Optimize Your Small Outdoor Space

Optimize Your Small Outdoor Space

If you’re among the millions of homeowners downsizing to a smaller house or condominium, your exterior space will likely shrink, too.

In most cases, having fewer square feet simply requires prioritizing your favorite outdoor choices, so you don’t crowd a site.

Decide what to include by focusing on elements that will provide the greatest pleasure and use, as well as fit your climate, property’s orientation, topography and budget.

Start With a Plan

Balance the layout. Proportion how much hardscape you need for dining or sitting, versus softscape, which contributes to color and softness but requires more maintenance, says landscape architect Stephen H. Wlodarczyk of Botanical Decorators.

Choose color wisely.

Limit your palette in a small space to a few choices, and remember that white offers advantages for contrast. A white, silver or gray “moonlight” palette is easier to spot at dusk and night than green and other dark colors, says landscape designer Jean Marsh, owner of Jean Marsh Design.

Layer lighting.

Light your outdoor spaces as you do indoor rooms for aesthetic and functional needs. Outdoor lighting offers other advantages: You enjoy your yard from the indoors, at night, and deter burglars. Numerous LED options are energy efficient and conceal unattractive wiring and are barely visible themselves.

Add storage.

Include a place to stash outdoor cushions, bikes, tools and hoses.

Ellison Jane (2015 February) Optimize Your Small Outdoor Space. Retrieved on February 7, 2015 from HGTV.com

6 Quick and Easy Exterior Fixes

6 Quick and Easy Exterior Fixes

If you want to give your home a new refreshing look this summer, but don’t have the luxury of time to undertake big projects, you’re in luck!

Here are a few easy home renovation projects you can do to update your home exterior.

1. Repair Siding Flaws

A dent or ding in your siding is an annoyance, but a major rip or crack is nearly unbearable. Vinyl siding repair is not as expensive as you might think, especially if you just have a few places that need work. By taking care of these jobs while they are small, you can prevent major damages that could lead to major siding replacement.

2. Replace Broken or Missing Shingles

Even though it is on top of the house, much of your roof can be seen from the road. Replacing broken or missing shingles can instantly increase your curb appeal. Keep in mind that working on any roofing project can potentially be dangerous without the proper tools and experience. If you think you need to repair or replace missing or broken shingles, get in touch with your local roofing contractor.

3. Clean Gutters

Gutters are a very important part of your roofing system. During the summer, you should consider cleaning and repairing your gutters, in preparation for the winter. Well-designed and clean gutters are not only great for their functionality, but can also add to the aesthetic value of your home.

Making sure your gutters are clean and free from debris will keep your home sturdy against heavy rain and will keep the integrity of your entire roofing system intact.

4. Fix Broken Windows

If your windows are broken during the summer, chances are your racking up higher energy bills during hot and humid days. Summer is a great time to fix broken windows and consider window replacement to give your home an updated look.

Adding windows to your home will instantly give it an updated look and will let natural light in your home which can contribute to a higher home value. Window selections available today are not only attractive, they also offer enhanced protection against the elements.

5. Replace Your Door

Replacing your door is one of the easiest ways you can give your home an updated look. A new door can turn a home from modern to contemporary without a long drawn out construction project you may not have the time for.

6. Install a New Awning

If you’re feeling a little hot or simply want to add a bit of charm to your home, consider installing awnings or window boxes. Awnings don’t have to be boring! You can install an awning that gives your home not only shade, but also personality. Window boxes go with most types of home architecture and can give you a place to plant colorful flowers to accent your home.

Levechi Joe (2014 August 7) 6 Quick and Easy Exterior Fixes. Retrieved on November 17, 2014 from ExteriorMedics.com

Exterior Remodeling Offers Largest Return on Investment in 2014!

For those homeowners who are looking to take advantage of the sellers market to obtain a profit on a property, exterior remodeling is one of the best ways to increase leverage. People today are looking for houses with curb appeal, and if you have one, then you should be able to move it quickly at a premium price.

Some of the more cost-effective, high ROI exterior modeling projects are as follows:

Siding – Getting your siding done adds a look of luxury to any home. For those buyers who are looking for the details, it is very important. It shows that you care for the house and that you are not only trying to sell it by making huge, ornate changes or distracting people with a good staging effort.

Replacement windows – It has been proven that one of the first things that buyers look at when judging the health of a home are the windows. Replacement windows are relatively inexpensive and can give you a great first impression.

Garage doors – Your garage is a large, easily visible part of your home that everyone will check out. Get the doors done so that you will make a good impression for your buyers.

Decks – A great deck will attract a higher quality of buyer, especially if you’re looking for a family. Having a good deck make sure home more move-in ready, which will appeal to people who do not have the time to purchase a fixer-upper. The more comfortable you can make buyers feel immediately, the more likely that they are to give you a premium for the home.

Patio – Similar to the decks, the patio is the place in which your families will be spending most of their time. Make it look good, and you will certainly reap the rewards in the buying price.

Front door – This should be self-explanatory. The first thing that your buyers will see will be your front door. Do not give them the opportunity to cross your home off of the list before they even step inside because of cracking wood and misplaced joints in your door.

Tips to Select the Right Outdoor Patio Materials

Patio materials provide a wide array of choices. It is hard to concentrate on just a few colors and styles of patio materials when there are so many to choose from. The following tips will help narrow anyone’s focus so they can move to the designing stage of a Concrete Patio or other selection more quickly.

Creative Concrete

A concrete patio is popular because it is inexpensive when compared with other options. Its appearance can be changed from a boring, unassuming grey slab to brick like shapes, decorative colors with chips of glass, or an exposed aggregate. It works best in frost-free zones where the soil is free from heaving. Mandatory maintenance includes coating reapplication every two years to maintain the color. Surface cracks and faded colors in areas with heavy traffic are other problems with this choice.

Decorative Stone

The beauty of natural stone overcomes the expense of quarrying, transportation, and installation. Slabs of flagstone or limestone vary in thickness and must be placed on an individual basis. Reduce the stress of making a decision by choosing the same stone that adds beauty to the house. Trouble-free maintenance and the long life of a stone patio compensate for the cost.

Beautiful Brick

The warmth and appeal of a brick patio is quickly doused when homeowners discover its problems. The porous material holds moisture, causing cracks when the temperature drops below freezing. It also causes ice and adds the danger of slipping. Maintenance includes replacing broken bricks and frequent scrubbing to kill the slippery moss that grows on the bricks in both sunny and shady areas.

Perfect Pavers

Beauty and affordability are the mark of today’s diversified patio materials. Manufactured pavers are available in many colors, shapes, and patterns. Identical thickness reduces the cost and time of installation. They have a long life, with easy to replace individual pieces in the event of breakage or staining.

Hardscaping is a fascinating part of landscaping that includes projects like retaining walls, ponds, decks, and patios. Professional guidance and installation is the best way to get the patio that fits a person’s home and expectations. For more information about patio materials, costs, and styles, contact Tri-County Exteriors at www.tricountyexteriors.com today.

My House Is Worth What?!

The appraisal industry has a long, sordid history of discrimination, and bias still creeps into almost every step of the property assessment process today. Nonetheless, appraisals have been virtually invisible in recent fair housing and fair lending debates.

Those families and communities that have long been subject to discriminatory (and often predatory) behavior continue to pay a high price for inaccurate appraisals.

But so do many who have not traditionally been victimized by these practices. Discriminatory appraisals, for example, often punish institutional actors who have long been engaged in their own wrongful fair housing behavior, including mortgage lenders and real estate agents, who generally depend on accurate appraisals to do their work.

Ironically, both arbitrary under-appraisals and strategic over-appraisals are a problem.

When properties have been under-appraised, deals entered into by willing buyers and sellers for more than the low appraisal cannot go through.  Those buyers and sellers lose out as do the real estate agents, mortgage lenders, and home insurers who attempted to close the deal.  But so do area residents whose home values are depressed by such systematic under-appraisal and its adverse effect on those markets.  Opportunities to accumulate wealth are undercut as properties are devalued.

More recently, when subprime lending leading to the foreclosure crisis was peaking, the opposite problem occurred.  Real estate agents, mortgage originators, and others in the home sales pipeline pressured appraisers to come in with numbers to meet the inflated price buyers and sellers agreed to even when objective analysis indicated the homes were not worth the agreed upon price.  Appraisers who did not meet the price often lost business with those lenders who simply wanted an appraisal that would permit the deal to go through even at the artificially high price.  Just before the housing bubble burst, 90 percent of appraisers in a national survey reported they were pressured by real estate agents, lenders, and consumers to increase their valuations.  In many cases appraisers did meet the number so the deals could go through only to result in foreclosure a few years later.

A common element in both the under- and over-appraisal phenomena is that these practices were concentrated in minority neighborhoods.   Compounding these problems has been the fact that the appraisal industry has had relatively little experience with, and simply does not know how to value property in, non-white communities.

This was demonstrated by the Appraisal Process Task Group, created by the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank in 1994, when it asked four different appraisers to appraise the same property in the predominantly black Hough neighborhood of that city.  The appraisals varied from $36,000 to $83,500.  Regardless of what the property was actually worth, this experiment suggested that the appraisal industry was not able to fairly and objectively develop valuations for properties in this community.

Several factors could account for these results.  There may be few “comps” (similar properties in the same neighborhoods) in this area that would facilitate more consistency in the appraisals.  Perhaps there were few appraisal firms that knew the community so suburban appraisers had to be brought into the test who were unfamiliar with the area.  Whatever the explanation, it is another factor that makes it more difficult to sell homes in an African-American community, leading to lower property values and wealth accumulation for area residents.

It is time to replicate this research. A provocative and likely enlightening test would be to have a select group of firms appraise properties in an African-American community and other similar properties in a white neighborhood in several metropolitan areas.  Ideally these would be homes that have sold recently so there is some reasonably reliable estimate of the market values of the properties.

The issue would not be which home was valued more highly (homes in white neighborhoods are almost always valued more highly than similar homes in non-white communities) but rather the consistency of the appraisals and how closely the appraisals matched the recent sale price.  That is, the variation in appraisals rather than their average valuation would be of interest.  If there was significantly greater variation in the appraisals in the African American neighborhood than in the white neighborhood, that would constitute strong evidence of at best arbitrary, and more likely, discriminatory treatment of the former.  Assuming the recent sale price of these homes reflected their true market value, it would also be possible to assess the extent to which properties are over- or under-appraised in different neighborhoods.

Such tests would likely require the assistance of a financial institution.  They are the entities that generally commission an appraisal.  But some lenders have entered into cooperative arrangements with fair housing advocates.  And presumably they would perceive a self-interest in eliminating such randomness, if not discrimination, from the appraisal process in order to assure that their borrowers can afford the loans.  This would particularly be the case where originators must retain some “skin in the game” as required by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

What could be done if the findings revealed ongoing problems?  One policy implication would be to encourage lenders to use local appraisers when they are available since they would  presumably know the neighborhoods better than more distant suburban appraisers.  A longer term recommendation would be for real estate agents, lenders and appraisers to work with their trade associations and local educational institutions to train more local residents to enter this business.  In those cases where appraisal firms consistently engaged in such practices and refused to take corrective action, sanctions could include fines and, in particularly egregious cases, terminating their license and prohibiting them from engaging in this business.

Arbitrary and discriminatory appraisals are costly to many communities and many housing and related financial service industry providers.  Artificially high or low appraisals can be equally devastating.  We know there are costs, but we have little sense of how steep they are.  It is time to find out.

Squires Gregory (2014 July 1) My House Is Worth What?! Retrieved on July 3, 2014 from rooflines.org

A Sequence of Experiences

While most examples of architecture are static objects, when it comes to thinking about the experience of design, most designers tend to think about architecture in a very dynamic way. How the architecture feels when you move through it is just as important as the object itself. It is this movement that produces curiosity and wonder. The experience of architecture can build on itself to create a sequence of moments which weave together a narrative. When successful, this narrative is much more than the sum of its parts.

For us, there is no better place in design to develop this sequence of experiences than the approach of a house itself. This sequence might begin with how a house feels from the moment you spot it down the street, to how it opens and unfolds as you move through the landscaping, to the serendipity of the front door, and finally culminating in a pleasant moment of arrival inside.

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A recent project of ours in Magnolia provides a nice example of this philosophy and today’s post shares the sequence of experiences along with some of our design thinking behind the scenes.

This particular neighborhood has an urban “hard-edge” and most properties incorporate a solid fence or brick wall to maintain privacy around the site. We felt it most appropriate to continue this massing along the property line while using a staggered fence geometry that softens the wall a bit. The entry to the home is distinguished by a break in the fence for the garage and pedestrian entry. Lighting and the address display also encourage the way-finding.

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Upon closer proximity to the fence, the staggered horizontal cedar boards allow subtle peeks into the landscaping beyond. The light gray stain of the cedar was chosen, in part, to compliment the vegetation beyond. It’s also a fence construction that keeps a finished appearance on both sides (as opposed to a front and a back).
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Once the gate is open, further architectural moves, like the trellis, reveal themselves. The walking surface becomes articulated with gravel breaks at the interior landscaping to align with the trellis supports and lend a more human scale to the ground plane.

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Further along, an etch-matte glass cover is added to the trellis and the walkway opens up to a lush yard. The stone of the existing house was maintained and painted dark gray to provide a backdrop to the vegetation. The twisting limbs of two Southern Magnolias provide a canopy to the yard and give the house a comfortable scale. The garage entrance tucks in under the covered trellis so that a smooth (and dry) transition is established between the house and detached garage.
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Passing the yard and proceeding under the shelter of the covered trellis, the first portions of the house can be viewed. A transparent wall housing the home office can be fully opened on nice days via an eight-foot accordion door. The first indications of the interior of the home are apparent here.

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Opposite the accordion doors, the walkway opens up to a courtyard space. When the accordion doors are in the opened position, the office and courtyard become an indoor-outdoor space for entertaining or a refuge from the direct sun in the warmer months.

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The courtyard includes informal seating, an outdoor dining table and a fountain for acoustic white noise in the background. In the evenings, the cedar wrap of the house and wall-wash lighting envelop the courtyard in a warm glow.
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Moving up to the front door, it becomes clear that the exterior cedar walls carry through to the interior and the abundance of natural light alerts the visitor to something special awaiting inside.

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The entry area of the house is bookended in a continuation of the cedar walls which create an axis ending in a wonderful view of a park, the Puget Sound, Bainbridge Island, and the Olympic Mountain Range beyond (not to mention some spectacular sunsets).

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Whether a visitor is aware of these deliberate architectural moves is less important than creating a pleasing experience of moving from one discovery to the next. While good architectural design concerns itself with the behind the scenes mechanics, good architectural experiences allow people to enjoy the design without forcing them to work through the technicalities.

This sequence of experiences was a pleasing one to design, build, and share. Thanks for coming on the adventure with us.

Cheers from Team BUILD

 

Staff Writer (2014 June 24) A Sequence of Experiences Retrieved on July 7, 2014 from Buildllc.com

How to bring more natural light into your home

The indoor environment of a home or business can really be benefited if the building increases its use of natural lighting. Natural lighting is the utilization of the Sun’s light to provide illumination in a building over the use of electrical lights. There are many psychological and physical benefits to natural lighting. One is that using natural light will reduce home and building energy bills thanks to the building using less electrical lighting. Second, natural lighting is physically beneficial to the human body. The human eye reacts negatively to artificial light, while natural lightning relaxes the human eye. The human body also reacts positively to natural lightning by producing Vitamin D from the light’s contact with the skin and improving a person’s brain chemistry. This can help a person feel better physically and help their mind focus better. Finally, natural lightning is more aesthetically pleasing. Psychologically, people are more attracted to natural lightning than an artificial light source. With that mind, here are ways to bring more natural lightning into a home.

Glass On the Door

The doors that are across the home can have everything from small to large glass windows on them. This is especially useful for the front and back door of a home. By having glass placed on the door, some natural lightning can come into the area. Such an aesthetic choice can really help to add extra light to a home or building beyond the windows.

Transoms and Sidelights

Many homeowners may not want to have the main door to have glass on them. To keep that aesthetic and personal choice, many architects helped develop transoms and sidelights. Transoms are horizontal glass frames that are laid across the top of the door. Sidelights are vertical glass frames that are laid on the left and right sides of a door. With this design, the door will not have glass on it, but there will be windows on top or to the sides of the door. This will help bring in light near the door entrances of the home.

Patio Door and Light

If the homeowner has a patio, there are a number of door options that can be put in that will saturate the house with natural lightning. A Sliding door, garden door, and terrace door employ full door-size glass windows that will let it an incredible amount of light into the room connecting to the patio.

Add Style to the Glass

Direct natural lightning is great, but often many homeowners may become bored by just simple sunlight entering the house. That is why they may not invest in many custom windows or glass across the home. If, however, the homeowner purchases and uses decorative glass across parts of the home, then not only will natural lightning come in, it will come in with lively colors and textures reflected across the home.

Picture Windows

Picture windows, also known as fixed windows, are none opening windows that can be installed across a house. They are built to supply a window to look outside and to have well-lit grill or cam option to hold decorations and other items to improve the interior décor. In addition, these picture windows will allow natural light to come into the house.

Homeowners that want to lighten up their property can utilize a number of strategies to take in natural lighting. With different window and glass display options, its important to consult the experts over at TriCounty Exteriors. Our work over the last two decades has given our team the best insights to utilizing natural lighting for any type of home. We can help any homeowner with window replacement, windowm placement, and door options that can enhance a home’s natural lighting. Contact us today at www.tricountyexteriors.com.

6 Ideas for Lighting Your Deck

If a home is equipped with a deck, it is likely one of the most frequented places of the property. Decks are great for outdoor lunches/dinners, get-togethers, outdoor projects, and more. These are six ideas for lighting a deck so that it is not only useful, but also fun and inviting.

Lighting Ideas

1. Post Accent Lighting

Many homeowners go with post accent lights to keep their decks will-lit and useable at nighttime. This lighting option not only looks great, but the installation process is rather painless. This process only really requires finding post caps that fit the size of the posts on the deck, and lastly screwing them in place for stability.

2. Stair Lighting

Stair riser lights are also a popular choice when homeowners light the decks of their homes. Stair riser lights are inviting, and they also add a degree of safety. These lights specifically come in handy when stairs are located in particularly dark areas and they need to be traversed frequently.

3. Tiki Torches

Tiki torches are fun accents for outdoor barbeques, pool parties, or fun get-togethers. Tiki torches are quite versatile; they can either be planted right into the ground for stability, or they can be placed in planting pots so that they can be arranged around the deck. Additionally, some homeowners go as far as directly attaching them to deck posts using tools.

4. Fire Bowls

Fire bowls are great solutions for outdoor lighting, especially on decks. This type of light source is especially great for nights when you want to gather around an open fire with family/friends and roast marshmallows or hot dogs.

5. Candle Lanterns

Candle lanterns are a classic option for deck lighting, and they are relatively inexpensive to maintain. These types of lanterns can be hung around the deck, as well as placed intermittently on posts and surfaces. What’s even better is that candle lanterns also make great bug repellants!

6. LED Lighting

Lastly, LED lights can make a bold and fun statement about an exterior deck. What’s even better is that they can be customized by color, shape, and other attributes. Consider giving LED lights a look if the deck in question is likely going to be used for outdoor get-togethers and parties.

For help and information on getting started started with planning/installing lighting on a deck, be sure to check out to www.tricountyexteriors.com.

Spice Up Your Entrance! Upgrade Your Masonite Entry Door with a Simulated Divided Lite Kit

Adding glass panels or side lites to a new Masonite entry door is a great way to create a unique look that neighbors will notice. The new Simulated Divided Lite (SDL) kit from Masonite makes it easy to “customize” a clear or textured glass Masonite door or sidelites. Compatible with 6.8” and 8’0” doors and sidelites, each kit offers the old world charm of true divided lite without the need for a complete overhaul. The new SDL kit allows builders, remodelers, and homeowners to customize the appearance of Masonite exterior doors or sidelites and choose from a variety of arrangements at a fraction of the cost of true divided lite.

Here are just a few benefits of creating your own glass design with the Masonite Simulated Divided Lite kit:

Ease-of-installation – The SDL kit features 1-1/8” bars that snap into place to form a grid configuration. Each kit aligns perfectly with Masonite lite frames and is designed for easy field installation.

Visuals – The Masonite SDL kits are available in a variety of standard or Prairie style designs for 6’8” and 8’0” doors and sidelites. Buyers can choose from white, almond and mahogany finishes with smooth or textured options. The bars can also be painted or stained for a custom look.

Energy savings – In some cases, having a single panel of glass may be more energy efficient than having multiple panels in a true divided lite. The SDL kits can give homeowners the look they want with benefit of energy savings.

Authentic look – Every Masonite SDL kit includes two sets of grids for the inside and outside of the door. A strong, weather-resistant adhesive tape ensures the bars stay in place, offering the look and feel of a true divided lite.

If you’re buying a new Masonite entry door with clear or textured glass or sidelites, be the envy of the neighborhood by adding a personalized touch with a Masonite SDL kit. For more information on the Simulated Divided Lite kits, visit www.masonite.com.

Staff Writer (2013 August 1) Spice Up Your Entrance! Upgrade Your Masonite Entry Door with a Simulated Divided Lite Kit. Retrieved on June 2, 2014 from blog.masonite.com

For more information contact TriCounty Exteriors today!

Top 10 Home Improvement Projects


If you’re thinking of selling your home in 2014 or just want to ramp up your home value, it’s important to educate yourself on which improvement projects will bring you the most return on your investment.

A great resource for your research is the “2014 Cost vs. Value Report,” an annual collaboration between Remodeling magazine and REALTOR® Magazine, which breaks down the estimated cost of various remodeling projects and the estimated return on investment for those projects by region and by city, as well as by midrange and upscale projects. In general, this year’s report shows that exterior replacement projects are the most cost-effective. If you plan to sell your home later this year, remember that the first impression your home makes on buyers is their first glimpse of the outside.

Here are 10 home improvement projects you should consider:

1. Replace Your Front Door

You may not even notice your front door anymore, especially if you regularly use another entrance, but a new steel front door makes a great impression on buyers and yields an amazing 96.6 percent return on your investment. If your front door doesn’t need replacing or you?d rather spend less money, you can paint it and replace the hardware for a similar impact.

2. Add a Deck or Patio

No matter where you live, buyers want outdoor living space. You can recoup 87 percent of your investment on a new wood deck. If you already have outdoor space, consider sprucing it up with a water feature, an outdoor fireplace, or new landscaping.

3. Add Space/Attic Bedroom

Depending on your budget and your goals for your home, an addition of extra bedrooms and bathrooms, a finished attic or an expanded casual living space can rapidly increase the value of your home. You can recoup 84% of your investment in a new attic bedroom.

4. Replace Your Garage Door

An upscale or midrange garage door recoups 83 percent of your investment. Manufacturers offer a host of styles and choices, from plain steel panel doors to energy-efficient, insulated models with glass windows.

5. Remodel Your Kitchen

Buyers look most carefully at kitchens and bathrooms, so you should, too. You can recoup 82 percent of a minor kitchen remodel and 74 percent of a major kitchen remodel. If you’re selling soon, don’t overspend on your kitchen. You may be able to do a couple of relatively minor fixes, such as replacing the appliances and painting the cabinets, or just replacing the counters with granite to garner a good offer.

6. Replace Your Windows

Buyers are interested in how your windows look and their energy efficiency. Whether you’re replacing vinyl- or wood-frame windows, you can get a 79 percent return on your investment. When you’re ready to market your home, be sure to highlight the new windows as a selling point.

7. Replace Your Siding

If your home’s exterior needs a major makeover, you can typically recoup 78 percent of your investment by replacing vinyl siding. If you replace your siding

with a fiber-cement mix, you can recoup a whopping 87% of your costs.

8. Basement Addition/Remodel

These days, it’s all about space for entertaining. Recoup 78 percent of your investment by adding or remodeling a basement. Finish the lower level of a house to create a 20-by-30-foot entertaining area with wet bar and a full bathroom.

9. Update Your Bathroom

While a full, upscale bathroom remodel project can cost over $50,000 and add only about $32,000 to your home’s resale value, you can make cost-effective minor upgrades. Get a 73 percent return on your investment with these bathroom upgrades: Replace your fixtures and your mirror, repaint the space and jazz it up with some crown molding (depending on your home’s style) and you?ll have a space that looks new. While you’re there, redo the caulk around your tub and shower and replace the grout on your tile flooring. If your tub is in bad shape, you may be able to have it resurfaced rather than replace it.

10. Two-Story Addition

For a 72 percent return on investment, add a first-floor family room and a second-floor bedroom with full bathroom in over a crawlspace. You can add a new HVAC system to handle the addition, and electrical wiring to code.

Lerner Michele (2013 January 21)Top 10 Home Improvement Projects Retrieved on March 3, 2014 From Realtor.com

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