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.
Big projects or small, probably all of us could stand to learn some decent home repair or home improvement skills. (All around the home, there are things we should never have to pay others to fix for us.) Learn Bob Villa-worthy skills and help others at the same time by volunteering or through free clinics and other resources. Turn to great reading resources and try starter projects too. If you get stuck on a project, iOS app Fountain will connect you to a home improvement expert to answer your question for $5. (Also, did you know we have a home improvement subblog here at Lifehacker called Workshop?)
Before starting all the mess of a remodel, it’s a good plan to designate a renovation-free zone for your family to gather in semi-relaxation. Make sure you have everything you need in one place, such as a kettle or microwave, so you have one functional space to gather, eat or just unwind at the end of the day. For more relaxation ideas, check out our 8 Projects for Backyard Fun.
Once you’ve determined a realistic budget, you’ll need to clarify exactly what work can happen and when. You may also need to ask yourself some tough questions about what you really need versus what you simply want. This will help you identify the true intention of the project and lay out important ground rules. It can even help with scheduling and determining what work happens when.
Be brutally honest about your DIY skill level. Assess which projects to do yourself and which are better left to the pros. You could save yourself a ton of money in the long run if you don’t have to call someone in to fix a project you’ve messed up. The best way to find a good contractor — seek referrals from friends, family, neighbors, co-workers and others who have had remodeling work done.
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.
The condition of your home's exterior is key to the overall curb appeal, so refresh that facade with a coat of paint. Fresh exterior paint will not only preserve and protect your home's exterior siding — the right paint color can make a dull home dazzling. By the same token, a house painted with an overly bright or overly bland color will make a house less appealing and hurt the value, so choose your colors wisely. Should you decide to put your house on the market and the exterior paint looks bad, a buyer will assume that the interior of the home has been neglected too and drive right past.
For bathrooms, overhead lighting is very important. As for ambient options, you can always consider the use of a sunken track lighting, frosted glass fixtures, or even rice paper. Likewise, perimeter lighting is also capable of creating both soft, ambient glow, as well as useful light. It’s also highly advisable to consider using pendant lighting. Something like this allows the scattering of light into the direction that it gives the illusion of a beautiful centerpiece ceiling.
Save energy bill greenbacks by going green with a solar water heater. The installed price can cost up to $5,000, but these systems can slash your hot water bills by as much as 80 percent and attract energy-conscious homebuyers should you decide to sell. Install a solar water heater where there's unobstructed southern exposure and you'll have savings made in the shade.
Any good contractor will have no problem providing references, and copies of liability insurance before a job begins. Don’t rely solely on client testimonials, search out actual customers that can give you a firsthand account and answer any questions you may have. For any project, ask to see before and after images of a contractor’s prior work, and most importantly—trust your gut and know which questions to ask.