Get the Most Bang for Your Buck with These Home Improvement Projects
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Get the Most Bang for Your Buck with These Home Improvement Projects

Reuters

You’ve been waiting for it all winter: Now that the snow has finally melted, you’re ready to shake off that cabin fever so your inner Bob Vila can tackle some home renovations.

But don’t run to Home Depot just yet. Whether you’re looking to spruce up your abode for personal satisfaction—or to up your home’s value for selling—we tapped two renovation experts to weigh in on just how worth it six common springtime improvement projects are, given their typically hefty price tags. As it turns out, many of them aren’t worth the investment or headache—and in some cases, you can get the same effect by shelling out a lot less with these alternative renovation hacks.

Project #1: Landscaping
Seeing buds on the trees is inspiring—who wouldn’t want a green lawn coated with fresh blossoms?

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But if you’re thinking less rosebush-by-the-fence and more front-lawn-turned-botanical-garden, your wallet can take a real hit. “Individual plants, at $5 to $15 each, can really add up if you want to line a walkway or the front of a house,” says Harrison Wilson, co-owner of L&H Construction, which serves the greater Boston area. “Add in bark mulch and some shrubs, and you can easily spend $500 to $1,000 just on nice flower beds in your front yard.”

On top of that, “a higher-priced home might necessitate professional landscapers,” says Jerry Grodesky, managing broker at Farm and Lake Houses Real Estate in Loda, Ill. “Depending on the area’s size, that could easily start at $20,000.”

How to Get More Bang for Your Reno Buck Your home’s curb appeal isn’t necessarily a less-than-worth-it reno—just keep the big picture in mind when deciding which lawn-care moves to invest in.

“If you’re planning on selling your house, don’t waste money on things that don’t affect the property immediately—like fertilizing, planting seeds, aerating the lawn, or insect control,” Wilson says, adding that you may want to put that money toward, say, planting tulip bulbs to greet would-be buyers.

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But if a move isn’t imminent, Wilson says, “don’t buy all established plants that will add up in cost, and try planting seeds for a fraction of the price.” With a little patience, you’ll eventually have that dream garden.

And don’t forget that a little bit of lawn maintenance goes a long way. “Mowing; weeding; edging along gardens, walkways and the driveway; raking leaves; and trimming the hedges can make a huge difference,” Wilson says. “Add in a few inexpensive flowers for a little color, and you’ll have a transformed yard.”

Project #2: Repaving the Driveway
Between the snow and the salt, your driveway takes a beating every winter. How easy would it be to just layer on a new coat of asphalt?

Turns out, not that easy: Properly repaving a driveway isn’t akin to simply putting one coat of paint over another. “The foundation of a driveway is just as important, if not more, than the topcoat,” Wilson says. “Heavy equipment is needed to dig down and remove any soft material, set the correct amount of base material, grade it correctly for water runoff, and pack it. Once a solid base is installed, then the asphalt is laid.” And regardless of the material you plan to use for your topcoat, prepare to pay, because this is not a DIY project.

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“Concrete is very expensive. Asphalt is a close second. Paver bricks and the associated labor could exceed both!” cautions Grodesky, who estimates that asphalt could cost anywhere from $2 to $7 a square foot, while concrete can run $6 to $15 a square foot.

How to Get More Bang for Your Reno Buck Unless your driveway is pocked with potholes, don’t turn your front yard into a construction zone.

Sometimes all a driveway needs is a new sealcoat, which both experts say will provide a sufficient spruce-up—not to mention that you can do this on your own.

“With a few hundred dollars of sealcoat, a driveway squeegee, and a little prep time, your fatigued driveway could end up looking fantastic,” Grodesky says, estimating it would cost $250 to $500 to get the job done on a typical two-car driveway.

Project #3: Repainting the Walls
Once you look outside and realize the winter grays have given way to reds, greens and blues, it probably leaves you itching for a pop of color indoors.

Wilson and Grodesky agree that interior paint jobs can provide big aesthetic impact for a fairly low cost—especially if you do the work yourself. But before you reach for the paintbrush, consider whether you really want to put in the elbow grease. “Painting just for the sake of changing colors is a waste of time and money, unless, of course, you’re painting over a black wall, an unsightly mural or peeling paint,” Grodesky says.

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The same advice applies if you’re trying to stage your home for selling. “Even if you think you have incredible taste, the next owner will most likely repaint anyway,” Wilson says.

How to Get More Bang for Your Reno Buck Opt to “repaint what you really need to—like a wall that has damage or a color that really takes away from the room’s potential,” he adds. Light grays, earth tones, yellows or blues are all safe and appealing colors that won’t scare off a new homeowner.

If you’re intent on adding a new hue to a room simply to shake up your living space, focus first on areas where you entertain or spend the most time, because little costs can add up—on top of the gallons of paint, primer, rollers, paint brushes, tray liners and caulking to fill cracks and nail holes. “A can of paint between $25 and $50 doesn’t seem that bad—but that’s one color for one room, and no prep work,” Wilson says.

Project #4: Replacing the Carpeting
Now that the wool socks have been shed for the season, who wouldn’t want to feel plush fibers underfoot?

A new carpet can really up a home’s luxe factor—but its short lifespan means buying the pricey stuff just isn’t worth it. “Carpets are advertised as being inexpensive to buy and install … until they show you which ones are for the advertised price,” Wilson says. “Going from $2 to $4 per square foot doesn’t sound like a huge difference—and then you realize you need 600 square feet.”

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And that’s a high price to pay for something you may replace in five or so years. “Carpets stain, they hold more germs than any other [type of] floor, they get worn, and they get dated,” Wilson says. “They’re a temporary install every time.”

How to Get More Bang for Your Reno Buck A lower-cost alternative if you’re simply looking for a bit of a design refresh? Self-adhesive carpet tiles—which you can buy in packs of 10–16 squares for about $40.

But, says Grodesky, that may not be an adequate sub-in if you’re looking for something that feels good under your feet. “Most people judge carpet by the sensation of walking on it, so often it’s more cost-effective to buy a less expensive carpet and use a more luxurious-feeling pad to place underneath,” he says.

And for those looking to sell soon, Grodesky offers some specific advice. “You may not choose the appropriate color for the next owner, so it may be better to offer a carpeting allowance at closing,” he suggests. “This takes the issue off the table—and sometimes produces a quicker sale.”

Project #5: Redoing the Deck
Barbecue season is nigh, so turning your puny deck into something more party-sized may seem like a logical investment—but tread lightly, cautions Grodesky. “Pandora’s box is waiting to be opened when you renovate a deck,” he says. “Unless you possess prior knowledge of its construction, what lies beneath may scare you.”

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Translation: You may need to pad your budget to cover any structural issues a contractor may stumble upon. “Poor positioning of floor joists or fasteners can cause this project to escalate in price,” he explains.

How to Get More Bang for Your Reno Buck Really, using the word “renovate” for a deck project is a euphemism: What many homeowners are doing is rebuilding.

“Replacing a deck means replacing the structure, because there are multiple concrete footings that need to be formed in the ground to hold the framing,” Wilson explains “On top of all that is what people usually care about the most—the decking, the railings, and the stairs. The more popular composite decking and railing materials can be three times the cost of traditional wood, but they will last much longer, with little maintenance.”

Wilson estimates that building a small, 12-by-12-foot composite deck would cost around $5,000. But the average deck project last year came in closer to five figures: In 2014 a midrange composite deck addition averaged more than $15,000—but the resale value it added to a home was just over $11,000. So don’t do this reno purely for financial reasons. Instead, assess how much personal pleasure and use you’ll get out of the deck—and whether your budget will allow you to do it right.

“If it’s built with materials that look nice, will last a long time, and is large enough for most families, it may be a good investment,” Wilson says. “If you can’t afford quality materials, or the size you want doesn’t reflect your budget, it may not be worth it.”

Project #6: Replacing the Siding
Your siding is on the frontlines of harsh weather, so it’s no surprise that years of snow, rain, wind and hail can leave it looking more than a little dingy.

But before you start calling contractors—and you’ll need to, because this is a job better left to the pros—keep in mind this is a major outlay: Costs for an average home can start in the $10,000 range, Grodesky estimates. As such, “if there’s no peeling or loose components, this project may not provide much benefit for the large expense,” he says.

How to Get More Bang for Your Reno Buck Rather than swap out all your siding, simply replace the cracked or rotted ones, suggests Wilson. Or if you just want a little face-lift all around, consider a new paint job instead.

“[Buying] all new materials—as opposed to just putting new paint over siding that was already good enough—won’t necessarily add any value to your home,” Wilson adds. “A new paint job is much more important than new siding.”

And happily for homeowners, that’s a task that doesn’t require a contractor’s help. “Even a novice homeowner can take on a springtime project like painting or staining the [outside of the] house,” says Grodesky. The cost for materials depends on the home’s size, but he estimates it could range anywhere from several hundred dollars for a 1,200 square foot home to at least $1,500 for a 2,200 square-foot home.

Still, relative to the price of replacing your siding, “the cost-reward ratio, in this case, is well worth it,” he says.

Wilson and Grodesky agree that interior paint jobs can provide big aesthetic impact for a fairly low cost—especially if you do the work yourself. But before you reach for the paintbrush, consider whether you really want to put in the elbow grease. “Painting just for the sake of changing colors is a waste of time and money, unless, of course, you’re painting over a black wall, an unsightly mural or peeling paint,” Grodesky says.

The same advice applies if you’re trying to stage your home for selling. “Even if you think you have incredible taste, the next owner will most likely repaint anyway,” Wilson says.

How to Get More Bang for Your Reno Buck Opt to “repaint what you really need to—like a wall that has damage or a color that really takes away from the room’s potential,” he adds. Light grays, earth tones, yellows or blues are all safe and appealing colors that won’t scare off a new homeowner.

If you’re intent on adding a new hue to a room simply to shake up your living space, focus first on areas where you entertain or spend the most time, because little costs can add up—on top of the gallons of paint, primer, rollers, paint brushes, tray liners and caulking to fill cracks and nail holes. “A can of paint between $25 and $50 doesn’t seem that bad—but that’s one color for one room, and no prep work,” Wilson says.

This article originally appeared at LearnVest.com.

Read more from LearnVest:
6 Home DIYs That You Can Do in a Single Weekend
Spring 2015 Home-Buying Guide: 5 Insider Tips From Real Estate Pros Across the Country
Spring Renovation Challenge: How to Redo Every Room in Your House for Under $500

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