Two decades ago when Del Webb broke ground in Anthem, entertainment niches, multi-level kitchen islands and gold bathroom fixtures were all the rage. If this doesn’t ring a bell, ask any neighbor who hasn’t remodeled yet to show you what they’re stuck with.
For many homeowners, and homebuyers, these 20-year-old architectural flourishes are cringe-worthy.
Renovating can bring you joy and fresh functionality, and even if you plan to sell your house the makeovers can help you stay competitive with other homes on the market, experts say.
“The architects used the multi-level island and everyone is no longer happy with that design,” said Dale Kendall, president of Kendallwood Designs. “It doesn’t have the countertop space that the same counter has when it’s one level. It doesn’t give the openness that people want. A lot of people are redoing the island and refinishing the cabinets.”
Refinishing cabinets costs less than replacing them, Kendall said.
While both kitchen and bathroom remodels are trending high these days, kitchens tend to be the priority. “That’s what sells the home,” said MarJeanne Buckner, marketing director at Rise Above Remodeling.
The big trend in bathroom updates is a new shower and tiles, Kendall said. He added, “And countertops, sinks, faucets and lighting…” illustrating how one update inevitably leads to another in older homes.
Color preferences are shifting from cold grey to taupe, Buckner said. “We are still seeing the wood look for tile,“ she said. “Modern and clean lines still, and white subway tiles made a huge comeback. People are tired of the same old thing.”
And guys, don’t expect to do much more than nod your approval on the bathroom renovation.
“At the end of the day the woman is making the choice on the home and women really like those master bathrooms,” Buckner said.
Nix the Niches
Now that many people have less equipment and fewer wires hooked up to their TVs, putting up new drywall to remove the niches has become popular. People prefer to hang the TV on a flat wall, Kendall said. “We trim it out. It’s a lighter, more airy feeling.”
“Some have fireplaces or entertainment centers and put tile over them, or cabinets for storage,” Buckner said. “Really that’s for enjoyable personal use. That’s not going to add value to your home.”
A bigger issue often lurks underneath the kitchy features.
“Most of these houses are relatively the same,” said Nick Kahler from Creative Home Enhancements. “The one thing you run into is when you’re reframing—these walls aren’t plum and straight.”
Sometimes Kahler finds another surprise: “We open up the walls and we’ll see Happy Meal leftovers inside from the construction workers. They put them up pretty fast during the boom.”
To DIY or Not to DIY
If you fancy yourself the HGTV-type, the contractors we spoke to have two words of advice: “Start small.” As in maybe a paintbrush.
If you’re ambitious, then perhaps the best DIY project is new vinyl flooring, Kahler said. “You should get a good quality product, but it’s worth the investment. You can learn how to do that.”
And skip the plumbing and electrical projects.
“If you go in and we have to fix it, you’re paying twice,” Buckner said. “Always choose a licensed contractor especially for plumbing and electrical.”
On a Low Budget?
If you’re thinking of remodeling, Step 1 is to consider your budget. If you have only $5,000 or so to spend, the smart thing may be to simply get the house in order.
“Replace all the valves in your house so you don’t have a flood. And your smoke detectors are at the end of their life,” Kahler said. “At that price, maintenance is more important than a pretty hall bathroom.”
If you have money leftover, update your color scheme with some fresh paint and other simple cosmetic projects, says Kendall. These might even be projects you could tackle yourself.
Buckner suggests for $5,000 you might be able to fill in those ugly niches to make a showpiece wall and a dramatic statement.