Four smart renovations that will add value to your home

Are you thinking about making some home improvements, but want to make sure they're renovations that will actually pay you back in the long run?

Good news: From a complete kitchen renovation to small do-it-yourself projects like repainting light fixtures, there are a variety of cost-effective projects that could help your home have more curb appeal, says Danny Lipford, host and executive producer of the home improvement television show, Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford®.

If you're considering making some home improvements, check our list of smart and worthwhile projects.

Project #1: Upgrade Your Bathroom

Do you want to upgrade or remodel your bathroom, but concerned about spending too much money? Fret not. Remodeling your bathroom is one of the most profitable home improvement projects, says Marie Leonard, home improvement expert and author of Marie's Home Improvement Guide.

"As far as getting a return on your investment, the best money is in upgrading or remodeling your bathroom or kitchen," says Leonard. "All the realtors will tell people that you have the greatest chance of getting your money back on those two."

And as far as bathroom improvement projects go, Leonard says you have the option of going big and doing a total renovation (replacing toilet, tub, vanity, floor, etc.), or you could do a simple upgrade, which is much less expensive.

For example, "some people will just replace the toilet and vanity, because tubs are so expensive," says Leonard. In other cases, "they might put down a vinyl floor or new tile floor and then replace the fixtures, like the faucet and the towel bars. It's much less expensive [than a total bathroom renovation], but still adds value to your home."

[Is your bathroom in need of a makeover? Click to find the right home contractor now.]

Project #2: Upgrade Your Kitchen

As Leonard mentioned earlier, upgrading your kitchen is another smart renovation worth investing in.

And Lipford offers a similar view, noting that a kitchen remodel is a smart, worthwhile project that could help increase the value of your home.

"The value of a home is driven by the 'salability' of said home," says Lipford. "A house with an out-of-date or obsolete kitchen is very hard to sell, so a price compromise usually takes place."

But what if a complete kitchen remodel is not in your budget? Not to worry. Leonard explains how you can make small, yet smart, upgrades:

"You can get new countertops; you can repaint your cupboard doors; you can get new handles; you can update your appliances," she says. "There are different levels of things people can do, depending on their budget."

[Ready to give your kitchen an upgrade? Click to find the right home contractor now.]

Project #3: Furnace Replacement

Furnace replacement: It doesn't sound like a very glamorous home improvement project, does it?

No, but it is a renovation that could pay you back.

In fact, furnace replacement is very important and can significantly cut down on your gas bills, notes Morris Carey of the Carey Bros., award-winning licensed contractors who host the radio program, On the House.

"Furnace replacement can save you a lot of money," says Carey. "If you have a furnace that's 15 years old, it's probably only using half the energy that goes to it. You can get a furnace that will use up to 96 percent of the energy, and it will cut your gas bill in half."

For this reason, Leonard says that it's wise to maintain an ongoing relationship with a furnace contractor that you can trust.

"It's like your auto mechanic," Leonard says. You need to trust your mechanic, "so when they tell you that you need a repair, you believe them."

[Need to replace your heating system? Click to find the right home contractor now.]

Project #4: Refinishing or Repainting Your Front Door

On first thought, the condition of your front door may not seem like a significant factor in the overall value of your home. But according to experts, you may want to reconsider that thought.

Here's why: The front door is a very important part of a home's curb appeal and contributes greatly to the home's overall value, says Lipford.

"It's usually the first opportunity to influence a guest to your home, or a potential buyer of your home, because they're going to see that from the road," explains Lipford. "It's the nose on the face of the house, and it's important to showcase it in the best light that you possibly can."

Luckily, Lipford says that refinishing or repainting your front door is one of the least expensive home improvement projects, and it's one you can do yourself - if you're up for the challenge.

"This is a very do-it-yourself friendly project," says Lipford. "But if the homeowner is not comfortable tackling this, it is still a very good return on investment, even if you choose to hire a contractor to do the work."

Quick Tips on Hiring the Right Contractor

If you decide that a helping hand is needed to accomplish one of these smart remodeling projects, here are some quick tips for choosing the right contractor:

  • Research and Shop Around: "I would always recommend at least three bids," says Lipford. "It's real important that people understand that you need to get bids from companies that routinely do the type of work that you're wanting done."

  • Get Recommendations: Talk to people who have hired the contractor you're considering. "Just get honest input from people," says Leonard. Questions to ask include: What did you think of their service? Would you hire them again? Were they able to communicate with you effectively when problems occurred?

  • Ask about a Contractor's Credentials: Don't be scared to ask contractors questions about their credentials, says Leonard. In fact, before moving forward with any contractor, Carey recommends first determining if the contractor is properly licensed, properly insured, and has been doing contract work for more than five years.

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