Outdoor home improvement projects might not be on your mind right now, but winter won’t last forever and spring isn't not far away. Now is the time to start thinking about the home improvement projects you'd like to tackle this year. The Remodeling.com's Cost vs Value survey is a great place to start researching ideas, to make sure the money you invest in your home will improve your lifestyle and add to your home's value.
Does your house need a fresh coat of paint, or are your plans a bit simpler, like some new landscaping? It doesn’t matter how grand or small your ideas. It's just important to prioritize early so you can achieve your goals before you realize your window of opportunity has passed you by. (Read: Exterior Paint a Great Home Improvement Idea)
Create a Home Improvement Projects File
You can use your computer or just a note pad, but you’ll need some to save your plans. Home improvement should be fun, so choose something that suits your lifestyle, not something you think you ought to use.
If you rarely sit at your computer, then a notepad or accordion folder might be the way to go. But if technology is your middle name, then a file on your computer that you can transfer to your smartphone or iPad, is an excellent choice. You'll also want a calendar to keep track of project dates and contractor schedules.
Either way, make sure your plans are portable. If you're using paper, make sure you've got a notebook to make notes as you compare the cost of paint or mulch. If you're using your phone or tablet computer, use an app that you are familiar with. My go to app is Evernote because I can create folders for easy reference. It also allows me to save ideas for projects that I might not get to for several years. When you need to look up paint colors, or the plumber who installed those bathroom fixtures, you'll have one place to go back to for this information.
The upside with paper and pen is you can attach real color swatches and other items, such as coupons, to the pages. But there again, with your smartphone or tablet, you can snap photos and download coupons and attach those to your digital file. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, so pick what you're most comfortable using.
Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize
So now that you've got your projects organized, it's time to prioritize them. That's not an easy task because you've got to consider many factors. The most important criteria when prioritizing home improvement projects is distinguishing between things you want, and things your house needs. When you put home maintenance at the top of your priority list, you will have less stress and fewer repairs, freeing up more money for the home improvements you want.
So take the home improvement projects on your list, and use these questions to prioritize. What makes a top priority for you might not be the same for someone else, but that’s ok.
- What is the risk (time and money) of deferring maintenance? For example, delaying roof repairs or a new roof, may require you to replace insulation and paint stained drywall, plus health issues from mold.
- How much will planned home improvement projects increase the value of your home? Remodeling a kitchen or bathroom will increase your home's value more than a pool.
- How much will you save on operating costs and/or projects that improve your lifestyle? A new refrigerator can lower your electric bill. Even better is a home office that saves the cost of renting an office and/or commuting expenses.
- How many years will you enjoy the home improvement projects you're planning? A simple example is gardening. If you truly love playing in the dirt, then annuals are perfect because you can change your garden every year. But if there are other things competing for your time, why not look for perennials which you can enjoy for many years?
While prioritizing, remember the long term. Planting new shrubs out by the garden gate might cost less and take less time than repairing a rotted soffit or installing a new barbecue area out back. But a bad soffit can lead to major structural problems, so it needs attention ASAP.
Arrange your project files in at least two sections, one for what needs to be done and another for the home improvement projects you want to do when time and money permit.
Which projects do you plan to take on this year? Are you ready for them? Share your plans below, along with any questions, and we'll get back to you.