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Updating Your House

It’s time to turn into reality those cabin-fever comments of “Wouldn’t it be nice if…” followed by a wish for a remodeled kitchen or room addition. However, the decision to remodel is not one that should be taken lightly.

There are several factors to consider, including the amount of money available, the ability to do some or all of the work yourself, and the reason for the redo, such as replacement of broken appliances or updating the out-of-date.

Why remodel?
You’ve been living in your house for some time, you’re tired of looking at the same carpeting and wallpaper, and, quite frankly, you’d also like a little extra space.

Best bets to add value to your house are kitchen and bathroom makeovers and an extra bedroom, which can boost home values by 15 percent or so, according to the National Association of Realtors. There’s less importance on having a dining room, den, or study.

Watch out, though, for fads that fade. Benjamin Moore Paints is expecting Peach Brandy and Tangerine Fusion to be living-room hits this year; vivid colors such as Banana Crepe and Pink Nectar get the vote of Leatrice Eiseman at Pantone Color Institute.

But will they make it into 2006?

Simple updates
Most people form a lasting impression of your home as soon as they pull into the driveway. In addition to painting the exterior, consider upgrading your front door. Install a quality brass doorknob, lock, and knocker. If the screen door looks old, replace it as well. A storm door with full-length removable glass or screen will show off the handsome door behind it.

Also outside, patch walkways and reseal the driveway.

Inside, replace or remove worn carpets, ditto for worn kitchen countertops, and perhaps add a stainless-steel backsplash in the wall space above the countertops and below hanging cabinets.

Consider energy-saving projects. Buy water-saving toilets, which use 1.6 gallons of water per flush, versus 3.5 gallons for older ones.

To save on heating bills, install radiant barriers, suggests Sue Goldman, an author and radio-show host in the Dallas area.

In cold weather, heat radiates from insulation and building materials, but a radiant barrier can reflect more than 50 percent of it back into your home, she says. Staple aluminum foil to the ceiling of your attic in cold weather, then remove it in the summer.

The lure of doing your own home projects is powerful. Still, the risk of taking on a job that’s too big—and leaving an unfinished mess—can be greater. If anything more than painting or recaulking the bathtub makes you sweat or your stomach roll, then call in the professionals.

Ask friends and family for recommendations, visit sites the contractor has worked on, and be ready to pay for the right workers.

Even though you probably have very definite ideas of what you want in your home, you have to give up some control to the remodeler. You have to be able to respect the remodeler’s expertise and trust that your suggestions are also being respected.

Paying for it
The best strategy is to use as much cash as you can. If that is not possible, consider borrowing from your 401(k) retirement plan or taking out a home-equity line of credit.

You may face higher property taxes. Tax assessors use home improvements, such as a bathroom addition, to boost taxes, says Richard Roll, president of the American Homeowners Association.


For more information on home renovation help available on the Web, click on home renovation.

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