If you’re planning on selling your home any time soon, you’re probably concerned with house values. You might want to increase the value of your home and make it more appealing to potential home buyers. Not every home improvement, however, is cost effective. Some cost more to achieve than they’ll return in a sale, so they won’t provide a net gain on your investment. Of course, if you’re doing the improvements just to make your home more comfortable and attractive for you and your family, you might not be so concerned about home renovations as investments. My husband is an expert at home improvement and does it professionally. We’ve done a number of renovations in every home we’ve owned. Most were done just for our own enjoyment and not with selling our home in mind. Some of our home improvement projects were major renovations, but many have been relatively simple. Sometimes house values can be increased with relatively simple tweaks. For some ideas about how to add value to a house with home improvement and renovation, keep reading!
Which home renovation ideas will provide the best “bang for the buck”? According to the experts who research such things, the best home improvement ideas include kitchen renovations and bathroom remodeling. Energy-efficient renovations are also good choices, as are outdoor living areas. All these home improvement ideas, however, should be carefully weighed. How much of the cost will likely be recouped in a sale?
You’ll need to use some common sense here. Any home improvements you do should be in keeping with the general value and style of the home. If, for example, you have a small, cozy, country cottage-style house, a huge modern gourmet kitchen would look out of place, and you’ll probably never come anywhere close to recouping your investment. If one room in the home is stunningly beautiful, while the rest aren’t, the remodeled room is going to make the other rooms look even worse, in comparison. It’s better to “spread the love around” than to focus all your time, energy, and money on a single room.
Before you begin any home renovations, you need to check local codes to be sure you comply with them. Also, if you’re not used to completing DIY home renovations, take it slow at first. Start with a small, simple project. As your skills and confidence improve, you can move on to slightly larger and more complicated home improvement projects.
DIY Home Renovations
DIY home renovations are the way to go. If you spend a small fortune on your home improvements in order to earn more money from selling your home, you defeat the purpose. Look at it this way: Suppose a kitchen renovation will add $2,000 to the value of your home, but the renovation costs $3,000 in labor and materials. You’re losing money on the deal, not making money. You can save a bundle on home improvements by doing them yourself and by shopping around for the best prices on materials.
I can’t stress enough the importance of comparison shopping for materials. My husband-contractor has really opened my eyes to the huge discrepancy in prices for the same or very similar materials and supplies. Don’t restrict your shopping and comparing to local dealers, either. We searched high and low for new flooring and found the best deal at a liquidator that was almost 200 miles from our home. Even with shipping costs, we saved a lot of dough.
Before starting on home improvement projects, do your homework. You might already have some home improvement ideas that you’re considering, but if you don’t, you can get ideas from magazines, from books, from the internet, and by visiting some showrooms. Once your home renovation ideas become plans, figure out exactly how much they’re going to cost. Also, make sure you’re capable of doing the work yourself. If you need some pointers, attend a weekend workshop. These are often provided by larger home improvement centers. You can also learn a lot by watching videos on the internet. Heck, you might even have a friend with some experience in a specific area. If so, agree to swap some work with him or her. Offer your time, work, and expertise on some other project in exchange for help with your home improvement projects.
Painting is a great way to improve the appearance of your home at a relatively low cost. This includes interior painting on walls, ceilings, and built-ins that look old and outdated. Exterior house painting is also a good idea, greatly improving the curb appeal of your home to potential buyers. Penny for penny, nothing can brighten a home like a fresh coat of paint, and you don’t need to be a professional – anyone can do a good job!
Before starting house painting, you’ll need to be careful choosing colors. For the exterior, choose colors that compliment any brick or stone you might have. Prepare the surface before painting by using a pressure washer. That will remove much of any peeling paint present. If the outside of the house is especially dirty, you can add a special cleaning substance to the pressure washer. Once the exterior has been pressure washed, scrape any remaining paint peels off with a wire brush. Allow the house to dry completely before applying paint. Depending on conditions, complete drying might take as long as two weeks.
Color is extremely important for interior painting, too. You might love having a purple kitchen, but prospective buyers might not. It’s much better to stick with neutral shades. For sheetrock walls that have been painted before, you might need to clean them first. Smoke from cooking and from cigarettes, along with grease, can accumulate on walls, and paint won’t adhere well to dirty walls. TSP is a good pre-painting cleaner you can use. Next, you’ll need to remove any nails and fill the holes. Repair any small drywall damage with spackling compound and sand it down once it’s dry. Then you’ll need to mark off the walls with painter’s tape. Use it around trim, doors, molding, and windows to get a sharp edge. Don’t use masking tape! Painter’s tape is specifically made to remove easily without taking the paint or finish with it. The next step is to prime the walls with primer. I asked hubby if this was really necessary, and he assured me that it is. He explained that the primer coat conditions the surface to accept and hold paint, and it will also provide a truer color of the paint shade you’ve selected.
If you or of your friends is handy with a miter saw, you might want to add some wainscoting to drab walls. You don’t have to go with the wide, expensive molding here. Even narrower, less expensive molding can break up large areas of space and make walls more interesting. Keep the paint shades neutral and use a lighter shade on top of the molding and a somewhat deeper shade on bottom.
When we were going through our last home renovation, we wanted to do something about the 1960’s paneling in the den. It was very dark, and it made the room seem gloomy. We could have just painted it, but we came up with a better idea. We decided that we didn’t need a den, so we turned the room into a breakfast room to make our tiny kitchen seem more spacious. We created a faux stucco finish on the walls and on the old ceiling tiles. How’d we do it? First, we used liquid sander on the paneling. Next, we filled in the nail holes and cracks in the paneling with spackling. When that was dry, we sanded it and painted on two coats of primer. When that was dry, we made a batch of sheetrock mud. If you prefer, you can buy it already made. We applied a layer of the mud with a trowel. When that was dry, we applied another layer of mud, using a trowel and a large sponge to create texture. When that was dry, we painted the walls with a pale paint, in a shade called “moon.”
To create the same look on the ceiling tiles, hubby filled in the cracks between the tiles with spackling. Once it was dry, he applied two coats of primer. When the primer was dry, he applied the sheetrock mud. He used two thin layers of mud on the ceiling, and he painted the ceiling off-white. To complete the look, he added some faux beams made from 1 x 4-inch boards. We also installed engineered hardwood floors in the kitchen and breakfast room.
As I said, our kitchen is very small, and I never had enough counter space. To sort of join the “new” breakfast room and kitchen together, we installed a long counter along the wall that was shared by the kitchen and breakfast room. We didn’t want to pay the high price for granite, so we opted for faux granite. We shopped around and found some discontinued pieces that were priced ridiculously low, and there was enough for the new long counter, along with enough for replacing our old 60’s countertops in the kitchen.
If your windows are old, you might want to consider energy-saving replacement windows. Most of today’s home shoppers are concerned with monthly costs associated with heating and cooling, and windows with Energy Star ratings can save several hundred bucks a year. Also, you’ll get a tax cut for installing such replacement windows. If you do the work yourself, you’ll probably recoup most of the cost of the windows, and while you’re still living in the house, you’ll be saving money on your power bills. You might also want to check with your state and with your power company. Some offer rebates for such energy-efficient upgrades and home renovations.
Kitchen renovations are some of the best investments you can make to add value to your house. Kitchens aren’t seen as just functional rooms these days. Many modern homes have gourmet kitchens and space for entertaining, often making them focal points in the home. Such kitchens are comfortable and welcoming, and they’re often open to living areas, making the cook or cooks feel a part of family time or parties. Your kitchen renovation ideas should keep this in mind.
You’re probably including the major kitchen appliances in the sale of your home, so you might want to consider sprucing them up a bit as part of your home renovation ideas. If they’re in good working order but just need a “facelift,” use appliance paint to do the job. A couple of years ago, we bought a new stainless steel fridge, dishwasher, and stovetop. Our range hood and oven door were almond, however. They were old, but they still worked great. Instead of replacing them, hubby used appliance paint, and they look great! Now all the kitchen appliances match.
Another area you might want to focus on with your kitchen remodeling is your cabinetry. If any minor repairs are needed, take care of those. How does the surface look? If your cabinet doors are made of an inferior wood, painting them will probably be your best bet. If, on the other hand, the cabinet doors are made of an expensive wood, you’ll probably want to refinish them if they need it. Go with a more generic look for the cabinets if you’re planning on selling your home soon. We’re not planning on selling our home, so we went with a very specific look. We used a red and white crackle glaze on our cabinet doors. I love it, but I’m sure some people wouldn’t.
Don’t forget your kitchen floor, either. If the flooring needs to be replaced, you have lots of choices. You can find pretty cheap tile, but if you have to hire someone to lay it, the cost will be fairly expensive. Laminates are another option, and you can probably do that yourself. With our most recent kitchen renovation, we chose engineered hardwood. We found a good deal on it, so it was much cheaper than hardwood floors and even laminates. Hubby installed the flooring himself, by the way.
We’ve looked down, now let’s look up. Some homeowners rarely pay any attention to their ceilings. Kitchen ceilings can get incredibly grimy due to residues from cooking. A good cleaning and a nice new coat of paint will really brighten up the entire area. It’s best to use a very light shade of paint on ceilings because it makes a room appear larger and brighter.
Bathroom remodeling is another good way to increase the value of your home. According to realtors I’ve spoken with, bathrooms are extremely important to prospective buyers, and homes with just one bathroom are often very difficult to sell. If your home has a single bathroom, you might seriously want to consider adding another one. Even if you don’t have room for a full bath, a half bath is better than none. Now…where can you fit one in? Do you have an “extra” room that could be turned into a bathroom? How about under the stairs?
If you do most of the labor yourself, adding a bathroom could actually make you money when your home is sold. You’ll probably need a plumber for the drains and water lines, but you should be able to do the walls and ceilings on your own. Tile walls are extremely popular, but you might not feel comfortable doing the job yourself. If not, you could put up drywall and paint it. If you don’t think you can do that on your own, either, use 4 x 8 panels that look like tile. These go up quickly and easily, so you should have no problems there.
Bathroom remodeling ideas might include changing your fixtures. If you have room in your bathrooms for two sinks, go for it. Realtors state that potential homeowners really like having two sinks in a bathroom. If you don’t have room, or if you don’t want to buy a new sink, make your existing sink more attractive by adding a new faucet and new faucet handles. Place matching pulls on your bathroom cabinets and drawers, and shop for a new lighting fixture that complements the new look.
What kind of shape is your toilet in? What about your shower or bathtub? If you have porcelain toilets, tubs, and showers, try cleaning them first. Use TSP, oven cleaner, and/or a paste of salt and hydrogen peroxide. If you can’t remove unsightly stains from the toilet bowl, you might want to consider replacing it with a new one. You can find toilets at places like Habitat for Humanity stores for very little money. Bathtubs, on the other hand, are more expensive and involve more labor to install. If vigorous cleaning doesn’t work on your porcelain bathtub, consider painting it. Clean if with TSP first, and be sure to rinse it thoroughly. When it’s completely dry, sand the surface lightly with medium-grit sandpaper. Rinse the tub well again and allow it to dry. Spray the bathtub with acrylic primer. When that’s dry, spray the tub with epoxy appliance paint. Make sure this dries completely before running water in the tub. Hubby likes to wait about two days. Once that’s done, remove the old grout and replace it. Your tub will look brand new!
Small Bathroom Remodeling
Small bathroom remodeling could be the tipping point for selling your house. Over the past few years, more and more emphasis has been placed on bathrooms, and like kitchens, they aren’t just “necessary rooms” any longer. Most people want bathrooms that are functional and attractive.
Small bathroom remodeling presents special challenges, but it can also offer some great results. The easy part is that since they’re small, renovations can be done fairly quickly, but that’s also what makes them so challenging. The key is to make the room appear more spacious, so your bathroom remodeling ideas should focus on that.
Light and pale walls can make a small bathroom appear larger. Use neutrals, white, off-white, or very pale pastel shades. Get as much light into the room as you can. Instead of taking up space with large light fixtures, use recessed lighting. Take a good look at your bathroom floor. You want to get as much as possible off the floor to open up more space. Get rid of cabinets and vanity sinks and exchange them for wall-mounted sinks. Make recessed storage shelves in between the wall studs. Add a lip across the front of a couple of shelves, and you’ll have room for storing rolled-up towels.
Take as much as you can off the walls, too. Yes, that includes sconce lights. With enough recessed ceiling lighting, you won’t miss the sconces. Avoid bulky curtains and other heavy window treatments. Use light and airy options, instead. The use of mirrors can also make a room look larger, and with small bathrooms, tall, narrow mirrors often work best.
If you’re adding a small bathroom, or if you have a small bathroom with a tub that needs replacing, forget the tub. Instead, install a corner shower unit. These don’t take up nearly as much floor space, and some are pretty easy to install. You might also consider a small bathtub, but these are often much more expensive than shower units.
Outdoor Living Areas
More and more home owners are demanding outdoor living areas, so adding one could easily increase the value of your home – if you do the work yourself. Take a deck, for example. A deck can increase the value of your home by several thousand dollars, but the same deck might cost more than that to build, especially if you hire a contractor. Do the job yourself, instead!
We have a huge deck on the back of our home, and hubby built it himself. It includes two levels, steps, and railings. The top level surrounds an above-ground pool. Since the deck is level with the pool’s ledge, the pool seems to be built in. Oh, and I’m not suggesting you add a pool. That’s not a cost-effective way to add value to your home. Other outdoor living areas can be, though.
For our deck, hubby used treated wood. After outlining the area to be used, he set the support posts in cement footers. The footers have to be level. Use a string line to make sure the tops of the posts are level with each other. Use joist hangers to hold the outside frame of the deck. Next, mark where the floor joists go, about sixteen inches apart, on joist hangers. Now you can start laying the decking. Use special deck screws here, and leave enough space between each board to allow for expansion, between 1/8 and ¼ inch. If you want to add a railing, it should be attached sturdily to the outside frame. If the deck is attached to the house, use leg bolts to hold the joists to the house, but leave air space between the house and the first joist with galvanized washers. This will allow water to drain.
If you don’t want to go through the trouble and expense of building a deck, come up with some other home improvement ideas for outdoor living areas. A slightly raised wooden platform, one that’s large enough for a small grouping of outdoor furniture, would work. You might also wish to make a patio from brick pavers. We did that next to our deck for outdoor cooking. To make our cooking area, we first found some brick tiles that we liked. They were each one foot by one foot square. We already had concrete to butt the perimeter against, but if you don’t, you can use treated lumber to frame the area. Once you’ve outlined the area for your patio, fill it with about two inches of sand and level it. Place the pavers or tiles and use a tamper to get the tiles level. Next, sprinkle sand on the surface and brush it in with a stiff-bristled brush. Hose off any access with a gentle spray of water. Next, soak the entire area with water, being careful not to spray away any sand between the cracks.
Writer Fox from the wadi near the little river on May 19, 2013:
The right home improvements can definitely help you sell a house quickly and for the best price. You do, however, have to choose carefully and pick improvements that will add real value - like kitchens and bathrooms!
Great work on your home!
faux beams on December 11, 2012:
my wife and I added faux beams and crown moulding to several self enclosed areas of our home (dining, office, master) and it provided much bang for our buck. (Photos here: http://www.owtraditions.com) I like those crackle cabinets too, maybe that's next!
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 31, 2012:
Habee, you seem to be as much as expert as your husband (at least, on paper). Thank you so much for these suggestions. "If you spend a small fortune on your home improvements in order to earn more money from selling your home, you defeat the purpose." I think this where many people go wrong. I'm renovating right now, but nor for sale. I especially paid attention to the bathroom and kitchen suggestions.
Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on October 31, 2012:
Nice tips here! I have a few rooms that need some major updates (notably, my kitchen and bathroom). I'm dreading it, but your hub and photos show me it's well worth the time and trouble!
JSParker from Detroit, Michigan on October 30, 2012:
Great job and so comprehensive. You certainly have done extensive remodeling. We bought a house built in 1940, left most of the main floor as it was, except tore out the wall between the dining room and kitchen, gutted the kitchen, took the kitchen ceiling to the roof line and added a second floor master suite.
Our decisions were based more on what we wanted than on the resale value of the improvements. So it really makes a difference to figure out your long-term plans, as much as one can in an uncertain world.
glamourous06 from United Kingdom on October 29, 2012:
really usfull and creative hub, great advise , thank you so much for sharing
crissytsu from Texas on October 28, 2012:
Lots of great useful information...thanks for sharing. Voted up and useful.
Sommer Dalton on October 28, 2012:
Wow! Great article full of useful information!! It reminds me of that show buying and selling:), Awesome hub. Voted up and more.
carol stanley from Arizona on October 28, 2012:
I think you have some really valuable ideas here. And many do not cost a bundle. A fresh coat of paint is amazing. And fixing up broken stuff. What is interesting is that people really notice bad carpet and that alone is not terribly expensive as compared with other items. And of course make sure the house has a pleasant scent. I used to fix up houses for sale..and really appreciate when a house shows well. I am voting up and sharing.