Spaces for Life: 8 great upgrades to your home project

By Lance McCarthy

The carwash has an upgrade. The fast food restaurant has an upgrade. Heck, even the concert ticket has an upgrade. Pay more, get something better. Sometimes this is a great decision, and sometimes you end up paying more for nothing. (Who can eat a whole LARGE fries anyway?)

Today I wanted to run through some great home project upgrades, and then next week I’ll try to tackle some not-so-great ones.

So, what do I mean? These are options that you can pay more for in your project that most clients are really happy they chose to do.

Lance McCarthy

  • Insulation package. Although code requirements are getting more aggressive for insulation, there are some great upgrades that can same real dollars over time, and make the house much more comfortable. Ask your contractor about using a combination of foam and blown insulation to solve both air movement and energy loss.
  • Nicer carpet pad. Probably the most thankless job in the house is that of the carpet pad. He gets walked on constantly, but no one ever even sees him. Bump up the quality of this little guy by just $.25 psf, and not only will it feel better to walk on, but the carpet will actually last longer.
  • Grout. Standard grout will do the job, but considering an epoxy grout is a great idea. It is more flexible (meaning less cracking) over time, and is stain resistant, meaning it won’t have to be re-sealed. Why not? Well, it is more expensive and much harder to work with, but even then still worth the choice.

Upgraded carpet pads tend to be well received by homeowners.

  • Heated floor. I’ve talked about this one before, but heating a floor not only keeps your toes toasty, but actually heats the entire room more evenly. You will love it.
  • Paint caulk. In older homes one of our biggest battles is the shifting and settling of the house, which leads directly to cracks in paint lines. Helping in that battle is Shermax caulk from–you guessed it–Sherwin Williams. Most caulks have a flexibility of 10 percent or less. Meaning if the size of the gap they are covering changes more than 10%, the caulk will crack. Shermax has a flexibility of a whopping 35 percent. This is a very good thing in an older home.
  • Solid core mdf door. Two important features here. One is solid core. If you are tempted to buy the hollow core door from Home Depot for a project, snap yourself with a rubber band. Making that door solid core will improve the way it feels and sounds tremendously, and will prevent the angry teenager from punching a hole in it. And making it mdf translates into a great painting surface and a smooth painted finish.
  • LED lighting. This is really gaining momentum, so I hardly need to mention it any more, but making all of the lighting (especially recessed lights) LED instead of incandescent is well worth the extra $5 or $10 per bulb. The light is cleaner, it will last much longer, and it will use much less energy.
  • Cabinet hardware. This one has also almost become standard, but always push for full extension, soft close hardware on your drawers. And if you are feeling like a splurge, throw in the soft close doors as well. You’ll be glad you did. No more banging. Aah.

That’s all for now. I could have gone on for a few more pages, but there are too many people calling asking for work on their homes. It’s springtime and all. Time to get working!

A solid core mdf door is a big step up from its hollow peers.


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