Advantages of Owning:
Disadvantages of Renting:
For more information visit http://www.foxridgehomes.com/resources-ownVsRent.aspx
Prepping and staging a house. Every seller wants her home to sell fast and bring top dollar. Does that sound good to you? Well, it's not luck that makes that happen. It's careful planning and knowing how to professionally spruce up your home that will send home buyers scurrying for their checkbooks. Here is how to prep a house and turn it into an irresistible and marketable home.
Today’s homeowners are more interested than ever in blending their indoor and outdoor spaces, according to the experts.
It is the successful transition from one space to another that is the embodiment of the perfect patio, and it can range from a simple space offering seating and plants to something far more grand.
Patios can be flagstone or paved surfaces, and the definition can be extended to include decks, screen rooms, and even sunrooms. It is the sense of serenity they bring their owners that is the important factor.
Beth O’Leary of Teacup Gardener reports homeowners are upgrading materials selected to create a patio, and spaces are being more generously designed, often with water and/or fire features.
The perfect patio must be designed with scale, furnishings, flow, and overflow in mind, according to Paul Lively of Lively Landscape Co. “It must have a ‘garden’ feel—it must incorporate trees, shrubs, groundcover, flowers, and containers to soften the lines between man-made and nature.”
Expressing the need for a patio to offer an activity is Bob Bomar of Outdoor Living Experts, even if that activity is simply enjoying the view. He adds that water and fire features continue to grow in popularity, and says the perfect patio need to furnish the activity as well as being great to look at.
Shelter can be provided by nature herself in the form of plantings, or umbrellas, awnings, pergolas, and other sun shade structures. Growing in popularity are new moveable louvered roof systems that can be open for full sunshine or closed to block the sun or rain, according to Vickie Graham of Mr. Enclosure.
Sunrooms allow homeowners to experience the patio feeling in all weather and the trend is to open the interior home to the natural light and views of nature.
New homes frequently feature sheltered areas included in the home itself, either open as lanais or including screens for more comfortable enjoyment.
Furnishing the patio space has also taken on more importance as upholstered pieces for both undercover and in the sun living have have multiplied. Outdoor fabrics are selling for use both indoor and out, according to David Buffington of Brentwood Interiors.
Homeowners’ top priority when furnishing an indoor/outdoor space is plush yet supportive cushioning, according to Jerry Stroupe of Inside-Out Home Furnishings. “The preference is for higher backs and chairs that swivel and rock, and for seat heights that comfortably allow you to sit into and get out of the furniture,” he says.
Instead of new materials for these furnishings, Stroupe adds, emphasis is on the improvement of existing materials. “Resin wicker for outdoor use has improved in appearance so much it often can’t be distinguished from natural wicker. In addition, specialized construction and finishes now allow homeowners to use natural wicker and rattan on covered porches.
Spring Home Improvements: Repair, Replace, Enjoy!With memories of snow and cold fading, it’s time to remind home owners to take stock of important work to be done for themselves and potential buyers down the road. Keeping on track with seasonal maintenance will lower costs and raise value.
APRIL 2013 | BY BARBARA BALLINGER
Besides cleaning closets and planting flowers and cool-weather vegetables, spring should involve scrutinizing the condition of a house following the rough winter. Repairs and replacements won’t just help owners enjoy their properties more; they’ll also keep energy costs down as hot weather rolls in and attract more buyers, many of whom have become meticulous about inspecting roofs, appliances, and HVAC bills.
While most home owners need to prioritize costs, these 10 improvements are at the top of many contractors’ lists. Some of them are even more affordable than ever before, thanks to rebates from local communities, utility companies, and the federal government.
1. Replace windowsIf home owners’ houses felt drafty this past winter and they have single-pane windows, there’s a good chance those were one of the culprits. But replacing them all can be costly — $400 to $500 per window, plus $100 to $150 for installation, according to home improvement expert Tom Kraeutler of The Money Pit. Whether that’s the place to spend dollars should depend on how long home owners plan to stay put or what houses listed in their neighborhood offer if they’re selling. “If they’re the last ones with old, rotting-wood windows, that negative may affect buyer attention,” Kraeutler says. This year’s “Cost vs. Value” report from Remodeling magazine pegs the payback for vinyl windows at 71.2 percent and for wood windows at a similar 73.3 percent. A less costly alternative can be to add storms, caulk, weather strip, or rim joists in a basement. Contractor Paul Eric Morse of Morse Constructions Inc. in Somerville, Mass., suggests gradually replacing windows in any room that owners remodel to make the cost less prohibitive.
2. Install a new heating system and change filtersIf a seller’s furnace and boiler were on their last legs this past winter, it may be time to install a new one, or at least provide sellers with a credit toward new equipment. Any choice should carry an EnergyStar label for best results. Existing systems still in good condition should have filters checked monthly and replaced when dark and clogged, a DIY project. For great energy efficiency, Morse is installing more heat exchanges that provide both heat and air conditioning and can be less costly than a new central air system with new ducting and a new furnace.
3. Clean air conditioning unitsBefore summer temperatures rise and HVAC pros are swamped, advise home owners to clean coils and change filters so their system doesn’t have to work as hard. They should also have drain lines cleaned, so moisture is eliminated, says Douglas Tompkins, with Pro-Air Heating and Cooling in Newburgh, N.Y. If they haven’t had air conditioning, now’s the time to weigh choices of a central system, heat exchange, or room units.
4. Install more insulationA home’s first line of defense to stop cold or hot air — depending on the season — should be the attic, according to most contractors. An energy audit can determine how much more is needed, if they already have some. Seattle-based contractor Ron Rice, of Your House Matters, suggests adding more than the minimum 8 inches required by most local codes — up to 16 inches. For cold climates, installing electric or hydronic radiant heat under bathroom and kitchen floors will provide comfort next season.
5. Switch out inefficient appliancesSometimes appliances are no longer smart to repair. The determining factors for that should be their age and the cost of repair versus replacement. Here, too, top choices carry an EnergyStar label. If home owners need to replace most of their kitchen equipment and have a limited budget or plan to move, Rice suggests they prioritize and first switch out the range, followed by the refrigerator, dishwasher, and microwave — in that order.
6. Repair or replace roofs, gutters, and downspoutsBecause of the tough hurricane season last fall and the winter blizzards, roofing contractors in many parts of the country have been busy. Morse recommends that those needing new roofs consider architectural asphalt shingles because of their long warranties (often 50 years), affordable prices, and attractive appearances that work with many house styles. In addition, many contractors have the equipment and experience to install roofs of this material, as opposed to metal. He also recommends that home owners have gutters and downspouts cleaned come spring so that water can flow through them; gutters should be angled away from a house to stop water pooling around a foundation and seeping into the basement. Gutter covers can be helpful but often don’t eliminate all debris.
7. PaintDamage often shows up at this time of year, especially in climates where there’s been a lot of snow melting or winter rains, Morse says. Use the time to reassess your color choice for better curb appeal. Even changing the front door’s color can make a difference.
8. Prune treesCutting limbs that may have been damaged during winter and that might fall on a roof or allow squirrels to enter a house is smart, and it can be a cost savings later on. Called “thinning out,” this method gets excess foliage trimmed to allow more natural light into a house—and cut down on artificial illumination, says Sacramento, Calif.-based landscape designer Michael Glassman. “It opens the tree so you don’t have dead spots in the interior and lets the tree take advantage of air flow rather than chop off the top,” he says. A certified arborist will know the best ways to do this without removing too much of a canopy, which is useful for privacy and shade.
9. Mulch plantingsAlong with fall, spring is a key mulch time. Mulch helps plants thrive by holding back weeds, retaining moisture so soil doesn’t dry out, and adding a tidy look, Glassman says. Use bark, shredded fir, leaves, straw, or grass clippings.
10. Replace lightbulbsWhen it comes to artificial light, most contractors recommend switching burned-out bulbs to LEDs, which last longer than incandescents, consume less energy, and have come down in price — now often just $10. Quality has improved, too, and they’re dimmable and available in colors.
One more thing: Before you hire anybody to take on work, get a written estimate. Better to be safe than sorry.
Take your dog for a walk, hire a dog-walker, send Fido to daycare for the day, or find a friend where you could drop him/her off for an hour or so. While your buyers may be pet friendly, there is always a chance that they are allergic, they may not like animals, or are even afraid of your pet. So it’s best to have your home pet free for all showings. If you aren’t able to have your pet out of the home, make sure to have them either in a crate, or secured in a specific space. Have your realtor make notes of this in your showing instructions as well, so that there are no surprises.
Do a good “down to the bone” deep cleaning. Before your house goes on the market, make sure that it gets a huge deep cleaning, behind all furniture, all closets, under all beds, etc. You may even want to hire a professional cleaning service to come in and give it a good once-over. Pet hair/dust seems to find its way very easily into inconspicuous spots that we may not notice at first glance. But a good deep cleaning, makes all the difference in making the home feel and smell a lot fresher.
Have a quick pre-showing clean-up routine. After your house is cleaned “to the bone,” it’s much easier to tidy up in a hurry. Some tips are a quick swiffer for hardwoods, or vaccum job for carpet. Keep a blanket on any/all furniture that your pet may cuddle up on. That way, it’s easily thrown in the washing machine, right before you have a showing. It will do wonders eliminating pet fur as well as odors from your home. De-nose your windows! We know how dogs love to stare out a front window or door to see which squirrels or birds are about for the day. But, no buyer will think those cute little dog smudges are as cute as you do. Grab a quick spray of windex, and smudges are squeaky clean!
De-clutter. Find a quick spot for all of your pet friendly items. Dog bowls, toys, bones, should have a quick hiding spot for showings. Try a bin in a pantry for example.
Curb your pet! You never get a second chance to make a first impression! Curb appeal is hugely important to buyers, so lets make sure that all outside areas of your home are pet free as well. From your front yard, your back yard, your courtyard, etc. Make sure your puppy’s playground shows no signs of pets. Pay attention and remove all sticks, toys and ALL OTHER debris that may be present.
Following just these quick tips should have your home winning “First in Show” and have buyers begging to move in!
These expert tips will you help avoid the most common mistakes when remodeling your home.
From ignoring prep work and safety, to setting unrealistic budgets and selecting the wrong fixtures, this is a fearless exposé of the most common renovation mishaps. Find out how it happens, why people do it and, best of all, how to avoid making these mistakes in your own home.
25. Gutting Everything
"Make sure you have a well-set plan before you start your renovations, because you don't want to go in there and just clear everything out, when you might be able to work around some areas," warns Carey Evans of Don't Sweat It.
"I see this time and time again where people just start, and they think they're going to pull a piece of wallpaper off, and by the time the process is over, they've completely gotten themselves into a deep, dark hole that's very difficult to get out of," adds Eric Stromer of Over Your Head.
24. Buying Cheap Materials
Don't Sweat It host Steve Watson says, "One of the biggest mistakes that people make when it comes to home renovation (is that) they try to be cheap when they buy materials. The bottom line is, you're going to get what you pay for."
His carpenter Jimmy Little adds his two cents: "If you're going to do it, do it. If you can't afford to do it, wait."
23. Excessive Use of Duct Tape
"My esteemed colleagues, duct tape is not a permanent solution. It is merely a temporary fix," says Stromer.
"People use duct tape because it's cheap and it's quick and it's easy, but it's definitely a temporary solution. Don't leave it up for more than a couple hours ... ever," Little adds.
22. Inaccurate Measurements
Nancy Soriano, editor in chief of Country Living magazine says this about this common error: "I can't emphasize enough how an inch or even sometimes a half an inch can make a difference. And if your dimensions are off and it's not equal and symmetrical, you're not going to get the full impact and effect that you want. If you're not sure about how to measure or you can't follow the directions, don't hesitate at all to call somebody, ask them to come over and to take the measurement for you."
21. Not Doing the Prep Work
"Do it the right way, right away," says Evans. "You shouldn't avoid your prep work. You want to take the time to do it right and right from the beginning."
Adding to that wisdom is contractor Jim Collins: "It's a horrible, tedious process, and nobody likes it, but it saves so much time later on down the way. And that's what you're trying to do: save yourself money and time."
20. Using the Wrong Tools
"There're really three problems with using the wrong tool: You can wreck the tool, you can wreck the project you're working on, and you can wreck yourself," notes Spike Carelsen, executive editor of Family Handyman.
19. Building a Small Bathroom
"If you need a small bathroom, pick the right fixtures," says Little. "You can buy low-profile toilets and narrower sinks. Don't try to put full-size fixtures in a tiny, tiny bathroom. It's just going to be crowded."
"I'm a real believer in using bold colors and bold prints, because boldness in small spaces actually makes it feel better," Soriano adds.
18. Ignoring Lighting
Hammer Heads carpenter Carmen De La Paz says, "Another mistake that homeowners will often make is not taking into consideration the lighting in their home. The lighting in your home can completely change the colors, the feeling, the ambiance."
Designed to Sell's Lisa LaPorta adds, "There are really three main types of lighting: general lighting, task lighting and drama or accent lighting. You need a combination to have a really good end design."
17. Going Too Trendy
"People often make the mistake of wanting to be too hip and trendy in their new home by picking the latest, hottest, coolest things," says De La Paz. "What they don't take into consideration is that trendy means that it's short term."
Jim Collins says, "You want something that's going to stand the test of time, and you want something that's going to last for years and years."
16. Building Small Doorways
Evans issues this piece of advice on the subject: "Make sure you're looking at the entire floor plan of your home when you're planning your doorways. Look for, and make sure that every room has multiple exits. Or, if those doorways are in high-traffic areas, make sure thye're wide enough to let multiple people to pass through."
15. Failure to Anticipate Chaos
"I think it's really important to anticipate the time and the pacing of your renovation," notes Soriano. "You probably want to do that up front, get it over with, and then you can slowly start to piece your life and your home back together."
14. Incorrect Storage of Materials
Marc Bartolomeo of Save My Bath says, "You should always store materials in a cool, dry place."
Watson adds, "A roll of plastic will save you a lot of time and a lot of money, when it comes to wood and concrete. When it comes to tools and stuff like that, keep them inside."
13. Not Using Green Materials
De La Paz weighs in on this one, saying, "People will often make the mistake of not going green with their home project for two reasons: (A), They don't know how to, and (B), they think that it costs more money."
Not necessarily true, emphasizes Evans, "If you're doing your renovation green, you're really ahead of the market right now. So going green is a very smart investment."
12. Using the Wrong Paint
"People often make the mistake of picking the wrong paint for whatever particular project they may be working on," says De La Paz. "You don't realize that there is paint for just about every surface."
"Flat is basically for your ceilings and sometimes for your walls," adds carpenter Jeff Devlin of Spice Up My Kitchen. "Whereas your semigloss would basically be for trim in a bathroom or in maybe a dining room. The glossy will give it a more upscale look."
11. Building Narrow Halls and Staircases
"When you're renovating, bigger is always better when it comes to hallways and stairs," Collins says.
10. Choosing the Wrong Windows
Little says, "Windows are really expensive, and a lot of people try to (save) money on them, but that's not where you want to save your money."
Soriano adds, "You can always put more emphasis on the windows in the front of the house that face the street. That's one way to save on money, but do not skimp on quality."
9. Forgetting About Safety
"The most important things you can have on a job site for your own personal safety are goggles to protect your eyes; ear protection to protect your hearing; and gloves to protect your hands from splinters, nails and such," says Collins. "(Also) a good set of boots because there are nails and sharp objects everywhere. The last thing is, you must have a first-aid kit."
8. Not Doing Your Homework
"You have to know what you're getting into," says Evans. "Even if you're not doing the work yourself, know what to look for, what your contractor is doing. That way you can keep a close eye on the project and know when something's getting out of hand."
Soriano adds, "I think it's really important to do at least some preliminary work. You want to be able to have enough information to know what questions to ask."
7. Forgetting to Update the Electrical System
"I think people sometimes forget about electric when they've been renovating because it's expensive, it's costly and it's hidden," Soriano says. "You want to walk through the house with the electrician before you start to talk about outlets, where they are, where you want new outlets, three-prong outlets. You want to make sure everything's up to code."
6. Ignoring Your Home's Style
"You bought that Spanish home or that Craftsman home for a reason, because you liked that style. So keep your new design, your new build projects in that style," Watson insists.
5. Avoiding Permits
The bottom line is "if you do perform work without a permit and something serious happens, your homeowner's insurance will not cover it," says Bartolomeo.
4. Setting an Unrealistic Budget
"I think that people often underestimate what it's going to cost to do a big renovation, and part of that is because they don't realize the biggest cost in a renovation usually is, the labor," Soriano says.
Devlin adds, "You never know what's going to happen once you start the demolition process. As soon as you open up a wall, you never know what you're going to find behind that wall, so you need to pad your budget, and you need to be realistic."
3. Hiring the Wrong Contractor
"You need to make sure that the contractor is right for you, because he's going to be in your home, and you want to make sure it's the right contractor," Devlin says.
Stephen Drucker, editor in chief of House Beautiful adds, "When you interview contractors and you check references, the thing you want to find out is, how fast do they return phone calls? A contractor who returns phone calls fast has nothing to hide, and it's going to reduce your anxiety level."
2. Taking On More Than You Can Handle
"When people make the mistake of not knowing their limitations, they often take shortcuts," says De La Paz.
Stromer explains, "You really do have to know up front where you're going, and you can't jump into things without having a plan."
1. Overbuilding for Your Neighborhood
"The biggest mistake people make when they're trying to figure what the payback is going to be is they overbuild for their neighborhood," says Little. "They have a $100,000 house and they put a $100,000 addition on it, so now they have a $200,000 house in a $100,000 neighborhood."
You dream about a bathroom that’s high on comfort and personal style, but you also want materials, fixtures, and amenities with lasting value. Wake up! You can have both.
A mid-range bathroom remodel is a solid investment, according to Remodeling magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report. An average bath remodel of $15,782 will recoup about 65.2% of those costs when it’s time to sell your home, and a more extensive $50,000 job returns about 58%. In addition, you can maximize the value of your investment by using these smart strategies, which will create a stylish yet budget-friendly bathroom.
1. Stick to a Plan
A bathroom remodel is no place for improvisation. Before ripping out the first tile, think hard about how you will use the space, what materials and fixtures you want, and how much you’re willing to spend.
The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) recommends spending up to six months evaluating and planning before beginning work. That way, you have a roadmap that will guide decisions, even the ones made under remodeling stress. Once work has begun—a process that averages 2 to 3 months—resist changing your mind. Work stoppages and alterations add costs. Some contractors include clauses in their contracts that specify premium prices for changing original plans.
If planning isn’t your strong suit, hire a designer. In addition to adding style and efficiency, a professional designer makes sure contractors and installers are scheduled in an orderly fashion. A pro charges $100 to $200 per hour, and spends 10 to 30 hours on a bathroom project.
2. Keep the Same Footprint
You can afford that Italian tile you love if you can live with the total square footage you already have.
Keeping the same footprint, and locating new plumbing fixtures near existing plumbing pipes, saves demolition and reconstruction dollars. You’ll also cut down on the dust and debris that make remodeling so hard to live with.
Make the most of the space you have. Glass doors on showers and tubs open up the area. A pedestal sink takes up less room than a vanity. If you miss the storage, replace a mirror with a deep medicine cabinet.
3. Make Lighting a Priority
Multiple shower heads and radiant heat floors are fabulous adds to a bathroom remodel. But few items make a bathroom more satisfying than lighting designed for everyday grooming. You can install lighting for a fraction of the cost of pricier amenities.
Well-designed bathroom task lighting surrounds vanity mirrors and eliminates shadows on faces: You look better already. The scheme includes two ceiling- or soffit-mounted fixtures with 60 to 75 watts each, and side fixtures or sconces providing at least 150 watts each, distributed vertically across 24 inches (to account for people of various heights). Four-bulb lighting fixtures work well for side lighting.
4. Clear the Air
Bathroom ventilation systems may be out of sight, but they shouldn’t be out of mind during a bathroom remodel.
Bathroom ventilation is essential for removing excess humidity that fogs mirrors, makes bathroom floors slippery, and contributes to the growth of mildew and mold. Controlling mold and humidity is especially important for maintaining healthy indoor air quality and protecting the value of your home--mold remediation is expensive, and excess humidity can damage cabinets and painted finishes.
A bathroom vent and water closet fan should exhaust air to the outside—not simply to the space between ceiling joists. Better models have whisper-quiet exhaust fans and humidity-controlled switches that activate when a sensor detects excess moisture in the air.
5. Think Storage
Bathroom storage is a challenge: By the time you’ve installed the toilet, shower, and sink, there’s often little space left to store towels, toilet paper, and hair and body products. Here are some ways to find storage in hidden places.
6. Contribute Sweat Equity
Shave labor costs by doing some work yourself. Tell your contractor which projects you’ll handle, so there are no misunderstandings later.
Some easy DIY projects:
7. Choose Low-Cost Design for High Visual Impact
A “soft scheme” adds visual zest to your bathroom, but doesn't create a one-of-a-kind look that might scare away future buyers.
Soft schemes employ neutral colors for permanent fixtures and surfaces, then add pizzazz with items that are easily changed, such as shower curtains, window treatments, towels, throw rugs, and wall colors. These relatively low-cost decorative touches provide tons of personality but are easy to redo whenever you want.
Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/bathrooms/strategy-for-bathroom-remodeling/#ixzz2M282wVic
Find yourself weighing the pros and cons of granite countertops in your spare time? Or considering the finer points of cherry cabinetry? Then you must have kitchen remodeling on the brain.
Turns out you're not alone. According to a 2012 survey by the National Organization of Home Builders (NAHB), kitchen remodels are actually up 17 percent from two years ago.
But before you pick up that hammer or grab that circular saw, Patrick Driscoll, a New Hampshire-based contractor and owner of Patrick Driscoll Residential Remodeling, advises that you consider what's best for your finances, family, and future - especially if you want a gorgeous new cookspace that'll be a sound investment down the road.
"During any remodel project that I do, I classify improvements into two categories: One being projects that add monetary value to the house, the others make the house more appealing," says Driscoll. "For example, a larger kitchen will increase the actual value of the house, whereas granite countertops are going to make the house more appealing to buyers."
So what's the right recipe for your redo? Read on for six hot remodeling trends that could give you a mix of appeal and value, so you can enjoy a kitchen that's a cut above the rest.
Project #1: Cabinet Replacement or RefacingIf you're not sure where to start your kitchen remodel, the cabinets might be your best bet. Why? While cabinets may look like just a series of wooden boxes, they're actually a major focal point for potential buyers, says Driscoll.
Because of the steep cost of cabinetry - anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000, according to Driscoll - it's best to consider all of your options when it comes to upgrading. On the high-end of the spectrum, you could start from scratch with a set of solid oak or cherry cabinets tinted with a fancy stain, says Driscoll. Or you could stretch your dollars by investing in a cheaper composite wood set with a few key features.
"Replacing your cabinets with mid-grade painted cabinets with some newer features like soft-close doors has the potential to add almost as much value as top of the line cabinets," says Driscoll.
If a total tear-out is not in your budget and you've got plywood boxes that are sturdy, consider refacing, which involves changing out the doors and drawers and adding a matching veneer to the cabinet boxes. "Refacing cabinets is a good way to save money if the box of the cabinet [the shell being salvaged] is in good condition," says Driscoll. Again, you'd want to find doors with a finish to your liking, making sure to match the old cabinet frames to the new finish you choose.
Whether you reface or replace, Driscoll recommends hiring a contractor due to the cost and prominence of cabinetry in the kitchen. "If the cabinets are not aligned or have a screw popping through the face, people will take note," he says.
Project #2: Floor InstallationLinoleum, laminate, exotic hardwood. There are many flooring options in fashion these days. The trick is choosing one that suits your tastes, goes easy on the wallet, and will hold up to wear and tear.
According to Driscoll, hardwood is the way to go, but faux may be better than the real deal, at least when it comes to staying under budget. "With the popularity of the floating floor [also known as laminate flooring], people are trending toward the hardwood look," says Driscoll. "These floating floors come in a range of colors, qualities and prices" and nail the hardwood look at a fraction of the price - often without installation costs.
Why are they so magical? The great thing about floating floors, Driscoll says, is that because they often use snap-and-lock technology, they don't need nailing down, which means they can be DIYed pretty easily.
Have a little extra cash to throw around? As with cabinets, consider going exotic. "People are investing more into the cherry and yellow pine floors," says Driscoll. "This being said, the exotic woods are a luxury item and will get roughly the same ROI (return on investment) as a well done oak floor," says Driscoll.
Project #3: Countertop InstallationThink of your kitchen countertops as the star of the show - the right material is what creates that wow factor when you enter a room. Want to cast the right character in this role? Driscoll recommends stone if you want to stay up with trends.
"If you are looking to add value to your house, stick with the more affordable granites and manufactured stone," Driscoll says. According to Driscoll, granite ranges in price from about $40 to $100 per square foot. Unfortunately, price and durability do not always go hand in hand, he says, so be sure to consider the strength of the material before you purchase.
Unsure where to start your shopping? As a rule, "darker granites with consistent patterns tend to be the stronger stone, and the more elaborate the pattern, the more expensive the cost," says Driscoll. It is best to stick to something dark and durable, he says, such as Uba Tuba, a black/dark brown granite that is "affordable and very strong."
Once you've selected a material, call in a contractor. "With the weight of stone, manufactured stone, or concrete, installs are best left to professionals," says Driscoll.
Project #4: LightingYou've heard it before: Lighting is the key to setting a mood. Pick the right lights and install them in the right place, and your kitchen will not only look good, it'll also be more comfortable for you and your guests no matter the time of day, says Driscoll.
Lately, pendants over a kitchen island or breakfast bar are all the rage, Driscoll says, as is under-cabinet lighting. Both can add ambiance to the kitchen and also supply good task lighting for chopping vegetables and stirring what's on the stove, he says. But don't underestimate what installing lighting entails.
"Every light needs to have a wire run to it, and every run wire needs an electrician," says Driscoll. "If you are doing a remodel where the walls are being taken back to the studs, take the time to get the lighting the way that you want it. It will take an electrician at least four times as long to try and snake wires through existing walls."
If you can't put in new lights, consider changing your fixtures or adding dimmers to control light volume. Both can give you a new look for a fraction of the price of new wiring, says Driscoll.
Because of the risk of electrical fire or shock, Driscoll advises always leaving electrical work to a licensed electrician.
Project #5: Open Floor PlanHas the heart of your home been feeling a little cramped lately? According to Anders Hanson, contractor and owner of Hanson Remodels and Landscapes in California, open floor plans, where the kitchen opens up to a living room or a dining room without walls blocking the view, are extremely trendy right now.
If you live in an older home, chances are there are walls segmenting your living area on the main floor of your home, and your space could benefit by removing them. "Life in the 50's and 60's was different," says Hanson. "Rooms were much smaller, and now a lot of homeowners want a more modern, open look."
Why? Well, according to Hanson, open floor plans improve the flow of a home and allow more natural light into its spaces. If you're planning a total overhaul of your cookspace, it's worth looking into taking down a wall or two to create a lighter, brighter kitchen. And of course, you should always consult a contractor before embarking on this kind of structural remodel.
Project #6: Tile BacksplashWant to make your kitchen really pop? A tile backsplash can add appeal and allow homeowners to put their personal touch on the kitchen, says Driscoll.
Tiles for kitchen backsplashes come in all different colors, finishes, and shapes, running the gamut from old-world looking, neutral-stone rectangles to bright, modern glass squares. What's great about this project, says Driscoll, is that handy - and careful - homeowners can tackle it on their own over a weekend or bit by bit, if need be.
"If a handy homeowner takes his or her time and sets up properly, and makes sure to buy, borrow, or rent the right tools, then the job should go much smoother," he says.
A few more words of wisdom: If this is your first tile project, Driscoll says to take your time and get about 20 percent more materials than the space you are tiling. "The rule of thumb is 10 to 15 percent, but newbies should plan on making a few mistakes," he says.
Though tiled backsplashes struggle to yield total ROI, Driscoll says they certainly add interest to your kitchen. Plus, they can make clean-up after meals a cinch. After cooking, just wet a rag and wipe the tiles. Then just enjoy your new kitchen, rinse, and repeat.
By Danielle Blundell | Yahoo! Homes