We’ve spent a lot of time so far talking about the pros and cons of remodeling, who to talk to make sure you make intelligent decisions about where to direct your time, money, and energy. Now we get to move onto discussing not just which project you should do but what materials you should consider to make sure you are getting the biggest possible return on your project.
Floors have become one of the biggest show pieces for a home in recent years, making any decision to change what you have whether you currently have carpet or hardwood, one of the most important you will make as you begin remodeling. It is no secret that hardwood floors are far and away the most popular flooring choice across the nation.
Few other options even come close in popularity and only in niche markets like Florida where ceramic tile runs a close second. But it is also one of the more expensive options on the market. Between budget, comfort, and ease of installation and care there are a number of factors to consider.
But never fear. We are here to help you find your way through the maze. We’ll take you through the various options, one by one, looking at the pros and cons of each as we go along.
Carpet – Carpeting is the kind of flooring that most of us grew up with. While hardwood had been the norm for many years, carpet quickly overcame it, covering our bedrooms, living rooms, and even creeping into dinning and bathrooms.
While it has fallen out of favor in recent years, carpet still has many positive qualities.
These include the fact that it absorbs sound better than any other option on the market, making it nice if you have young children. Speaking of young children, they tend to fall down a lot.
Carpet provides a much softer impact that will literally save you blood, sweat, and tears. It also retains heat better than a harder option. Finally, it is considerably cheaper than many other options at $2-15 per square foot according to the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA).
As with all things, there are draw backs. Perhaps the biggest is that it is difficult to keep clean. Every bit of food that is dropped and speck of dirt that is tracked into the house can get ground deep into the carpet if not cleaned immediately. Pet stains can alter the color and leave an odor that can linger for a long time after. In recent years, a related problem has come to the fore.
The fact the carpets retain so much of the surrounding environment means that they also retain allergens that have been blamed for exacerbating allergy related problems and asthma.
These problems can be mitigated by frequent steam cleaning, but this at least partially negates the cost savings.
Linoleum – This is a hard, durable material that also has fallen out of favor in recent years, giving way to tile and hardwood. However, it is cheap ($2-9/ft2), the color goes all the way through (a nice attribute if you should drop a kitchen knife on it) and can be cleaned easily.
It also lends itself to design creativity as it is easy to cut into unique shapes and styles. Linoleum can be a good way to create an eye catching look for your kitchen or bathroom.
However, that same design flexibility can lead to giving in to the temptation to be trendy and wind up dating your floor out of the market. It also needs to be polished occasionally to continue looking good and will stain if you do not clean spills quickly enough.
Ceramic Tile – Tile is one of the most durable options available. It will take a hit from nearly anything you drop on it. Should the tile get scratched, it can easily be buffed out. Tile also is highly stain resistant and still fairly cheap at $2-9 a square foot. Tile is also advantageous from a design perspective, as there are nearly an unlimited number of options available for creating more eye-catching designs.
Naturally, the same caution about those designs mentioned with the linoleum applies here. Its strengths are also often weakness in other ways. That same durability can lead to breaking anything you do drop on it. And if the tile chips, it can be very difficult to do a quality repair job on your own.
Tile can be harder on your feet as well, making you want to rush back to those carpeted areas. Dirt also tends to collect in the grout lines, making it difficult to clean.
Vinyl – Vinyl is commonly found in many kitchens and bathrooms in middle-class neighborhoods across the country. It is easy to clean if done quickly and is also the cheapest option available at $1-7 a square foot. If comfort is an issue, this is the most comfortable option other than carpet.
Unfortunately, that affordability comes at the price of durability and it is easily scratched, with repairs generally requiring a professional to come in a replace a section of the floor. It can also be susceptible to water damage if it is laid down in tile form as liquids will find their way between the seams.
Hardwood – As stated, hardwood is easily the most popular choice for flooring these days.
It presents a clean and distinguished look throughout the home, is easy to clean, durable and tends to be more comfortable than tile. It also has the advantage of being able to be restored every few years, meaning that any scratches, cracks or loose boards can be corrected periodically, resulting in what looks like a brand new floor any time it is refinished, and often at a cost far less than changing out carpet or any other material.
There are negatives of course.
They tend to be cold and not retain heat as well as carpet or certain kinds of vinyl and the refinishing is difficult and will take time. The price can also get quite high, running from $6-15 per square foot.
Taking everything into consideration, if you can afford hardwood floors, do it. Buyers are looking for them and will even pass up homes without hardwood.
Not only are they looking, over half of agents report that buyers are willing to pay more for a home with wood floors. And given the former craze for carpeting, it is very possible that under your dated shag is an oak goldmine waiting to be uncovered and refinished to its former glory.
Should you not have such a treasure waiting under your feet and budget is an issue, you can go with an engineered wood or laminate floor, which provide many of the advantages of hardwood at less cost.
No doubt you can remember not very far back when the color choice for nearly every wall was white. Bland, boring white.
Of course, there was also that phase of bold, dark colors in the 1990’s that seems a bit garish by contemporary standards. And if we go back a bit more, we might be able to remember wallpaper covered with very small print that looked like a precursor to those Magic Eye pictures.
Needless to say, times and tastes change and if you are looking at selling your home in the near future, few things will help you more for less money than a fresh look to the walls. Keep in mind though, buyer preferences are likely different than when yours when you first bought your home.
Paint – This certainly is the most popular wall covering and has been for years. It is easy to apply yourself, is relatively cheap and anything but an eggshell or flat finish is easy to clean.
Speaking of finishes, satin provides a good balance between a slight sheen that brightens the room and still not advertising any flaws in the wall the way a glossier finish will.
When it comes to colors, avoid painting a room a bland color like white or a bold color like violet or a deep blue.
The biggest color to avoid is orange, which Realtor.com says is a turn off to at least 54% of buyers. Instead, go with a warmer, lighter hue. Popular colors include greens, blues, yellows and even grays.
Feel free to paint the trim or decorate with a bolder color to accent the room. If you are particularly adventurous, you can even go ahead and do a whole accent wall in a bold color, but don’t do this in every room.
One place where white is still recommend is the exterior of the home. It looks clean and is easy to accent by painting the trim, doors and shutters a bolder color that will help your home stand out from the crowd and enhance its curb appeal.
When it comes to how much to spend, there is not much to worry about here. A hundred dollars will buy you all the paint and materials you need for nearly any room.
And if you are repainting with the same color or one similar to what is already there, you can save a little money by going with a lower quality paint and only doing one coat. If you are completely changing the color though, spend the extra money for a good paint, preferably from a specialty store like Sherwin-Williams or Repcolite.
Wallpaper – Once the most popular option for covering up drywall or accenting a room in the form of borders, wallpaper has very much fallen on hard times of late.
And for very good reasons. It is highly personal, most people are not likely to like eagles, wolves or a particular kind of flower as much as you once did, if not applied correctly it can begin to peel, and it is nearly impossible to remove without causing damage to the walls, damage that then has be to be repaired before painting can begin.
For these reasons, nearly every agent working today will encourage a seller to remove it and paint before listing.
It is worth noting though, that wallpaper is making a minor comeback.
If you spend time watching shows like Property Brothers, you will have noticed it showing up in nurseries and laundry rooms on occasion.
Given this, there is no harm in checking with a real estate agentto see if there are buyers in the area who are actually interested in the more modern designs of wallpaper. Still, should you go this route, approach with extreme caution and do not proceed without doing your homework first.
Lighting can have a huge effect on the way your home looks. A well-lit home is warm and inviting while not having enough light can highlight flaws and make your home look dark and dingy.
There are a number of things that you can do to improve the lighting and help make a good impression on buyers when they walk through your home.
Bulbs - Upgrading your lighting from a 60W incandescent bulb to an LED that is the equivalent of a 100W bulb will both give you more light, and save you money in the long run. The cost of LED bulbs is high but they are dropping.
Add in the fact that they only use 20-25% the energy of an incandescent bulb and can last up to 25 times longer and they are a very worthwhile investment, especially if you do not plan on listing in the immediate future.
Fixtures - If you have some spare money and plan on listing soon, consider replacing outdated recessed or track lighting with more modern monorail or pendant lights. Exterior lights are also a prime candidate for updating as they tend to get looked over anytime you are focused on the interior of the home.
Yet, they are essential to forming a good impression in the mind of a buyer. In addition to the lights off the side of the garage and front door, consider placing inexpensive stake lighting along the driveway or the walk up to the front door, instantly making your home more inviting