Home Improvement 101

Home improvement

Home improvement is the term used to describe any type of renovation or remodeling that enhances a house or its property. A home improvement project can include the addition of a room or the installation of a new roof, but it could also involve a more cosmetic upgrade such as replacing carpeting or painting the house. These projects can be done by professional contractors or by the homeowner himself. In either case, a great deal of planning is often involved.

A homeowner’s motivation for undertaking a home improvement project may vary from simply wanting to improve the house’s appearance to adding comfort or functionality. The most common type of home improvement is a renovation of the kitchen, bathroom or bedroom. However, the scope of a home improvement project can also be quite large, such as building an outdoor deck or installing a new heating system.

When hiring a contractor for a home improvement project, it is important to get multiple estimates and to compare prices, experience and references before making a decision. Consumers should also be wary of contractors who ask for payment upfront or who require a large down payment. Under New York State law, contractors must provide a written contract with a detailed timeline for work to be completed, a payment schedule and specifics about the job (such as the types of materials to be used).

Many homeowners take out home equity loans or lines of credit to fund their home improvement projects. The advantage of this type of financing is that it can be tapped quickly and does not require the borrower to give up ownership of his home. However, the disadvantage is that it is a form of debt and can result in higher interest rates than unsecured loans.

Do-it-yourself (DIY) projects are popular, but some DIY improvements can actually decrease a house’s value. For example, a homeowner who installs unique or lavish light fixtures is unlikely to recoup the cost when it comes time to sell. Instead, a potential buyer may view such features as a turnoff, Gordon says.

A brick fireplace is a desirable feature in many homes, but it can become dirty and stained over time from the use of wood in the fire and the accumulation of soot and creosote. To improve the appearance of a fireplace, a good cleaning with a wire brush and some masonry cleaner can usually remove dirt buildup and restore a luster to the brick.

Another type of DIY project that can be very effective is replacing old windows and doors. New energy efficient models can greatly reduce a home’s energy bills and significantly boost its resale value. A home owner can buy pre-made replacements or have them custom-built to suit his needs and the needs of a particular house. Various online resources exist to assist with do-it-yourself homeowners, including online tutorials and YouTube “how-to” videos. Some home improvement stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot have departments dedicated to serving the needs of do-it-yourselfers.