Re­think these ren­o­va­tions

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

Be­tween try­ing to save money and cus­tomiz­ing a home to an ex­act life­style, home­own­ers can make some big mis­takes. Whether they de­crease re­sale value, go way over bud­get or in­crease main­te­nance costs, some ren­o­va­tions are bet­ter left un­done. These are the projects home­own­ers most com­monly tell us they re­gret.

Most of us dream of a big closet, but con­vert­ing a bed­room into a walk-in will make your real es­tate agent cringe. First, re­mov­ing a bed­room usu­ally de­creases a prop­erty’s value up to 15 per­cent. Second, in­stalling shelves typ­i­cally costs $1,000 to $2,600. In­stead of go­ing this route, con­sider max­i­miz­ing the stor­age space you already have. Use pre-built racks and closet or­ga­niz­ers to take ad­van­tage of your ex­ist­ing closet space.

Pools come with a few un­ex­pected costs peo­ple don’t al­ways con­sider. First, build­ing a pool can in­crease the cost of home­own­ers in­sur­ance and prop­erty taxes. If lo­cal codes re­quire pool own­ers to in­stall a bar­rier, you’re look­ing at more than $2,500 in fenc­ing costs. In­stal­la­tion is ex­pen­sive, and the on­go­ing time and pool main­te­nance costs can also be steep. If you’re on a bud­get, a pool can eas­ily be­come a re­gret­ful ad­di­tion.

High-end fin­ishes like time-con­sum­ing tile pat­terns, costly tubs and show­ers, and lux­ury faucets or fix­tures can end up break­ing your bud­get and fall­ing short of your an­tic­i­pated re­turn on in­vest­ment. Get­ting rid of the rust and lam­i­nate and adding ef­fi­cient fea­tures is great. Just don’t go over­board. Set a bud­get in ad­vance. A gen­eral guide­line is to spend no more than 10 per­cent of the home’s value on a bath­room re­model.

Ac­cord­ing to Re­mod­el­ing Mag­a­zine, sun­rooms typ­i­cally yield re­turns less than half of your ini­tial in­vest­ment. The av­er­age sun­room costs more than $16,000. Un­less you’re adding much-needed liv­able square footage to a small floor plan, build­ing and fur­nish­ing a sun­room can drain your bank ac­count and cre­ate less en­joy­ment than you hope.

It’s easy to overdo land­scap­ing, but it can be a fine line be­tween just enough and too much. Too many trees, shrubs and plants can de­tract from the nat­u­ral beauty and curb ap­peal of the home. Plus, home­own­ers can end up spend­ing thou­sands of dol­lars and all of their free time do­ing yard work. In­tri­cate land­scap­ing is a choice most home­own­ers wish they hadn’t made.

From the small­est up­date to the largest ren­o­va­tion, it pays to choose bet­ter qual­ity. It’s easy to end up with medi­ocre or re­gret­ful re­sults when you ac­cept the low­est con­trac­tor bid or go the do-ity­our­self route. In the world of poor-qual­ity con­struc­tion, there are night­mare sto­ries of con­trac­tors who de­manded ex­tra money to fin­ish the job, used sub­stan­dard or dan­ger­ous ma­te­ri­als, or just stopped show­ing up al­to­gether.

The best way to avoid this? In­ter­view at least three con­trac­tors be­fore you hire, ver­ify li­cens­ing and in­sur­ance, and al­ways call to check the ref­er­ences of any pro­fes­sional you’re con­sid­er­ing hir­ing.

Brown spot­ted leaves and streaks of black stem cankers in­di­cate box­wood blight, a new fa­tal box­wood dis­ease. Do not com­post the wreath or dis­pose of it out­doors. How­ever, the spores are not ac­tive in cold weather. You may be able to safely hang it, though not where foot traf­fic could track leaves away and pro­vided you do not have box­wood, pachysan­dra or sweet­box (sar­co­cocca) in the vicin­ity.

Box­wood blight causes in­fected leaves to drop. The fun­gal spores are sticky and can ad­here to man or beast, in­fect­ing nearby plants, though they don’t blow away — un­less some­one drives off with in­fected plants in the back of their pickup! After the hol­i­days, bag your wreath and put it out with the garbage, not with re­cy­clable yard waste.

Most in­fec­tion is spread by nurs­ery

Keep all your rhi­zomes and bulbs in a cool dark place, such as a base­ment or garage, over the winter. It is not nec­es­sary to pot them up be­fore stor­age. A plas­tic bag with holes for ven­ti­la­tion can work well. Check pe­ri­od­i­cally for rot. If you spot any, dis­card that rhi­zome or bulb. On the other hand, you do not want the rhi­zomes to shrivel up in a warm dry en­vi­ron­ment.

Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land Ex­ten­sion’s Home and Garden In­for­ma­tion Cen­ter of­fers free gar­den­ing and pest in­for­ma­tion at ex­ten­sion.umd.edu/hgic. Click “Ask Mary­land’s Gar­den­ing Ex­perts” to send ques­tions and pho­tos.

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