Ahh spring…. This long, cold, wet winter is finally over–at least according to the calendar–and it’s time to act on some of those Houzz and Pinterest-inspired home improvement projects you’ve been mulling over on those cold winter nights. Spring is springing, so now is the time to finalize your home improvement plans–decide what you’re going to do, figure out the budget, and line up the contractors. Once the ground thaws out and it’s warm enough to actually get outside, getting on a good contractor’s schedule is a challenge–start interviewing as soon as you finish this article.
Deciding what to do
One of the hardest parts of starting a home improvement project is narrowing your focus, and determining what’s going to give you the most bang for your buck–that is, where will you see the greatest return on your investment when it’s time for resale. Kitchens and bathrooms are historically the best places for a solid return, followed by exterior improvements–landscaping, siding, and outdoor living spaces. Here are some ideas for home improvement projects that are economically sound and won’t break the bank.
Inside or out, fresh paint is an easy, inexpensive upgrade. Design trends are moving away from cool neutrals and back to deep, saturated color. Try a jewel tone in a powder room first, if you’re nervous about all that color. Blues and greens are also trending for exteriors. Paint costs $30-75 per gallon; if you hire a painter the cost has wide range, but$1000 per room is a good average for interior work.
Flooring options today go way beyond hardwood, tiles, or carpet. Try some of these for an updated foundation for all your furniture.
- Engineered hardwood–more durable than actual tree-based hardwood, these come in a huge range of colors, plank width, and wood. You can DIY if you’re okay with removing old flooring, the engineered wood costs from $3-4 per square foot; the other materials add another $100-200 to the project.
- Bamboo–if you want sustainable flooring, bamboo is a newer option that looks like hardwood. It’s warmer to bare feet than other wood or tile and is fairly durable. Prices are comparable to the engineered hardwood.
- Cork–another sustainable flooring choice, cork is warm to bare feet, but is very durable since it’s a bit softer than hardwood. You can get a cork look, or a hardwood plank look. It’s a little more expensive than bamboo, between $3.50 and $7.00 uninstalled.
As sexist as it sounds, women have the greatest influence on home-buying decisions, and the kitchen is the deciding factor in many buying scenarios. Upgrades to your kitchen are a win-win–you get more enjoyment, and your return on resale is highest when the kitchen is fresh and modern. These are the best upgrades, and you can DIY or hire a pro to help you out.
- Farmhouse sink–install a large, single bowl sink in metal, ceramic, or copper. Home improvement stores stock some, and can special order the higher-end ones.Stainless sinks cost under $300; hammered copper in the $3000 range.
- Countertops–if you missed the granite train, there are lots of new options out there for countertops. Engineered quartz is the newest thing–there’s less maintenance than granite–but composites, marble, and granite are still popular. Colors are lighter–white is really trendy right now and probably best avoided–so you’ve got lots more options than the old Uba Tuba. Installed countertops cost $30-200 per linear foot.
- Cabinets–paint your old oak and cherry cabinets, and replace some doors with glass. If the farmhouse look is your thing, remove the doors altogether and use the shelves for display. If you’re handy and DIY a cabinet upgrade only costs you the materials; if you hire a carpenter it will cost around $300-$1000, depending on the scope of work.
- Appliances–smart appliances are taking over the kitchen, and if a new fridge is one your wish list, go check the smart ones that literally maintain a grocery list. Dishwashers are smarter and more energy efficient, as are microwaves, and some ranges and cooktops. A smart fridge costs about $3500; a microwave $350.
Boosting your curb appeal is another win-win–you get happy whenever you come home to a freshly landscaped yard, and let’s face it–when you decide to sell, super curb appeal makes or breaks someone even looking at the house.
- Fire pit–you can DIY with a kit and some landscaping bricks, or build your own with pre-made walls. The kit costs under $350.
- Water Feature–a fountain or a small koi pond does wonders for the backyard esthetic, and the sound of moving water muffles traffic noise. You can install one yourself during a weekend for $300 or so, fish not included. Koi are quite hardy and winter fine in cold climates.
- Evergreens–these hardy shrubs and trees are a great foundation for the rest of your landscaping. Some bloom and the leaves change color, bit they’re always providing color. Try to avoid boxwoods unless you want a formal look; use holly, fir, arbor vitae, and pine instead. Your costs are dependent on the size of your yard and which ones you choose, but an average is $11 for a medium-sized holly.If you hire a landscaper the work costs more, but the plants are guaranteed.
- Perennials–hardy perennials are a third win-win. They look great the first year, they bloom again the next year, and after that you can divide them and double your money. Check your garden center for the best perennials for where you live (hardiness can vary within a single zip code);a gallon-size hosta costs about $9 and a three pack of bulbs under $10.
- Border–a border around your plants defines the yard better and is super for instant gratification–for around $1.50 per foot, you can install a garden border between games during March Madness.
Home Equity Line of Credit
If the Tax Reform Act of 2017 put a dent in your anticipated refund, you can still spiff up your home for spring–ask your loan officer at Heritage Financial Credit Union about a home equity line of credit (HELOC). There could be tax advantages to a home equity line, ask your tax advisor about those.