In lieu of a Facebook Live Q&A session today, I’m taking a “staycation” this week, to work with my wife on our backyard. When we relocated our company and family back home to Denver, CO in February, our new home was incredible and the yard looked good – in 6 inches of snow. But as spring and summer rolled around, it was obvious that it was time to remove the old landscape fabric, clean the rocks, and do other projects to really make this new house our “home”.

Which Home Improvements May Benefit You?

When it comes to home improvements, it is important to consider which would be the most profitable in terms of resale value. Sometimes, it’s possible to get back all, or even more, of your investment. While some improvements, such as a remodeled kitchen or added bathroom, may add value to your home, others can actually make your home more difficult to sell. For example, not all prospective homebuyers will appreciate a full spa with a whirlpool, hot tub, steam bath, and built-in stereo system. In the same way, a swimming pool could be seen as a detraction due to the maintenance required.

So, how do you know which home improvements might increase your home’s resale value? Start by researching the recent selling prices for comparable homes in your neighborhood. If most homes range from $175,000 to $250,000, your top resale price will most likely be equal to or less than $250,000, no matter how many rooms, baths, hot tubs, or skylights you add. As you consider remodeling, keep in mind that it is usually difficult to recover any costs that raise the value of your property over comparable homes in your neighborhood. You may also choose to spend less on home improvements if you are thinking about moving again in a few years.

The following interior home improvements may increase resale value:

  • An interior facelift: Repainting ceilings, walls, and interior trim can create a clean, bright, and inviting appearance.
  • A remodeled kitchen: The kitchen is viewed by many as the center of the home, and it often serves as a combination family room/workplace.
  • Addition of a second bathroom: Many prospective homebuyers want more than one bathroom.
  • Fireplace installation: Even though fireplaces may lose more heat than they provide, they do add considerable charm to a home.
  • Installation of central air conditioning: Central air conditioning could help sell your house if it is located in a warmer climate. In colder regions, buyers may be reluctant to pay extra for it because of the operating expense.

A little about backyard patios

In our case, we’re adding on to the existing patio with a small “bistro” area made with paving stones and gravel. Then we are using the same paving stones to create a walkway on the side of the house to the fence.

Installing a backyard patio is one home improvement project that may be within the capabilities of most homeowners. Although it’s a challenging job that may require a couple of weekends to finish, no special skills or complicated techniques are required. You can create a beautiful area in the backyard for grilling meals, enjoying summer nights, and entertaining friends and family.

To get started, first determine the size and shape of the patio. Circular patterns are popular, as are ovals and rectangles. Free-form shapes are fun as well, but the basic idea is to utilize the space in the best way possible.

Then, purchase the materials that you’ll need for the job. Most items can be found at local home supply stores or masonry companies. Their employees can advise you to the quantities you’ll need per square foot, and some home improvement stores even offer classes to help you along the way.

  • Patio pavers
  • Rake, shovel, and trowel
  • Landscape fabric
  • Stone dust and sand
  • Rubber mallet
  • Circular saw with masonry blade (optional)
  • Broom

Now, you’re ready to get started. Remember that the patio has to be perfectly flat, so the first step is to grade it. Rake or dig the surface dirt to loosen it, digging down about four to seven inches—depending on the height of your paver stones—until the area is fairly level. Then, lay down the landscape fabric to prevent weeds from popping through to the surface. Next, cover the landscape fabric with two or three inches of stone dust. Set aside some stone dust, so there will be enough to fill in the cracks between the pavers later. (Note: A yard of stone dust will generally be sufficient for an area of approximately 200 square feet. A yard is 1.5 tons, so you may want to have it delivered to your house.)

Before you lay the stones, you must ensure that the area is level. One way to do this involves the use of two-by-fours. Starting at one side of the patio area, push a two-by-four into the stone dust, with its wide side parallel to the perimeter, until it is level with the ground around your patio area. Then, set another two-by-four at the other side. Fill the space of your patio area with sand. Next, level the sand by running another two-by-four board over the other two, like going over train tracks. Gently pull the two-by-fours out and fill in the sand using a trowel to level it.

Now it’s time to set the stones in the sand. If you’re creating a circular pattern, be sure to start from the middle. Otherwise, you can start laying the pavers from one side and go to the other. In placing the stones, push them down slightly into the sand to set; then see if they’re level. Adjust the sand underneath by lifting the stone and setting it in place.

If you need to make cuts to paver stones at the edges, first measure the pattern you need to fill. Mark the paver accordingly, and cut into the paver with the circular saw. You’ll need to cut more than half-way through the paver; then hit it with a rubber mallet. It should break along the line you cut.

Once all the pavers are laid, spread stone dust over the patio with a push broom to fill the spaces between the pavers. Then, water it gently with a hose. Wet stone dust makes a kind of cement between the pavers to hold them securely in place. You may have to periodically spread more stone dust to freshen the patio as necessary.

The only thing left to do now is to call your friends and family, sip a cool drink, and enjoy the fruits of your labor. A stone patio can last for many years with very little maintenance, and it may be well worth the effort of a couple of weekends of hard work.

Filling the Home Improvement Gaps with Insurance

A lot of time and energy goes into adding a deck, a new bathroom, or that spare bedroom you’ve always wanted. You have to have patience in deciding on the new look you want, as well as in seeking out the right contractor or friend to help you with the job. In the excitement of the project, you may overlook updating your insurance coverage.

It is understandable that you may forget to review your policy. However, you should be aware that additional insurance coverage may be necessary if you remodel your home. Your homeowners policy will likely cover any property damage resulting from your own improvements, the work of a friend, or the work a contractor performed. Liability for the homeowner is generally covered, regardless of who did the work, but coverage for additional parties alleged to have been negligent (such as a contractor) is likely not covered by the homeowners policy. It is important that any contractor you hire for your remodeling project has liability insurance, just in case a wall comes tumbling down or someone takes a serious fall. You should be sure to obtain a liability insurance certificate from all contractors as proof of this coverage.

Updating your insurance is more than just protecting yourself in case something goes wrong while the work is in progress. Additions will result in the replacement value of your home increasing, necessitating additional insurance coverage. Remodeling will also likely increase this value, but not always. For example, if you replace a roof, it generally will not change the replacement cost of your home because the cost to replace the roof remains constant regardless of the change.

Review Your Coverage

It is smart to evaluate your insurance coverage while your remodeling project is still in a stage of development. Before starting the process, you may want to consider speaking with us to make sure your current insurance policy fits the scope of your remodeling plans. The knowledge that you are covered may help you sleep better in your new bedroom or enjoy that new deck even more.