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7 sure signs it’s time to remodel

When it comes to diving into a home remodeling project, homeowners take their time. Often, a long, long time.

Procrastination seems to come with the territory. Of some 7,000 folks who shared detailed kitchen remodel plans on the home design website Houzz last year, just one-third had actually taken the first step.

Usually, it’s a major lifestyle change that finally inspires homeowners to take the plunge, said Domenic Cortese, president and CEO of Cortese Construction Services in Buffalo, citing the birth of a new baby, retirement or special needs resulting from aging. But there are less drastic indications that the time is right. Here are seven reasons to pull the trigger on an upgrade.

1. Colors or materials scream a past decade

If stepping into the kitchen or bath is like entering a time warp, you or a previous homeowner probably got sucked into a trend whose time has passed. “Avocado and harvest gold kitchens once permeated our culture,” said Cortese.  But it goes beyond that era. Choices that seemed safe at one time, such as oak cabinetry from the ‘80s and ‘90s, can peg a room design to a specific decade, as well.

“Cabinet painting is huge right now,” said Bill Darling, president of Darling Paint Company in Buffalo. This makes sense because often those old cabinets have value, even if they’re dated; made of solid wood, they are of higher quality than today’s laminate offerings, Darling said. “You’re much better off salvaging what you have, and a lot of times it’s the most affordable way to go.”

Smoothing out textured or popcorn ceilings and removing dated wallpaper are other popular local jobs for Darling. As for putting up new, modern wallpaper in its place? “I’d say we did wallpaper in about 12 houses last year,” Darling said, out of a pool of at least 1,000 jobs. The price of wallpaper has skyrocketed and homeowners, in general, desire a more maintenance-free lifestyle.

2. Appliances keep up a steady hum

It’s not just that a noisy refrigerator or dishwasher is annoying. Newer appliances don’t make noise, so if yours do, it probably means they predate today’s energy-efficiency standards. From a return on investment perspective, it can make long-term sense to replace older appliances with Energy Star-rated models, which can result in energy savings of up to 50 percent. Ice buildup in the freezer, veggies freezing in the crisper, and longer oven preheating and cooking times also are signs that your appliances are showing their age. But buyer beware: there is some new controversy that suggests not all Energy-Star rated appliances are created equal, said Cortese.

Also beware of choosing aesthetics over function or reputation when it comes to appliances; Cortese said one of the biggest problems he sees is when homeowners choose an unproven or unreliable brand simply based on looks. His advice? Research your options in Consumer Reports, and “buy American.”

3. Rooms and features are going unused

Many of Cortese’s clients are doing away with the formal dining room. “Homeowners have two tables, 10 feet apart, one in the dining room and one in the kitchen,” said Cortese. “One is never used, one is always used.” To remedy that, some homeowners are knocking down the wall between the two rooms to create one cohesive and open space. This follows the trend in new home builds, which typically feature large, open living spaces.

Another big trend: “People are getting rid of the whirpool tub they never use,” said Cortese. They are often found in higher-end homes built in the 1980s and  ‘90s. Usually, they’re being replaced with oversized showers, which fit today’s busy lifestyles. “People don’t take baths - they don’t have time.”

4. You are at home more than ever

When the recession hit, people started spending more time at home; but even though the economy is stablizing, those habits have stuck — and homeowners are making improvements, especially to their outdoor living spaces.

Darling said for that reason he’s seen a big influx in outdoor projects this past year, including refinishing and improving decking, re-sanding pavers, resealing stamped concrete and improving fences.

5. You plan to sell

Cortese said that sometimes it’s necessary to make improvements before putting your home on the market. But it doesn’t have to be extensive or expensive. Instead of doing an entire kitchen renovation, for example, Cortese said you can make your space more appealing by neutralizing colors, painting cabinets and/or adding new countertops and flooring.

6. You see telltale signs of leaks or mold

While water damage and mold growth aren’t always visible, clues include “paint or drywall bubbling up around showers, warping around the bottom of the vanity, and cracks in the tile grout,” said Dan Gean, co-owner of Gean Remodeling & Co., North Liberty, Indiana. A severe problem with leakage or mold may necessitate gutting the bathroom down to the studs.

7. You decide to stay put for the long haul

As peoples’ lives change, they often need new spaces - whether it’s more room or rooms with different functions. Sometimes it makes sense to move, said Cortese, but sometimes it’s less expensive to stay in place.

“In most cases, we can repurpose and save homeonwers money when you factor in all the costs,” said Cortese, referring to moving costs plus the money needed to do improvements at the new house, such as updates or landscaping.

Of course, there are always exceptions, said Cortese.

“Sometimes the new design is so extreme, I tell them to move.”

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