Trouble-free, Inexpensive Makeovers

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ June 18, 2010

Most homeowners would spend their limited resources on remodeling a kitchen or bathroom in a challenging economy. That's what a survey by Consumer Reports has revealed. Quality, rather than quantity, is the norm and fewer Americans are willing to plunge a lot of cash into huge additions or big ticket items. It does mean, however, that we're more than willing to invest in our homes during troubled times, rather than knock out walls in an effort to flip an investment.

One common home-improvement strategy is to add patio space or decks to extend the reach of the kitchen or living room. Another is to open pantry or closet space by taking out a wall. For countertops, Consumer Reports says, homeowners are choosing less costly laminates and faux stone. Nearly 60 percent of poll participants said they were considering bamboo or ceramic tile for flooring over more pricey stone.

Do-It-Yourself Remodeling Saves Money

If you have the know-how, you can also cut the cost of prudent makeovers now by doing the work yourself. But be sure you're up to it. The cost of ripping out or correcting poorly designed and implemented bath or kitchen projects can wreak havoc on your budget. Consumer Reports advises you to turn over electrical or plumbing work to experienced contractors if you're not experienced in doing the work.

One California contractor estimates that homeowners can save up to $2,000 by doing their own demolitions for remodeling projects. And by handling your own painting, you can cut $2,500 from your costs. If you're setting up a long-term, phased remodel of a critical room, be sure to get the wiring and plumbing done first so you can use the room between budgeted work and you won't have to open walls and disrupt your life.

Consider remodeling projects that can improve your carbon footprint and save energy costs. To that end, Consumer Reports suggests choosing paints with low levels of volatile organic compounds. More than 60 percent of homeowners doing bathroom remodels installed low-flow shower heads and water-saving toilets.

You can also save costs by picking up used sinks, toilets, tubs, or counters. You can find cabinets, too, that you can salvage for your kitchen. Consider refacing salvaged cabinets over the cost of new ones. If you're shopping for energy efficient appliances, look at tags carefully.

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