Construction Secrets: 8 Renovations that are probably not worth it

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about home renovations that are always a good idea which you can read about here. But there are some things, some pretty popular things that aren’t such a great idea. These are both for people planning to stay in their homes and planning to sell. But we’ll get into the specifics of both. In some ways this is my opinion but… these are also things that people in the construction industry pretty much agree on. You can do these things and you might not even regret it but there are way smarter places to spend your money! 

It’s your life, your house and your money so do you! But… we often rationalize our desires by thinking it boosts the value of our homes. For these things at least it’s not really the case. These things (in my opinion) probably won’t give you that much more enjoyment either so maybe think a little harder before you tackle these projects. 

Painting

If you want to change the color then go for it but it’s not usually worth the expense of painting an entire home to sell it. They buyers might just re-paint it anyway before they move in. Most buyers these days can see beyond paint at this point. Do repairs necessary to put the walls in good shape before listing and the color isn’t as important.

Skylights

Just don’t put in skylights okay? Seriously you think they will transform a room but they never really do and plenty of problems are likely to pop up. If you insist make sure it’s a velux because most of the other brands are $hit. They are troublesome to replace, worse to install, prone to leaks and a major point of heat loss. And they only do anything during the day when you’re not home! Instead upgrade the lighting in that room, it’s cheaper, more reliable and it works at night!

Fancy Decking

There are some very high end products for decking now like exposed aggregate concrete and composite decking. Yes they are very beautiful but they are also very, very expensive. I don’t really think they are worth it over a traditional pressure treated deck in most cases. Full disclosure here I love both, have a composite deck and a really weird fascination with concrete. My next deck might even be concrete but there’s a catch I’ll bet doesn’t apply to you. Let’s start with concrete then. Beyond expense it’s just not a forgiving product. A concrete deck is not somewhere kids want to play. It also holds the cold and tends to ice in the winter but it’s not a good idea to use salt on it since it can break down the concrete. It also hems in what you can do with your house. It’s heavy and almost impossible to remove and transport. The reason we’re looking at is that we are building a concrete home so there will be no changing it once it’s done!

Now onto composite. Is it ever expensive! Yes the decking is but so is everything else about it to. The fasteners are crazy too plus you’ll have to beef up your framing. Finally you’ll have to skirt everything because if you can see wood with composite its looks like crap. Instead think about adding an aluminum rail product to a pressure treated deck possibly with glass like regal rail.

Super fancy appliances

What does a $3000 washer do that a $800 one doesn’t? Seriously that’s the spread on washing machines these days. Chances are you’ll be just as happy with the $900 option. At a certain point super fancy appliances take a lot of extra work to install in you home. Non standard sizes might mean doors have to be removed to get them in, cabinets rebuilt and they might take specialty electrical hook ups. That’s not an exhaustive list by the way. It always seems when you go fancy there’s always something that’s way harder than it should be to use it in your house. Plus if it every breaks you have to buy another one just like it (if they even make it anymore!) 

Making a kitchen or bathroom to your taste

So this is mostly for people that aren’t planning on staying for the long term. By long term I mean 10 – 15 years. The cost of a kitchen or bathroom renovation is pretty astronomical in so many ways that unless you are going to be the one to enjoy it for the lifetime of the products it’s not worth it if it’s still passable. It is totally true that kitchen and bathrooms sell houses but there are A LOT of caveats to that. Kitchens and master bathrooms in particular are something that people would prefer to design themselves if they have the chance. That means that if yours is good enough doing it over might not get you an extra dollar when selling. If your kitchen is good enough and modern looking enough to sell you’d be better off to take as much clutter out as you can and maybe add some additional lighting. If you’re sprucing up either with the goal of selling ask yourself if you could make $1000 go along way in these rooms. Consider options like:

  • Painting the cabinets
  • Swapping out drawer pulls
  • Bath fitter or similar
  • Installing a new off the shelf vanity
  • Replacing a few upper cabinets with open shelving
  • Adding pot lights
  • Getting a new toilet or sink
  • Adding some new faucets
  • Just replacing the countertop on the island
  • Getting a granite top for a vanity from a box store
  • Staging the room

Now if your kitchen or bathroom is wrote off and a full gut is needed then things change a bit. If you’re staying for 10 years than build you dream within your budget. If you’re doing it over to sell it your goal should be to go for maximum impact with minimal budget. It’s not a bad idea to just install new clean laminate countertops on beautiful and budget friendly cabinets. Most buyers will easily see that they can replace them with a stone of their choice.

Deleting a bathroom or bedroom

Our house is too big for us now and as we live in it it is a three bedroom home. One bedroom is used as an office and another as a pantry. Would I like to have an office full of smart built ins and is my pantry a ridiculous size and collects lots of junk? Absolutely. But when we sell we can advertise it as a 5 bedroom home. That will increase the price. I really think listing the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you have is just a common brag now. But it’s one people are willing to pay for. Think really long, and really hard about getting rid of either in your home because it will have a dramatic effect on the real world value of your home. You’ll take a hit buying a 4 bedroom home and selling a 3 bedroom. So much so that if you want to do it I would investigate if removing the room could be done in such a way that it could be put back easily if you decide to sell. Most often we see people removing a bedroom to create a master suite. Take a hard look at your floor plan to see if you could use the existing bedroom as a huge walk in closet and/or sitting area which could easily be reversed when it’s time to sell. The renovation below is both cheaper to do and easier to reverse than many other options.

Following the trends

Here’s my rule of thumb the faster a trend rises the faster it looks dated. Sorry to break it to all those instagram style influencers but if you’re seeing the same thing absolutely everywhere it’s days are already numbered. Remember those chandeliers with shades, bamboo flooring and glass cabinets? They were everywhere for a time and now everyone wants them gone. If you want to follow the trends do so with decorations and furniture. Avoid jumping on the band wagon when it comes to the structure of your home. I’m concerned at the moment about double islands, shiplap interiors, grey and white marble, bold patterned tile and all white everything. Of course your personal style should be reflected in your home but it does have to be livable as well. Think about things and styles that never seem to age like hardwood floors, all white kitchens (with an island), oversize baseboards and brushed nickel never seem to go out of style. 

Be honest about what neighborhood your home is in

We can all think of that house right, the mansion in a sea of starter homes or the stone covered home with lions guarding the driveway in a not so great neighborhood. Even if you love your house and plan on staying forever things might change. Someone could have an accident and can’t do stairs anymore and almost anyone might have to unexpectedly downsize. Plus if you go too far your house might be known as the tacky one in the neighborhood. Even if you have the money to spend on high end finishes if they are out of place in the neighborhood it’s not always a great idea. In some places if you want to have a custom kitchen, stone everywhere and high tech upgrades everywhere you might be better off to sell and put that energy and money into a home where you have a hope of getting that back. 

In my old hood I did some of that, specifically a lot of stone, really stone everywhere. But… I have certain connections and didn’t pay for any of it. I knew full well I wasn’t going to get my money back out for it (so to speak) but it did make mine sell first when a sea of identical condos were for sale. The neighborhood we work in the sky is the limit in terms of return on investment. It’s a really good idea to meet with a very reputable real estate agent or better a property appraiser to see how your planned renovations will effect the value. It’s a good idea to listen when they say you’ve maxed out the value.

Of course these are not hard and fast rules and literally anything can be done and done right but it’s not always easy or cheap to do so. Of course these things are always changing as well. One thing I wish people would do a lot more than they do is listen to the trades people they hire. You don’t know how often we show up to fix something that the person admits the last guy tried to talk them out of. Trust these people they really do have your best interest at heart! What home renovation did you do and wind up regretting? Leave it in the comments below!

2 thoughts on “Construction Secrets: 8 Renovations that are probably not worth it

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  1. It is easy to go overboard.
    One trend that seems to keep on ticking is stainless steel appliances.
    My wife didn’t want them when the kids were little because they show finger prints.
    When ever I look at a property on Zillo, it seems they all have stainless unless they are a dump.
    We plan to be in our house for another 10 years or so. This summer, we plan to put in hardwood upstairs. The carpets have had it and who doesn’t like hardwood floors?

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    1. Stainless is one that’s pretty popular. They now have a stainless look finish that doesn’t show fingerprints if you’re interested. Swapping out carpet is always a good idea for resale. But… laminate with high quality underlay is quieter, cheaper and you could potentially do it yourself. It’s also more durable if you have pets. But the value added is still higher with hardwood.

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