Considering a spring remodel? Why smaller, smarter projects make sense

(BPT) - Slow home sales, hard-to-get credit, and a still uncertain economy - a lot of factors are keeping people at home, these days. Many homeowners have decided to wait for the housing market to rebound before they think about putting their homes on the market. If you're among them, you can use this "time-out" to make smart, strategic home improvements that will enhance your comfort now and appeal to buyers later. Experts say it's best to make useful improvements that will attract a wide range of buyers down the road. Proceeding cautiously, homeowners are therefore thinking twice before undertaking major projects and sticking with smaller, tried-and-true improvements - like adding a bathroom or doing a minor kitchen remodel. That's what Natalie Herath did. The Albion, Pa., homeowner recently renovated her laundry room to include a full bath. "It was too hard to have just one bathroom for two people," says the newly married Herath. But her project did more than just make life easier for the couple. "It added value to our house," she notes. "I can now advertise the home with two bathrooms if I ever try to sell it." A recent National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) poll of its top builders confirms that most home-renovation projects will be small in 2011. Saving money is among the biggest trends that NARI predicts for the year. A cost-effective plumbing option For homeowners adding a bath in the attic, basement or anywhere that lacks plumbing, the cost to install drainage can be a job-stopper. Fortunately, creating a new bath need not be costly, even in spaces that lack below-floor drainage. In these situations, many plumbers recommend installing macerating, above-floor plumbing. "With a macerating, or up-flush, toilet, there is no need to break up the floor to install drainage lines," says Al Warren, a licensed plumbing contractor for more than 30 years and owner of Warren Brothers Mechanical Contractors in Stafford Springs, Conn. Warren uses Saniflo brand macerating plumbing systems. Up-flush systems pump waste and water from toilets, showers and sinks upward through small-diameter piping that transfers the waste to the sewer or septic tank. Learn more about these bathroom systems by visiting or calling (800) 571-8191. Cost-efficient kitchen concepts Kitchens are another area where you can make a big impact for less money. Many of the trends the National Kitchen and Bath Association expects to see this year are aimed at providing a new look at a lower cost. For example, if you're thinking about new cabinets, consider less costly materials, such as maple instead of cherry. Or, if new cabinets aren't in your budget, you can still achieve a new look by painting or refinishing and swapping out hardware. Replacing faucets with newer options is another way to freshen the look of a kitchen for less, and many new faucet designs offer water conservation features. Finally, some kitchen upgrades are worth spending a bit more on, such as countertops and lighting. Replacing countertops and lights is still cheaper than a complete kitchen makeover, so spending a little more to invest in features that are in demand - like granite or quartz countertops and LED lights -- may make more sense in the long run.

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