Get It All Done in the New Year
You told us your resolutions, from replacing electrical outlets to overhauling landscaping. Here are the how-tos to get the job done
Home improvers are an ambitious lot. We asked you for your New Year's resolutions, and many of you responded as TOH messageboarder dpgoalie did: "You name it, it needs it. After I tackle a few needed repairs, my resolution will be to create a comprehensive plan to restore the old place from the foundation up to the roof."
Unfortunately, we've found from our own experience that the best-laid plans often wind up like Teenykat's, who laments: "My house has been under construction for two years since I moved in. Each project has been started and not finished."
This year, get those projects done. You'll be much happier when you're living in a well-functioning, nicely upgraded home. And we'd like to help you be happier. Here is our game plan to help you meet your goals this year.
Landlord Greg writes, "I resolve to redo the exterior of my home. I'm installing the rest of the new storm windows I purchased for the second floor windows; scraping and painting the exterior of the house; planting a "green" fence of English privet in my backyard to hide the site of my neighbors' cars; and installing security lighting that will all be on motion sensors. I'm planning on digging up the old electric cable between the house and the garage and laying a new one, as well as getting rid of that dang ol' lamp post in the center of the back yard! And if I have any moolah left, I'm seriously considering installing a small hot tub for my weary body after doing all of this back-breaking work!"
That's a long list, Landlord Greg. But it's all good stuff. We've found that curb appeal can add ten to thirty percent value to your house. Luckily, we have the info to help you check off a bunch of these projects. Here's how to:
Install Storm Windows
Paint Your Exterior
Create Privacy in Your Yard
Install Motion-Detecting Lighting
Put in a Lamppost
Messageboarder g and a's mom wants to close chilly drafts. She writes, "When buying our house two summers ago, my husband and I could not have imagined how cold it gets in the winter. There are drafts everywhere. While we have had extra insulation added to the attic, cold air is leaking in all around the windows and through the walls."
Well, g and a's mom, it sounds like you need an energy audit. For about $400, such an audit will provide you with a report detailing your home's draft problems and laying out cost-effective solutions.
If your windows are shot but the frames are sound, for about $500 to $600 apiece, you can install high-efficiency replacement windows. Unless your carpentry skills are top-notch, you'll want to call pros in for this.
Finally, for those walls, consider blown-in insulation, which fills the stud bays of your exterior walls with heat-retaining cellulose material.
"Hmmm. Where do I start?" muses jkirk. "I tore out all the paneling last summer, refinished the floors, tore out walls, completely gutted the rear entry and put new insulation in, added a vapor barrier and new drywall. Primed the whole house for paint, painted one room..."
Good for you, jkirk! You've been busy. Don't lose momentum now. In the new year, get ALL your rooms painted:
1. First, select the proper hues with the help of a color wheel.
2. Then, get the right equipment for the job.
3. Brush up on the best painting tips and techniques from the pros.
4. Finally, go ahead; paint those rooms.
RealtorRose writes, "My New Year's resolution is to paint my tired, outdated kitchen cabinets and replace all the hardware."
ma2804 has a similar idea: "My resolution this year is to reface all the kitchen cabinets, including doors and drawers. I should have done it long ago and this year's the year."
These are wise resolutions. Kitchen renovations are the most expensive home-improvement projects. But you can add value to your home with just these budget kitchen-cabinet upgrades. Instead of spending, say, $5,000 on new cabinets, you can save big and reface the ones you have for under $1,000. Other money-smart ideas include painting your kitchen cabinets and, as RealtorRose plans to do, swapping out your cabinet pulls and hinges for some spiffy new ones.
For TOH messageboarder john galt 2008 has been "a wondrous year"—in a manner of speaking. As he tells his tale of woe, "Financial and time constraints along with a failed sump pump in April 2008 have played their part in thwarting my 2007 resolutions... So, in effect, my 2007 resolutions to complete my projects have become my 2008 and soon to be 2009 resolutions. My resolutions for 2009 will include, but not be limited to, replacing the laminate tile and wood floor in my basement which were damaged when the sump pump failed."
We feel your pain, john galt. And so do your fellow TOH readers, including Gary Fink of Findlay, Ohio, who, having suffered a flood, called in a flood specialist for the immediate emergency and mold mitigation, but did much of the later repair work himself because his insurance didn't cover labor costs.
And, finally, TOH general contractor Tom Silva can show you how a new sump pump is installed, a tough job that you might want to leave to the pros.
Concerned pro and TOH messageboarder Everflash declares, "I have been in the building trades for 26 years and I have seen a lot of poorly flashed decks. I would like to re-do my decks with a quality composite decking and flash the whole deck with Everflashing. FEMA has a flier out warning how poorly flashed decks can fall off homes. My New Year's resolution would be to let all home builders, and do-it-yourselfers the serious water issues that can occur if not properly flashed."
We couldn't agree with you more about deck safety, Everflash. That's why we recommend an annual 6-point deck check to indentify problems you should address so that accidents don't occur.
redeyemick has some serious plans for the front path: "Our resolution is to change the sidewalk leading to our front door. Currently, it hugs the wall around the garage from the driveway to the porch steps. During the winter months, it becomes dangerous because icicles form off the roof and drip on the walk. There is also an uneven approach leading to the porch, and it is awkward to get up the stairs. We want to swing the walk in an almost semi-circle and create a fountain or very small pond with a bridge over the stream that falls downward into the front landscaping. In our heads, it looks beautiful! We also would like to explore the use of stamped concrete instead of pavers."
If you, too, are thinking of re-routing your walkway, you can lay a brick path or lay a gravel path in one weekend. If, like redeyemick, concrete is more your thing, we can help you keep your concrete surfaces in good condition.
And, if a bubbling water feature sounds good to you, too, here's how to build a pond.
Finally, if unlike our ambitious messageboarder here, you want to keep your house-hugging walkway just where it is, we suggest you install a rain diverter on the roof to funnel the water away from the walk. In cold weather, you'll want to know how to stop ice dams from forming on the roof and dropping chunks of the stuff on the pathway below.
Herschlag wants to "take off the old roof and replace it with a green roof. We would like to put down a rubber layer with a gridded pattern of wood. Then we want to fill in the gridded pattern with dirt and plant sedum, hens and chicks, and local grasses. We can then watch the plants grow, insulate the roof, and provide a great landing spot for Santa! Hey, the reindeer can even snack on the grass!"
We're also like how multitasking green roofs are: they reduce storm runoff, absorb pollutants, give plants more room to grow, and best of all, lower heating and cooling bills by providing insulation. If you're a green roof is too complex to install, you should know that, with the development of kits, green roofing is getting easier.
For more ways to use your roof to lower energy bills, consider:
Getting a tax break for installing solar panels
Reducing costs by two thirds with solar water heating
Keeping cooler for less with a solar attic fan
And, if those aren't enough toward eco-friendly savings for you, here are our suggestions for more green New Year's resolutions.
Finally, we think everyone can relate to messageboarder 697295, who declares, "My resolution is to fix all those small things around the house like:
1. Changing the last two outlets over to new ones.
2. Patching the small hole in my daughter's bedroom ceiling where a hook use to hang.
3. Recaulking the sink in one bathroom.
And anything else I might find. I hope to have it all done within the first two months."
We like that kind of time frame, Mr. 697295. Good luck to you.
And, to all you home improvers out there, good luck to you, too, with your new year's projects. From all of us at This Old House, Happy New Year.