By J. Ken Conte

Spring is a time for renewal, house cleaning and the start of summer projects. We talked with three local experts about the most cost-effective return on your remodeling investment, and what adds the most perceived value to your home without breaking the bank. They gave us a variety home improvement projects at a variety of price points, all under $10,000.

Local real estate agent Paul Wozniak, with Re/Max Alliance, recommends several achievable and low hanging fruit projects that he often suggests to clients before they list their house.

“A lot of the time it is simple updates and my clients comment that they could have done it years before and had the pleasure of enjoying it in their home. I have a few fairly easy updates that homeowners can do that will help freshen up their house that I see work again and again.”

Update your kitchen hardware or backsplash for an inexpensive, but significant, impact.

Front Door/Landscaping
Wozniak knows the value of what people see first. “The first impression is the most important and to that point, landscaping can make a huge difference. New mulch, leveled blocks, weeds pulled, tight edging, clean garden beds and new rocks make a great first impression. Updated landscaping can be a game changer and gives potential buyers or visitors a great feeling just walking up to the house.”

A front door update can also make a huge impact on your home’s curb appeal. The easiest solution is a new paint color. Remove the door from the frame and all hardware. Sand away old paint drips or rough surfaces. Apply primer, paint and protect the door from dirt and debris while it dries. Go bold with the paint color for a real stand-out approach.

Replacing your front door can provide even greater effect. Standard doors range from $200 to $700. Custom doors can be costly, ranging from $1,000 to over $10,000, plus labor costs. But even an upgrade from a tired, plain front door to something more contemporary can go a long way. Add glass panels on either side of your front door for even greater impact.

Don’t forget new hardware and front door accessories (think potted plants, new outdoor lighting, fun metal house numbers) to round out the new look.

Flooring is an easy update that adds perceived value. For a 10×12 room, depending on quality of the carpet and the carpet pad, the cost runs between $500 and $1,500 installed. There are a lot of factors that determine the final price of carpet and, if the install is done within two years or less prior to selling, it will maintain its value and you will still get to enjoy the new carpet, says Wozniak. However, new carpet doesn’t add a lot of value to the home.

On the other hand, taking carpet out and replacing it with hardwood, tile or laminate will actually add perceived value compared to carpet. Tile averages about $10 to $15 per square foot, while hardwood costs anywhere from $6 to $22, depending on the type of wood.

“If the hardware on doorknobs, cabinet hardware or even light switches is older, doesn’t match or show signs of age, it is an easy couple hour project that almost any homeowner can handle,” says Wozniak.

Doorknobs are fairly universal and a 10 pack of matching doorknobs for the house can be purchased off Amazon for less then $100. New kitchen cabinet hardware and hinges that match can change the entire feel of a kitchen, and the cost is $50 for a painted set of 12 at Bed Bath and Beyond.

Painting is one project that can make a huge difference with a low-cost outlay. Peter Bowman with Noble Painting says the most important first step is proper prep work.

“Proper prep work on the interior and exterior is essential to every quality painting job, big or small. Make sure that the primer and paint both have a great surface to adhere to. That in turn makes the job look great and last longer,” says Bowman.

Interior paint adds the most value to the home. It gives homeowners the feeling that they transformed their home, and for buyers it gives the new paint smell as well as what is perceived as a clean slate. Homeowners can expect a significant return on investment (ROI) if they are looking to sell their home within the next few years. Typical interior paint projects can range from $2,500 to $6,000+ when you hire a professional, but that cost is significantly reduced if you perform the labor yourself.

“Recently our homeowners have been picking low volatile organic compound (VOC) and no VOC mid- and high-grade paints with eggshell or semi-gloss finishes to make them a bit easier to clean. We see a lot of our homeowners going with taupes and light greys for interiors. This is a great option as they are clean and fresh looking,” says Bowman.

Exterior paint can add up to 40 percent ROI, if done correctly, and typically runs from $3,500 to 6,500+ (depending on the size of the job, amount of trim, etc.) when hiring a painting company. The key to a successful exterior paint project is prep work and high-quality paint as well as color choice.

“There can be a massive transformation that happens just by doing the right prep work and doing a quality job. What might have been a noticeably neglected exterior can be transformed with prep work and the right choice of body and trim color paint. Grey body and white trim make up about 25 percent of our work, and it looks great,” says Bowman.

Paint makes a difference in curb appeal. | Photo courtesy of Noble Painting.

Decks and patios can add a lot of perceived value to a home and can be enjoyed for years to come

Deck addition by Ace Construction. | Photo courtesy of Ace Construction.

Outdoor Living
Third generation home builder Jacob Renninger, owner of Ace Construction, is familiar with all types of building and home improvement. He recommends some larger projects that can add a larger bang for the buck, such as outdoor living spaces.

Decks and patios can add a lot of perceived value to a home and can be enjoyed for years to come with very little maintenance, says Renninger. Traditional wood decks as well as composite decking are still very popular and cost between $40 and $60 per square foot.

Poured concrete patios and/or pavers can also be a great way to maximize outdoor living space and add some value to a home for a fraction of the cost of a traditional deck. A paver patio runs between $20 to $25 per square foot. Poured concrete patios run between $8 to $12 per square foot.

“We have also done a lot of patio covers and pergolas so that people can enjoy their backyard and get shade from the intense summertime Colorado sun.”
According to Renninger, patio covers cost between $40 to $50 per square foot and pergolas run $28 to $35 per square foot.

Kitchen Facelift
New kitchen countertops, tile backsplash, cabinets, sink and appliances can make the kitchen a joy to cook and congregate in again and can add value to a home. New kitchen cabinets can update a kitchen and would probably be at the top end of the $10,000 range, but a tile backsplash can add a nice decorative and functional touch at a fraction of the cost of an entire countertop.

Updated appliances can enhace your enjoyment in the kitchen, if you have a burner out, dishwasher that is on the fritz or maybe a fridge that doesn’t perform to standard. You can get matching updated appliances in the $5,000 price range.

The best updates that you can do as a homeowner are ones that will make your life more comfortable and your home more enjoyable. Choose wisely and you will wonder why you didn’t do them sooner.