Home Improvements

5 Questions to Ask Before Investing in a Fixer-Upper

by Brandon Turner | BiggerPockets.com

 

So should you invest in a fixer-upper? Despite a few cons, I would say yes, you should definitely consider it because of the overwhelming pros. However, before you jump into your next project, ask yourself these five questions about the deal.

5 Questions to Ask Before Investing in a Fixer-Upper

1. How bad is it?

There are many levels of severity when dealing with fixer-uppers. Some properties need just a few thousand dollars worth of paint, while others need a complete overhaul. As common sense would suggest, the less work a property needs, the less risk you’ll have that something will go wrong during the rehab.

At the same time, however, the less work a property needs, the more competition you’ll face. This is why I generally look for properties that appear to need a lot of work to the general public but that actually just need minor fixes. For example, homes that have a bad smell because of pets or cigarettes are a prime candidate for me, because smells are easy to rectify. An ugly exterior paint job or a bad roof are also fairly easy (if costly) to remedy, but they scare away more potential homeowners. So, before you buy a fixer-upper, I encourage you really look at the property and have an accurate estimate of what it’s going to take to fix it up. Don’t go into a fixer-upper blind.

 

2. Is it worth it?

Let me ask you a question: Is it better to buy a house for $120,000 that needs $30,000 worth of repairs, or a house that is $150,000 that is 100% finished? With all other factors being equal, the finished house clearly has the advantage. However, many investors fail to comprehend this logic and instead think “fixer-upper” automatically means “great deal.” It doesn’t!

Often, the cost of rehabbing a project will negate any discount you might get. On the other hand, if you could get that same property for $90,000 and put $30,000 into it to make it worth $150,000, now we’re talking!

3. Do I have the time?

Whether you plan to do the work yourself or not, fixer-uppers take time! You have to be present at the property often to make sure the work is being finished correctly, or maybe you’ll end up having to do the work yourself. I have a friend who bought a fixer-upper triplex with plans to live in one unit and rent the other two out, but it took him three years to fix up the two other units and get them rented! While this friend may still have a great investment on his hands, he lost close to $40,000 in potential rent over those three years because he didn’t have time to handle a fixer-upper.

4. Do I have the skills?

Most people who are looking to get started with fixer-upper rental properties plan to do the work themselves. I actually encourage this, as long as the work is on a small scale. Being able to do your own rehab can save you a ton of money and can help you get a good feel for how long projects take so you can better manage the hiring out of those projects in the future. However, if this is your plan, do you really have the skills to take on the project? If not, see the next question in this list.

5. Do I have the drive?

Or more importantly, do you have the mental skills and motivation needed to learn how to accomplish those projects? My first home was a fixer-upper, and I had never swung a hammer in my life! However, I picked up a book on home improvement and began learning on the job. I also called in a lot of favors from other people I knew and had them teach me how to do things. By the end of the project, I could install carpet, tile a bathroom, lay laminate wood flooring, solder copper pipes, and fix a leaky roof—not because I had the skill, but because I had the desire and motivation to learn.

By answering these five questions for every project you are about to take on, you can better decide whether it is the right path for you. Fixer-uppers can be a great way to supercharge your wealth creation, but they also present increased risk. Just be sure to do your due diligence on any fixer-upper you plan to buy and accurately account for the hurdles you might face. Then take action, and get a little dirty!

 

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5 ways to start investing in real estate — even if you’ve never invested before

By Arielle O’Shea, NerdWallet

If you’ve ever had a landlord, you probably don’t dream of being one: Fielding calls about oversize bugs and overflowing toilets doesn’t seem like the most glamorous job.

But done right, real estate investment can be lucrative, if not flashy. It can help diversify your existing investment portfolio and be an additional income stream. And it doesn’t always require showing up at a tenant’s every beck and call.

The trouble is that many new investors don’t know where or how to invest in real estate. So here are five options, ranging from high maintenance to low.

Real estate can be lucrative when done right. Matt Cardy/Getty Images

1. Invest in rental properties

Tiffany Alexy didn’t intend to become a real estate investor when she bought her first rental property at age 21. Then a college senior in Raleigh, North Carolina, she planned to attend grad school locally and figured buying would be better than renting.

“I went on Craigslist and found a four-bedroom, four-bathroom condo that was set up student-housing style. I bought it, lived in one bedroom and rented out the other three,” Alexy says.

The setup covered all of her expenses and brought in an extra $100 per month in cash — far from chump change for a grad student, and enough that Alexy caught the real estate bug. Now age 27, she has five rentals and is a broker and owner of Alexy Realty Group in Raleigh.

Alexy entered the market using a strategy sometimes called house hacking, a term coined by BiggerPockets, an online resource for real estate investors. It essentially means you’re occupying your investment property, either by renting out rooms, as Alexy did, or by renting out units in a multi-unit building. David Meyer, vice president of growth and marketing at the site, says house hacking lets investors buy a property with up to four units and still qualify for a residential loan.

Of course, you can also buy and rent out an entire investment property. Find one with combined expenses lower than the amount you can charge in rent. And if you don’t want to be the person who shows up with a toolbelt to fix a leak — or even the person who calls that person — you’ll also need to pay a property manager.

“If you manage it yourself, you’ll learn a lot about the industry, and if you buy future properties you’ll go into it with more experience,” says Meyer.

2. Fix up and resell properties

This is HGTV come to life: You purchase an underpriced home in need of a little love, renovate it as inexpensively as possible and then resell it for a profit. Called house flipping, the strategy is a wee bit harder than it looks on TV.

“There is a bigger element of risk, because so much of the math behind flipping requires a very accurate estimate of how much repairs are going to cost, which is not an easy thing to do,” says Meyer.

His suggestion: Find an experienced partner. “Maybe you have capital or time to contribute, but you find a contractor who is good at estimating expenses or managing the project,” he says.

The other risk of flipping is that the longer you hold the property, the less money you make because you’re paying a mortgage without bringing in any income. You can lower that risk by living in the house as you fix it up. This works as long as most of the updates are cosmetic and you don’t mind a little dust.

Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for FMB Development

3. Use a crowdfunding service

If you’re familiar with companies such as Prosper and LendingClub — which connect borrowers to investors willing to lend them money for various personal needs, such as a wedding or home renovation — you’ll understand the concept behind investing through a real estate crowdfunding site.

Companies including RealtyShares and RealtyMogul connect real estate developers to investors who want to finance projects, either through debt or equity. Investors hope to receive monthly or quarterly distributions in exchange for taking on a significant amount of risk and paying a fee to the platform. Like many real estate investments, these are speculative and illiquid — you can’t easily unload them the way you can trade a stock.

The rub is that you need money to make money. Real estate crowdfunding is generally open only to accredited investors, defined by the Securities and Exchange Commission as people who’ve earned income of more than $200,000 ($300,000 with a spouse) in each of the last two years or have a net worth of $1 million or more, not including a primary residence.

4. REITs

REITs, or real estate investment trusts, allow you to invest in real estate without the physical real estate. Often compared to mutual funds, they’re companies that own commercial real estate such as office buildings, retail spaces, apartments and hotels.

REITs tend to pay high dividends, which makes them a good investment in retirement. Investors who don’t need or want the regular income can automatically reinvest those dividends to grow their investment further.

REITs can be varied and complex. Some trade on an exchange like a stock; others aren’t publicly traded. The type of REIT you purchase can be a big factor in the amount of risk you’re taking on, as non-traded REITs aren’t easily sold and might be hard to value.

New investors should generally stick to publicly traded REITs, which you can purchase through an online broker. (See the NerdWallet analysis of the best brokers for beginners if you’re new to this world.)

5. Rent out a room

Finally, to dip the very edge of your toe in the real estate waters, you could rent part of your home via a site like Airbnb. It’s house hacking for the commitment-phobe: You don’t have to take on a long-term tenant, potential renters are at least somewhat prescreened by Airbnb, and the company’s host guarantee provides protection against damages.

BUILT-IN BREAKFAST NOOK

When we purchased this East Nashville project house earlier this spring, one of the things that first drew us to the property was this little room off the kitchen that was just BEGGING to become a built-in breakfast nook!

Here’s the before photo …

Isn’t the upgrade amazing?!

For this post, we partnered with Walls Need Love. They have beautiful options for removable wallpaper, murals and wall decals. We chose the Ida Removable Wallpaper for our nook.

I don’t normally wallpaper ceilings, but in this tight space it creates a high impact, pulled together look. I am BEYOND pleased with how this turned out. And the best part is you can install this wallpaper yourself in a weekend.

The first step for this project was to build three benches, customized for the space. Collin removed the trim in the space, framed out the base of the benches and then added the seat back last.

The next step was to build the table. We’re not going to full DIY instructions (although let us know if you’d like to hear them all in a separate post), but Collin built a farmhouse-style table, perfectly fitted for the benches. The table top is about two inches smaller than the floor space between the benches.

If there are any vents or outlets on the wall, they should be extended to outside of the bench, not covered up.

For paint, Collin used two coats of stain blocking primer and then two coats of glossy untinted acrylic paint.

The next step was to install the wallpaper.

Our best tip is to be patient. Collin started by installing one strip from the front of the ceiling all the way down the back of the wall, and then worked out from there. For a continuous pattern, you can’t make it match from every angle, so we prioritized the front facing angle. The sides of the wall to ceiling don’t match, but the pattern hides it very well.

Last, Collin installed a fresh new light fixture.

When shopping for wallpaper, always order samples. I always order way too many samples, but it’s helpful because some of the time they look different in person. Samples can also help you get an idea of scale.

Wallpaper – Ida Removable Wallpaper by Walls Need Love, Light – Luna Pendant in Black by Schoolhouse Electric.

I’m happy we went neutral in this space because I can style it with pillows, flowers and baskets to reflect each season. I am SO EXCITED to have guests stay in our new home and I hope they love it as much as we do!

My partner in crime was in town and got to see our new property for the first time. I bribed her with some cinnamon rolls to snap a few photos … always works!

I hope this post has inspired you and shown what a HUGE transformation a little wallpaper can make! It made this space so much more thoughtful looking. It would have been nice without it, but with it it’s really special!

If you’re one of those people who has been terrified of wallpaper, this next paragraph is for you. 🙂

Wallpaper in 2017 is a whole new animal. It’s nothing like vintage paper that takes forever to remove (I am still somewhat traumatized from the painted-over wallpaper in our last home). These days it’s easier than ever to install AND remove. So easy that some of the time you can do it yourself (or at least remove it yourself if you don’t want to do the install). And there are countless new options that look super modern. So give wallpaper a chance.

Thank you so much for reading! I am beyond grateful to have you here. xx – Elsie (and Collin, too!)

Credits//Author: Elsie Larson and Collin DuPree. Project Assistant: Collin DuPree. Photography: Amber Ulmer.

 

5 Ideas to Increase the Value of a Basement

Photo courtesy Shannon Dittmann

The basement doesn’t just have to be a space to throw all of that extra storage. Show it as usable space, and it may even help you increase the value of the home. Basement remodels typically recoup about 70 percent of their costs at time of resale, which can add a tremendous amount of value to your home.

Making it the coolest room in the house may not be too difficult either. After all, basements tend to stay cooler during the summer months, making this an ideal place for the family to hang out when the weather heats up outside.

1. Create an In-Home Theater

Basements not only are typically cooler than the rest of the home, but they’re also usually darker. For that reason, they’re an excellent place to add a theater to watch movies on those hot summer nights. Best of all, you don’t have to do a complete basement remodel, with costs around $50,000, to gain this space. A TV mount costs around $250, while built in seating costs around $840 – $1,680. (Just be sure for safety to completely waterproof the room before running wires through the basement.)

2. Make a Children’s Play Area

Basements are often neglected areas of the home, used primarily for storage and not much else. So why not turn your unused basement space into a new playroom for your kids?

Start with the staircase. Most basements have only partially finished staircases so installing a new one will help make the space more comfortable as well as safer. Next, ensure that you have egress windows installed, and that the basement is fully waterproofed. From there, you can carpet the floors to make the space more comfortable, and move your children’s toys downstairs to make more space in their rooms.

3. Create an Adult Entertainment Space

Photo courtesy Shannon Dittmann

If you love to entertain, consider building a bar into your basement. Basements are already the ideal place to install a wine cellar, so why not take it a step further and put in an entertainment area and bar for parties as well? Basements that walkout onto patios can be the ideal place for summer entertaining, giving guests a way to get in out of the heat or a summer rainstorm. Consider putting in a tile floor to give the room a finished look and keep the floors easy to clean. Match the bar countertop to the color of the floors for a fresh, stylish appearance.

4. Create a Garden Utility Room

If you spend any time out in the garden, you probably know about the dirt, tools, and pots that accompany this hobby. Basements are a great place to install a utility sink and counter, and to store all of your garden paraphernalia. Installing a french drain and a hose will make cleanup a snap, while shelving placed just beneath the windows will give your plants a place to sprout before you take them outside for the summer.

5. Create a New Family Room

Photo courtesy Shannon Dittmann

Family rooms often get even more use than the more formal living room, so family rooms in a cooler basement can get a lot of use during the summer months. Basements finished as family rooms may be coveted by homebuyers too, giving you the maximum return on investment. This includes not only tiling or carpeting the floors, but also putting up drywall to complete the walls as well. Consider adding a suspended acoustic ceiling to help insulate the basement from the sounds above, while making the rooms more attractive at the same time.

 

 

10 Reasons to Get a Fire Pit

On the fence about adding one? Find out the benefits and which type is right for you

By Laura Gaskill

Photo by Michael Prokopchak, ASLA – Discover patio design inspiration

1. Fire pits are crowd-pleasers. Lighting up a fire is a natural way to create a focal point at an outdoor gathering. Whether it’s the hypnotic dancing flames or some sort of primal memory, the fact is that people love to gather around fire. And if you’re looking for an excuse to invite people, all you need to say is “We’re lighting up the fire pit tonight. Want to come over?”

 

Photo by Michael Tebb Design – Look for landscape design inspiration

2. A fire pit doesn’t have to be wood-burning. Wood fires are glorious, and in the right conditions, a wood-burning fire pit can be the perfect backyard addition. But if you have close neighbors or live in an area with restrictions on wood burning, you’re not out of luck. Just make yours a gas or propane model instead of wood-burning.

 

Photo by Urban Oasis – Browse patio ideas

Fire Pit Fuel Options

Wood Fire Pit

  • Pros: Wood-burning fire pits are straightforward to build, with many options available at all price points. If you’re DIY-savvy, you can even build your own.
  • Cons: Wood fires contribute to air pollution, and their use is banned or restricted in some areas. Sparks flying out of the pit can also increase fire dangers; using a protective screen can help minimize this risk.

Natural Gas Fire Pit

  • Pros: Lighting the fire in a gas fire pit is as easy as flipping a switch, which may mean you use it more often. Gas fire pits can often be installed where wood fire pits cannot, such as on decks.
  • Cons: Installation is more expensive and is dependent on being able to connect to an underground natural gas line. Once installed, you cannot move the fire pit.

Propane Fire Pit

  • Pros: Like natural gas, a propane-burning fire pit is quick and easy to light. Some propane fire pits are free-standing and can be moved easily.
  • Cons: You will need to monitor propane levels and haul the (heavy) canister back and forth to the store regularly for refills. Some (but certainly not all) propane fire pits look a bit clunky. It’s not easy to hide a bulky propane tank, and some pits do this better than others.

 

Photo by Outdoor Dreams – Browse patio photos

3. A fire pit lights up the night. All the fancy landscape lighting in the world can’t compete with the flickering blaze of a real fire. Use the warm light emanating from your fire pit to light up a far corner of your yard without having to fuss with electricity.

 

Photo by Tierney Conner Design Studio – Browse patio ideas

4. A fire pit can work in spaces both large and small. Even a compact urban yard or patio can handle a fire pit. In fact, it’s sure to become the centerpiece of a small yard. In a large yard, sprawl out with a big fire pit surrounded by bench seating for a crowd.

 

Photo by Urrutia Design – Discover patio design ideas

5. A fire pit is an outdoor feature you can use year-round. You would be hard pressed to find a backyard feature as versatile as the fire pit. In the summer, roast s’mores by starlight. In fall and winter, wrap yourself in a thick blanket and sip hot cider or cocoa while gathered with friends and family around the cozy blaze.

 

Photo by Hsu McCullough – Browse patio photos

6. A fire pit creates a cozy atmosphere for two. Fire pits aren’t just good for parties, they are equally suited to romantic nights for two. You may be tempted to skip the wine bar when you can sip vino beside the fire in your own backyard as stars twinkle overhead.

 

Photo by Maric Homes – Discover patio design inspiration

7. Fire pits are available at all price points. From simple fire bowls and DIY projects to elaborate custom designs with built-in bench seating, there is sure to be a fire pit that fits your budget. Whichever style you choose, don’t skimp on safety, and be sure to place the fire pit on a nonflammable surface.

 

 

Photo by Michael Kelley Photography – Discover landscape design inspiration

Fire Pit Safety Tips

  • Fire pits should be at least 10 feet from your home or other structures. Some city and county codes may require an even greater distance, so be sure to check before you build.
  • Don’t place a fire pit beneath a tree or overhang.
  • Don’t burn on “spare the air” days if these are used in your area.
  • Don’t put a wood-burning fire pit on a deck. A gas fire pit won’t send out dangerous sparks, making it the safer choice.
  • Educate your kids about fire safety, and always supervise children around an open flame, even when you’re sure they know the rules.
  • Keep a container of water, a hose, a fire extinguisher or all three on hand whenever you light up the fire pit.

 

Photo by Design by Misha – Browse landscape photos

8. You can even use a fire pit to make dinner. Make a backyard campout feel even more authentic by cooking dinner over the open flames. Cooking over a gas fire pit is not advised, but if you have a wood fire pit, you’ve got options: Place a grill rack over the fire to cook above the flames, or wrap up foil packets and tuck them among the coals. Then pull up a seat and dig in. Food always tastes better outside!

9. And, of course, a fire pit is perfect for s’mores. Kids (and kids-at-heart) know that making s’mores is one of life’s great pleasures. With a fire pit in your own backyard, why not make every Friday night s’mores night?

 

Photo by Ward-Young Architecture & Planning – Truckee, CA – Browse patio photos

10. A fire pit may help you sell your home. According to a recent Houzz survey, fire pits are among the three most popular backyard additions by renovating homeowners. In other words, fire pits are hot. Having an attractive and well-maintained fire pit in your yard could give your home an edge if you decide to sell. But once you have that cool new fire pit, you probably won’t ever want to leave.

 

 

Clever Ways to Add or Boost Attic Storage

 

When it comes to extra storage an attic is a wonderful place. There many different ways in which you can turn your attic into a place that provides loads of storage despite its sloped ceiling. So, take a look at the ideas below and hack your attic for boosting storage:

 

1. Design The Walk in Closet of Your Dreams Inside The Attic


Image via: attic works

2. Build Benches with Storage Drawers


Image via: home dit

3. Install a Built in Bed With Storage Drawers and Shelves


Image via: simplicity in the south , houzz

4. Build a Bookcase in Place of The Stairway Railing


Image via: modern home tours , elephant buffet

5. Create Storage Inside a Knee Wall


Image via: new england

6. Build Modular Shelving Along The Walls


Image via: houzz

7. If You Want to Create a Bunk Room in The Attic Then Add Bookcases at The End of The Bunk Beds


Image via: thrifty decor chick

8. Install a Pull Out Wardrobe or Drawers in The Under-Eaves Space


Image via: jerosch , houzz

9. Build a Bookcase with a Bench and Create a Cozy Reading Nook That Can Store Your Books Too


Image via: freddy and petunia

10. Invest in Free Standing Storage Solutions Depending Upon The Size and Storage Requirement of Your Attic


Image via: houzz

Before and After: 13 Dramatic Kitchen Transformations

Many people want to change their kitchen, whether it’s because it functions poorly, their taste has evolved or they purchased a home marked by someone else’s style. In fact, “can no longer stand the old kitchen” is the top reason homeowners choose to remodel kitchens, according to Houzz research. If you’re experiencing kitchen fatigue and are looking for inspiration, take a look at these 13 kitchen transformations. Perhaps you’ll find your kitchen soul mate here.
Wood to White
Many homeowners ditch wooden cabinets in favor of white. Our first group of before-and-afters shows four kitchens where this was done, in a variety of styles.1. Raising the RoofKitchen at a Glance
Who lives here: A professional executive coach and a beer distributor, their 10-year-old daughter and two Pembroke Welsh corgis
Location: Groton, Massachusetts
Size: 251 square feet (23.3 square meters)
Designers: Halsey Platt and Diana MacLeod of Platt BuildersBEFORE: The kitchen in this Massachusetts home occupies what used to be a barn, and the low roof meant windows that were just 12 inches tall.

AFTER: The homeowners raised the roof 18 inches, allowing for bigger windows and a proper view. The remodel also exposed some of the original beams, and added new ones to highlight the space’s historical character.

Cabinets: in English Linen finish, Candlelight Cabinetry; Bakes cabinet pulls and Sheraton cabinet knobs in dark antique: Horton Brasses; wall planking: painted in Mayonnaise OC-85 by Benjamin Moore, Boral; rustic glass pendant lights: Pottery Barn; Iron/Tones undermount sink in white: Kohler; three-legged bridge faucet: Rohl; single-drawer dishwasher with panel: Fisher & Paykel

Read more about this kitchen remodel

The Renovations That Will Pay Off the Most for Your Home in 2017

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panic_attack/iStock

New year, new home improvement projects? Whether you’re dying to update your kitchen, add a half-bath, or kick back on a brand-new deck, it pays off big-time knowing just what kind of return on investment your dream renovation might deliver. And you’re in luck, because Remodeling magazine has just released its annual Cost vs. Value report, which analyzes what you’ll pay for various upgrades—and how much you’ll recoup on that investment when you sell your home.

For this much-read report (which, by the way, is celebrating its 30th anniversary), researchers scrutinized 29 popular home improvements in 99 markets nationwide, polling contractors on how much they charge for these jobs as well as real estate agents on how much they think these features boost a home’s market price. From there, they divided each project’s upfront cost by the home’s resale value; the resulting percentage gives you a sense of how well each particular reno “investment” pays off.

There wasn’t a lot of change between the 2017 report and its 2016 predecessor, with most projects retaining their value.

But what is noteworthy is that the value of pricier projects rose significantly over last year, says Craig Webb, editor of Remodeling. He believes this indicates that the housing market is healthier and more bullish than ever.

“When the market is hot, Realtors® are more likely to give value to more expensive renovation projects, because they expect that the market will stay hot and people will pay the price,” he explains. “When the market is cool, Realtors tend to put less value on those big-dollar projects, because they have concerns about whether the house will get sold in any state.”

Still, the perennial chart toppers for ROI are the cheapest to pull off. This year (as last), the No.1 finisher was installing loose-fill fiberglass insulation in the attic. Not exactly sexy, but boy, is it cost-effective! In fact, this is the only project that regularly pays back more than you invest, with an average 107.7% ROI.

pink-insulation

This pink insulation won’t put you in the red.DonNichols/iStock

Next up is replacing a run-of-the-mill entry door with an attractive yet tough steel replacement at 90.7%, followed by manufactured stone veneer at 89.4%. Glamorous, no. Valuable, very.

Yet homeowners all need to come to grips with the fact that most renovations won’t pay them back in full. On average, in 2017, you can expect to get back 64% on every dollar you plow into home improvements (same as last year).

Plus, your returns will vary widely by project—and sorry to bring your expectations down another notch, but the payoff on big, alluring, “HGTV-ready” renovations isn’t so great. Adding a bathroom, for instance, will bring only a 53.9% ROI when you sell; a master suite, 64.8%.

Top renovation trends nationwide
Remodeling’s report also points to broader renovation trends that seem to be catching on nationwide. One definitely worth watching is energy efficiency—including simple jobs like adding insulation.

“We added [the category of] attic insulation only last year, and we were surprised at how well it did,” Webb says. Similar projects are installing better-insulated windows and doors.

One new category this year speaks to another hot trend: universal design, which ensures that a home’s features can be used just as easily by the elderly and disabled as anyone else. That means things like grip bars in showers, lever-style doorknobs, and wider, wheelchair-friendly doors. A universally designed bathroom, for instance, reaps a respectable 68.4% ROI.

“This is the first year we’ve included universal design, and it’s truly a rising category,” says Webb. “It’s based on a growing desire to age in place and a greater awareness of people with disabilities.”

Last but not least, the 2017 data suggest that “curb appeal” projects (such as new doors and exterior siding) generate higher returns than improvements done on a home’s interior. In other words, it really isn’t what’s on the inside that counts. If you’re trying to sell, pretty up the outside and it’ll pay off in spades.

How to decide if you need to renovate

fancy-garage-door

Fancy new garage doors could be a good investment depending on where you live.hikesterson/iStock

So if you’re now sitting there scratching your head wondering which upgrades to make, take a step back and ask yourself this question first: How long do you plan to live in your home?

“If you see yourself keeping the house for at least five years, you shouldn’t worry about value at all,” Webb says. The reason: Housing trends and fads can change dramatically in this amount of time, so what’s hot today could be passé all too soon. So if you plan to stay put, renovate however will make you happy, period.

If, on the other hand, you’re planning to sell in less than five years, “then looking at the return makes sense,” says Webb. Just keep in mind that tastes vary widely by location, so it’s important to pinpoint what’s hot in your area (which is why Remodeling breaks down its data into nine U.S. regions). For instance, composite decks may be big in the Midwest, whereas the South is gaga over new garage doors. As Webb points out, “Every one of the 29 projects had at least one market where the payback was over 100%. So every project got love somewhere.”

Check out this chart below to get a sense of how much various midlevel renovations will cost, and pay you back down the road.

 

HOW TO STAIN A DECK IN 4 EASY STEPS

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All summer I have been looking at my deck, knowing that a change was needed. I’ve been planning a deck refresh for months and after a very rainy July I’ve finally completed my project. Here’s how to stain a deck (and the lazy but effective way to strip and prep it too).

HOW TO STAIN A DECK STEP 1: PREP WORK

Before we bought our home, it was used as a rental property. It’s safe to say that nothing was maintained before we moved in and the deck was no different. The deck needed a good cleaning before we did anything, so we decided to use our pressure washer to get rid of years of grime (we have this Ryobi 2700 psi Pressure Washer).

pressure-washing-deck

Why yes, that’s me – unbrushed hair, in PJs and running a pressure washing. Isn’t that how people do DIYs?

A note about pressure washing: be careful. You need to get pretty close to make a difference in the wood, but don’t get too close or your will take some of the wood clean off. I did that in a few spots, so start far and move to where you’re at a safe distance. Our deck was chipped and a lot of the wood was showing already, so I knew I was at a good distance when I saw the wood changing color. This step also helped with stripped as a lot of the loose paint came clean off.

HOW TO STAIN A DECK STEP 2: STRIP IT.

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I really didn’t want to sand the deck. I knew it was going to be a lot of work, and time was of the essence. I was reading a lot of reviews online about the Behr Premium Wood Stain & Finish Stripperand they were mixed. I decided to go to the Home Depot and speak to someone myself about it.

The lady I spoke with, used the product herself and said it worked great. She said to follow the instructions exclusively as the complaints she has had came from people who didn’t read the bottle and did their own thing.

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I used a foam paint roller to spread the Behr Premium Wood Stain & Finish Stripper on, the process was pretty quick. There is no diluting the product and make sure to shake the container. We didn’t at first and it came out in a thin liquid, when it should be a thick and goopy consistency.

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It’s important to follow the instructions for application, it tells you the optimal time for application. We did ours in the morning when the heat was low and there was less direct sunlight.

We let the wood stripper sit for 45 minutes on the bottom deck and about 30 minutes on the top deck, any area that started to dry (due to direct sunlight) we used the garden hose on the mist setting. When it was ready, we took a deck brush and scrubbed hard. Who am I kidding with “we”, my husband did that part.

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Remember this is basically an acid so don’t use your brand new running shoes, my husband wore rubber boots and clothes he didn’t care about. If you’re wearing rubber boots – the deck is slippery, so watch your footing.

Spray off the stripper and you’ll see the paint start to come off! We first did it with a garden hose but switched over to the pressure washer after. It made it so much easier.

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The wood stripper got almost all of the previous paint off. There were a few spots where I still had some paint left over, and I should have sanded it off but I didn’t. I don’t recommend doing that as if you’re staining – this will not cover it up. I would say I got 95% of all the previous red paint off the deck. Keep that in mind.

HOW TO STAIN A DECK STEP 3: CLEAN IT

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The lady at Home Depot couldn’t stress this step enough. You need to use the Behr Premium All In One Wood Cleaner after the deck stripper. It takes all the remaining stripper off the deck, so the stain or paint will adhere better.

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I’m the kind of person who starts a project and just wants it done. I hate it when it takes multiple days, but I also knew that I would be choked if the stain didn’t work due to me rushing and skipping steps. I used the wood cleaner a few hours after the stripper was used. I diluted the wood cleaner in a 1:1 ratio of water and went to work. I used the pressure washer to rinse it off, then let it dry and rinsed it off again. Rinse it until all the foam is gone. Let the wood dry for 24 hours.

HOW TO STAIN A DECK STEP 4: STAIN IT

FINALLY! We’re at the step where your hard work shows. This step went surprisingly fast and the immediate results made my Millennial brain happy.

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I decided on the BEHR PREMIUM® Semi-Transparent Weatherproofing All-In-One Wood Stain & Sealer, tinted in Redwood Naturaltone ST-122. I chose semi-transparent because I wanted to show the natural grain of the wood but still give it a nice color. It’s made out of a 100% acrylic formula, which seals out the elements and sun’s harmful UV rays for up to 6 years on high traffic areas like decks, and up to 8 yrs. on fences & siding. I like how it saves me a step on sealing, it has a sealer built in.

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The application was really easy. I used a deck pad and brushed it on, it took me 20 minutes to do my whole deck and 10-15 minutes for the trickier areas like the seating bench and stairs. For those trickier areas, I used this deck staining detail kit. It says to use two thin coats, but in some areas, I used a thicker application by accident. You can’t tell I did that, it evened out nicely. I used a whole can on my first application.

I was planning on putting on my second coat the next day but noticed the deck still felt a little tack so I waited. Then it rained a few days later. So I had to put off the second coat for a few weeks.

The second coat was easy and brought a beautiful finish to the deck. It looks so much better now and I love the results.

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DECK STAIN BEFORE AND AFTER.

What a difference it made! The wood is old, but the Behr Premium® products brought the life back to it. I love the way it looks. I was intimated with this project at first, but my best advice is to dive in and just do it.

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