How to get the most value for your remodeling dollar
Improvement 1: Bathroom mini makeover—$430
If you’ve long wanted the elegance of natural stone in your home, consider a new granite bathroom vanity top, which is a great, affordable way to get it. You can now find granite tops at Lowe’s, Home Depot and other home centers. Prices range from $150 to $450 depending on the size. Complete this bath makeover with a new faucet and mirror, and you’ll still keep the price under $500.
Begin by ordering your new items and don’t start the project until you have them all on hand. Be sure to inspect them for flaws (a common problem). Then tear out the old fixtures and repair the walls as needed. Keep the old vanity if it’s in good shape. But paint it to freshen it. Use a few cans of spray paint to get a smooth finish and avoid brush marks. And replace the old pulls with new ones to dress it up.
Next, paint the walls and add the new mirror. If your old mirror included a recessed medicine cabinet, make sure the new one fits within the existing opening. Enlarging the opening often expands the job considerably!
Finally, mount the faucet, install your new granite top and connect the plumbing. Whew! If all goes well, you’ll finish in a long weekend.
Cost: Granite vanity top, 31 in. long, $200; faucet, $130; 24 x 36-in. mirror, $60; paint and cabinet pulls, $40. Total: $430.
Time: Two to three days.
For more information type “bathroom,” “faucet,” and “towel bars” in the search box above.
Improvement 2: Wallpaper one wall—$280
If you haven’t visited a wall-covering retailer lately, you’re missing a treat. With the revived popularity of wallpaper, stores are offering an expanded range of choices. The prices of some of these may knock your socks off too.
But take heart. You don’t have to cover every wall to make a dramatic change. Papering only a single wall will do, and that’ll make some of those fine, expensive papers or fabrics affordable. It’ll also lessen the time, effort and mess of papering an entire room. This is an especially good solution for a room with plain walls, slim baseboards and window trim, and no built-ins. You create instant character.
Begin by taking a photo of your existing room and measuring its dimensions. Take these with you to the interior design or wall-covering store. Ask a specialist to help sort through options that’ll work well with your existing furnishings. The specialist will also help you pick the best wall for the new paper and estimate the amount to order.
Some papers can be hard to hang, especially fabrics, rolls with uncut edges and other designer papers. Always check the hanging instructions and ask the dealer about the difficulty level. If you’re a novice paperhanger or fall in love with a super-expensive paper, consider hiring a pro. The extra cost should be modest for a single wall, from $150 to $250.
Be sure to fill holes and smooth your wall before beginning. Rough spots might show through the paper. Then seal the wall surface with an acrylic primer. It dries hard and smooth. This allows you to slide the paper a bit more easily to tighten seams.
Cost: $122 for a double roll of the paper shown and $20 to $50 for supplies.
Time: Half to one full day, depending on the wall condition.
For more information type “wallpaper” in the search box above.
Improvement 3: Halogen track lighting—$180
Track lighting lets you put light exactly where you need it—on countertops, walls or objects—and brighten just about any area. The tiny halogen bulbs emit a dazzling white light that illuminates colors brilliantly.
The price of track lighting has dropped in recent years. And many systems now operate on standard household voltage. That means you don’t have to install a Transformer—just connect to any existing junction box in the ceiling.
The “rail” system that hangs below the ceiling like we show will hold both spotlights and pendants. Rails typically run either 4 or 8 ft. You can bend the rail for a more decorative appearance and position the lights anywhere on it.
Look for rail system kits (typically with three to five light fixtures) in home centers, lighting stores or online. Check manufacturers’ Web sites or check the catalogs at a lighting specialty store to see all the options. This is especially important if you want to assemble your own system or add extra lights to the rail. You want to be sure you get all the correct parts.
Cost: $150 and up for a basic kit.
Time: One to two hours if you have an existing electrical box in the ceiling.
For more information type “ceiling lights” in the search box above.
Improvement 4: Kitchen rollouts—$40 to $80
Rollouts are one of the easiest and most satisfying upgrades you can make to your kitchen. They bring everything that’s tucked out of sight in the back of cabinets right to your fingertips—you actually gain usable storage space.
If you don’t want to make the rollouts yourself, you can shop for moderately priced yet sturdy rollouts online or at Lowe’s and Home Depot. You simply mount them to the existing shelves in your cabinets with four screws.
The biggest mistake is ordering the wrong size. When you measure the opening in the front of the cabinet, be sure to account for the door, hinges and other obstructions.
Cost: $40 to $80 per rollout.
Time: 15 minutes per rollout.
For more information type “rollouts” in the search box above.
Improvement 5: Trim and paint—$380
By adding two simple lines of trim—a chair rail and a crown molding—you create the perfect framework for any handsome two-color wall combination. This is one of the secrets of fast, easy redecorating.
To have the biggest color impact, paint your trim. This also simplifies installation. You don’t have to cut perfect joints, because a little filler and paint will leave them looking sharp and crisp. You can also use less expensive materials.
The trim combination we show looks best in rooms with at least 4-1/2-in.-tall baseboards. If your baseboard is narrower, consider replacing it or choosing a different wall decorating technique. (See “Wallpaper one wall” above.)
Then make the new chair rail 60 to 70 percent of the width of your baseboard. Use a two-piece combination that mimics a windowsill (stool) and its apron (the trim underneath) if you have this type of trim. Otherwise, use trim similar to your window trim with a 5/8- to 3/4-in. strip on top. Center your chair rail at about one-third the wall height. Choose crown molding that’s 30 to 40 percent of the width of the baseboard.
Finding colors that work well together and go well with the existing room furnishings can be challenging. We suggest that you take full advantage of pictures in magazines and the combinations recommended by paint manufacturers that you find at every paint store. Take photos of rooms you like (or clothing combinations you like!) and work with a paint dealer to match colors. Most home centers and paint dealers now offer small paint samples. You can try them directly on the wall or paint a 2 x 2-ft. scrap of drywall or cardboard instead. That way you can view the samples in different parts of the room. Then look at the colors both in daylight and with your lights on at night. (Some colors change dramatically under different types of light.)
TIP: Prepaint the trim and paint the walls before you put the trim up. Touch up afterward.
Cost: 6 gallons of paint—$180; 80 ft. of chair rail and crown moldings—$200.
Time: Two to three days.