Construction Secrets: Home renovations that always make sense

These days are pretty crazy in the construction biz. Some people are home all the time to dream up and oversee projects and some even haves extra money saved. Which means there is a WHOLE LOT of renovation going on at the moment. Some of it is a pretty good investment, some is necessary for changing times and some of it might even make your home worth less. But if you either want to spend some cash or cash in durning a red hot housing market these are some of the best places to do so. I touched on this in a previous post about builder grade finish inflation in a color coded table but it really is a post all on it’s own. In two weeks time we’ll be talking about the places to skip the spend so stay tuned! If you are thinking that everything needs to be done at some point but you’re not sure where to start these are some really great options.


Every time you have the opportunity to add insulation to your house do it! There are so many options and times where it’s pretty easy to up your R value. This will make you cozier inside your home, dramatically lower your energy bills AND make your home more attractive to potential buyers. When they see your last year’s energy bills are so low they’ll be more able to afford to buy your home! You can add foam under your siding when replacing it or furl out the walls and add R20 to a room when you happen to be gutting it. My favorite though is to buy blown in yourself at the home supply store and your attic FULL!! The product is so cheap and if you buy enough bags (about 20) the blower rental is free. The recommended R value for attics is creeping up quickly and even if you had that when you built settling (and potential critters) has probably knocked that down. Attic insulation can be added any time, is the cheapest and easiest option and pays off the most of any type. Getting to R60 these days is a pretty basic choice now.

Updating a kitchen or bath (if it’s ugly)

There is no reason to gut it if you can just spend a bit to get to not ugly. You would be shocked at what paint and drawer pulls will do for a few hundred dollars. You can take the doors and drawers off a functional kitchen, give them a quick sanding and paint them and the fronts. If you’re feeling ambitious you can paint the insides too but you really don’t have to. The best bang for your buck will always be pulls that are sold in multi-packs over singles. The same goes for a bathroom vanity. Many home improvement stores also sell marble and granite vanity tops in standard sizes for a fraction of the cost of slabs too. 

It’s true that kitchens and bathrooms sell houses but replacing a perfectly fine kitchen with a crazy custom one isn’t always a win. I have concerns that kitchen designs are changing too quickly at the moment and your new kitchen could be out even if you plan to sell in the next few years. Specifically I have concerns about waterfall islands, double islands, mismatched cabinetry, open shelving, Terrazzo and marble in general.

That said if yours is truly terrible, starting to break and there are spots you just can’t get clean re-doing it is a good choice. You’ll enjoy it a lot more and the next person won’t run screaming. There are lots of cost effective options but keeping the layout as close as possible, buying just new doors and sticking with standard sized appliances is a great idea. We’re loving ikea kitchens a lot these days. The quality of the boxes is great compared to truckload sales elsewhere and the options are literally endless. Keep in mind though the cost per cabinet size is not the same across the board so keep as many with ‘just doors’ as possible to keep it affordable. Going for options that are more timeless rather than on trend is my recommendation.

Time for an update!

Adding a bathroom

I really, really don’t get this one but this trend is really stable at this point. People somehow want a god-awful number of bathrooms in their house. I don’t think you need one for every person in the house (or more) but people love saying ‘4 bedrooms, 6 baths’ for some reason. Maybe it’s because we never had a line form with 6 people using 1.5 bathrooms but I digress. Because of this adding a bathroom to your floor plan is always a good choice especially if it adds to the use of your home while you’re there. Honestly depending on the sort of house we build we would consider roughing in a bathroom we didn’t plan to build just for potential resale. 

New roof

Typical asphalt roofs really aren’t that expensive and when you consider the job it does.  A typical roof costs about $5000 for an average home and lasts about 18 years. Thats only $275 dollars a year! As a roof ages it gets more and more brittle and basically cooks over time. That leads to loosing tabs and whole shingles then leaks and damage inside. This whole process can unfold during one bad storm if you let it go too long. I understand that everyone wants to get the most out of their roof but you can push that too far.

There really is no reason to get every last moment out of your roof given the cost of replacement. Sure maybe it will last another year or two but then again maybe not. If you’re wrong that can lead to an insurance claim and higher premiums for years. Not to mention all the hassle dealing with the wet attic insulation and drywall damage inside the house! It can even do structural damage to the house if it’s a slow leak at the edge before you notice it. Plus roofing standards have changed in the last few years. Gone are the days of 3 tabs and tar paper. Now we use one piece shingles, ice and water at the edges and full resealable waterproof sheathing on the whole thing. Not to mention really brittle shingles are a safety hazard for the people replacing it. 

If you’re staying in your home the piece of mind a good roof brings is priceless. If you’re selling the home inspector is going to make you re-do it anyway. If you are looking to get an extra year or two out of your roof we recommend going brown over black, it just cooks a little bit more slowly. If you’re roof is starting to get a bit sketchy, just replace it, it’s worth it!

DIY landscaping to a point

Even though I have a landscaping business I’m going to level with you on this one, you can do it yourself! Having mature shrubs and trees add so much to your property, both for your enjoyment and for selling it to someone else. Buying big shrubs is expensive and planting them is very hard or expensive. But buying little ones is cheap and only requires a few shovel loads of dirt to be moved. Then they grow every year add value and get prettier. If you’re not really that into it you should still do it in my mind. It can be almost care free too. This year I discovered geotech non-woven fabric which is pretty dang close to permanent landscaping cloth. Just lay this stuff out in your new garden and cut holes where your shrubs go a big enough to get your plants in leaving room to grow. Then cover with mulch. All you have to do is keep the base of the shrubs weed free and add mulch every few years and you’re done. Stick with things like rhododendrons, azaleas, boxwood and other easy to grow common shrubs and in no time you’ll have a beautiful easy to care for yard.

But.. don’t go overboard. If you add so much because you love it you’ll soon be in a position where your yard requires constant care. Potential buyers will love it but worry that they’ll have to hire some one or not be able to keep it up. Same goes for obsessing over the weeds in your lawn. Most people only care about it being green and mow-able. Plus dandelions can pop up multiple times in the same day! Give yourself some time back and recognize that it’s good for the bees.

Beautiful but maybe too much!

Deciding what to spend money on in your home and what to skip is really hard. This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list but it’s what I think are your best options. I started writing about things that aren’t worth it and wouldn’t you know it turned into a whole other post. Stay tuned (maybe follow) for that coming up in two weeks time. What was the best money you ever spent on your home? Leave it in the comments below!

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