Input on Home Updates/Remodels

Feb 6, 2006
Hi all. Looking for some input on some projects that I want to get done around the house. None are cheap, but some are cheaper than others. The reason I'm asking here is that I like the variety of responses I get that help me put things in perspective. I can't do 'em all right now, but want to start somewhere. So the question is where do I start??

While money is not necessarily an object (line of credit :D ), I need to use it wisely and do not want to spend needlessly. All projects must either 1. Add value, or 2. Prevent deterioration.

I know all of the rules about what areas add the most value, i.e. kitchens, bathrooms, etc., don't 'outdo' the neighborhood, stay away from individual quirky preferences, etc. I'm looking more for just practical suggestions on what you would look for or choose to do. In case I market the house down the road I want it to appeal to the most amount of people.

The house is:

2100 sq ft
4 bedroom, and an office that could be used as a 5th small BR
Full bath down, but small
1 1/2 bath up, both average size. The washer/dryer are located in the full upstairs bath, and the dryer vent blows right onto the front steps :grumpy:

Here's what I have in mind:

1. The kitchen needs upating and I want to open it up. The dining room shares a common wall with an unused bedroom. I was thinking of opening that up by putting large french doors into the common wall, and leaving them open, tiling that room to match the kitchen and dining room. It could be used as a guest room just by closing the doors. I don't want to redo the kitchen and dining room in such a way that it "needs" the extra space because I want future buyers to be able to use the existing space in case they actually need that bedroom.

2. 1/3 of the windows have been replaced, from metal frame to vinyl. Do I replace the other windows now or wait??

3. The Master bedroom's bath is a shower/tub fiberlass insert that was put in in 1978. Nothing fancy. The master bedroom bath can access the main bath through a common door, though not the main door to either bath. Carpet in one bath, linoleum in the other. I was thinking update the master bath by replacing the shower with a nicer one, redoing the vanity/cabinets, and tiling both bathrooms to match.

4. The daylight basement has a bathroom, office, and a bedroom along the rear of the house, all in a row. They are all small in my opinion. I was thinking about busting through the rear walls of all three and extending them about 6 more feet out. It doesn't seem like much, but in doing so, it would allow me to move the washer/dryer downstairs and out of the main bath, and also eliminate that pesky exhaust onto the porch. It would create about 60 additional sq. ft., which doesn't seem like much really, so may not be worth the expense as it would require some excavation, concrete work, this time I would also completely redo the downstairs bath. I would have to move the main sprinkler controls, the fan unit for the HVAC, and the power meter outside also in order to expand out (I'm no expert in doing those things, maybe it's easier than I think).

5. The front steps are poured concrete. Looks like a 'home job' as they are visibly unlevel. Water pools in the corners and freezes in the wintertime.

6. The house is without gutters. Probably removed when it was re-roofed and never put back on. This contribues to the pooling of water on the steps.

Ok...what would you do first????? Opinions, comments welcome!!! And please don't say: 'whatever makes you happy'. Thanks!

By the way, I don't plan on selling soon, but you never know what curveballs may come up....oh, and I would require 'help' with the bigger jobs, so outside labor is likely.
Good post. I like doing my own remodeling work in my house and have done carpentry, electrical updgrades, and plumbing. There is no greater satisfaction than doing the work yourself (if you know what you are doing :D)

Ok...what would you do first????? Opinions, comments welcome!!!

I'd start with gutters first and foremost. Get that water away from your basement, foundation, etc. I have only installed gutters on a garage, not an entire house, but it went fairly quick. I spent a half-day planning, taking measurements, and ordering supplies. Then I spent 3/4 of a day (with a friend) to install. I don't remember the exact length we installed, but it had to be in the neighborhood of 60' in horizontal gutters (it was a large garage) and two downspouts.

Next, I'd tackle your master bedroom's bathroom. It appears to require the least amount of work among the indoor projects you mentioned, and getting your bathroom remodeled can definitely keep you motivated to get after some of your bigger projects (e.g. your kitchen). Plus, if you fall behind on the master bath you won't be inconvenienced as much since you still have another bath. You'll cut your teeth with your master bath project, and it will give you a better idea on the amount of time it will take to do your other indoor projects.

Gutters are #1. It adds no value to the house at all. But, without them, you risk water entry and damage. And you'll never pass inspection to sell the place without gutters.

Kitchen is #2. This will add substantial resale value to the house, up to 100% of the investment. Be careful about going overboard. A house like it sounds like you have probably will not benefit from marble countertops, a Wolf range, or Viking refigerator. Make it nice, but be reasonable. Kitchen "face lifts," a little paint, a little paper, that sort of thing, generally actually detract from value. Do a tearout kitchen remodel and make it nice.

Master bath is #3. This can also add substantial value to a house, sometimes as much as 100% of the investment. It sounds to me like your project will be a complete tearout. Do it nicely. Again, don't go to far overboard.

Windows? Do them all at once. 1/3 new windows adds no value and actually detracts because it calls attention to the deficiency of the other 2/3.
One fellow I know had his kitchen redone but wanted a "deal " .Well he got a deal ,cabinets had to be replaced as they hadn't fit " Counter top too. Took one contractor to court etc, but he got a deal !! First do necessary items -gutters -since water can do lots of damage. Make stairs safe. Next kitchen. It seems that many first are in the dream stage , I want this ,I want that, that would be really nice etc. When they look at the price they panic then try a more realistic approach ! When I did my kitchen I got advice about doing certain things because it's easier to resell .I wasn't doing this for some one else , I was doing it for ME !!That was 10 years ago and I'm still happy with it !
Thanks for the replies so far. I'm glad I posted this. I've had the house for a year and gutters have been first on the list, but then I started thinking about other things and getting a little impatient so glad you guys confirmed it for me.

Gutters will be #1.

Kitchen and Master Bath are a toss-up...I'll do gutters and then see where I'm at. Any other input? Thanks again.
I'd do it as smallest project first then work bigger.

Every project will take longer then expected, If you start with a large project (like a kitchen) you'll never get to your other projects. Then new projects will crop up in the mean time.
From an appraiser's viewpoint, below grade basement area (even if finished out like the main living area) will not be counted in the square footage of living area. Credit will be given for it though, at a lesser rate.

Moving electrical, plumbing, etc. supply lines can get very expensive, and will usually not add any value. This should be way down on the list, in my opinion.

Ron Hanz
Bob W said:
Is it a historic home?

Nope - just a pretty standard California Split, built in '78

From an appraiser's viewpoint, below grade basement area (even if finished out like the main living area) will not be counted in the square footage of living area. Credit will be given for it though, at a lesser rate.

Moving electrical, plumbing, etc. supply lines can get very expensive, and will usually not add any value. This should be way down on the list, in my opinion.

Ron Hanz

Thanks! That's what I thought too, I was just trying to figure out a way to improve the washer/dryer situation. Not really any way to put them downstairs with the space I'm working with. It's probably ok how it is but that vent sure stinks right there. As an appraiser would you go with bath or kitchen, if you could only do one?
The first thing I advise my clients to think about is to please themselves first, then think about value added. Which of these two projects would you give you and yours the most satisfaction? Do you or the significant other enjoy being in the kitchen, or do you slap something in the microwave and yamma yamma, out the door? A complete tear-out of the kitchen will be the more expensive project, unless you go wild in the bath remodelling.

Ron Hanz
With the size of the groups that end up in the house on birthdays and holidays, the kitchen makes more sense, especially if part of the project is opening up that other room. More expensive than the bath, but if I don't go bonkers it probably is the right value and lifestyle decision.
I'd start with the porch first (sorry)(I wouldn't want anyone to slip and hurt themselves) -- followed with the gutters to preserve the roof. They have alluminum overhang now that works as gutters...well what do I know...I live it California. I should say they work here where we don't really need gutters to begin with. :D

As far as outside help. They made it illegal to pick up illegal Mexicans at Home Depot down I'm fresh out of suggestions. :D (good work at a cheaper than average price too).

How about buying beer and inviting male freinds? (j/k). (actually not advised)!

btw--after you are through come down here and help with my house (it needs a lot of updating to (1980's) :)

Wishing you well on your projects.