Category Archives: DIY

Top 10 Green Home Improvement Upgrades, Plus Costs & ROI in 2017

This year, homeowners are more focused on renovating their houses rather than buying new. 2017 is continuing to see a hot seller’s real estate market, especially in places with booming economy like Seattle. Hot real estate markets mean that it’s often too expensive to buy a new place for many people, but it’s a great time to fix up your current home! 😉

If you can’t afford to move, but you are getting bored or frustrated with your house, a properly planned remodel can help make it feel like a brand new place! 🙂 And if you ever decide to sell your home in the future, strategically-done home improvements will help make it more desirable and attractive in the eyes of potential buyers.

solar-thermal-panels-on-a-metal-roof

No matter whether you’re remodeling to make yourself more comfortable or to entice potential buyers, it’s a no-brainer to lean towards environmentally-friendly design. Most green home remodeling projects result in huge savings on your energy bills, in addition to simply being the right thing to do for the future. And green is really in right now: a recent study found that homebuyers are willing to pay 3.46% more for a home with green features than a home without.

A lot of people are under the impression that green remodeling will cost them a fortune, but that’s not necessarily true. We’ve rounded up a set of 10 awesome (and cost-effective) green remodeling projects for your consideration. Read on to get the scoop on what goes into each project, how much each one might cost you, the kind of return on investment you can expect, and more.

1. Energy-efficient exterior doors

energy-efficient-door

Replacing an old exterior door is a great way to improve your home’s energy efficiency. If your current door is worn, cracked, or isn’t energy efficient, replacing it with an Energy Star-certified exterior door can result in a savings of as much as 10% on your costs to heat and cool your home.

To replace your door, you’ll need to first choose what kind of new door you want. While there are a variety of options, the most energy-efficient and durable kinds are fiberglass and steel.

door-energy-efficiency

Fiberglass doors are often better looking, since they more closely mimic the look of authentic wood doors. They are also ideal for harsh climates (very cold or very humid), since unlike steel, they don’t sweat when exposed to cold or moisture. However, they are more expensive than steel, and easier for intruders to break into.

Steel doors, on the other hand, are cheaper, stronger, and usually more energy efficient in temperate or hot, dry climates. However, they may not be as attractive, and they can rust if not treated properly and exposed to the elements.

Many doors come in pre-hung in a frame and pre-drilled and can be installed yourself, but if you are choosing a door that is not the exact same size as your old door, you’ll need to hire a contractor (usually a carpenter) to install the door.

In 2017, a new exterior door offers some of the very best returns on your investment. This year, the average cost of a new exterior fiberglass door, including installation, is $3,276, and tends to add an average value of $2,550 to your home, for a 77.8% ROI. The average cost of a new exterior steel door, including installation, is only $1,413, and tends to add value of $1,282, giving a whopping 90.7% ROI.

2. Non-toxic carpet

Non-toxic-Carpet via ServiceExpress.co

If you want to install or replace your carpet, you should be aware that not all new carpets are the same. A lot of new carpets and their adhesives contain chemicals called VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which are not only bad for the environment, but also dangerous to breathe in, causing a host of symptoms like dizziness, nausea, and fatigue.

Still, there is an ever-widening variety of Eco-friendly, non-toxic carpet available on the market today, and there are benefits of carpet over wood or laminate floors: carpet is cheaper and provides comfort, noise damping, and – most importantly – energy conservation. They are a great way of keeping the warmth in your house in the wintertime without turning up your heater.

When picking a green carpeting solution, look for carpets labelled “low VOC” and made from natural fibers like wool, jute, seagrass, or sisal. Choose lightweight carpets without petroleum-based padding – either no padding or padding made from felt is ideal. If the carpet requires adhesive, go for water-based, low-VOC glues, or ask your carpet installer to use these eco-friendly products.

This year, new wool carpet is running about $8-$10 per square foot. Installation is typically between $2.00-$4.00 per square foot. While return on investment data is somewhat hard to find on carpet alone (as opposed to a whole room remodel), there is widespread general agreement that potential buyers are turned off by old or dirty carpet, making replacing carpet a winning resale strategy.

3. Tankless water heater

tankless-vs-tank-water-heater Via AnyHeater.com

Realtors say there is a big trend this year towards energy-efficient appliances like tankless water heaters. These eco-friendly heaters have a big initial purchase and installation cost – averaging between $2,500 and $5,000 depending on the size of your home – but also have a big immediate return on your investment: a tankless water heater immediately cuts your energy bills by about 20%. By some government estimates, well-placed tankless water heaters can cut your bills by as much as 50%.

What is a tankless water heater? It’s a water heater that heats or cools water on demand, as you need it – rather than storing a bunch of water and keeping it hot all the time. They last much longer than a traditional water heater with a tank – upwards of 20 years – and take up much less space. However, the water temperature from a tankless water heater can momentarily fluctuate if you turn the hot water on, turn it off, and then turn it right back on again – you may get either hot or cold water depending on how fast the water heater takes to catch up with you. Also, they are much more effective when installed closest to the point they’ll be needed – in kitchens and bathrooms – since they don’t have reserves of hot water and have to heat it immediately.

4. Radiant bathroom floor heating

radiant-floor-heating via BathroomHeater.org

Imagine going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, only to find that your bathroom is warm and you previously cold bathroom tile is nice and cozy beneath your feet. Radiant floor heating delivers exactly that. Homeowners and homebuyers alike consider this a luxury item, and it’s likely to impress potential buyers, adding value to your home in addition to the energy savings.

What kind of energy savings are we talking? It really depends on how hot you keep your house at night. Radiant floor heating makes a room feel warmer than it is because heat rises, and it keeps the floor feeling toasty. Consequently, you will probably feel comfortable dropping your thermostat by several degrees at night. The more you drop the temperature, the better savings you are likely to see.

There are two types of radiant floor heating: electric systems and hydronic systems (which use water for heat). For a 100 sq. ft. bathroom, expect to spend anywhere between $600 and $1200 to have it installed, depending on what brand and what kind of system you use.

The real downside to radiant floor heating is that it requires pulling up the existing bathroom floor, and it might require doing so again if you need a repair down the line. But if you are willing to pull up your old tile or are already thinking about replacing your bathroom floor, it’s a great and popular heating option.

5. Skylights

velux-skylights via VeluxUSA.com

Did you know that 40% of your home’s energy usage comes directly from all that artificial lighting? If you have a room that has no windows – common in bathrooms, and utility rooms – consider installing a skylight. Not only will the natural light from the sun reduce your energy bill substantially, but many of the newest skylights open to fresh air, reducing humidity (and the resultant mold that tends to build up in closed, moisture-prone spaces). It’s no wonder that skylights are so attractive to buyers.

According to RoofingCalc.com, the average cost to have a skylight installed is between $1,500 and $2,500, with some homeowners spending as little as $700 and some spending up to $3,500. How much the job costs depends on what kind of skylight you choose – fixed skylights that don’t open are the cheapest; ventilating skylights with remote control access are the newest, trendiest, and most expensive.

Of course, if you opt for the ventilating kind, remember that you are also letting in outdoor noise; this may not be the best choice if you live on a noisy street. And be sure to get Energy Star-certified skylights which don’t leak. VELUX America makes a solar-powered skylight, which is particularly energy-efficient and popular this year.
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15 Awesome Kitchen Remodel Ideas, Plus Costs 2017 Updated!

Updating or remodeling your kitchen can be a great investment of your home improvement dollars, especially if you plan to sell your home in the next few years. Remodeling this center-stage space of family gatherings can further enhance its functionality and utility, enabling you to enjoy the heart of your home to the fullest. Here are some of the top kitchen remodeling ideas for 2017, along with their expected costs and the pros and cons of each update.

1. Low-budget Remodel – Do It Yourself can be a Viable Approach here

A kitchen remodel can be done on a shoe-string budget. Just update one part at a time as the budget allows. You can do some or all of the work yourself, in some cases, if you are handy and have the necessary time and desire to get your hands dirty. 😉 Otherwise, an investment of $20,000 will buy a minor kitchen remodel completed by a professional remodeling contractor, but doing some of the work yourself can also bring that price down quite a bit. A minor kitchen remodel could include, but doesn’t have to be limited to the following:

  • Refinishing cupboards
  • Replacing outdated appliances with new, more energy-efficient appliances
  • New paint or wallpaper
  • New faucet
  • New countertops
  • New but inexpensive flooring

New countertops don’t necessarily have to be expensive. Even a new laminate countertop, which is fairly inexpensive, can make a huge difference. Decide what needs to be done, figure out the cost and have that one part done, or do it yourself, when your paycheck can cover it. – This remodeling approach could take a while, but eventually, you’ll have a beautifully updated kitchen and won’t be too broke to buy groceries. 😉

  • In 2017, a minor kitchen remodel will give you an ROI or recouped value of investment of about 80%. Thus, a $20,800 kitchen remodel should add about $16,700 to the value of your home.

2. Refinish the Cupboards

kitchen-cabinets

Give your kitchen a face-lift by refinishing the cupboards and drawer fronts instead of replacing them. New pulls and knobs will complete the look. This is fairly inexpensive and you will be amazed at the difference it makes. You can save even more money by doing it yourself but, be forewarned, it is not as easy as it seems. If the cupboards are in good shape and do not have lots of grooves or intricate carving, it is pretty straightforward. The job will take time, elbow grease and paint that costs about $30 to $60 per gallon plus $10 to $25 for new pulls and knobs. However, the cupboards will almost certainly look better if you have the refinishing done professionally. Plan to pay between $800 and $5,000, depending on the number of cabinets and how much repair needs to be done. The average cost is around $2,500.

  • Investing $2,500 in cupboards will add about $2,000 to the value of your home.

3. Reface those Cabinets

Have the cabinets refaced instead of replacing them if the doors and fronts are too damaged to refinish or if you just want a completely new look. This must be done by a professional. It generally costs between $2,000 and $13,000. When cupboards are refaced, the doors, drawer fronts and the actual veneer or wood finish on the outside of the cupboards is replaced. There are a few up-sides to refacing, as opposed to replacing:

  • Refacing costs less.
  • You regain the use of your kitchen more quickly.
  • You don’t have to deal with the hassle of new cupboards that don’t fit.

Even though this option is more expensive than refinishing, it will be worth it if your cupboards are old and outdated. They will look brand new.

  • The ROI for a $5,000 refacing will be about $4,000 and a big wow factor that you get to enjoy every time you go into the kitchen.

4. Refinish Walls

New paint or wallpaper, along with the refinished cupboards, will leave your kitchen looking fresh and brand new. You can do this yourself, of course, or hire a professional. If you hire a professional to paint, plan on spending between $400 and $1,000, depending on the size of the room. Having wallpaper installed by a professional will generally cost between $150 and $800. Doing it yourself is much cheaper but painting or hanging wallpaper in between the cupboards can be tricky.

  • This minor investment may not give you much in the way of ROI but it will probably help sell your home more quickly. Think of this as curb appeal for your kitchen.

5. Replace Flooring

Replace your kitchen flooring with cork or vinyl tiles. These materials are inexpensive and easy to put down yourself in most kitchens. Cork tiles cost around $3 to $6 per square, while vinyl tiles are $1.50 to $4 per square foot. There are some pros and cons to consider here.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive.
  • Easy DIY project in most kitchens.

Cons:

  • Not usually a very long-lasting flooring, although some come with a 25-year warranty.
  • Existing flooring may need to be removed or underlayment might be required.

New flooring makes a big difference. The floor is the largest surface area in your kitchen and the first thing you see before you even enter the room.

  • The ROI on $500 worth of new flooring won’t add to your home value but it will make a big impression on prospective buyers.

6. Mid-Range Kitchen Remodel

modern-upscale-kitchen

Larger, total kitchen remodels generally cost between $20,000 and $40,000 and entail a complete tear-out of the old … well, everything. Consider all possibilities and come up with a plan before the work begins. Give plenty of thought to what works best for you in addition to what materials you want. Keep in mind that this room must be built for function, not just aesthetics.

Let your intentions guide your remodeling plans. Return on investment for kitchens is generally only 60 to 80 percent, although this varies considerably from area to area. This means you will likely only recoup a little over half to three-quarters of what you invest in most locations. It may, however, help your house sell more quickly. If you are remodeling to sell, keep the colors and materials on the neutral side. A prospective buyer may be turned off by too much bright purple.

  • The national average ROI on a minor kitchen remodel is 80.2% but in Chicago it is 102.9%. You should only expect to recoup about 65% of the cost on a major remodel.

7. Small Kitchen Planning

mid-range-minor-kitchen-remodel

Even though a small kitchen may seem like an easier remodel than a large kitchen, you actually may need to get a bit more creative. Small kitchens can be difficult. Rip out the old cupboards and appliances in your mind and let your creative juices flow. Imagine the cupboards, sink and appliances in every possible configuration to get the most out of the limited space. Plumbing can be moved. It will cost an additional $1,000 to $1,500 or so but that extra cost may be well worth it in the long run. Keep the kitchen sink in front of the window, if possible. Use cupboards that extend all the way to the ceiling to get as much storage space as possible.

  • Spending $25,000 will add about $20,675 to the value of your home. Do not invest too much. You could add more value to the home than the area housing market will support. Rule of thumb – do not spend more than 5% to 7% of the home’s value on remodeling.

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Top 11 Smart Home Improvements, Plus Costs & ROI 2017 Update!

Billions and billions and billions of dollars. That’s what Americans spent on home remodeling projects in 2016. More like hundreds of billions. And 2017 has certainly been following the suit so far! Major home improvements and significant additions to a home are key factors in why that figure is so astronomical! But, if we’re all honest, remodeling is the type of project we all consider doing or want to do.

major-remodel

According to the National Association of Remodeling Industry (NARI), around 50% of homeowners surveyed in suburban and urban areas say they are willing to remodel their living space, and over two thirds of rural home owners convey that willingness. While a third of all home owners consider it easier to just move to a new home than tackle a remodeling project.

People remodel for many reasons, and 75% of us report feeling a major sense of accomplishment as a result of a completed project. Better functionality and livability, or what we will refer to as the ‘enjoyment factor’, is generally cited as the top reason for why remodel at all. Other factors like knowing better materials are in place, appreciating the beauty of an upgrade and making changes to fit the owner’s feeling of their living space are considerable factors. But it is the joy factor that we wish to emphasize.

Above that however is the overall cost value. Also known as ROI, or return on investment, this factor is our primary consideration. Money spent for home improvement is usually seen as an investment that is recouped at the time of sale. For our purposes, it works out best to understand that as if the home is being sold within a year of a remodeling project. Yet, certain improvements have lasting value, of more than 1 year. So longevity is certainly a consideration for all home remodeling considerations.

Our top list is intended to be easy to read, simple to understand and intending to provide advice should you be considering any of these projects going forward. Or perhaps you are wondering which one(s) may be better to tackle than others. As this isn’t the only list of its kind, we chose to go about things a bit differently than others. Here is the basic scale of what into which items made our list and the order in which they appear:

Cost value (or ROI) is the most weighted factor. A few items on the list will actually return more in terms of recouped value than what you, the owner, put into it. Pretty sweet, huh? Unlike some other lists, we’d rather not overwhelm you with a long list of percentage points and so instead we go with a scale of:

  • 100% or higher ROI = Supreme (cost value)
  • 90% to 99% = Great
  • 75% to 89% = Very Good
  • 67% to 74% = Good

Anything lower than a return of two thirds the cost you put into it, was not good enough for our list.

Enjoyment Factor is second highest consideration. This is the element that makes homeowners want to be in their home environment more as a result of the completed project. NARI and other organizations will survey homeowners periodically to check on such data and ours comes from December 2015, or later. This scale is:

  • 100% = Top Notch (rare, but it happens)
  • 95% or higher = Great
  • 90% to 94% = Very Good
  • 80% to 89% = Good

Curb Appeal is what prospective buyers are going to notice about a home from the street. If the home upgrade is an item that fits into this category, we decided it deserves to be considered third highest factor in terms of overall value. This is essentially a yay or nay type notation.

Energy Efficiency is a trending item in recent years and 2017 is certainly continuing on that trajectory. Some items on our list have very little to no impact on energy savings, but most do. This is the 4th most important factor we make note of.

Cost – inexpensive (lowest) to very expensive (highest) is something we chose to make note of as a factor that at least some owners would wish to consider. As cost value is already being considered, and most weighted, we decided to keep this as the lowest factor, while still realizing for some homeowners, it may be what is most doable for them.

We’ll also make notes regarding what each project entails, the longevity you can expect from completion of the upgrade, alternatives to the entry on our list, and some advice from us in how to implement the project or weighing of pros and cons among the entry item and its alternative(s).

An added note regarding cost. The ROI is our primary focus, as this means whatever the cost you actually spend on materials and labor, is what you can hope to get back at time of sale, but this does assume the sale is done relatively soon after the job is completed (generally within a year). We also indicate a cost range and median pricing point, or national average for the remodeling project. There are many factors that go into pricing any job and so the averages are likely best taken with a grain of salt, which is why the range is meant to provide a decent estimate of what is low and high end for the costs. This assumes a professional contractor is in charge of the project, and in general it assumes the house is around 2000 square feet. Where applicable, we all add in a price per sq. ft., which ought to help with realizing the price you can expect to pay for materials/installation of the work.

For the fun of it, we’ll go in reverse order. Our highest value item will be at the end and we’ll start with an item that is actually highly coveted by many home buyers. Cue up the gong sound, the top 11 list starts…. now.

#11 = Major Kitchen Renovation

rustic-kitchen

Originally, our list was going to be 10 items, but in paraphrasing the wise words of Nigel Tufnel (Spinal Tap), “this list is better than the ones by those other blokes, because this one goes to eleven.” Actually, it goes to eleven for another reason, as a complete kitchen renovation is the third highest item on our list in terms of enjoyment factor. Usually, when any homeowner considers a first project for improving their living space, the kitchen is most desired. It is also the type of remodeling that prospective owners report as top consideration for what they look for inside a home; a well designed kitchen with all the modern conveniences.

The alternative to this project is a minor kitchen upgrade. The difference between the two is the renovation will physically change the design of the room, whereas minor upgrade will not. Both will address and refinish any surface in the room that needs a makeover. And both projects will likely replace older fixtures and appliances with up to date, energy efficient products. With a room redesign comes additional energy efficiency concerns that any professional home designer is fully taking into account. The complete renovation though is overall more costly, and is tied with most expensive item on our list (see #9). A minor upgrade, if truly an upgrade and not just a superficial upgrade is going to cost about half the total price of a major renovation, or at a median price point of around $30,000 (for upgrade).

ROI = Good

Enjoyment Factor = Great

Curb Appeal = Not Applicable (N/A)

Energy Efficiency = Yes, but minor

Cost factor = Very Expensive

Cost range / median price = $50,000 to $80,000 / $60,000

Cost per sq.ft. = Not available

Longevity = 20 years or more before minor upgrade would be considered

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