Remodeling activity is up, here are some affordable projects

Consumer Reports News: July 19, 2012 03:08 PM

Remodeling is expected to pick up by the end of this year and into 2013, according to a report released today by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. Annual homeowner improvement spending may reach double-digit growth by the first quarter of 2013, the report said, indicating that the outlook is finally improving after a few bad years.

"Home improvement activity has been bouncing around the bottom of this cycle for almost three years now, waiting for the industry to get some traction," said Kermit Baker, director of the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center. "Now, the combination of low financing costs, stronger consumer confidence, improving home sales, and the perception that home prices have stabilized in most markets across the country are encouraging owners to start working on the list of home improvement projects they have been putting off. "

If you've been putting off a remodeling project, Consumer Reports has updated Ratings of flooring, countertops, sinks, paint and a host of appliances as well as new remodeling guides for kitchens and bathrooms.

$1,000 bathroom makeover
You don't need to spend a lot to give a bathroom or kitchen a makeover. You can update a bathroom for as little as $1,000 by doing the following:

  • Replace the vanity with a new wood model that has a stone counter.
  • Add a new mirror and faucet.
  • Replace your toilet and faucet and add a new vinyl floor.
  • Improve lighting and ventilation with a new combination light and exhaust fan.
  • Add a set of sconces on either side of the mirror or medicine cabinet.
  • Update towel bars, hooks, toothbrush and toilet paper holders, and cabinet hardware.
  • Switch your standard showerhead to one with multiple settings.
  • Keep your towels toasty with a heated towel bar, some of which cost $100 or less.

$5,000 kitchen update
Spending $5,000 in the kitchen might not get you new cabinets but you can spruce up what you have now and also get new appliances or countertops. Here are some options:

  • If the cabinets are structurally sound you can give them a fresh coat of paint and improve capacity with inexpensive cabinet organizers.
  • An island adds work and storage space whether it's a permanent unit with furniture-style looks or a small portable one on casters.
  • The back splash is a great place to add color or contrast. Paint is the simplest and cheapest option but tile only costs $10 to $40 per square foot installed.
  • Salvage shops are stocked with new or gently used stone countertops, hardwood flooring, decorative lumber, kitchen cabinets, and stained glass.
  • Improved efficiency, new features and styling, and make replacing your appliances tempting.
  • Hard-wearing laminate countertops cost as little as $550 for an average-size kitchen, and trendy but tough quartz starts at $2,800. Add an engineered wood floor for less than $10 per square foot.
  • Our tests have found that thinner stainless-steel sinks resisted dents, stains, scratches, and heat as well as thicker, more expensive ones. Get a faucet with a lifetime warranty that covers leaks and stains.
  • Proper lighting makes a kitchen more inviting and safer. Undercabinet fixtures are the best source of task lighting. Update ceiling-mounted fixtures, especially dated fluorescent boxes.

Mary H.J. Farrell

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