive way to transform your kitchen from something “dull into something amazing” is to install new laminate countertops from your local home improvement store, which often carries its own brands.
“New countertops can drastically improve the look of your kitchen for a very reasonable price,” says Horner. “For a medium-size kitchen, they can cost around $500 and installation is easy.”
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
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.