High-end home im­prove­ments that are worth the splurge

The Island Packet (Sunday) - - Real Estate & Homes - BY DAN DIC­LERICO

The only thing harder than set­ting a re­al­is­tic re­mod­el­ing bud­get is stick­ing to it. The se­cret? Know­ing when to splurge and when to save. Here are top picks for each cat­e­gory from the pros at HomeAd­vi­sor, in­clud­ing the ar­chi­tects and de­sign­ers who draw up the plans, con­trac­tors who do the work, and re­pair­men who get called when things go wrong.

WHEN TO SPLURGE

It’s not worth cut­ting cor­ners on the fol­low­ing five items:

LONG-LAST­ING PAINT

Cheap con­trac­tor-grade paint goes on thin and is prone to fad­ing, stain­ing and other flaws that make for an eye­sore. You don’t have to blow your bud­get on crazy-ex­pen­sive de­signer paint cost­ing $100 per gal­lon or more.

But it is worth in­vest­ing in a high-qual­ity paint in the $30-$40 per gal­lon range over the $10-$20 per gal­lon econ­omy stuff. Bet­ter paint will pro­vide am­ple cov­er­age — of­ten in just one coat — and it will with­stand scrub­bing, fad­ing, and mildew for many years.

NATURALWOOD FLOORS

In­stalling wood floors costs $4,500 on av­er­age, ac­cord­ing to HomeAd­vi­sor’s True Cost Guide. That’s three times as much as you’ll spend on bar­gain ma­te­ri­als like vinyl or linoleum. But the warmth and beauty of wood floors is with­out com­par­i­son.

Plus, they can be re­fin­ished sev­eral times, so they’re prob­a­bly the last floor you’ll ever have to in­stall. That’s a big rea­son why wood floors add sig­nif­i­cantly to a home’s value. Ul­ti­mately, you’ll re­coup the cost if you ever de­cide to sell.

CAB­I­NETS YOU CAN COUNT ON

It al­ways pays to spend more on things you in­ter­act with ev­ery day, and that in­cludes kitchen cab­i­nets. A drawer that sticks or a door that’s fall­ing off its hinge after just a few months will fill you with all kinds of re­mod­eler’s re­morse.

Cus­tom cab­i­nets can get very pricey, but nowa­days you can find solid con­struc­tion, in­clud­ing dove­tail join­ery and full-ex­ten­sion drawer guides, in rea­son­able semi-stock cab­i­nets.

HARD-WEAR­ING COUN­TER­TOPS

Coun­ter­tops take a ton of abuse and they’re of­ten a fo­cal point of the kitchen. It’s worth spend­ing more on a ma­te­rial that com­bines beauty and dura­bil­ity. Nat­u­ral stones like gran­ite and mar­ble are the tra­di­tional fa­vorites.

But in re­cent years, quartz has emerged as a pop­u­lar coun­ter­top ma­te­rial be­cause it looks great and wears in­cred­i­bly well. And it doesn’t re­quire the pe­ri­odic seal­ing that many other nat­u­ral stones need.

PRO­FES­SIONAL DE­SIGN

Don’t un­der­es­ti­mate the value of good de­sign help, es­pe­cially on more in­volved projects like a kitchen or bath ren­o­va­tion. If you’re knock­ing down walls and putting in new me­chan­i­cals, you’ll need to hire an ar­chi­tect for a fee of about 10 to 20 per­cent of the over­all project cost. If you need help choos­ing fix­tures and ma­te­ri­als, a cer­ti­fied kitchen and bath de­signer will fit the bill for about half as much.

WHEN TO SAVE

Bal­ance your bud­get by cut­ting back on these items.

AP­PLI­ANCES

A suite of high-end ap­pli­ances — fridge, range, dish­washer — might run $20,000. That’s the price to pay for true built-ins. But you can get sim­i­lar looks and per­for­mance by choos­ing a cab­i­net-depth re­frig­er­a­tor, slide-in range and tra­di­tional dish­washer, all for as lit­tle as $5,000.

BATH­ROOM TILE

De­signer tile made of nat­u­ral stone or glass is strik­ing, but a sim­ple glossy white ce­ramic tile can de­liver an el­e­gant look for a frac­tion of the cost. Plus, it’s of­ten much eas­ier to main­tain.

LIGHT FIX­TURES

Light­ing is an­other cat­e­gory that can get over the top. If you’re on a bud­get, pass on the glam and make sure the over­all plan in­cor­po­rates lay­ers of am­bi­ent, task and ac­cent light­ing.

Dreamstime/TNS

Long­ing for nat­u­ral wood floors? Turns out, they’re worth the splurge.

EricVega/Getty Images

Get­ting a pro­fes­sional’s help when plan­ning a de­sign change could mean a big dif­fer­ent in the end.

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