If you’re looking to install new countertops in your kitchen, you’re not alone – 95% of homeowners looking to renovate say that “kitchen countertops are their top priority this year”.
This consumer buying guide covers top 15 countertop options, along with each material’s pros and cons, and the average cost to install.
What it is: You probably already know! Granite is a natural stone countertop material which has been highly prized in the kitchen for many years. It is available in a wide variety of colors and blends well with many different flooring and wall designs.
What it costs: Granite can be expensive. Prices between $100 and $250 per square foot installed are not uncommon, depending on the color of the granite, the manufacturer, and where you live.
Pros: Because granite is highly sought after and considered beautiful, the countertops will add non-depreciating value to your home. It is non-porous and sanitary, heat-resistant, and easy to clean. It does not get scratched easily.
Cons: Granite is very difficult to remove, and should be considered a “forever” upgrade, because you may have to rip out the entire counter if you get sick of it. It is expensive when compared to other common countertop materials.
It is also labor-intensive because it is so heavy, which means that it may require additional structural support than what your counters already offer. It must be sealed roughly every 10 years or so to prevent staining, and it can crack if hit by a large, heavy object.
What it is:
Not to be confused with countertops labeled “quartz” – which are actually a kind of manmade composite, consisting of about 90% quartz and 10% resin – quartzite is a relatively new solid-stone alternative to granite or engineered quartz countertops.
Quartzite is a naturally occurring rock that starts its life as a kind of sandstone and evolves into quartzite when subjected to heat and pressure. The resulting white or gray rock tends to have beautiful streaks of color, giving it the look of marble while maintaining the toughness of granite.
A word of caution, however – the term tends to be used somewhat loosely by manufacturers, so it is important to check with your supplier to find out if your quartzite is “hard” or “soft” quartzite, which will affect how durable the material is, and how often routine sealing must be done to care for it.
What it costs: $85 to $200 per square foot installed, depending on the type of quartzite you choose and where you live.
Pros: The neutral colors of quartzite look nice against almost any kitchen color scheme. Its natural swirl patterns lend a clean, modern, organic look. It is somewhat heat resistant (although protection should be used if you intend to leave a hot pot sitting for awhile).
Did you know? Quartzite is also harder than granite, making it a little more durable.
Decks and patios are lifestyle upgrades that can make your summer that much more enjoyable, whether you’re relaxing in the evening or entertaining friends on the weekend.
Expect a wood deck to cost $7.50 to $12.50 per square foot installed depending on how complex the design is and the quality of the accessories like stairs, rails and post caps used. Composite decks can cost up to $21.00 per sq. ft. installed.
Patio costs begin at about $3.50 per sq. ft. for installed concrete slabs and range to about $15.00 for thick pavers arranged in an attractive pattern.
A wood deck creates a value of up to 71% of its cost according to national statistics we’ll be quoting throughout this post. The work will take a few days to a week or more to complete depending on the scope of the project.
Replacing that Old Roof
An old roof is susceptible to wind damage and subsequent leaks that cause mold, water damage and costly repair issues. Replacing old shingles protects your home and helps improve its curb appeal, too! 😉
Summer is a great time to replace your roof because the job requires several days of continuous, warm, dry weather. Pro roofers can normally complete the work in 2+ days, depending on the size of the roof. Add a day if a tear-off of old roofing is needed.
A replacement roof will cost, on average, $4.00 to $7.50 per square foot for new asphalt shingle roofing installed, depending on the complexity of your roof and location of your home.
A new roof adds about 70% of its cost to the value of your home, and it is something that must be replaced periodically anyways. That’s surely some good bang for your buck! 😉
Installing Yard Fencing
A wooden picket fence adds charm, while a PVC privacy fence helps you enjoy your yard to the fullest. — Those are just two of the many fence options in wood, metal and plastic. The ground is dry and easy to work with in the summer, though if you happen to have clay soil, a powered posthole digger will be useful. Most fences can be installed in 1-3 days when pre-built panels are used.
Fencing ranges in price from about $8.00 for picket and split-rail fencing to more than $30.00 per linear foot for steel or faux-stone PVC fencing installed. The taller and denser the fencing is, the higher the cost will be. While ROI isn’t tracked statistically, an attractive fence definitely makes a house more enjoyable and easier to sell.
Replacing your Home’s Siding
Are you tired of the peeling paint on the exterior of your home, yet? If so, then it’s time to consider installing a suitable siding rather than repainting yet again.
Siding is not only used for its aesthetics, but it can also protect your home against the elements, moisture and insects. It makes sense to have the siding installed or replaced in good weather to keep your sheathing dry and to help assure the work can be completed in a timely manner, usually less than a week for most single family homes.
Vinyl siding cost averages $7.50 to $12.50 per sq. ft. installed; fiber cement siding can cost some 20% to 30% more than vinyl, and must be installed by seasoned pros. One advantage of fiber cement over the less-expensive vinyl siding, is that it will not melt when subjected / exposed to extreme solar radiant heat such as when there is accidental solar lensing caused by neighboring windows or your porch / addition windows focusing the sunlight on a part of your home’s exterior. The ROI on new siding is an attractive 76%. If you opt for manufactured stone veneer on any part of the home, that option can have an ROI of almost 90%!
No matter how moderate the climate, Mother Nature has always been full of surprises. Anticipation of, preparation for, cold weather can be a relatively inexpensive and simple process. Ignoring the possibility of unseasonably cold weather can be very expensive and have very complicated results.
Note: Portions of this guide are standard operating procedure for folks who live in Buffalo, Minneapolis, and even Atlanta and Memphis. But, inevitably, there are just as many homeowners in Houston, Las Vegas, and even Miami who can get caught unprepared. In any case, we’ve endeavored to address topics of value in all regions of the nation, as well as some considerations that are usually overlooked in other resources.
This guide also covers subjects other than those which common-sense and worst-case scenarios dictate — cleaning your gutters, stocking up on non-perishable groceries, water, batteries and supplies – to include sufficient rock salt to keep walkways free of icy buildup.
Pro Tip: In addition to portable chargers for autos, computers and cell phones, make sure that you have portable light sources and plenty of batteries to power them. If you have a generator, make sure that you have an adequate supply of gasoline & oil, which can also provide back up for vehicles.
The options are clear: Spend a few dollars and hours to plan ahead for 4 months of lower temperatures. Or, wait ‘til the last minute and try to find the commodities or service companies that are still available or affordable. Once the weather warms up, you’ll still be living with the outcome. Indefinitely, or for at least the next 8 months.
Low cost and no cost resources
No matter what your budget may be, whether you can afford any budget or not, “free advice” can actually, often, be worth a lot more than what you pay for.
Certified plumbers, roofers, HVAC contractors, insulation dealers and other specialists within the construction industry routinely offer “free” surveys, inspections or provide such at a nominal cost.
Depending upon many variables such as the size, age, condition and location of the home, among others … e.g., evaluations and information from reputable sources can range from $0.00 – $200.00 in Houston, TX, up to twice as much in New York City for a 20 year-old, 2000 – 2200 s.f. home.
Obviously, contractors are usually going to try and sell you something. The burden of judgment and credibility falls on the consumer. But a bit of common sense and follow-through with a few local references can assure that the following issues are legit, those not mentioned should be considered and whether the cost / benefit ratio of hiring an expert versus beginning a DIY project, makes “dollars and sense”.
There are innumerable “review” forums, web sites and other organizations (such as the BBB) that are focused on income, rather than credible information. Any uninformed or unreasonable consumer has a license to rant.
Talk directly to the companies and to their previous, local, clientele. ignore the nonsense published on the internet or touted in TV commercials. Trust your own judgment, rather than anonymous strangers’ commentary.
The obvious physical risks aside, evaluating a home’s roof can be one of the most challenging winter preparations for the lay homeowner.
Potential problems presented by a change in the weather are not always visible to the untrained eye.
The added weight of snowfalls, the contraction of materials due to the lower temperatures, can exacerbate any drying, cracking or gaps that otherwise appear to be negligible. Again, the folks who offer such services at no, or little, charge have an incentive to find (exaggerate?) any defects.
Obtaining a 2nd or 3rd opinion will often reveal a consensus or contradictions among the professionals, but you will have more information and insight than from “checking” that all the shingles appear to be in tact.
There are too many variables – from climate to materials to regular preventive maintenance – in estimating the life expectancy of a roof.
Among a number of contractors, manufacturers and trade associations surveyed, realistic averages for the 2 most common residential materials are:
Asphalt shingles. Whether rated as “20 years”, “25 years” or “30 years”, major repairs or complete replacement may be needed in 75% – 80% of that time. Using our “typical”, 2,000 s.f. home, the expense of complete replacement would approximate $7,500.
Metal roofs. Routinely, initially, more expensive, these systems can last up to 40 years with proper maintenance. Correspondingly, construction costs will average $14,500.
Certainly, the investment can be significantly higher, depending on the locale, configuration or related defects requiring repair.
In either case, a new roof is one of the few home improvements that can hold its value at completion, may even add ~ 5% value initially. — Obviously, this applies to existing roofs that are in poor condition or are soon to be. Obviously, replacing a roof in sound condition, halfway through its life expectancy does not make “dollars and sense”.
Ignoring inflation or higher prices in the future, let’s assume a properly maintained “25 year” roof should last for 20 years. At $7,500 for new installation, neglect can “cost” $375 per year. For example, replacement after only 16 years is a waste of 4 x $375 = $1,500! For more expensive original materials, increased replacement costs will be proportionate. — Weigh this against the routine expense of simple remedies such as:
Roof moss Removal. Materials – $10 of household cleaning products. Labor – $100 to $200
Cracked or missing shingles $300 – $400 per 100 s.f. installed.
Roof ventilation & insulation. As the exterior roof protects the home’s interior, so should the underside of the roof be protected from the interior. Attic ceilings should be well-ventilated and insulated in order to prolong the integrity of the system by minimizing differentials in temperature and humidity. One sf of ventilation will service approximately 150 s.f. of surface area.
Arbitrarily factoring pitched and gabled roofs, let’s assume a 3,000 s.f. roof. Each of 20 vents and the accompanying insulation will average a total, one time, expense of $35 – $40 per unit. The value accumulates over the course of each year. If 10 are added to the original construction to make a full complement of 20, the cost is recouped with the 1st year of extended life.
Ice dams. There are certainly hi-tech systems to prevent the accumulation of ice, snow and icicles that impede drainage of water and melt. A simple, less expensive method of dealing with occasional, incidental, build up is a nylon stocking or fine mesh fabric filled with calcium chloride. As needed, place them wherever buildup occurs. DIY costs – Less than $20.
Two warnings here: The freeze-retardant and saturated melt may damage plants immediately below. Cover vegetation with plastic. If you live in an area where freezes are rare, you may want to remove the stockings from your gutters and rooftop afterwards. Otherwise, the neighbors may begin to gossip about your wild parties.
A thorough inspection may cost $100 – $300 (or a bit more), but taking an amateur approach upon yourself is, “playing with fire”.
In either event the condition of both the exterior and interior will include a checklist of numerous points.
Quantifying “recouped” value is simply a matter of comparing the expense of having your house burn down … along with all the possessions, people and pets that may be inside.
Confirm that there is a chimney cap, in good repair, clean and properly installed. This will prevent snow, debris or obstructions to proper ventilation.
Remove any tree limbs above or near the chimney.
Assure that all mortar and bricks are in excellent condition and that the chimney crown is at least 2 feet above the roofline. Ideally, the crown should also be beveled, in order to enhance airflow. The flue liner should be visible.
The chimney must be perpendicular to the horizontal axis (not leaning) and the roof’s flashing must be free of any gaps around the chimney.
Use a quality flashlight that provides high illumination. Check the flu damper, making sure that it is clean and opens, closes and seals properly.
Turn off the flashlight and open the damper. Looking upward, you should see daylight throughout the entirety of the ventilation shaft. If not, turn the flashlight back on and remove any obstructions.
Carefully inspect the hearth, surround and the entirety of the firebox to assure that there is absolutely NO damage or deterioration. Signs of moisture may indicate a faulty cap.
Also, check for obvious signs of moisture inside the firebox, which could mean a faulty cap.
Inspect glass doors, latches and screens.
Position logs securely and as designed.
With the gas turned off, test the igniter.
Turn the gas back on, light the fireplace and look for clogged burners. Clean with a pin or needle as needed.
These fundamental tips are not all-inclusive, but will allow some understanding of what a professional inspector or repair technician should be addressing. — This is one area of home maintenance or winterizing where “saving money” as a DIY project is not recommended. An expert can perform all routine services for $100 – $150.