The Family Handyman

In­stant Im­pact

EASY ES— in­g­put RAD stay UPG u’re heryo gor whet sellin ng, buyi

- BY MIKE BERNER

18 easy, low-cost up­grades to take your house to the next level.

We re­cently sat down with home­stag­ing ex­pert Me­lanie Zaelich of Happy Place In­te­ri­ors. She flooded us with great tips for home sell­ers—we could hardly write them down fast enough. Then it struck us: This would be great ad­vice for ev­ery­one. We all want our homes to “show” bet­ter, whether we’re sell­ing a house, mov­ing into a new home or apart­ment, or stay­ing in place for years.

Get rid of rugs—maybe

If you’re stay­ing in your home, you prob­a­bly want the soft­ness and si­lenc­ing ef­fect of area rugs. But if you’re sell­ing, re­move them. They chop up the room in pho­to­graphs and hide your nice floor­ing. Me­lanie tells her clients, “You’re sell­ing the floor, not the rug.” There is an ex­cep­tion to this rule: In a large, open lay­out, rugs help to de­fine the space. For ex­am­ple, a rug can make a seat­ing area dis­tinct from an ad­join­ing din­ing area.

Make sure lights match in color and bright­ness from room to room. The bulbs in re­cessed lights should be the same, and the bulbs in fix­tures should all match as well. Me­lanie sug­gests us­ing GE Crys­tal Clear in­can­des­cent bulbs. She thinks they show off the in­te­rior best.

Up­grade light fix­tures

In many homes, it’s the most pow­er­ful, ef­fec­tive thing you can do: Re­place dated lights with more stylish fix­tures, es­pe­cially in “pub­lic” rooms like the liv­ing room and kitchen. It doesn’t have to be ex­pen­sive, since home cen­ters carry up-to-date fix­tures start­ing at about $50. (The fix­ture above is $89 at judy­light­ing.com.) Nor is it dif­fi­cult, even if you have no ex­pe­ri­ence with elec­tri­cal work. To see how, search for “light fix­ture” at fam­i­ly­handy­man.com.

Re­place a door­bell but­ton

If the first thing buy­ers no­tice as they ap­proach a house is a stuck, bro­ken or ugly door­bell but­ton, it will af­fect their im­pres­sion as they check out the rest of the house. Re­place­ment is easy; there are just two low-volt­age wires to con­nect. To solve other door­bell prob­lems, go to fam­i­ly­handy­man.com and search for “door­bell.”

In­stant back­splash

An at­trac­tive kitchen back­splash can trans­form a kitchen. Me­lanie rec­om­mends a peel-and-stick back­splash as an easy DIY so­lu­tion. You just peel off the back­ing from the sheet of tile and stick it to the wall. The tiles are avail­able in all types of ma­te­ri­als from nat­u­ral stone to gel tile and cost $3 a sheet and up.

Trim trees that block views or light

Nat­u­ral light is some­thing ev­ery­one craves, es­pe­cially dur­ing the shorter days of the year. To let in as much light as pos­si­ble, trim trees or shrubs that are cre­at­ing shade. If the branches are within arm’s reach, use a lop­per or re­cip­ro­cat­ing saw with a prun­ing blade. Use a pole saw if the sun­block­ing limb is higher than that.

Re­store grout

If the grout lines in your tile are dingy and dark from grime, you can eas­ily get the grout to look like new again with a grout re­storer. Some are kits that come with two so­lu­tions—a tile-and-grout cleaner and a color sealer. Other prod­ucts con­sist of just a col­orant. Ei­ther way, clean the grout and wipe it dry, ap­ply the col­orant ac­cord­ing to the man­u­fac­turer, then wipe off the ex­cess. Prod­ucts range from less than $15 to $30 and can be found at home cen­ters.

Block the view, not the light

Peo­ple like bright, sun­lit spaces. So if you want to block the view of your neigh­bor’s back­yard junk col­lec­tion, go with translu­cent win­dow film rather than opaque win­dow cov­er­ings. Win­dow film is also ideal for bath­room pri­vacy.

Re­place cab­i­net hard­ware

Chang­ing out old cab­i­net hard­ware for an up­dated style can dras­ti­cally change the way the en­tire room looks. Up­dat­ing the cab­i­net knobs and pulls will cost as lit­tle as $2 to $5 apiece, and each can be done in a mat­ter of min­utes. If the shape of the knob is up to date, but the color or shade isn’t, give it a few coats of spray paint.

Re­place out­lets and switches

Switches, out­lets and cover plates get dirty, dam­aged and dis­col­ored, giv­ing your home a worn look. New ones give your home a re­mod­eled feel. Re­plac­ing them is usu­ally easy and in­ex­pen­sive ($2 to $3 each).

Dur­ing show­ings, po­ten­tial home buy­ers first no­tice things at eye level, then they look up, and lastly, they check near the floor. Keep that in mind when choos­ing the projects you want to pri­or­i­tize.

The front en­try is first pri­or­ity. Buy­ers typ­i­cally know within 10 sec­onds whether or not they’re in­ter­ested.

Make spray paint your friend

All home­own­ers should get fa­mil­iar with lay­ing a nice coat of spray paint over all kinds of faded, rusty or out­dated things around your home. The key to a good spray-paint job is a good clean­ing with a de­greaser fol­lowed by sev­eral very light coats of paint, start­ing with a primer. Spray­paint ap­pli­ance han­dles, HVAC reg­is­ters, bath fan cov­ers and light fix­tures to give them new life. If the ma­te­rial you’re paint­ing is plas­tic, use a paint for­mu­lated for plas­tic.

Fix doors

If you’ve lived in your home for a while, you’ve learned to tol­er­ate your stick­ing, stub­born doors. But to other peo­ple, they’re a frus­tra­tion and a turnoff. The good news is that you can solve most prob­lems in less than an hour. Fam­i­ly­handy­man. com has how-to help for any type of door trou­ble. Search for “door re­pair.”

Ad­just cab­i­net doors

Make sure those cab­i­net doors are aligned prop­erly. It will make a huge dif­fer­ence and it’s re­ally easy. On euro hinges, there are two screws you can tighten and loosen to align the doors and make sure gaps be­tween them are con­sis­tent.

Cover up claw marks

Claw marks from pets need to be fixed. If the door is painted, it’s easy to fill the gouges with wood filler or patching com­pound and repaint. On a stained door, try gel stain. Lightly sand the area and then, us­ing a dry brush, start with a light stain and darken it to match the old fin­ish. Keep the brush on the drier side by wip­ing ex­cess stain off on a clean rag. When you’re done, feather from the newly stained area with a clear spray fin­ish into the sur­round­ing area.

Re­place torn screens

This is an easy DIY project that in­volves a spe­cial screen roller and just a few ba­sic tools. You start by re­mov­ing the old spline, the stringy rub­ber piece that holds the screen in the groove, then you’ll be able to take off the old screen. Place the new screen over the frame and use the screen roller to press in a new spline. Af­ter cut­ting away the ex­cess screen, you’ll have it back in the open­ing in half an hour.

Mask ceil­ing stains

If you have a wa­ter­stained ceil­ing, a stain­block­ing primer is manda­tory to pre­vent the stain from bleed­ing through a fresh coat of paint. KILZ Upshot and Zinsser Cov­ers Up are both stain-block­ing primers, and both have noz­zles that shoot up­ward. Th­ese primers at­tempt to match aged ceil­ings, so you may be able to get away with­out re­paint­ing the ceil­ing. You can pick up a can at any home cen­ter for about $7.

FIX IT BE­FORE YOU LIST IT!

This in­cludes torn win­dow and storm door screens, door­bells and bi­fold and slid­ing doors in­side the house.

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