Lifestyle, Los Angeles, USA

After you have nailed down a budget for your home improvements, you can begin to research materials and other details. (Getty Images)

The cold days of winter are the perfect time to sit down and plan the improvements, renovations and other projects you’ve been pondering for your home.

While scouring do-it-yourself blogs, Pinterest and HGTV shows may have given you a plethora of exciting ideas to tackle once the weather warms up, you have some less fun details to sort through before you’re ready to bring out the sledgehammer or paint cans.

The key to a successful home improvement project is proper planning, from the color you’d like the walls to be to the total budget for each project, the right time frame and whether you’ll need professional help.

[See: The Little Things: Small Decisions That Can Impact Your Home's Sale Price.]

Here are six things you should do now to prepare for your next renovation project.

Determine your budget. Whether you have a lot or a little money to make improvements, you need to figure out the amount to be able to allocate it accordingly.

If you’re looking to make major renovations on your house with more money than you may have on hand, you have the option of applying for a home equity loan or home equity line of credit. And while HELOCs now face more restrictions as to whether the interest rate is deductible on your taxes due to the passing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December 2017, when the money is used for home improvement purposes you still have the benefit of being able to deduct that interest (for up to $750,000 of debt, including your home mortgage) each year. You can also explore other options to fund your home improvement with a reverse mortgage, contractor financing or FHA Title 1 loan, among others.

Get a realistic scope of the project. With your budget in mind, figure out what you want to see completed. Are you going to demo your 1960s kitchen and open it up to your living room? Or are you simply looking to give it a fresh look with newly painted cabinets and cabinet pulls?

Keep a careful eye on how your budget will fare with each task you hope to complete – staying mindful of the cost of materials, equipment and labor (if you’re not determined to DIY). The bigger the project, the more likely the equipment and labor required will change as well.

Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, says landscape and outdoor living projects will likely require you to introduce more equipment and involved labor. “Machines are critically important if you want to move heavy stuff. A bag of mulch could be 10 pounds, no problem. Well, if you’re moving 50 of them – big problem,” he says.

Research materials. Once you’ve determined what renovations your budget will allow for, you can go back to those pinned photos of rooms and favorited furnishings. Of course, now you’ll want to keep a close eye on cost and how the materials you opt for affect your budget and the rest of your remodel.

You may have had your eye on granite countertops in your kitchen and bathrooms for the last couple of years, but engineered quartz is not only rising in popularity – it’s also more budget-friendly.

Plus, it’s easier to make engineered quartz work, says Nino Sitchinava, principal economist for home design website Houzz. “You can find it in all shapes and sizes. … It’s just a very easy material to work with, relative to natural stone,” she adds.

[See: 10 Ways to Save Energy and Reduce Utility Expenses at Home.]

Fortunately for the sake of research and your budget, online shopping for materials is becoming more common and accessible. Market information company NPD Group reports the online sales of home improvement products grew 34 percent last year, totaling nearly $20 billion. Products that accompany easy do-it-yourself projects have grown in particular, according to the NPD Group information, including hardware, lighting, storage, air filters and blinds.

Figure out what you can DIY. Unless you’re an actual contractor, you may expect some projects to be more DIY-friendly than they are in reality. “It’s based on volume and how much you can physically do,” Kiser says.

As you plan out your project, take the time to delve deep into the tasks you want to take on yourself and see if you have the skills required, how long they’ll take and if the time is worth your effort.

“A lot of people say, ‘Oh, I can tackle that.’ And then they get into it, and they can’t. It’s suddenly a little more complicated,” Kiser says. While painting, changing cabinet pulls and planting bushes are very DIY-friendly, most electrical work and plumbing should be done by licensed professionals, and a task like installing a complicated tile backsplash will likely look neater with a pro's experience behind it.



Interview professionals. Whether only part of your renovation requires a skilled helping hand or you’d prefer that a pro take on the entire project, call professionals well in advance to get a timeline, description of the work required and quote for the cost. Remodeling projects are popular in spring and summer as well, and calling before the weather warms up will help you reduce the change of missing out on a good contractor that's booked up for the season.

To avoid being disappointed in your project, it’s always important to follow up on references and interview more than one company. Avoid lowball cost estimates, and seek a project manager that can understand your vision for the space and offer recommendations to capture it best.

[See: 10 Ways to Create the Perfect Office (or Study Nook) in Your Home.]

Consider alternative options. If your budget or skill set doesn’t match up with what you have in mind for your home renovation, don’t be afraid to change the plan – it’s just best to do so in advance.

Kiser recommends seeking guidance from a contractor you’re interviewing. While labor and equipment costs may make your dream outdoor gourmet kitchen unreachable, a landscape contractor could recommend changes to the location to make the gas and electric hookups less expensive, bringing you back inside your budget.

It’s also important to keep a realistic eye on the space you’re working with – an $80,000 kitchen renovation in a bungalow valued at $150,000 doesn’t make sense. If you're planning to sell your home in the next couple years, keep your return on investment in mind. Outdoor projects that boost curb appeal are always considered good for ROI, as are kitchen cabinet updates and hardwood floors. But installing an in-ground pool, complete kitchen overhaul or putting an addition on your home likely will not add as much value to your house as you put into the project. You should also delve into trending renovations in your area, which is where you’ll likely see what’s the most valuable investment for your home.

“In bigger kitchens we’re seeing more cooktops and wall ovens. In smaller kitchens we’re seeing more ranges,” Sitchinava says.


9 Interior Design Trends to Look Out for in 2019

It may be time to update your decor.

Modern interior living room.

(Getty Images)

According to an October report from the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, remodeling spending is expected to grow to more than $350 billion in the third quarter of 2019 (in the third quarter of 2018, spending was at $331 billion), which represents a slowing of spending growth compared to recent years. Whether you’re renovating your home for yourself, updating your home to sell or looking to spice up a living space that you rent, you’ll see some new trends entering the interior design field this year – and others easing out of the spotlight. Here’s what to keep an eye out for in 2019.

Trends are getting a longer shelf life.

Trends are getting a longer shelf life.

living room or saloon interior design with big wall yellow seat or sofa and picture frames watch 3d rendering

(Getty Images)

An interior design trend, by definition, is the temporary popularity of a style, pattern, color or approach to decor. But as the cost of homes continues to climb and the cost of renovating spikes as well, trends are sticking around longer, explains Anna Starmer, U.K.-based author of “Love Color: Choosing Colors to Live With” and founder of color and trend forecasting company Luminary Colour. “The interesting thing about trends right now is that they are slowing down,” she wrote in an email. “A colour family is popular for longer than (one) season. This is down to many factors, but one of the main reasons is that people are living real lives – they do not have enough time to redecorate every (six) months.”

Well-being comes into play.

Well-being comes into play.

Hygge, Zuhause, Entspannung, Muenchen, Bayern, Deutschland

(Getty Images)

The Danish concept of Hygge – being cozy and content – has been popular in the U.S. for a couple of years, particularly in the cold winter months when people bundle up to stay warm. But Starmer suggests that the current social or political mood is also encouraging people to make their home a comfortable safe haven of sorts: “(I)t is no surprise that in recent times of uncertainties in the world, we are all starting to favour comforting shades and warming colours in the home.” That extends to softer textures in furniture, pillows and blankets, rich scents like pumpkin or citrus and a setup that encourages relaxing.

Design in all spaces and sizes.

Design in all spaces and sizes.

Warm, feminine living room interior with gray armchair, beige sofa and small, woolen coffee table

(Getty Images)

Whether you’re still holding onto your dream of a tiny home or you simply can’t afford a bigger apartment, interior design is trending toward emphasizing conscious design in all spaces – not just the palatial homes of the wealthy. For example, Pottery Barn launched its small space collection, PB Apartment, in early 2018 to cater to customers who have less space to deck out. You’re also likely to see a growing number of companies offer furnishings and design aesthetics that serve more than one purpose and can be used in a variety of rooms.

Don't be afraid to be bold.

Don't be afraid to be bold.

White interior of living room with colorful pillows

(Getty Images)

Everyone’s comfort level is different, but those who are willing should feel free to embrace a bold, eclectic look at home in the coming year. HGTV star and interior designer Taniya Nayak says to go for bright accent colors, such as jewel tones and colors that contrast – think blue and orange – and don’t be afraid to layer. “I love doing paint techniques, and I love wall coverings too, but some people are really petrified of wall coverings,” says Nayak, who partners with FrogTape painter’s tape. When in doubt, make your statement by adding color with different types of wall decor (not all photos and prints), painting an accent wall or layering throw blankets and pillows in bright, contrasting colors to create a new focal point in the room.

Shades of green will pop up everywhere.

Shades of green will pop up everywhere.

Green living room

(Getty Images)

Expect interior designs to pull more inspiration from nature in the coming year, bringing lively green into the foreground. Starmer is predicting different shades of green to be more visible not just in interior design, but in fashion as well. However, she warns that you should keep texture and light in mind any time you select a color for a space. “A shade of emerald may look fabulous on a velvet-covered chair but hideous on the wall of a bathroom,” she says.

Neutrals are warming up.

Neutrals are warming up.

3d rendering illustration of living room with luxury wooden wall panel and hardwood floor. Classic interior decorated with tree fashion vases of black, gold and white ceramics. Gorgeouos texture of squares.

(Getty Images)

Gray, stark white and the gray-beige combo color “greige” have been go-to neutrals for a few years. But Starmer says neutral shades in the home are going to warm up as people look to evoke the feeling of more natural settings in the home. “Neutral and natural colours now need to be soft and warm like a favourite cashmere sweater – or the colour of a baby deer,” Starmer says. Capturing these neutrals with natural items like wood, real stones and ceramic pieces help “counteract our very unnatural lifestyles,” she says.

Floors are getting more natural.

Floors are getting more natural.

Modern interior. Render image.

(Getty Images)

In 2018, dark wood floors have been on the decline, according to Lee Crowder, design gallery and model branding manager for Darling Homes, a subsidiary of homebuilder Taylor Morrison Inc., based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Looking forward to 2019, wood floors should continue to stay on the lighter side, but many manufacturers are noting that a matte finish is gaining popularity, which makes the floor look more natural. Recycled and engineered wood remain a more sustainable alternative to the typical wood floor, and manufacturers are even increasing the variety of tile or vinyl floors that convincingly look like real wood.

Mixed metals are officially a look.

Mixed metals are officially a look.

Modern  luxury kitchen penthouse condominium home. Modern kitchen house interior.

(Getty Images)

Finding the perfect match to existing hardware in your bathroom or kitchen can be difficult, which is part of the reason why mixed metals started trending to begin with. But now it’s not just about convenience. With the right balance, you can bring multiple metals into a room and create a rich, glamorous look. Nayak notes that metals don’t have to be restricted to fixtures, lamps and coffee table legs; opt for metallic paint colors and incorporate geometric shapes on the walls to tie metals into other parts of the room.

Trends are catering to comfort levels.

Trends are catering to comfort levels.

Open plan apartment of family living-space with wooden kitchen countertop, purple radiator, communal table with turquoise chairs and spacious living room with beige couch

(Getty Images)

Some of the looks Nayak expects to see more in the coming year vary widely, from soft, romantic pastels and textured palettes to bolder jewel tones and metals. Rather than focusing on one widely accepted trend, you have the opportunity to embrace what works for you and keep it more unique than in years past. How do you know which trend to embrace? Look at your closet. “Whatever your wardrobe says about you is very much how you should approach your design,” Nayak says. If you’re big on patterns and bright colors, the eclectic trend can make your house feel like home again. If you’re a solids-and-neutrals kind of person, working in more of a natural look at home can provide the update you want and need.

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Tags: real estate, home improvements, personal budgets, loans


Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

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