By balancing the cost of home improvement projects against the return on investment those projects can bring in real home value at the time of sale, you can make the most of a conservative amount of cash while enhanciing home value and enjoyment.
Rally your do-it-yourself skills for a project or two from among the following under $1,000 upgrades.
- Replace kitchen counter tops. Cook up a new look by upgrading kitchen work surfaces with one of the many sleek, budget-friendly materials available. Great green options include stainless steel, cast concrete, and solid surfacing and terrazzo composites made from recycled materials. Also revise counter-top collections for a clean, clear view and easy access to work zones.
- Accessorize the bathroom for comfort and safety. If you plan to stay in your home for many years to come, start making small changes that create easy access for family members of all ages and abilities. AARP's Bathroom Checklist can help you assess the current state of your bath and select smart installations like a wider entry door, easy-to-grasp door and cabinet hardware, rocker light switches, grab bars, and a shower fixture with a removable, hand-held head.
- Brush on a new look. Paint is one of the most affordable and transformative home improvement products around, so make it your go-to technique for updating a living space. Most manufacturers offer handy sample sizes for testing out new hues, as well as special formulations and tools for taking a faux approach. Adding crown moldings, chair rails and other trims is the next level in creating a custom look on a budget.
- Spruce up an outdoor room. Expand both your living space and your home's value by building a small deck or a patio of brick, natural stone or cement pavers. You can also update landscaping and add pathways to form outlying seating areas or hideaways in a yard of any size.
- Enhance curb appeal. Your front yard is an instant register of home value for every passerby, so green it up for a lush, lively look. Also address the welcome quotient of your home's entry, adding a beautiful new entry door, truly illuminating light fixtures and a few well-placed planters of blooms add freshness and friendliness.
- Improve energy efficiency. The climbing costs of home heating fuel make penny-saving improvements all the more valuable. Reduce waste and enhance home comfort by sealing all heating and cooling ducts along seams and connections with duct sealant (mastic) or metal-backed tape (never duct tape, as it doesn't have the required staying power), followed by insulation wrap. Also consider upgrading your home's insulation -- a visit to the U.S. Department of Energy's Insulation Recommendations page will provide guidance for your specific climate and location.
- Accessorize to organize. Make more space inside your head as well as within your favorite four walls by clearing away clutter and installing organization systems. Shelving and safe stowing zones can convert a crammed garage into a place where you can actually park a car, and a closet fitted with modular components allows you to greet every day without the stress of a mess.
Many home improvement projects can be accomplished with a modest amount of cash and yet deliver lots of value at the same time.Tom Kraeutler is the AOL'S Home Improvement Editor and co-author of My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure. He delivers home remodeling tips each week as host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program.