Jeff Larson, Author at Homeowner's Pal

Increasing Your Property Value With a New Roof

The style of your roof can be as unique as your home. When trying to understand your roof or looking to replace your roof, it is important to know the different styles that roofs often come in. Most often the styles available are dependent on the climate you live in.

There are many different styles of roof that you can turn to depending on your climate. Colder climates may turn to an atypical tin roof whereas warm climates may turn towards a flat roof style. Not only is their a difference in the style of roof and materials used, but also in color chosen.

In warmer climates, having a lighter color (not black) roof will make it so that your house stays cooler and doesn’t absorb so much heat.

If you are going to spend the money to get your roof redone, you may as well go a bit further to make it so that your roof becomes a desirable feature within your home.

This can work to increase your property value and draw more excitement into your home. The roof of your home is a largely underused space but when handled correctly can turn into a focal point.

Wood Shingles

If you are looking to stay semi-traditional but don’t want to look like your neighbors, wood shingles are an excellent option. These can add a flair to your home without costing loads of money or extra time to install.

They will protect your home and cost roughly the same to install. Wood shingles also have a drastic positive effect on the value of your home, something to consider if you are thinking about selling your home.

Green Roofing

In the last few years people have become more environmentally conscious. Green roofs are a product of this. Essentially this is a flat roof that has grass and plants growing on it. It has a waterproof, reinforced base which allows the roof to retain water and dirt for the plants to grow.

When compared to a regular shingled roof green roofs are better insulators. They keep your home colder in the summer and warmer in the winter. Also, you will notice less noise inside your home as they insulate against noise pollution. This also allows you to grow a garden and patio on your roof.

Solar Panels

Continuing with the green theme solar panels are taking over. The years have been kind to this roofing addition and the prices have dropped dramatically.

If your home receives a lot of sunlight throughout the year it may be a good idea to look into solar power. Yes there is a high initial cost but switching can actually end up making you money down the road.

Build a Living Space

If your building code allows it a rooftop patio is a great way to not only increase value of your home, but also add more usable square footage. This is an excellent option if you are living in the city or have a smaller home.

Final Thoughts

Your roof doesn’t have to be the same mundane area that it is in so many houses. Paying a bit more attention to give your roof new life can work to drastically increase your houses property value and appeal.

Have you incorporated one of these roofing styles into your home? Let us know how you like it in the comment section below.

When Does a Roof Need to Be Replaced?

Deciding when the best time to replace your roof isn’t always easy. A roof can need to be replaced for many reasons, some of which are not easy to spot from looking at it.

Age of the Roof

The largest factor in determining this is the age of the roof. Every roof has a lifespan that needs to be recorded. Roofs usually last for around 25 to more than 30 years before they need to be replaced. It is important that despite their relatively long lifespan, that they get inspected regularly for potential maintenance. That doesn’t mean they don’t need to be maintained or inspected more regularly.

The following should be considered when deciding how long your roof has left and whether or not it may be time to replace.

Previous Installation

How it was installed is a good way to tell if it needs to be redone. You need to know what to look for, but can easily be done by just looking at it. Once you are on the roof look for the joins. For example, where the chimney meets the slope.

Is there flashing that extends up the chimney? Checking to make sure that it is present and not cracked is important as this is what weatherproofs your chimney and provides watertight seals.

If it is under the 20 year mark but shingles are falling off or you notice leaks, it is recommended to get your roof inspected by a professional. Oftentimes this may be covered by your warranty.

Roof Condition

Just looking at the overall shape is another great way to tell. The most obvious things to look for are moss growing or any discoloration. This is not a good sign.

If there is moss growing on your roof it usually means that water is not draining and instead pooling which creates an ideal spot for nature to take over. This can cause significant damage to not only the shingles and sheathing, but also the frame of the roof. Catching this early on is crucial.

Inspect the Shingles

There are many ways to tell if you need to consider replacing your roof just by looking at the shingles. Obviously if some are missing you will have to investigate and remedy it. But also if they are curling or buckling. This is one of the signs that your shingles are past their life expectancy.

Another warning sign is sand in your eaves. Shingles that start to lose their effectiveness start to shed causing what seems to be a sand build up in your eaves.

If you are experiencing any of these it is time to have your roof inspected by a professional. We recommend you doing a visual inspection of your roof about twice a year to maintain its integrity.

This way you can catch a potential problem early and are more likely to get it covered by your warranty. This is especially true in colder climates where harsh weather and heavy snowfall can do potential damage.

Have you recently had to replace your roof? Talk to us about how you found the process in the comment section below.

The Many Parts of a Roof

September 7, 2017

The roof on your house is one of the most important aspects of your home. Your roof has a very important job, perhaps one of the most important in your home: protect you from the elements.

If you have noticed your roof looks like it needs attention it is best to look into it further rather than leave it for later. While it may seem like a daunting task, leaving a problem roof can cost you big in the long run.

Roofs are expensive if they need to be redone as they require a lot of knowledge and skill to install and repair. For this reason, it is not something you can typically do yourself and instead you will need to hire the job out.

Before calling your contractor, it is important that you know the different parts of your roof so that you can get a more accurate quote. Having this knowledge will help you to understand the different parts of your roof and leave you with a better concept of what to do next.

Parts of the Roof

A sloped roof is the most widely used type. Simply put, it is a roof that sits on an angle rather than flat.

The Valley

The valley is where two parts of the roof meet. It creates an area that has a “v” shape. Ridges are the high points of the roof and form a point at the top.

Flashing

Anything the protrudes out from the roof, like a chimney, is wrapped with flashing at the base. Flashing is an incredibly important part of your roof as it weatherproofs your house. This can be metal or shingle material that creates a watertight bond, allowing no water to get under the shingles. If you notice a problem here, you should contact your contractor immediately.

Shingles

Shingles sit on top of paper which lays on plywood that creates the base of the roof. The paper acts as a barrier that better insulates your home. Under the plywood are rafters that make the frame in which the roof sits on top.

Vents

Nearly every single roof has vents. This ensures that no moisture or vapors build up in your attic causing mold or damage. These are also used for plumbing and works to ensuring that your home does not smell.

Insulation

All roofs should have insulation. This can be sprayed from the inside, or be a batting material. If your roof is not insulated it can be letting heat out in the winter and cool air in the summer. This can cause your heater and air conditioning unit to work overtime costing you more money than it should.

Eaves

Eaves catch the rain that runs off the roof. This way you can direct it into drains instead of around your foundation.

The Gable

A gable is the part of the roof that overhangs from the house. This creates a little area that can be used to cover a patio or front stop.

All of these aspects work together to create the roof. If there is a weak spot in any of these areas water can build up and create havoc with the roof system. Now that you know the various moving parts that make up your roof, you will be better suited to making an informed decision on what to do next.

How to Choose Builders, Contractors & Remodeling Pros

Once you've decided to do a project to improve your home, the first challenge will be selecting the right contractor. This often confuses even the savviest of homeowners. But don't worry, we've got your back.

Turning to “neighborhood” web sites or social media for advice doesn't provide the full picture. You can be certain that at least some of the info is biased. Believe it or not, many reviews on the internet are fake (hopefully that's not a revelation). 

Often someone will recommend a service provider for one task, based on their experience in a completely different task. Our recommendation is to get multiple bids and as much info as possible. 

In 2015, a national poll showed that 30% of all homeowners believe the most difficult part of any home improvement project is just finding the right pro to do the job. Because the home improvement market is so complex, it is 

In order to help you out, we've assembled the following list. Use your knowledge and intuition, just as you would when hiring any home renovation professional. Consider the complexity of the project and how to ensure that you hire the right pro. Don’t worry, with the right guidance you can find a great contractor who will make sure your purchase is the ideal one for your home and objectives.

  1. First, make a list of requirements according to your local municipality. Building according to code matters. It matters to quality and to your insurance company. They'll only cover you if you do thing right. 
  2. Collect a list of contractors that meet these guidelines. Ask for recommendations from family or neighbors but be sure to check several sources and verify all licensing, certifications and insurance (that the contractor carries liability insurance that is). 
  3. Once you have a list, contact each provider and ask for an estimate. Usually an installer will visit your home, and if they don't it's a red flag. Use this step to filter out substandard installers and get info up front before a site visit. This will help avoid numerous sales pitches and create a short list of contractors with minimal effort.
  4. After you get the first few quotes, review the information. Take note of the equipment choices, experience, pricing, and availability of each contractor. Then rank each according to your own preferences.
  5. Contact the top 2-3 contractors and request a final estimate. Make sure to talk through the options with each and if you have a preference, ask the pro to revise his/her estimates. 
  6. After you get the final evaluations, create a list of the top factors in your decision and assess the offers on each of the important categories. Your list should include:
  • Availability
  • Licensing
  • Experience
  • Equipment
  • Reputation
  • Price
  • Services Provided

Explanations:
- Services Provided - find out what services are included in the contract. This should include permits, change orders, etc.
- Price - don't automatically accept the lowest price. In fact, we'd advise first choosing the top installer from your evaluation and then negotiating cost with that company.

7. Finally, find out if the installer offers any financing or credit options. Even if you plan on paying for the system in full, some installers have special incentives such as interest fee financing to provide funding until rebates are obtained, etc.

Hiring a contractor can seem like a tough job at first. This is especially true for specialized jobs like installing solar panels. Fortunately, most homeowners who have done renovations themselves are happy to talk about their experiences. Speak to as many homeowners as possible and evaluate what works best for you and your own goals. 

3 Budget-Friendly Bathroom Makeovers

April 27, 2017

Before: Not-Bad Before

Sleek and stylish, this master bathroom looks like an “after” before the makeover even begins. The space includes all necessary amenities but in HGTV fan isabellaandmaxrooms’ own words, it “lacked personality.”

After: Even Better After

Just a few key but relatively inexpensive updates make a dramatic difference. By simply updating the room’s paint, lighting and accessories, the homeowners made a good thing even better. Design by HGTV fan isabellaandmaxrooms.

Before: Blast From the Past

Honey oak cabinetry and hunter-green tile were all the rage — 30 years ago. HGTV fan nesting has some work to do to bring this bathroom into the 21st century.

After: Charming Transformation

For less than $500, HGTV fan nesting completely changed the look of this bathroom. Beadboard wainscoting, a crisp, white tile countertop and several gallons of paint are to thank for the makeover. In her own words, when you’re on a budget, “paint is your friend.”

Before: Dark, Dated and Dingy

A jetted tub is a luxurious feature in any bath, but this tub with dated green ceramic tile and dingy peach surrounding walls doesn’t look like a tempting spot for a long soak. Photo by HGTV fan mamma4x.

After: Spa-tacular Transformation

HGTV fan mamma4x completely changed the look of the tub area with a charming cottage-style makeover. In her words, “This is the master bath in one of the houses that I flipped. Everything from the chandeliers to the marble floor was done for less than $1,000.”

Affordable Home Improvement Ideas

April 27, 2017


Improvement 1: Bathroom mini makeover—$430

If you’ve long wanted the elegance of natural stone in your home, consider a new granite bathroom vanity top, which is a great, affordable way to get it. You can now find granite tops at Lowe’s, Home Depot and other home centers. Prices range from $150 to $450 depending on the size. Complete this bath makeover with a new faucet and mirror, and you’ll still keep the price under $500.

Begin by ordering your new items and don’t start the project until you have them all on hand. Be sure to inspect them for flaws (a common problem). Then tear out the old fixtures and repair the walls as needed. Keep the old vanity if it’s in good shape. But paint it to freshen it. Use a few cans of spray paint to get a smooth finish and avoid brush marks. And replace the old pulls with new ones to dress it up.

Next, paint the walls and add the new mirror. If your old mirror included a recessed medicine cabinet, make sure the new one fits within the existing opening. Enlarging the opening often expands the job considerably!

Finally, mount the faucet, install your new granite top and connect the plumbing. Whew! If all goes well, you’ll finish in a long weekend.

Cost: Granite vanity top, 31 in. long, $200; faucet, $130; 24 x 36-in. mirror, $60; paint and cabinet pulls, $40. Total: $430.

Time: Two to three days.

Improvement 2: Wallpaper one wall—$280

If you haven’t visited a wall-covering retailer lately, you’re missing a treat. With the revived popularity of wallpaper, stores are offering an expanded range of choices. The prices of some of these may knock your socks off too.

But take heart. You don’t have to cover every wall to make a dramatic change. Papering only a single wall will do, and that’ll make some of those fine, expensive papers or fabrics affordable. It’ll also lessen the time, effort and mess of papering an entire room. This is an especially good solution for a room with plain walls, slim baseboards and window trim, and no built-ins. You create instant character.

Begin by taking a photo of your existing room and measuring its dimensions. Take these with you to the interior design or wall-covering store. Ask a specialist to help sort through options that’ll work well with your existing furnishings. The specialist will also help you pick the best wall for the new paper and estimate the amount to order.

Some papers can be hard to hang, especially fabrics, rolls with uncut edges and other designer papers. Always check the hanging instructions and ask the dealer about the difficulty level. If you’re a novice paperhanger or fall in love with a super-expensive paper, consider hiring a pro. The extra cost should be modest for a single wall, from $150 to $250.

Be sure to fill holes and smooth your wall before beginning. Rough spots might show through the paper. Then seal the wall surface with an acrylic primer. It dries hard and smooth. This allows you to slide the paper a bit more easily to tighten seams.

Cost: $122 for a double roll of the paper shown and $20 to $50 for supplies.

Time: Half to one full day, depending on the wall condition.

Improvement 3: Halogen track lighting—$180

Track lighting lets you put light exactly where you need it—on countertops, walls or objects—and brighten just about any area. The tiny halogen bulbs emit a dazzling white light that illuminates colors brilliantly.

The price of track lighting has dropped in recent years. And many systems now operate on standard household voltage. That means you don’t have to install a Transformer—just connect to any existing junction box in the ceiling.

The “rail” system that hangs below the ceiling like we show will hold both spotlights and pendants. Rails typically run either 4 or 8 ft. You can bend the rail for a more decorative appearance and position the lights anywhere on it.

Look for rail system kits (typically with three to five light fixtures) in home centers, lighting stores or online. Check manufacturers’ Web sites or check the catalogs at a lighting specialty store to see all the options. This is especially important if you want to assemble your own system or add extra lights to the rail. You want to be sure you get all the correct parts.

Cost: $150 and up for a basic kit.

Time: One to two hours if you have an existing electrical box in the ceiling.

Improvement 4: Kitchen rollouts—$40 to $80

Rollouts are one of the easiest and most satisfying upgrades you can make to your kitchen. They bring everything that’s tucked out of sight in the back of cabinets right to your fingertips—you actually gain usable storage space.

If you don’t want to make the rollouts yourself, you can shop for moderately priced yet sturdy rollouts online or at Lowe’s and Home Depot. You simply mount them to the existing shelves in your cabinets with four screws.

The biggest mistake is ordering the wrong size. When you measure the opening in the front of the cabinet, be sure to account for the door, hinges and other obstructions.

Cost: $40 to $80 per rollout.

Time: 15 minutes per rollout.

Improvement 5: Trim and paint—$380

By adding two simple lines of trim—a chair rail and a crown molding—you create the perfect framework for any handsome two-color wall combination. This is one of the secrets of fast, easy redecorating.

To have the biggest color impact, paint your trim. This also simplifies installation. You don’t have to cut perfect joints, because a little filler and paint will leave them looking sharp and crisp. You can also use less expensive materials.

The trim combination we show looks best in rooms with at least 4-1/2-in.-tall baseboards. If your baseboard is narrower, consider replacing it or choosing a different wall decorating technique. (See “Wallpaper one wall” above.)

Then make the new chair rail 60 to 70 percent of the width of your baseboard. Use a two-piece combination that mimics a windowsill (stool) and its apron (the trim underneath) if you have this type of trim. Otherwise, use trim similar to your window trim with a 5/8- to 3/4-in. strip on top. Center your chair rail at about one-third the wall height. Choose crown molding that’s 30 to 40 percent of the width of the baseboard.

Finding colors that work well together and go well with the existing room furnishings can be challenging. We suggest that you take full advantage of pictures in magazines and the combinations recommended by paint manufacturers that you find at every paint store. Take photos of rooms you like (or clothing combinations you like!) and work with a paint dealer to match colors. Most home centers and paint dealers now offer small paint samples. You can try them directly on the wall or paint a 2 x 2-ft. scrap of drywall or cardboard instead. That way you can view the samples in different parts of the room. Then look at the colors both in daylight and with your lights on at night. (Some colors change dramatically under different types of light.)

TIP: Prepaint the trim and paint the walls before you put the trim up. Touch up afterward.

Cost: 6 gallons of paint—$180; 80 ft. of chair rail and crown moldings—$200.

Time: Two to three days.

Improvement 5: Trim and paint—$380

By adding two simple lines of trim—a chair rail and a crown molding—you create the perfect framework for any handsome two-color wall combination. This is one of the secrets of fast, easy redecorating.

To have the biggest color impact, paint your trim. This also simplifies installation. You don’t have to cut perfect joints, because a little filler and paint will leave them looking sharp and crisp. You can also use less expensive materials.

The trim combination we show looks best in rooms with at least 4-1/2-in.-tall baseboards. If your baseboard is narrower, consider replacing it or choosing a different wall decorating technique. (See “Wallpaper one wall” above.)

Then make the new chair rail 60 to 70 percent of the width of your baseboard. Use a two-piece combination that mimics a windowsill (stool) and its apron (the trim underneath) if you have this type of trim. Otherwise, use trim similar to your window trim with a 5/8- to 3/4-in. strip on top. Center your chair rail at about one-third the wall height. Choose crown molding that’s 30 to 40 percent of the width of the baseboard.

Finding colors that work well together and go well with the existing room furnishings can be challenging. We suggest that you take full advantage of pictures in magazines and the combinations recommended by paint manufacturers that you find at every paint store. Take photos of rooms you like (or clothing combinations you like!) and work with a paint dealer to match colors. Most home centers and paint dealers now offer small paint samples. You can try them directly on the wall or paint a 2 x 2-ft. scrap of drywall or cardboard instead. That way you can view the samples in different parts of the room. Then look at the colors both in daylight and with your lights on at night. (Some colors change dramatically under different types of light.)

TIP: Prepaint the trim and paint the walls before you put the trim up. Touch up afterward.

Cost: 6 gallons of paint—$180; 80 ft. of chair rail and crown moldings—$200.

Time: Two to three days.

Improvement 6: Backyard oasis—$450

Two elements make for a great backyard retreat—shade from the sun and protection from irritating insects. The good news: You can now choose from a wide range of screened canopies (also called gazebos) that handle both sun and insects. They’re easy to put up and maintain, you can plant them in almost any flat spot, and they’re reasonably priced, typically $200 to $500, depending on the size. Typical sizes range from 10 x 10-ft. to 12 x 12 ft. You can create a comfortable sitting area in just a few hours. Look for screened canopies at home centers and outdoor furniture dealers.

A grass floor is inviting, but it’ll wear out fast. If you don’t have an existing deck or patio that’s suitable, we recommend building a paver patio for the floor. Brick and concrete pavers are durable, handsome, and available in many styles and colors. And you don’t need special skills or experience to lay them successfully. Even a novice can do a first-class job and complete a small project in a weekend. OK, it is hard work. You’ll have to dig a bit and rent and operate a heavy plate compactor. Look for pavers at home centers and patio and garden centers.

Begin by choosing a canopy style and size. Then make your patio slightly larger to accommodate it. Or consider an even larger patio, leaving part of it open.

Cost: $150 and up for a screened canopy; about $3.50 per sq. ft. for a paver patio.

Time: Two hours for a canopy; a weekend for a small patio.


Improvement 7: Closet organizer—$100

You don’t have to spend a fortune to have a neat closet. Wire shelving systems are inexpensive, practical and easy to install. They increase your storage space and simplify cleaning too. Almost everything hangs on the walls, keeping the floor clear for easy vacuuming. And the wire shelving won’t collect dust like solid shelving does.

A novice can install a system with only a drill, a level, a hacksaw and basic hand tools. Begin by measuring your closet dimensions. At home centers, you’ll find basic kits with a full complement of shelves and clothes rods priced from $50 to $75. If you want a more elaborate system, either begin with a kit and then add accessories, or build a custom system from readily available parts. Visit a home center to see a complete selection of parts and get arrangement ideas. Then plan your system by laying out all the shelves and other components using masking tape on the back of your closet wall. You can also draw up a plan on paper, but measure carefully if you use this method. Often manufacturer Web sites have planning guides.

Most brands have solid, drill-and-tap-in wall anchors that work well even in drywall. Use a hacksaw to cut the heavy wire shelving to fit your layout.

Finally, check for accessories like shoe racks, tie and belt racks, and baskets to expand storage options and make the best use of leftover space.

Cost: $200 for the closet system shown.

Time: Half day to remove old shelves and install the new system.

Improvement 8: Laundry center—$480

Stand back and look at your laundry room. Chances are it could use better organization, better lighting and more storage. These simple upgrades give you all that.

Everything you need is available at home centers. Start with a stock countertop (you can order colors that aren’t in stock, but you’ll pay two to three times as much). Don’t forget to buy end caps to cover the raw ends of the countertop.

To support the countertop, build super-simple shelf units from 8-ft. lengths of 23-1/4-in. wide shelving. We chose Melamine shelving, which has a tough plastic coating and doesn’t need painting. Size and space the shelves to suit your laundry baskets (we made ours 14-1/2 in. apart and 35 in. above the floor). Cut the parts and screw them together with 2-in. screws. Cover the screw heads with plastic caps (sold near the shelving).

Next, hang a pair of inexpensive 18-in. x 30-in. utility wall cabinets over the countertop to hold detergents and other cleaning supplies. Fasten an adjustable clothing rod between them for clothes hangers.

You’ll want especially bright lighting to help you sort clothing and spot stains and other problems. Fluorescent tubes work well because they cast light evenly with few shadows. We recommend a four-bulb fixture that’s 4 ft. long with a prismatic plastic cover for extra brightness. Make sure to buy fixtures with electronic ballasts to avoid the annoying hum that goes with magnetic ballasts.

TIP: Equip the fixture with 90-plus CRI (color rendering index) bulbs to better see the true colors of your clothing. These fluorescent bulbs are more expensive ($8 to $10 each) and may drive you over budget. Order them online.

Finally, soften and brighten your floor with rubbery plastic floor tile. Used mostly in garages and commercial buildings, this flooring is tough, but easy on your feet. And it may be the world’s easiest to install floor: You simply snap the tiles together; you don’t have to glue it down. The 12 x 12-in. tiles come in several colors and surface patterns. Look for them at home centers or online.

Cost: 6-ft. countertop, $70; 3/4-in. Melamine supports and shelving, $40; two 18-in. wall cabinets, $150; adjustable clothes rod, $10; light fixture, $54, plus $45 for four high-CRI bulbs; flooring, about $3.50 per tile.

Time: One or two days.

Cutting List for Shelving

Four 3/4″ x 23-1/4″ x 34-1/2″ Melamine supports
Four 3/4″ x 23″ x 22″ Melamine shelves

Two 1/4″ x 23-1/4″ x 34″ plywood backs

Improvement 9: New bath accessories—$470

Replacing accessories like towel bars, light fixtures and towels, plus applying a fresh coat of paint, is the absolutely easiest way to make your bathroom feel new and clean. You don’t need special skills for success; it’s a screwdriver- and-paintbrush project you can complete in a weekend. But keep in mind that this face-lift will only work if your basic fixtures—the sink and faucet, vanity, toilet, tub and tile—are all still in reasonably good shape.

Also keep in mind that the total cost of this makeover will vary widely depending on your choices. You could spend as little as $200 or much more than $500.

When you shop for accessories, stay with a consistent style and finish. Manufacturers help here by offering matching sets of towel bars, shelves, soap dishes and other accessories.

Simply painting the walls a new color makes a quick, dramatic change. But beware. If you choose the paint color first, you may spend days hunting for matching towels, a rug and shower curtains. To make color coordination easier, shop for accessories first, using paint samples as a guide. Then settle on a paint color.

TIP: Remove the old wall accessories, then repair, clean and repaint the walls before adding the new accessories.

Extra accessories we especially like (and that might blow the $500 budget!): a pullout mirror near the sink; multiple-level towel bars (shown below); a towel warmer ($40 to $200); and a self-closing toilet seat.

Cost: About $340 for the accessories shown above. Add $30 for paint and $100 for a rug, towels and shower curtain.

Time: One weekend.

Improvement 10: Add curb appeal—$200 and up

Tired of a shabby, uninspiring front entry? Take heart. You can totally transform it with a series of small accents and minor changes that will impress your guests, please the neighbors and, perhaps most important, make your house a more pleasant place to come home to. All are easy to do and cost little.

Begin with paint. Renew your trim and siding (if painted) and take a hard look at your front door. If it’s the primary feature, consider painting it a strong color. Color choice can be difficult, so look in magazines and at other doors in your neighborhood for ideas you like.

Then buy new accessories, like the house number, mailbox and light fixture. In most cases a screwdriver is the only tool you’ll need to install them. Also replace the door handles and latch if they’re worn.

Next, spruce up the approach to the front door. If you have a plain concrete walk or driveway, choose one of our favorite upgrades: Add a simple border of bricks, or other pavers, depending on the style of your home. Dry set them (no mortar) on a firmly tamped base. For lasting results, dig a trench about 5 in. deep. Add 2 in. of compacted gravel such as “class V.” Cover the gravel with an inch of sand and set the bricks.

Cost: Paint, numbers, mailbox, etc., less than $100 total; bricks or pavers $3 per sq. ft. and up.

Time: One or two weekends.

10 Investments to Boost Your Home’s Value

April 27, 2017

1. Kitchen Is King

Matt: And sometimes queen. Unless your home is falling down around you, the smartest place to put your hard-earned dough is in the kitchen. When I hold an open house, the first thing buyers do is make a beeline to the kitchen. That’s where all the “magic” happens, so to speak. Now, I can give you the whole speech about putting down tile, stone, nice under-mount sink and yada yada yada. We have all heard it a million times over to put stainless steel appliances in the kitchen. We get it! Instead think about your layout and workspace. They call it the triangle. Basically it is the space where your cook area, sink and dishwasher meet to create an effortless flow when working. How far is your cooktop from your sink? Is your dishwasher close to the sink? Are you tripping over stools and a butcher-block table to get from one corner of the triangle to the other? If you have the means to invest some money into your kitchen, make sure to place all your new toys into a nice flowing workspace.

Nicole: I totally agree. I have seen so many people put in expensive goodies and never fix the bad flow. Spend the money on the layout — it never goes out of style. If you have a great layout, plugging in new appliances, hardware and cabinets can be quick and easy.

2. Basement or Attic Renovation

Matt:  If you have a basement or a big attic, finish it out. Whether it’s making the man cave of your dreams or an extra bedroom for your ever-expanding family, finishing your basement or attic can inject instant equity and square footage into your home.  Just make sure a permit is pulled and all the codes are followed. If not, the square footage may not be added to the rest of the house and may not be considered a “livable” space. Different states have different codes, so make sure to hire a contractor that’s on the ball.

Nicole: This is one that I would disagree with having so high on the list. I think overall basements are a gamble. Attic space to master suite — yes. Basements are more likely to help you sell, but usually buyers will not pay more for them.  If a house is small and lacking space, sometimes.

3. Boost the Bathroom

Matt: You don’t have to go crazy: Install new fixtures, re-grout the shower, add crown molding and brighten up the room with some paint. I really like the new textures they have for wallpaper nowadays. Yes, you heard me: wallpaper. A little texture can make a bathroom go from a plain Jane to a beauty queen. Just a few little improvements in a bathroom can be a really smart way to spend your money.

Nicole: Having removed way too much wallpaper, I have to say nix it. A great paint job and nice architectural detail is easier and will be timeless. Something as simple as a new mirror and light fixtures can make the dingiest of bathrooms look fresh and fabulous. I consider wallpaper trendy and a pain-in-the-backside in bathrooms because of all the moisture. If you do go that route, have the Super Glue handy to reattach the seams.

4. Remove the Paneling and Popcorn

Matt: The two things that scream “I’m old and I need help in a bad way!” The first is wood paneling. Don’t fool yourself, that look is NEVER coming back. Especially if you have the old MDF wood panels with the high-gloss finish. Rip it out and put up some drywall. If you really like a “wood” look, use reclaimed wood installed horizontally. It looks amazing, it’s not a huge or expensive project and it will instantly throw some value into your home. The second must-go item is popcorn ceilings. I am not going to go into too much detail because it is obvious. A home that looks modern will fetch a more modern home value.
Nicole: I agree. The only time I keep wood paneling is if it is knotty pine and matches the era of the home. It is real wood and not the stuff you see sold in large panels at the local big box.  Houses built post-WWII usually came stocked with a knotty pine in the attics and basements. In the right element it looks fantastic. Always keep in mind the market value of your home; some projects will outprice your home for the neighborhood. Sometimes it makes more sense to give the paneling a nice paint job vs. the cost of drywall; either way, bright and fresh wins out. For popcorn ceilings — no doubt in my mind — just drywall right over them.  Usually there’s a reason they’re popcorned: cracks and bad seams.

5. Engineered or Real-Wood Floors

Matt:  Notice I wrote “engineered or real” and not laminate. People are getting very educated when it comes to wood floors. They can sniff out the cheap laminate stuff.

Nicole: I only half agree — I am still not totally sold on engineered flooring.  I deal with real products only. And honestly, shopping around at liquidation centers or salvage yards, my real hardwood floors always come out cheaper than new engineered products. Oak flooring can be picked up for cheap and you can dress it up with different stain.

6. Update Plumbing

Matt: If you have old, rusty iron pipes and fear that you have ingested enough metal in your drinking water to build a small ship, you might want to consider replacing the plumbing.  Believe it or not, an appraiser takes the plumbing into heavy consideration when assigning the value to a home. Back in the day, it used to be a huge undertaking with walls being torn up and drywall flying everywhere. Nowadays though, re-piping is usually done with PEX (basically plastic tubing) that is extremely reliable and can be run through your walls like an extension cord. This means less holes and a lot less mess. It also means less money spent on materials and labor. Heavy metal should be only used to describe music and not the water in your home.

Nicole: Yes, yes — it is all about the guts. No sense in putting good money into a home when the mechanics are bad. This is a win-win situation. The scariest thing for new owners is the thought that something huge like plumbing or electrical will need work. Plus, people always think these updates cost much more than they actually do.

7. Brighten Up Your Space

Matt: No one likes a dank, dark living space. Well, some people may like that sort of thing, but not anyone that likes keeping up their home’s value. Throw in some can/recessed lighting in the kitchen and bathrooms to brighten the place up.

Nicole: I have seen too many lights.  Simple touches like dimmer switches make a dramatic change to any room.

8. Adding Attic Insulation

Matt: If the insulation in your attic is not up to par, close to 30 percent of the nice, warm, comfortable air that your furnace is producing is going out the window. Laying insulation is an easy DIY project and the materials are pretty inexpensive.

Nicole: I love insulating. Not really, but what a relatively easy update. Also, just simple caulking around doors and windows can save you a bunch of money. You may have to sacrifice a weekend, but it will be worth it.

9. Furnace/HVAC Replacement

Matt: This is usually not on the top of anyone’s mind when it comes to home improvement, but between the rebates and the energy savings, replacing a forced-air unit can start to pump not only comfort, but money into your living space. When I show buyers a home, if they see a new furnace/HVAC unit, I usually hear a sigh of relief.

Nicole: I don’t totally agree. I only suggest this if you are going to be in the home a long time. Typically, you need at least five years to reap the benefits from the cost savings vs. the cost of the unit and installation. Of course, if yours is old and not working, go ahead and replace it. I just had a real estate client that was shocked that his new $15,000 furnace would not bring him a $15,000 increase in price.

10. Front Yard Makeover

Matt: Whether it’s a nice paver walkway or simply adding some color to your planters, keeping your front yard looking fresh is not only inexpensive, but also adds nice curb appeal. In the case of home improvement, a book is always judged by its cover.
Nicole: I agree. This is always the first thing I do for three main reasons:
1. It tells your neighbors that you take pride in your home and neighborhood.
2. It makes your home stand out.
3. It’s so easy! I always look online in spring when people are splitting their perennials: I have yet to have to purchase anything, since people actually give stuff away. Also, invest in an edger — clean lines are a favorite on my list — as they can dramatically transform a yard.

 

30 Tips for Increasing Your Home’s Value

Home Improvements: Under $100

Tip 1: Spend an hour with a pro.
Invite a realtor or interior designer over to check out your home. Many realtors will do this as a courtesy, but you will probably have to pay a consultation fee to a designer. Check with several designers in your area; a standard hourly fee is normally less than $100, and in an hour they can give you lots of ideas for needed improvements. Even small suggested improvements, such as paint colors or furniture placement, can go a long way toward improving the look and feel of your home.

Tip 2: Inspect it.
Not every home improvement is cosmetic. Deteriorating roofs, termite infestation or outdated electrical systems — you can’t fix it if you don’t know it’s broken. Hire an inspector to check out the areas of your home that you don’t normally see. They may discover hidden problems that could negatively impact your home’s value. Small problems (such as a hidden water leak) can become big, expensive problems quickly; the longer you put off repairs, the more expensive those repairs will be.
Tip 3: Paint, paint, paint.
One of the simplest, most cost-effective improvements of all is paint! Freshly painted rooms look clean and updated — and that spells value. When selecting paint colors, keep in mind that neutrals appeal to the greatest number of people, therefore making your home more desirable. On average, a gallon of paint costs around $25, leaving you plenty of money to buy rollers, painter’s tape, drop cloths and brushes. So buy a few gallons and get busy!
Tip 4: Find inspiration.
An alternative to hiring a designer is to search for remodeling and decorating inspiration in design-oriented magazines, books, TV shows and websites. Simply tear out or print off the ideas you want to try and start your to-do list. Keep it simple — when remodeling on a tight budget, do-it-yourself projects are best.
Tip 5: Cut energy costs.
The amount of money you spend each month on energy costs may seem like a fixed amount, but many local utility companies provide free energy audits of their customers’ homes. They can show you how to maximize the energy efficiency of your home. An energy-efficient home will save you money now, which can be applied to other updates, and is a more valuable and marketable asset in the long run.

Home Improvements: $100-$200

Tip 1: Plant a tree.
If you aren’t planning to sell your house today, plan for the future with a landscaping improvement that will mature over time. Plant shade trees — not only will mature trees make your home more desirable but a fully grown, properly placed tree can cut your cooling costs by as much as 40 percent. Mature landscaping is also good for the environment, providing a necessary habitat for wildlife while adding valuable curb appeal to your home.
Tip 2: Low-maintenance landscaping saves you money now, adds value when you sell.
No question that shrubs and colorful plants will add curb appeal to any home, but when shopping at your local garden center, make sure that you “think green.” Purchase plants that are native to your region or plants that are drought-tolerant; these require less water and maintenance, which means more savings to you and more green in your wallet.
Tip 3: Add a money-saving luxury.
Speaking of water, here’s another way to tap into extra savings; install a water filtration system in your kitchen. Not only do these systems purify your water, they will also lower your grocery bills — no more bottled water. A water filtration system is an inexpensive addition, but it’s the sort of small luxury that homebuyers love.
Tip 4: Improve the air quality inside your home.
Air quality isn’t just about the conditions outdoors. If you have older carpets in your home, they might be hiding contaminants and allergens. The first step to determine if these need replacing is to hire a professional company to test your indoor air quality. If the results prove that your carpets should be replaced, choose environmentally friendly natural products like tile or laminate floors. Hard-surface floors are much easier to keep clean, don’t hold odors, give your home an updated look and, in general, are more appealing to buyers.
Tip 5: Save the popcorn for the movies.
Finally, what’s on your ceiling? Few structural elements date a house more than popcorn ceilings. So dedicate a weekend to ditching the dated look and adding dollar signs to the value of your home. This is a project you can tackle yourself. First, visit your local hardware store for a solution to soften the texture, then simply scrape the popcorn away. Removing a popcorn ceiling may not seem like a big change but one of the keys for adding value to your home is to repair, replace or remove anything that could turn buyers away.

Home Improvements: $200-$400

Tip 1: A messy lawn creates a bad first impression.
Overgrown or patchy lawns and outsized bushes will cause your home to stand out — in a bad way. The good news is that taming your jungle is an easy fix. For a few hundred dollars, hire a lawn service company to trim your lawn and shape your hedges. Your curb appeal will go from messy to maintained without blowing your budget.
Tip 2: Cleanliness counts.
The old adage that you only get one shot at a first impression is true. So, make the interior of you home shine from the moment someone walks through the door. For less than $400, hire a cleaning service for a thorough top-to-bottom scrubbing. Even if you clean your home regularly, there are nooks and crannies that you may miss or overlook. Let a cleaning service do the dirty work to really make your home sparkle.
Tip 3: Visually increase your home’s square footage.
The size of your home dramatically affects the value, but square footage isn’t the only space that counts. Visual space or how large a home feels also counts. The key is to make each room in your house feel larger. Replace heavy closed draperies with vertical blinds or shutters to let light in — a sunny room feels larger and more open. Also, try adding a single large mirror to a room to visually double the space. Finally, clear the clutter. The more clutter, furniture and plain old stuff you have in a room, the more cramped it will feel. For less than $400, add an attractive shelving unit to an underused space and store your clutter out of sight.
Tip 4: Small bathroom updates equal a big return.
Bathroom updates are always a smart move. Even if you can’t afford a full remodel, small changes such as replacing dated wallpaper with a faux or textured finish and replacing old lighting will update the room without denting your wallet.
Tip 5: Add new energy-efficient fixtures.
A functional, decorative ceiling fan is a beautiful thing. It provides necessary light and, in warm months, creates a soft breeze reducing the need for expensive air conditioning. But, an outdated, wobbly, loud or broken ceiling fan is a useless eyesore. Replace old fixtures with new ones to make your home more enjoyable for you now and to increase the bottom line should you decide to sell.

Home Improvements: $400-$750

Tip 1: Even small changes in the bathroom equal a big return.
A great room to update for less than $750 is the bathroom. The two rooms that benefit most from even small renovations are the kitchen and bathroom. One cost-effective change — like replacing an outdated vanity, old plumbing and lighting fixtures or adding a new tile floor — will guarantee a lot of bang for your buck and give your bath an updated, modern look.
Tip 2: Any kitchen update equals added value.
The same rule applies in the kitchen. You don’t have to start from scratch to create a winning recipe. For maximizing your home’s value, kitchen updates are key. Start by swapping out just one item, such as a stained sink or ancient microwave for shiny new stainless models. Even small kitchen updates will add big value to your home.
Tip 3: Replace any worn carpets or area rugs.
Take a look at your home’s soft flooring. Are your carpets and area rugs stained or worn? Nothing turns buyers off more than the thought that they will immediately need to replace all of the flooring in a home. Ideally, you may want to replace them all, but if a limited budget puts a snag in that plan, start by replacing the carpet in the room that shows the most wear and tear and replace the others as your finances allow.
Tip 4: Keep up with regular maintenance and repairs.
Walk around your home and make a list of all the little things that are broken or in need of repair. Individually, small repairs might not seem important, but if every room has just one thing wrong, those small things will add up to create the impression that your home has been neglected. If you don’t feel comfortable tackling the repairs yourself, hire a handyman for a day and watch your “to do” list disappear. Staying on top of maintenance today eliminates problems down the road should you decide to sell.
Tip 5: Get help with getting organized.
Hire a professional organizer for a day. They will show you how to organize various rooms in your home and teach you tricks for keeping it organized. How does this increase your home’s value? Simple — a clutter-free home appears cleaner and larger, which is more attractive to homebuyers and therefore more valuable.

Home Improvements: $750-$1,000

Tip 1: Go tankless.
Upgrade your standard water heater for a tankless model. Most old-fashioned water heaters keep 50 or so gallons of water hot, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, whether you use the water or not. Tankless water heaters heat only the water you need as you need it. Not only will they save you money now, but they’re an eco-friendly and cost-effective update that today’s homebuyers are looking for.
Tip 2: Upgrade your appliances.
Eighty-six the old-school appliances for sleek new energy-efficient ones. An appliance with an Energy Star label has been certified by the government to use 10-50 percent less energy and water than conventional appliances. Matching stainless appliances will not only look great now, but will make your home shine brighter than the competition should you decide to sell.
Tip 3: Go for the green.
Everyone loves a yard with thick, green grass. For less than $1000, in a weekend’s time, you can replace your existing patchy mix of weeds and grass with fresh new sod. You’ll be amazed at the difference this one change will make in your home’s curb appeal and value.

Home Improvements: $1,000-$1,500

Tip 1: Spruce up your ceilings.
One of a room’s most neglected spaces, the ceiling, makes up one-sixth of a room’s total area. Updating your home’s ceilings will net a lot of bang for the buck while adding architectural interest. First, if you still have popcorn ceilings, hire a contractor to scrape them smooth. To add a sophisticated custom look to a smooth ceiling, install crown molding or box beams for a coffered look. Ceiling millwork, an attractive feature prevalent in older homes, is rarely found in newer construction. Adding small touches like these will help your home stand out from the pack.
Tip 2: Update your home’s entrance.
The look of your front door and entrance play heavily into the overall curb appeal of your home. As visitors enter, the front door serves as the transition into your home and is part of their first impression. Entry doors are architectural components that should complement your home’s overall design, not detract from it. If your existing front door isn’t up to par, head down to your local home improvement store for a more energy-efficient and attractive replacement. Whether you choose a solid wood door or one with decorative stained or cut glass panels, a welcoming entrance will definitely increase your home’s bottom line.
Tip 3: Consult a design pro.
If you’re unsure of which design style or paint color to use, hire a designer. They’ll use discriminating taste and a trained eye to help with making the big decisions. Also, remodeling your home with a cohesive plan in mind makes all of your choices easier and ensures a pulled-together finished look. So, when you get the right mix of time or money, you’ll know exactly which project to take on next.

Home Improvements: $2,000-$3,000

Tip 1: Kitchen or bath remodels are always a safe bet.
Improving your home is a solid investment at any level — but if you have up to three thousand dollars to spend, a great place to start is by upgrading either the kitchen or bath. Either room is a good choice and you don’t have to do a complete floor-to-ceiling remodel to reap financial benefits. In fact, modest kitchen or bath updates can be your best bet for a big return, netting, on average, an 80-85 percent return.
Tip 2: Protect your investment.
For most people, their home is their single largest investment, so treat it that way. Hire a financial planner to work out a strategy for protecting your investment by analyzing all of the financing options that are available. A financial whiz can tell you if you should refinance to lower your monthly payments or pull out some equity to pay for value-adding improvements.
Tip 3: Bring the outdoors in.
Consider turning two standard windows into an opening for beautiful French or sliding glass doors. Full-view glass doors really brighten up the space and a light and airy room is always more attractive. Also, with a view of the outdoors, the room will feel much larger. Another bonus is that modern doors are energy-efficient, cutting down on heating and cooling costs. That means more cash in your pocket now and a financial bonus should you decide to sell.

How To Create A $1,000 Emergency Fund, Month by Month

All financial advisers such as David Ramsay and Suzanne Orr will advise that every household should have an emergency fund.  For a lot of people, just the thought of saving money when you’re living paycheck to paycheck is a joke.

The Paycheck to Paycheck Epidemic

In fact, a 2016 CareerBuilder survey of 3,200 full-time workers and 2,100 full-time hiring and human resource manager found that 75% were living paycheck to paycheck.

It’s not that working people don’t want to save; it’s just that too many of us are struggling with trying to pay the rent and put gas in the car.

By the time the month is over, there’s nothing left to save.

To help end the vicious paycheck-to-paycheck cycle, we put together this month-by-month guide to get you on track — and potentially put $1,000 in your bank account.

Month 1

Open an online savings or checking account and deposit $5. Heck, roll your quarters if you have to.

There are a bunch of great online banks, but one of our favorites is Aspiration because they offer an interest rate around 100x what a normal bank offers — plus there are no monthly fees.

Starting small may not seem worth it, but getting started is an extremely important first step! Just trust us.

Month 2

This month we want you to save $15 in your new savings account. Again, if you can do more, awesome!

An easy way to earn $15 is with Paribus — a free tool that searches your emails for companies that owe you money.

Once you sign up, the app scans your email archives for any receipts.

If it discovers you’ve purchased something from Amazon, Target, or one of the other 16 retailers listed on their website, it tracks the item’s price and issues you a refund if there’s a price drop during the return period!

You don’t have to do anything!

Need a different idea?

If you’re a regular Amazon shopper, you can earn money each month contributing to Shoptracker’s research on what people are buying online.

Download and connect it to your Amazon account. It’ll instantly send you a free $3 Visa gift card, plus another $3 for every month you keep it installed.

Month 3

Your goal is to work up to saving $100/month in the savings account. It seems lofty, but we’re going to help you earn it.

For this month, try and put $35 in the account.

An easy way to do is with these two market research companies: Opinion Outpost & Vip Voice.

These panels will pay you for your opinions on politics, movies and other subjects. If you sign up for both, you should easily make an extra $35/month (most surveys pay between $3-$4 each for 20 minutes of your time).

Heck, sometimes I fill them out while I’m watching Netflix.

Need a different idea?

Try selling some of your old stuff online. You can sell virtually anything on letgo.

This intuitive app lets you snap a photo and upload your item in less than 30 seconds.

Not only does it remove a lot of the hassle of selling things online, it’s 100% free to use.

But there are also apps for selling more specific stuff to people who might actually be looking for it.

For instance, you could sell old CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays and video games, cell phones and iPods to Decluttr.

Congrats! You’ve saved your first $55. That’s something to be proud of!

Month 4

Alright, this month it’s time to try and put away $100. It sounds daunting, but we’ve got a few ideas that might help…

You can try our list of 16 Companies giving away $1,810.25. These companies want you to try them out and will pay you to do so. Some of them are easier than others, but just check it out.

Or how about mystery shopping? Before our CEO Kyle Taylor became a blogger, he was a full-time, professional mystery shopper. And he got pretty good at it — earning around $5,000/month.

Here’s a list of the companies he worked for. None of them will charge you money to sign up. And if a mystery shopping company ever tries to charge you, it’s a scam. Stay away from those.

We know a lot of people are already working two jobs, but mystery shopping can help you earn money and relax with your friends/family at the same time.

Keep an eye out for restaurant mystery shops — you get a free meal and you get paid!

Months 5 – 12

Continue saving $100/month for the entire year. We want your year-end account balance to be $950.

Here are some ideas on how to make your extra $100/month:

How to Make $750/Month Selling Used Books

Get Paid $50 to Write a Guest Post

How to Make an Extra $50/Week Working for Amazon.com

How to Get Paid $200/Month Testing Websites

Year 2

It’s important to continue saving at least $100 each month.

Use your regular paycheck for living expenses and save any extra money you make from the ideas on this site.

Once you’ve reached year two, you’ve saved nearly $1,000. At this point, it might be a good idea to open an investment account.

Just one more piece of motivation: If you can continue to save $100/month for the next 20 years, you could end up with $106,022! Can you imagine? More than $100,000 in a bank account!

You can do this. End the cycle today.

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