Two Grand Can Make Your House Grand, Too

By Heidi Stevens

For $2,000, you can replace your kitchen countertops or retile your bathroom — maybe even both, depending on your chosen materials. You’ll increase the value of your home and bask daily in the glow of shiny new surfaces.

But isn’t that a little conventional? How about taking that same $2,000 and venturing beyond the obvious. We turned to three home improvement experts for some unexpected project ideas, most of which you can tackle yourself, and all of which can be done for under two grand.

 

“People often focus on resale rather than standard of living,” says Genevieve Gorder, host of HGTV’s “Dear Genevieve.” “But if you show a house that’s lived in really well, people pick up on that. And if you create an oasis for yourself while you live there, even better.”

Give your door a makeover. “The front door is the handshake that greets your guests,” says Amy Hughes, features editor at This Old House magazine. Install a new entry set — bronze, nickel and iron are just a few of the finish options, add a kick plate, an elegant-looking knocker and a coat of paint, and you can transform the face of your home.

“For around $500 or less, you can do something really snazzy looking, and you can literally do it in about an hour,” Hughes says.

If your door is old and worn, you can replace it entirely and still stay within your $2,000 budget. Tom Kraeutler, host of “The Money Pit,” a nationally syndicated home improvement radio show, says a fiberglass door is a great investment. “They’re just gorgeous,” he says. “They look like wood, but they’re about five times more energy efficient than wood and stronger than wood.” Most manufacturers let you choose from a variety of finishes and styles. (Kraeutler recommends Therma-Tru Doors at thermatru.com.)

Paint your kitchen cabinets. “You can really clean up the look of your kitchen if you take your time and do a good quality paint job,” says Kraeutler. “Sand them and prep them properly and use a semi-gloss or gloss as the finish.” Have some fun scouring hardware stores and online retailers for new cabinet and drawer knobs. (“We call that the bling,” Kraeutler says.)

Let there be light. “The lighting in your house should let you move through the day in a way that’s seamless and comfortable,” says Gorder. “It’s very irritating if a light is too bright when you’re trying to wind down or there’s not enough light when you need it.”

Gorder suggests a whole-house lighting makeover. “Every room needs the option to change the feeling throughout the day — dimmers, table lamps, floor lamps, sconces.” (Not all at once, of course.)

Hughes suggests transforming your recessed lighting — “which is really more of an ’80s look” — into pendant lighting. With the aid of a can converter kit (canconverter.com), you can change the look of a tiny nook or an entire room. “Over the kitchen sink is a nice place, or a series of them over an island. Pendant lighting starts at about $75. For $250, you can get a really beautiful pendant light.”

Replace your garage door. “The garage accounts for 33 percent of the average American home’s front-facing facade,” says Hughes. “As we’ve moved away from the detached garages of the 1950s, they’ve become fully integrated into the footprint of the house. Often it’s the first thing people see.”

New doors start at around $500 and can fetch as much as $10,000, she says. But $2,000 lands you squarely in the realm of good-quality, sharp-looking doors. “Carriage house-style doors used to be solely in the domain of the custom-door market. But you can get a door that looks like an old-school swing-out door that’s actually a conventional roll-up door.” Door color, window configuration and decorative hardware are all yours to determine. The install, Hughes says, is best left to the pros. “It isn’t a DIY-friendly job,” she says. “But a pro install starts at a couple hundred dollars.”

Make it green

Energy efficiency is always a great place to sink a few thousand dollars, say our experts. Consider these two steps.

Bathroom fixtures: Kraeutler recommends transitioning to WaterSense-labeled products, which have been certified by the Environmental Protection Agency for water efficiency and performance quality. “They use less water,but they’re engineered to do the job,” he says. “Years ago those water-saving faucets were like a trickle. They’ve gotten so much better. You can even get a rain shower shower head that’s WaterSense certified.”

Fireplace doors: “You can get a really nice set of fireplace doors for around $400,” says Hughes. “That’s going to keep air from infiltrating your house, but also from escaping. People usually think windows and doors, but forget about that big, gaping hole in the living room.”

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