Home Improvement 101

Home improvement, also called residential remodeling, renovating one’s living space, or simply redecorating, is an ongoing process that enables homeowners to update their homes and reflect their personal style and taste. Whether the motivation for a home renovation project is improving the quality of one’s living space or adding to its resale value, many homeowners find satisfaction in undertaking projects that make their houses more functional and attractive.

In recent years, a number of factors have contributed to the growth in the home improvement industry, including the increasing popularity of DIY television shows and an overall increased interest in home ownership. However, the home improvement industry is not without its risks, and it is important to plan for the potential problems that may arise.

Before beginning any renovations, it is important to set goals and determine a budget. It is also a good idea to take “before” pictures of the room or rooms you are planning to improve, as these will help to guide your project and act as a reference should your improvements not turn out exactly as planned. Additionally, it is helpful to utilize a design tool, such as a floorplanner or a model home, to visualize the results of your work and assist with planning. Finally, it is always a good idea to build in a 10-15% buffer to your budget estimates to allow for unexpected expenses.

A home improvement project can involve any renovation, repair or modification to a home, from a minor cosmetic alteration to major reconstruction. Common projects include upgrading kitchens and bathrooms, building an addition, or installing a deck. Other possible home improvement projects include painting, flooring, window replacement, and refinishing wood surfaces.

Although the housing market crash of the early 20th century discouraged homeownership, the economic recovery that followed encouraged home buying and renovations. Government mortgage insurance programs for veterans helped to fuel suburban expansion, while large building contractors like Levitt and Sons began constructing large numbers of low-cost homes for middle-class families.

The increase in the availability of credit also enabled consumers to take out home equity loans and credit cards for purposes such as purchasing furniture, appliances, or home improvements. The growing interest in DIY home improvements, fueled by the popularity of television shows such as Trading Spaces, blurred the traditional distinction between the male-dominated realm of construction and maintenance work and the largely female world of interior decorating and design.

In general, renovations that will add the most to a home’s resale value are those that will increase the functionality and efficiency of the living space. For example, updates to the kitchen or bathroom are likely to appeal to most buyers, while projects that add living space, such as finished basements and decks, will be more appealing to potential investors. Other high-ROI improvements that are relatively inexpensive and easy to perform include replacing worn doorknobs, cleaning out rain gutters, and repairing sidewalk cracks.