Home improvement projects can
increase your home’s value as
well as make it a more enjoyable
personal space for you and your
family. But when money is tight,
home improvement may seem
like a luxury. With these
budget-friendly tips, you can be
sure you’ll spend less to make
your home worth more.
Mind the Mechanics
Experts recommend spending a few bucks on the nitty-gritty stuff before moving on to the cosmetics. A comprehensive home inspection and energy audit can boost efficiency and prevent minor problems from turning into major repairs. “Getting new gutters may not be as much fun as a new kitchen, but it could save your home’s foundation,” says Chris Vanderslice, co-owner of The Handyman Service in Wilmington. (delawarehandyman.com, 750-2490)
Clean and De-clutter
Keeping things tidy and clean goes a long way to improving the look and feel of your home. “Any type of de-cluttering will make rooms look larger,” says Charlene Williams of Re/Max Associations in Wilmington. Removing furniture and accessories that are not being used can create the feel of more living space without the expense of adding an extra room. (charlenewilliams.remax.com, 234-2500)
Repaint from Floor to Ceiling
Repainting your home costs very little when you consider the payoff. With just a few hundred bucks and a weekend or two, it’s easy to make your entire home look and smell like new with a thorough paint job inside and out.
Pamela Lindvall of Pamela Lindvall Interiors in Wilmington recommends painting adjacent rooms and hallways in the same color, be it a favorite pastel or a neutral tone. “It’s going to give the rooms a better flow and make the rooms look larger,” she says. (652-2680)
Replace Windows and Siding
We’ve all heard the expression “judging a book by its cover.” The exterior of your home is what gets seen first so start the improvements there. Replacing siding and windows can have a tremendous impact on the look and feel of your home, plus making it more energy-efficient, says Vanderslice. It also generates one of the highest returns on investment in terms of adding hard resale value, according to Remodeling magazine. The average cost of each project comes to around $14,000 but doing the work in stages will keep it more budget-friendly.
Reframe the Entry
A nice entry tells people this is a place of reception, so make it count, says Rose Giroso, owner of Rose Authentica in Wilmington. Repaint the front door or invest in a new one with a glass window. If you don’t have a porch or a portico, frame the entrance with planters that can change with the season. Lighting draws the eye to your entry, but whether you choose a hanging or flush-mount fixture, be sure to select a fixture that complements the architecture of the house.
And don’t forget about everyday entrances, says Lindvall. The mudroom is an excellent place to add aesthetic functionality such as benches, shelves and tables—even artwork. (roseauthentica.com, 655-7919)
Make the Kitchen Cook
The kitchen has overtaken the family room when it comes to the most important room in the house, says Reggie Fitzgerald, retail sales manager at Bath, Kitchen & Tile Center in Wilmington. Remodeling can get pricey, but there’s a lot you can do on a budget of $5,000 or less. Refacing or repainting can give cabinetry a whole new aesthetic as can changing knobs and pulls. New counter tops can make a huge difference, but if the price of granite is beyond your means, consider tile, laminate or butcher block alternatives.
Other inexpensive ways to refresh your kitchen include upgrading the sink and faucet, installing new appliances, flooring and under-cabinet lighting. For a touch of elegance, Giroso suggests hanging a chandelier over the island. (bathkitchenandtile.com, 992-9220)
Buff up the Bath
Next to the kitchen, bathrooms are the most important rooms to update. They, too, can be improved without a lot of cash by upgrading cabinets, light fixtures, counter tops and hardware using the same techniques as in the kitchen.
Vanderslice recommends investing in a double-sink vanity ($150 to $750) or installing two pedestal sinks. “It saves time in the morning and gives working couples a chance to talk before running out the door,” he says. If your home has one central bath, he recommends limiting the remodel and applying money saved toward installing another full bath or a powder room.
Let There be Light
At first glance, lighting may not seem to be that important but it has a huge impact on how space “feels.” Williams recommends “enlarging” a small kitchen by opting for flush-mount fixtures rather than pendant lighting. In living areas, she suggests adding a floor lamp—preferably a torchiere—to the mix of transitional lamps to direct light toward the ceiling, making the room feel more expansive.
Giroso recommends splurging, especially in the foyer. “Crystal and stone are very big in lighting right now,” she says. “Prices have come down. We have so many choices.”
Add Trim to Interior Rooms
Adding millwork such as baseboards, wainscoting, crown molding, mantels and casings can completely transform the look of a room, says Giroso. They’re relatively easy to install and they don’t have to break the bank. If you’re on a tight budget, select paint- or stain-grade materials rather than more expensive options like cherry or mahogany.
Ceilings are often overlooked in remodeling projects but they are as important to the design of a room as the floor and walls. Judith Davidson, of Judith Davidson Interiors in Georgetown, suggests painting ceilings and walls the same color for a cocooning effect. Giroso recommends using beadboard, beams and coffering for architectural interest. (judysbook.com, 841-5500)
Nothing trumps the beauty of gleaming hardwood floors. Upgrading to hardwood floors or refurbishing existing ones will not only increase a home’s market value, it can actually make rooms look more spacious, says Williams.
If hardwoods are not an option and your rugs are in good condition, a professional cleaning is a good inexpensive investment. If the carpet is showing serious wear, cover it with strategically placed accent rugs.
Put Furniture in its Place
Switching around the furniture and accessories you already have may be all you need to freshen up a seemingly stale decor. Debbie Correale, owner of Redesign Right in West Chester, Pa., says furnishings must be in sync with the architectural features of the room. “If your furniture is in the wrong place or at the wrong angle by as little as four inches, it will throw off the entire room,” she says. She recommends emptying the room, then finding the “focal point.” Whether it’s a fireplace, a bay window, an angled wall, a built-in bookcase or some other feature, arrange the furniture so that seating is directed toward that architectural feature. (redesignright.com, 955-8202)
‘Dress’ the House
Now that the cleaning, painting and refurbishing are done, it’s time to treat your house to a new wardrobe. In the bathroom, Davidson recommends swapping the old shower curtain, rug and towels for new ones that add color and style.
Is your bedroom comforter worn or stained? If the walls are neutral, Williams suggests buying a new one in a color that will perk up the room.
Review your window treatments. Are they heavy and dated? Davidson prefers faux wood blinds or shutters, especially in the bathroom.
Bring the outdoors inside. “Adding greenery to a room makes it feel more alive,” says Williams.
New lamps, accent pillows, even reframing art work can go a long way in freshening up a living room, says Jenny Powell, co-owner of Somethings Unique in Greenville.
Mirrors are not only decorative, they brighten a room and make it seem more expansive, says Kristen Axtell, Powell’s partner at the Powder Mill Square store. But be careful how you hang them, she advises. Too high and they will only reflect the ceiling.
Mix things up for a more eclectic look, says Davidson. “I hate ‘matchy, matchy,’” she says. “It looks like you just picked if off the showroom floor.”
Lindvall likes to see personal things displayed in a home. “Frame that picture you took on vacation or that menu from the restaurant where you had that memorable dinner,” she says. “The idea is to make it about you.”.
For names of the design experts we consulted for this story, and for more information about sprucing up your home, please visit delawaretoday.com.
These tips from Chris Vanderslice, co-owner of The Handyman Service in Wilmington, will make the process easy.
• Make up a budget and stick to it.
• Leave plumbing, electrical, heating and roofing repairs to the experts.
• Buy the best materials and tools you can afford. They’re more durable and user-friendly. Educate yourself on their proper usage.
• W hen measuring for materials, add on a few extra inches so you don’t run short.
• Make sure that the main water valve is working and that you know where it is. Keep the emergency number of the water department close at hand.