Surface “remodeling” is a great way to give your home a lift without investing a huge amount of time and cash. This type of work is really renovation, a cosmetic refinishing process, rather than deep down remodeling. Whatever you call it, a surface upgrade can be a fantastic way to update a house that doesn’t have any structural or safety issues, but just needs a fresher, brighter look. Surface reno will have the biggest impact in your kitchen or bathroom, where a complete remodel would come with a price tag of tens of thousands of dollars. As well as contractor manhours, you’ll save on building permits and designer’s fees. Here a list of 11 practical how-tos.
1. Preserve your home’s original footprint. Avoid relocation of plumbing lines, electricity, or gas whenever possible to save major money. Just moving one toilet a distance of more than three feet would cost you as much as $1000!
2. Ditto for the envelope, the exterior of your house. In fact, you’ll be best off not moving walls of any sort, outside or in. A perceived lack of space can often be dealt with by more effectively using the square footage you already have. For instance, you could add kitchen cabinets that extend all the way up to the ceiling for maximum storage space at a minimal price.
3. It’s often not as urgent to cut a new window as you might think. When you want to add a sunnier feel to a room, just paint it a brighter color (palest egg yolk or cream gives a warmer effect than pure white does). If that’s not enough, put in an inexpensive light tube to channel more daylight into your room. When better ventilation is your goal, install an exhaust fan.
4. Speaking of light, you can save still more cash by opting for easy-to-install, surface-mounted lighting fixtures over the trendier — but pricier — recessed type.
5. Reduce labor costs by applying new flooring on top of the existing floor; be sure to level the surface first. However, if the old flooring is vinyl or another material that can be pried up easily, take a peek underneath — you may get a pleasant surprise in the form of hardwood floorboards, hidden for years.
6. Cover up minor irregularities and flaws in your walls with attractive “disguises” such as wainscoting, wallpaper, or textured paint. Do NOT try this, though, when the problem is due to serious issues like mold.
7. Get the look of a brand new kitchen on a dime and in a New York minute by finding (who else?) a New York carpenter to reface your cabinets. Then cover or paint the countertops yourself.
8. Don’t put away your paintbrush just yet. Use it to refresh your backsplash tiles with a change of color. Don’t have a backsplash? Paint one on, in a scrubbable finish.
9. Change the bathroom or kitchen hardware for a sophisticated modern style to get a trendy, low cost new look.
10. Refinish your bathtub. Reglazing is a fraction of the price of replacing.
11. One area where you might actually want to spend a little extra is on environmentally aware features. For example, eco-friendly items like energy-efficient double- or triple-paned windows, a fuel-sparing tankless water heater, or a dual-flush toilet will cut your energy or water bills significantly and save money for you in the long run.