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Prioritizing Home Improvements

by Kevin McKinley - July 10th, 2016

Posted Under: around the house

    We’re finally finishing up our series of columns on “home remodeling and improvement.”
This week we’ll talk about how to prioritize the work so that what needs to get done gets done, but you can still get some of your “wants” out of the way without wasting a lot of time and money.

“Note to self”

    Start the process by keeping a journal (in a notebook or on your smartphone) and jotting down all of the little (and big) annoyances in your home’s structure or appearance.
    That carpet stain in the living room from where your sister-in-law spilled her wine many Christmases ago? Add it to the list. The blinds in the kitchen that you can’t raise after you’ve lowered them? Add it to the list.
    The longer it’s been since you’ve done this type of inspection, the more likely it is that you’ll have more than enough projects that need to be done, and will eat up most or all of your remodeling budget.
    If you’re clueless about the potential expense of any fixes or improvements, visit to get an idea of how much you should plan on paying.

Dare to dream

    Once the necessary projects are planned and paid for, you may want to turn your thoughts to improvements that have a greater aesthetic appeal. These aspirations are limited only by your imagination, and your budget.
    To kick start the former, you can certainly lug around the dozens of magazines devoted to the topic (the ones at the library are cheaper than the ones at the newsstand), or watch countless hours of the TV shows that overdramatically (and perhaps unrealistically) explore the home improvement process.
    But it might be easier to visit a site like Houzz (, and yes that’s the correct spelling).  There you will find over ten million photos of interior and exterior home design ideas and products, along with the ability to save photos into your personal account.
    Houzz will even let you take a photo of a particular room in your house, and then super-impose a design style or product into the picture to see how it might look in real life.

All about the money

    Sadly, though these images might inspire you to become an amateur interior designer, you are still going to be limited by what you can afford.
    Therefore it’s a good idea to consider what remodeling and improvement projects are most likely to add value to your home now, as well as when you sell it in the future.
    Start by addressing the boring-but-important structural issues: the roof, furnace/air conditioning, and insulation. Bringing these items up to date will not only increase the value of your home, but will also save you money on your utility bills while you live there.
    For a relatively low dollar investment (maybe a few thousand dollars) consider replacing your current garage door and revamping your front door. If you have a few more thousand dollars to spend, think about adding a new kitchen counter tops, and perhaps redoing your current kitchen cabinet surface and doors.
    Other practical projects in the low-to-mid-four figure cost range include adding an outdoor deck, or updating the current one. You could also have a manufactured stone veneer added to the front of your home to increase the curb appeal.
    And if you’re really ready to spend $25,000 or more on your place, you’ll get the best bang for those bucks by redoing your entire kitchen, remodeling the bathrooms, or finishing off the basement.
    A word to the wise: if you’re thinking about moving in a few years, keep your remodeling projects as neutral as possible so you don’t alienate as many potential buyers.
    Of course, by the time you add up the cost of your needed and desired improvements, and then consider the time and energy required to complete them, you may just decide to move to a different new and improved home, and let somebody else buy and fix up your old place.