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4 Terrific Home Improvements That Don’t Cost a Lot

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You can tap the hidden potential in your home with products and materials that make the most of the space…solve problems…and make your home more attractive and comfortable.

Here are four projects that do just that—along with what it would cost if you do them yourself or if you hire someone.*

Conceal ugly support columns in a basement. You can turn an unfinished basement into a playroom, home office, family room or whatever kind of space you need. But what to do about those ugly steel support columns?

Conceal_column

You can’t remove the basement columns, often called Lally posts, because they are structural supports. But you can make them more attractive by covering up the supports with a product called Pole-Wrap. The material is a half-inch hardwood veneer that comes in cherry, light maple or red oak and has a flexible backing. It is sold in eight-foot lengths with three different widths so that it fits most support columns. The material is installed with construction adhesive, and the top and bottom of the pole are ­finished with a matching cap and base. Pole-Wrap is presanded and requires staining or a polyurethane finish. To cover two four-inch-diameter support columns with Pole-Wrap and add caps and bases, a contractor will charge $460, which includes labor and materials. You can buy the materials and wood stain or polyurethane for $320 and do it yourself and pocket a 30% savings. For more information, go to PoleWrap.com.

Change a seldom-used bathtub into a shower with an easy replacement. If, like many home owners, you use a tub primarily for showering, you can make it easier and safer by replacing the tub with a shower stall that has a low step-over threshold.

Change a seldom-used bathtub into a shower

After the tub is removed, a preformed fiberglass shower receptor pan forms the base for the shower stall. You can get one from Sterling Ensemble that fits into a standard five-foot bathtub alcove space. The 60-by-30-inch receptor fits directly between the walls that enclosed the tub and comes in both left- and right-drain configurations. To prevent pooling water, it is molded with a slight draft toward the drain. Complete the project with a matching fiberglass wall surround kit, tile or a solid surface on the three surrounding walls, and add new faucet fixtures.

If you have a contractor do this project, expect to pay $2,900, which includes labor and materials, to remove the old bathtub and fixtures and install a new shower pan receptor, fiberglass wall surround kit and fixtures. The cost can easily double if you decide on ­ceramic tile or a solid surface wall covering such as marble. Add about $100 for a shower rod and curtain. A glass shower door can add anywhere from $200 for an inexpensive sliding door to more than $1,000 for a frameless glass door.

If you have experience with carpentry and plumbing projects, you can buy the receptor and wall surround kit at bath and home centers for $1,200 and do the job yourself. For more information, go to SterlingPlumbing.com.

Install a floor area in an unfinished attic for light storage. An accessible attic with exposed floor joists has untapped potential—all it needs is flooring to create a usable destination for all your lightweight stuff. Georgia-Pacific makes a tongue-and-groove particle­board flooring in four-by-eight-foot panels called Sturd-I-Floor (available at lumberyards and home centers) that is suitable for this purpose.

Install a floor area in an unfinished attic for light storage

Most attic floors with at least two-by-six floor joists will support light loads such as boxes of clothing and decorations, but consult a professional contractor if you want to store heavy objects such as furniture. Your local building department can be of help, too.

Nailing the flooring to the joists is a straightforward project. But getting the new flooring into the attic can be a challenge. In most attics, it’s impossible to get full four-by-eight panels up there. If that’s the case for you, cut the panels in half to make two-by-eight-foot panels. You may even have to cut these in half again to fit through a trapdoor.

Place the first panel on the joists, and nail it in place. Then use this panel as a base from which you can install the others. Be careful if you walk on the joists because putting your foot through the ceiling will cancel any potential saving that comes from doing it yourself and you could get hurt.

A contractor will charge you $473, which includes labor and materials, to lay an area of approximately 120 feet square. A handy home owner with carpentry tools and experience can do the job for $180 and pocket $293, a 62% savings. For more information, you can go to Buildgp.com/plywood-osb.

Expand outdoor storage under a raised deck with an under-deck ­ceiling. The space under a second-floor deck can become useful storage space when it’s protected from dripping rain and snow coming through the deck boards above. You can catch any runoff with an under-deck ceiling. The ­vinyl material is designed as a drainage system that attaches to the underside of a second-level deck and ­directs the water to a gutter system. This creates a ground-level outdoor room or useful space for storing bicycles and gardening equipment and other items.

Expand outdoor storage under a raised deck with an under-deck ­ceiling.

A contractor will charge $2,430, which includes labor and materials, to install an under-deck ceiling below a 14-by-20-foot deck. A DIY home owner can purchase the materials for $1,900 and pocket a 22% savings. For more information, go to UnderDeck.com.

*The DIY cost of projects is based on national average cost data from major retailers and e-commerce websites with home-improvement products. The cost of hiring a professional is determined by averaging cost and data information in several construction books that are updated annually and used by contractors to prepare job bids.

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Source: Katie and Gene Hamilton are authors of 20 home-­improvement books including Fix It and Flip It and creators of DIYorNot.com, an award-winning website about the cost of home improvements. Date: January 15, 2016 Publication: Bottom Line Personal
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