Budget Bangs for Your Buck

Putting money into the curb appeal of your home has a decidedly less glamorous feel than the idea of redoing your bathroom or kitchen. It’s much harder to care about picking out drought resistance ground cover than it is to pick out granite countertops. You know you want to spend your money on something that creates a great impression, transforms your home’s exterior and is a great return on investment, but you also know you don’t want to spend luxury bathroom remodel money on your exterior. It’s not like you can bubble bath in your new sod. Here are some options for a major exterior renovation that doesn’t feel as major to your budget. 

 

Roof, Siding & Gutters

A roof is one of those things that is completely unsexy to buy, but is really important both for your home’s curb appeal and also for its salability. It’s hard to sell a beautiful house with a bad roof—everything is at risk. Fully replacing your roof actually has a little more average return on investment than even a bathroom remodel. It typically costs between $1.50 and $10 per square foot. Even if you can’t replace the roof completely, having a professional look at your roof and suggest options for a refreshment can help get a long life out of your current roof. 

 

New gutters are a much cheaper option—the cost usually lands between $500-$2,000 for replacing your gutters and it’s over in a few days. Gutters are another unsexy exterior component, but gutters do so much heavy lifting to keep your home weatherproof and snug. Also, nothing mars an otherwise pleasant exterior like a broken gutter. 

 

Replacing siding, painting your brick, or adding a veneer, are all options for your exterior that start to get more exciting (colors!) but most options are starting to creep toward more expensive. Replacing siding costs around $10,000, depending on the price of the materials. Painting or refreshing brick costs around $7,000 and adding any kind of veneer interest can run you between $6-9 per square foot. Keep in mind this is another area that recoups value very well. If you see your siding bubbling, blistering, coming loose or otherwise damaged, it’s time to prioritize this upgrade, but a siding professional can help you decide. 

 

Decks & Patio 

Building a deck or patio is another great option for a project with a good return on your investment. People are drawn to homes with those collective spaces where everyone can gather. No matter how simple a project, these spaces are an extension of the spaces inside. A wood deck will cost an average of $7,000 and a stone patio will run between $8-$20 per square foot. A contractor or landscaper is a great person to begin a conversation about creating an outdoor space. 

 

Garage Door

If you’re not ready to change the whole exterior but something has to happen, consider replacing the garage door. The average cost is around $1,000-$1,500 and has an almost 100% return on investment. Replacing the garage door hits a sweet spot between your budget and the need for a visible change in the exterior. 

 

At the end of the day, it’s tough to make decisions about things that don’t have the appeal of something as fun as new kitchen cabinets or a wallpaper in the powder room, but spending some time with a contractor or designer and deciding what investment is needed will go a long way toward picking the right project for your home’s exterior. 

Money Trees

Money doesn’t grow on trees, which is unfortunate because anytime you even sneeze at a tree in your yard, it’s basically going to cost money. The cost of managing the trees around your home or in your yard depends on factors that you may not even realize—such as the type of tree or where it’s located on your property. The cost can also depend on whether you hire an arborist or a tree specialist, and the kind of equipment they need to use.  The good news is, most places offer a free, on-site estimate. Here is a quick rundown of what you can expect

 

Removing a Tree

The most expensive situation is going to be removing a tree. It means cutting it down one piece at a time, hauling it all away and the extra cost of grinding down or removing the stump. Depending on the tree, it’s height, and where it’s located, you would pay between a few hundred or over a thousand dollars. 

Worst case scenario, you have a tall, hardwood tree growing close to a house or a hard to reach place or near power lines, and it needs to come down. You are looking at the top end of price. 

After the tree is brought down, it can be hauled away, chipped, or cut for firewood, although sometimes at an extra cost. 

 

Pruning a Tree

Sometimes a tree can be pruned instead of being removed. This option definitely costs less, but is still dependent on the same factors as removal. A hardwood tree, for example, is always more expensive to touch and even just pruning a tall oak, for example, will run around $500. 

If your troubled tree is touching the power lines you will need to contact your utilities provider, but in this instance, they will trim the tree for free. 

 

Stump Removal

Surprise! The removal of the stump is not included! Even in cases of full removal, the stump will need ground down or dug out and it is an additional cost. Is often an extra $50 to $400 depending on its depth and solidity.

 

Fallen or Dead Trees

Finally, it gets cheaper. If your tree is dead or already fallen (hopefully not on anything important), it will be easier to haul away. Expect this service to run between $75 and $150.

 

DIY

If you feel like you can tackle your tree on your own, you can get an extendable pruner for $30 and go to town. At your local hardware center, you could also rent a pruner, or a stump grinder. If you decide to do it on your own, make sure to schedule it in late fall or winter to minimize the impact on the growing cycle of the tree.

 

As with every service you hire, make sure the company is reputable, licensed and knowledgeable. Always check references. When dealing with trees, you will also want to make sure to have someone come out and give you a quote in writing. If you only get a quote over the phone or verbally, the price will be subject to change—sometimes drastically. But in the case of trees, money spent managing prevents more money spent on disasters. 

 

Curb Appeal for Your Budget

It’s not the outside appearance, it’s the inside that counts. Except when it comes to your house. Even if you’ve got Italian carrera marble bathrooms and a custom-built kitchen upgrade, potential buyers see an ugly façade and won’t manage to click on the inside photos. Even if your home isn’t on the market, you’re that house, the one with the cringe moniker or the butt of neighborhood jokes. Or even. . . dum dum dum dum . . the one bringing all the property values down. 

For everything you’ve done on the inside, it’s time to take a few steps back and look at the outside. No matter your budget, there are things you can do to improve the curb appeal of your home and make another house on your street the butt of all the neighborhood jokes. 

 

Minimal

The first step in any budget is to give your yard a great trim—weed eat, mow, and freshen any beds with flowers, perennials or even just a fresh layer of mulch. For one afternoon and under a hundred dollars you can make your yard and exterior fresh and neat. A little more time and planning, and you can highlight architectural features of your exterior with window-boxes or hanging ferns. Nothing is more appealing than a front porch with lush ferns. Another cheap option to freshen up your exterior is to paint your front door. Pick a bold color that complements the rest of your exterior. For about the same amount of money you can replace your mailbox and house numbers. Other cheap ways to freshen up your exterior are by adding a wreath, power-washing your driveway and siding, or change out your door handles. 

 

Modest

Once you decide to put some money and time into your exterior, there’s a wide range of options—both DIY and professional. You can start investing in your landscaping—professional landscaping design, sprinkler maintenance, new plants or simply hiring consistent lawn care. A couple hundred dollars will also replace your lighting, paint trim and shutters, freshen gutters and add a porch swing or furniture, reseal your driveway, add slate tile in small concrete areas in the front, fence in the garbage cans or any visible AC units.  

 

Maximizer 

It’s always easy to think a renovation becomes easier with more money, but with more options comes more decisions. Even on the most expansive budgets, it’s important to focus on what brings the most value—whether that value is joy or ROI. For a larger budget there are all sorts of options—retaining walls, patios, more complicated landscaping and lighting schemes. You can also invest in changing the entire exterior of the home, whether by painting, replacing siding or adding stone veneer. New porches, decks, garage doors, and windows are also options, as well as adding decorative architectural pieces that fit with the overall design of your home. Really the sky is the limit. You can spend thousands in irrigation, sod, water features, or privacy fencing.

 

Just remember, whomever you decide to work with, at whatever budget, make sure you check insurance, licenses and references to ensure you are working with a reputable company and don’t come up short in the end. With a little time and planning, at whatever budget, you can make changes to benefit the curb appeal of your home.

Outdoor Lighting for Everyone

 

Well planned outdoor lighting can give any house an upgrade, as well as making it safer and a more relaxing space. But it can be one of the costliest parts of your landscaping. Outdoor lighting doesn’t have to break your budget. Here is how to plan outdoor lighting for any price range.

 

What is Your Goal? What do you want to accentuate? Do you have any safety concerns to address first? Do you need light for security or ambiance? Understanding what you need will help you make a responsible plan and prevent you from overspending once you are at the store or with the landscaper and electrician.

 

Solar Powered or Wired? Look at your existing infrastructure. Would you need to install all solar powered lights? Do you need to bury wires? Or is there an existing outlet near where you need lights? Do you have the budget to hire an electrician to put in an outlet or wire your lights into your home? Is it cheaper to install exclusively solar or wireless? Answering these questions will give you a good idea of how much your project will cost or where you can trim expenses.

 

DIY or Hire A Professional? If you have a simple setup and know your needs, doing it yourself can be a cheap alternative. Floodlights start at about $10 per piece, deck lights can be had for around $10 a strand. Wireless and solar start around $20-30, depending on the size and wattage of the light you need. Basic single stick solar lights are sold in packs for $20-$60. If a decorative light effect is what you are after, those options begin at $80 a piece. If you have a large area to light, a complex concept, are working with a mature landscape, or are unsure of what you need, it can be a good idea to at least speak with a professional and find a way to work in your budget.

 

Don’t forget you can complete a plan in phases. Maybe right now you simply need a security light on your back deck and some solar lights leading to the front door, but you know later on you would like a complete lighting overhaul. Figuring out your goals now can help you budget and save for the eventual lighting you would like to install.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21