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Deck Lites is a small blog about local and national news regarding the construction, upkeep and enjoyment of decks, indoor and outdoor structures and home renovation trends. 

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Home Improvement Return on Investment

Posted by decksandeffects on November 28, 2014 at 8:05 PM Comments comments (0)

We found a very interesting article from

With the economy recovering and unemployment receding, Americans are stepping up to the plate to remodel their homes. But not all home improvement projects are created equal. Some homeowners will spend a few hundred dollars to spruce up modestly, others will invest thousands in a major remodel.


Not all of these projects will result in significant return on investment.


You may not be planning to sell your home in the short term, but it’s smart planning to at least know where you’ll get the best bang for the buck on improvements. The answers may surprise you.


Topping the annual ROI list for Remodeling magazine in 2014 was—drumroll, please—a 20-gauge steel front door. The magazine estimates the total cost of the new door for a midrange home at $1,162, but says the improvement adds $1,122 to the home’s value, a whopping 96.6 percent return on investment when the home is sold.


Conversely, way down Remodeling’s list of ROI for improvements: home office conversions and sunroom additions, both of which can be expected to return only about half of their investment.


Why steel doors? “In part, it’s because the cost for a professional to install is relatively low—all you have to do is hang the door,” said Craig Webb, Executive Editor of Remodeling, which compared results for 35 popular remodeling projects. “Compare that with the amount of time, effort and planning to do a kitchen or bath. The perceived value by realtors is very good, relative to the cost.”


But generally, unless home valuations in your area are on a tear, expecting anything close to a 100-percent return on outlay is unrealistic, experts say.


Kitchen remodels typically have the best ROI, followed by bathrooms, decks, and siding.

“The most you’re likely to recoup from any project is 85 percent of what you spent,” said Cheryl Reed, a spokesperson for Angie’s List. Angie’s List polls its service providers—realtors and remodelers—to estimate return on investment for home improvement projects. Reed says the company finds kitchen remodels typically have the best ROI, followed by bathrooms, decks, and siding, all at about 80 percent.


Reed and others caution that neighborhood standards can vary. If you live in a gated community full of pools and three-car garages, a home with a tiny garage or missing pool might be at a disadvantage when it comes time to sell. By contrast, adding a pool or expanding the garage might not be smart if you live in a more modest neighborhood—those upgrades might be out of step with what potential homeowners want.


Talk to trusted contractors and real estate agents in your area ahead of any big projects. They'll help you understand what local buyers are looking for.

Our advice: Talk to trusted contractors and real estate agents in your area ahead of any big projects. They can help you better understand what local buyers are looking for. “You need to get to a granular level as much as possible,” added Reed.


Selling a home isn't usually a snap decision. For most of us, there are months or perhaps years of planning and painstaking decision-making leading up to the day we plant a For Sale sign on the front lawn. In the meantime, you might as well invest in home improvements you can enjoy, too.


The Kitchen

Remodeling says that, nationwide, a “minor” kitchen remodel—costing an average of $18,856—recoups its investment at 82.7 percent. (Remodeling’s survey results are broken down by region and major cities; results vary geographically.)


“In home-buying, women are usually the decision-makers, and guess where she goes first?” asked Steve Seus, a San Diego-based agent with Big Block Realty. “The kitchen is the top priority. Even if the buyers aren’t cooks, she still wants to see updated appliances.”


Kitchen remodels typically offer the best ROI at the time of sale.

Major appliances—ovens, fridges, dishwashers—usually represent the bulk of the outlay for a kitchen remodel, but it’s worth paying attention to finishes and brands.


“Stainless and granite are the buzzwords, and you want mass appeal,” said Jay Hart, principal at Sold With Style, a New York-based pre-sale consulting firm. “We also encourage people to do a tile backsplash. It’s a little more expensive, but don’t cut corners here.”


Avoid more unique, taste-specific finishes—simple and classic always wins, and a neutral palette is less confrontational. Remember: Most homebuyers won’t have an appetite for major remodels after moving in, so a look virtually anyone can get along with will sell better.


Avoid high-end products unless that’s what the neighborhood demands. "If your price point doesn’t support Wolf or Sub-Zero, you’re not going to recoup that investment," said Hart.

For appliances, it’s helpful to match brands, but you should avoid high-end products unless that’s what the neighborhood demands. “If your price point doesn’t support Wolf or Sub-Zero, you’re not going to recoup that investment,” said Hart. “GE Profile and LG are good brands people recognize and appreciate, at a fraction of the price.”


Bonus: By dodging premium appliances, you’ll avoid overshooting your budget.


“Buying mid-tier appliances will allow you to freshen up your kitchen with new backsplash or faucets, and maybe refresh the face of your cabinets,” said Elizabeth Dodson of, an online hub for tracking home improvement and maintenance projects.


The options for cheap upgrades are endless. New cabinet pulls and light switches might cost just a few dollars apiece. Faucets and doorknobs are two more low-price, high-impact improvements.


The Bath

Rating a close second for ROI behind kitchens, bathroom remodels tend to be less about brands and more about style and features.


A couple decades ago, whirlpool tubs were the rage. No more. Homebuyers want that real estate devoted to larger showers with seamless glass doors, and amenities like steam heads and in-floor radiant heat. But it still pays to keep different kinds of potential buyers in mind.


“If you might be selling your house to a family with children, you need a tub somewhere.”

“If you might be selling your house to a family with children, you need a tub somewhere,” Reed reminded us. Similarly, homes in neighborhoods that appeal to boomers and retirees benefit by having accessibility features for aging in place—standards that companies like Kohler are starting to address. The best of these designs look straight out of a boutique hotel, not a nursing home.


The best bathroom remodels emphasize spacious design.

Quality brands still matter—like Moen for fixtures and Toto for toilets—though not as much as they do in kitchens. But after you’ve spruced up the kitchen, financial resources for a bathroom remodel might be tight.


Neutral color palettes reduce the risk that your bathroom will look like the last decade’s leftovers.

“A fantastic investment is re-glazing the tubs and tile floors,” suggested Hart, who says an entire bathroom can be re-glazed for about $1,500, a fraction of what it would cost to gut it and replace everything. “Re-glazing doesn’t create a dream bathroom, but it can make that porcelain tub look almost new.”


As with kitchens, neutral color palettes reduce the risk that your bathroom will look like the last decade’s leftovers.


When remodeling an older bathroom, don’t cut corners with the budget. In older homes, galvanized steel plumbing may need upgrading, in addition to other potential surprises that might be revealed once drywall is removed.


And Beyond...

There are other improvements that offer impressive bang for your buck when it comes time to sell. According to Remodeling, a quality wood deck can return 87.4 percent of its cost (estimated to average $9,539). Not usually counted in the square footage for a home, a deck not only adds usable space to a home’s living area, but also makes it seem like a better entertaining venue.


There are plenty of ways to improve a home’s value without dipping so deep into the piggy bank.

And there are plenty of ways to improve a home’s value without dipping so deep into the piggy bank. Take refinishing hardwood floors, for example.


“In the 50s and 60s, the trend was to cover up hardwood with carpeting,” said Seus. “Now it’s the opposite; buyers want to see that living room and dining room with beautiful, finished hardwood floors.” Experts say leaving hardwood in suboptimal condition means leaving money on the table.


A well-chosen light fixture can add drama to a room. 

Lighting fixtures are another modest investment that can pay off handsomely—especially in the entryway and dining room. “Plus, you can exclude them in the sale price and take it with you to your next place," said Hart. "Or use them as a negotiating point to sweeten the deal.”


But don’t overlook less sexy repairs that need to be tackled to make your home salable. Your front door may not need to be replaced, but a quick paint job will make the entryway—the first thing visitors see—more attractive and inviting.


“The old adage that kitchens sell homes tends to be true,” explained Cincinnati realtor Jake Cain. “But if you have a pristine kitchen and have drywall in the bathroom that needs to be patched, you still need to fix that before you sell.”


If that front door or drywall is an eyesore, repairing it now—before you have to—means you get to appreciate the benefits while you still live in the home.

To see the original posting:



Benefits of a Pergola

Posted by decksandeffects on April 4, 2014 at 8:35 PM Comments comments (0)

From an article in:

A pergola is an outdoor room with cross rafters and no walls that provides a light, airy and inviting space to relax, dine or just admire. Pergolas are much larger than arbors and are generally freestanding, but can be attached to another building. You can also add lattice for more shade and to accommodate climbing vines. Because this structure can be freestanding, you won't need to make any complicated connections between the house or roof and the pergola, which is a definite advantage for do-it-yourself homeowners and the budget.

Free-Standing Design Element

A pergola creates visual interest, particularly if you have flowering and fragrant vines growing up and over the rafters and down the vertical posts. You can also dress up a pergola by hanging planters or other design elements from the rafters. Draping all-weather fabrics from one vertical post to another adds a soft flowing effect and a romantic appeal to your landscape while providing even more protection from the elements, a definite advantage over an open patio.

Maximizes Outdoor Space

Adding a pergola maximizes your usable outdoor space by adding an area for outdoor furniture that is somewhat protected from the elements, particularly if one wall of the structure is attached to your home or an outbuilding. This creates a windbreak and shelter from the rain. A freestanding pergola can still afford you the same benefit by building it in a protected area, an advantage over a patio that can't be moved.

Working the Angles

A distinct advantage to a pergola over a standard patio roof is that you determine how much sun and shade the pergola provides. By observing the area where you intend to build and taking into account the season, time of day and the angle at which the sun shines, you will know how to angle your rafters. You determine how much sun or shade the pergola provides by varying the size, spacing and orientation of the rafters.


About the Author:

Based in Atlanta, Valerie Liles has been writing about landscape and garden design since 1980. As a registered respiratory therapist, she also has experience in family health, nutrition and pediatric and adult asthma managment. Liles holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Colorado State University and a Master of Science in technical communication from the University of Colorado.

Indoor Remodeling Trends

Posted by decksandeffects on September 30, 2012 at 12:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Deck Lites

Exerpt from USA Today's Renewal Series ran April 17, 2012

"Before it was curb appeal, showiness and keeping up with the Joneses," says Duo Dickinson, author of Staying Put: Remodel Your House to Get the Home You Want (Taunton Press.)


Now, he says, Americans are going back to the future as they try to create permanent, family homes that reflect who they are. "The house is the most direct mirror of your personal values," he says. "When people renovate to change their lives, they waste money," but when they renovate to improve how they already live, they benefit.


Levine agrees. Before a project starts, he says, "It's really important for homeowners to know what's bothering them about the house." He says if they can't identify the problem, they may not find the right solution.


What are homeowners seeking?


• Outdoor connection. Dickinson says the single biggest overall trend is homeowners craving to be connected to the outdoors, via larger windows, decks or porches.


"Since the advent of smartphones and laptops, people have found their visual focus is about 1 foot away," he says, adding they need a release from that. "Homes are more permeable. We have many more garden designs than before."


Vegetable gardens, too. Many homeowners are indulging their outdoor craving, and the push to eat local, by creating a homestead that grows food and — in some cases — even raises livestock.


• Livable kitchens. "The kitchen is the new living room," says Dickinson, so he says Americans want cushioned seating at the counter or in a built-in banquette. He says homeowners also want the kitchen to multitask as a recycling center and a spot to recharge laptops. He says they're shifting from wall cabinets, which can block views to a living area, toward walk-in pantries for storage.


• More open floor plans. Many homeowners want kitchens that connect not only to a living room but also to a dining area and the outdoors. "They want more light and openness," says Richard Loosle of Kube Architecture, a Washington D.C.-based firm that remodels many row houses.


• Togetherness. With this open-living core, there's "a return to togetherness, a countertrend to the 1990s when everyone fled the great room," Jill Waage of Better Homes and Gardens said February in a presentation at the International Builders Show. "Now we're flocking back." She says Wi-Fi and headphones allow individuals to remain in the same room while doing different activities.


• Smaller master baths. Kitchens may be opening up, but many master baths are shrinking. "We're doing away with spa tubs. We're reclaiming that space for larger showers and vanities," says Josh Baker of BOWA, a high-end remodeler in the nation's capital. He says his clients now focus more on quality, timeless finishes and less on size.


• Better use of space. Rather than expand, homeowners are looking to reconfigure existing space to make it work better. Readers surveyed last year by Better Homes and Gardens said they wished for a home with 1,856 square feet — down from 1,914 square feet in 2010.


• Energy efficiency. "Windows, insulation and doors were the 1, 2, 3 for energy efficiency" upgrades requested by clients in the last quarter of 2011, says Melman of the National Association of Home Builders. A close fourth was more efficient heating and cooling, or HVAC, equipment.


"Show me the money" is what Connecticut-based architect Dickinson hears from clients about green renovations. He says consumers want retrofits, as long as they pay for themselves within 10 years.


Federal tax credits for more efficient doors, windows, roofs and HVAC systems expired in December, but they remain in effect through 2016 for solar panels, geothermal heat pumps, solar water heaters, small wind turbines and fuel cells.


• Mudrooms or "drop zones." "Mudrooms have burgeoned in size," Dickinson says, as Americans seek to reduce clutter and bring order to their homes. He says those who don't have the space for a mudroom are asking for a basic "drop zone" to put shoes.


• Universal design. As Baby Boomers enter their golden years, they're seeking to stay in their homes by building wheelchair-accessible ramps, wider hallways and step-free showers. "

People are putting money into improving the homes they have, as the housing market struggles to recover.

Posted by decksandeffects on September 30, 2012 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Deck Lites

Exerpt from story ran on September 26, 2012 in USA Today


"6:11PM EST September 26. 2012 - As the housing market climbs out of the cellar, home improvement sales are through the roof.


Online purchases of home-related goods took priority over back-to-school-spending for families this summer, according to a study released Tuesday from IBM Smarter Commerce.


It's a trend that's also driving sales in brick-and-mortar home improvement stores from mom-and-pop hardware shops to Home Depot, which hammered out its highest quarterly earnings report last month in five years at $1.5 billion. The home improvement market was big enough in Uniontown, Ohio, for Wayne and Howard Miller to open what they call the largest independently owned hardware store, Hartville Hardware, in July, with a seven-acre retail space.

Outdoor furniture producer Lane Venture has seen its best sales in years, due to the growing popularity of "outdoor rooms," entertaining spaces furnished with patio recliners and swivel rockers, says President Gary McCray.


More people are buying items for their homes online. The IBM report showed sales were up 30% in July from last year and 25.5% in August for home-related items, a category which includes anything from house paint to appliances to furniture. The report analyzes online shopping trends from more than 500 leading retailers.


The home-related sales stand out in an otherwise underwhelming shopping season, says IBM global strategy program director Jay Henderson. He says consumers are "hunkering down" in the still-struggling housing market.


"People are choosing not to move into a new house, and instead re-invest in their homes," says Henderson.


For Jamie Saunders, 38, it wasn't a choice. She and her husband wanted to put their house in Alpharetta, Ga., on the market and take advantage of low mortgage interest rates, but found they didn't qualify for the loan they wanted.


"Despite having never missed a mortgage payment in 11 years, never having been out of employment since of working age, we would not qualify for a loan to upgrade our current living situation," she says. Instead, she opted to buy new siding and windows, as well as a washer and dryer, in the past year. "



Top Decking Trends: Bringing the "Inside Out"

Posted by decksandeffects on May 6, 2010 at 4:03 PM Comments comments (0)


Deck Lites is a small blog about local and national news regarding the construction, upkeep and enjoyment of decks.



With all of the homebuilding and remodeling shows that occur every year, in addition to the 24 hour influx of information from channels such as "HGTV," homeowners continue to think bigger and strive to enhance their outdoor living space with amenities like kitchens, fireplaces, firepits, pools, spas, pergolas and bars. The typical deck is becoming a major design factor, particularly when remodeling a home.

Because of the recent economic downturn, individuals are traveling less for vacations, instead, embracing the idea of "staycations." Homeowners want a year-round atmosphere of a spa retreat, night time hotspot or a resort pool at home. What better way to spend your money, than investing in your own home?

As the economy starts to recover, we have seen a significant up-tick in requests from homeowners who want a new deck or want to update an existing deck to include an outdoor entertaining/living area.

Here are some of the latest trends in decks that can help you create an exciting backyard retreat:

Increased Square Footage

The simple 10x20 deck will no longer do. People are building decks that can occasionally rival the square footage of thier main floor indoor living!

Using your Deck all Year

Homeowners are extending their deck usage well beyond the spring and summer by utilizing firepits, fireplaces and that extra deck space for outdoor Christmas decorations!

Outdoor Kitchens

Another huge trend is creating an outdoor kitchen that goes beyond the typical grill. A kitchen that incorporates additional cooktop surfaces, cabinets, countertops, refrigerators and sinks can accomodate small evening gatherings to large summer parties!


Probably one of the hottest trends besides the outdoor kitchen, pergolas come in a multitude of shapes and sizes and are the perfect topping to the outdoor living space! No structures to take down, no canopies to wash and best of all - no fear of the wind destroying your deck cover!


Additional deck trends:

Ultra-low maintenance decking

Deck railing accessories

Deck lighting

2010 Decking Trends

Posted by decksandeffects on April 25, 2010 at 11:35 PM Comments comments (1)

Deck Lites is a small blog about local and national news regarding the construction, upkeep and enjoyment of decks.

From recent article by Home Experts Team

It’s that time of year, and after such a long, cold winter, we are all dying to get outdoors and enjoy some time on the deck. But how many of you walked outside in the past few weeks and realized that your deck was in dire need of staining and repair, or that your outdoor living space wasn’t all that is could be?

If the answer is yes, you are not alone.  Although the economy and the real estate market are showing signs of improvement, more and more people are choosing to invest in their current property and enhance their outdoor living space.  This is one of those improvements that hold its value come resale time, and a new deck is typically the first place to start.

According to AIA’s Home Design Trends Survey, Q1, 2008 and NAHB, Home of the Future Study, 2007, the outdoor living market has seen a 50 percent increase in just five years.  Growing interest in blended indoor/outdoor space is fueling demand for outdoor products and amenities, such as decking materials.

“Many homeowners are choosing the “staycation” route, spending more quality time in their backyards over traveling to take big summer vacations,” says Edie Kello, Director of Marketing for Fiberon, a composite decking manufacturer and IMRE client. “Enjoying a more relaxed lifestyle, homeowners want to have an outdoor living space that keeps its beauty year after year with little effort.”

There are many options to consider when building a new deck.  While many people still build decks with traditional wood, the alternative decking industry has exploded in recent years thanks to the performance features that composite and PVC decking and new surface technologies offer.

“In addition to stain, fade and scratch resistant attributes, aesthetics are at the top of the list when choosing a new deck,” says Kello.  “Customers considering alternative decking prefer the look of realistic wood colors and graining.  The industry has evolved in recent years and there are many options available that deliver durability and beauty that lasts.”

Welcome to Deck Lites

Posted by decksandeffects on April 19, 2010 at 9:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Deck Lites is a small blog about local and national news regarding the construction, upkeep and enjoyment of decks.

A recent excerpt from "The Neighborhood"  by Servicemagic.

According to Remodeling Magazine's 2009 Cost vs. Value Report, deck additions are currently one of the smartest investments a homeowner can make. Remodeling Magazine's annual Cost vs. Value Report is a comprehensive national survey of the average costs, resale values, and percentage of costs recouped of some of the most home improvements on the market. It's a great resource for homeowners across the country in helping to determine which projects will net the highest returns, and for getting an idea of what to expect regarding the average cost of major projects. Some of the more interesting excerpts from this report include:

Deck Additions On the Rise: 2009

Decks don't just promise high returns for homeowners, they're also one of the few home improvements on Remodeling Magazine's radar whose re-sale values and recoup percentages have maintained their position on the list of projects with the highest recoup percentages at number 2 in the past year. In 2009, a deck addition built from composite decking materials averaged $15,277 nationally, and increased home values by $11,260, or 73.7 percent of the initial investment. Decks built of pressure-treated wood, and the returns there are even more encouraging. Despite a lower initial cost at $10,601, the resale value of $8,676 for a deck built of pressure-treated lumber had a whopping recoup value of 81.8 percent. To put things in perspective, that 81.8 percent recoup value ranked an impressive secondout of all 29 of the major home improvements investigated by Remodeling Magazine in 2009.

What Does It all Mean?

While it's important to remember that those numbers are based on a national average, and that regional and city specific returns do vary, from a financial standpoint, the message is clear: a deck addition is a smart investment, especially in an unpredictable housing market. Even better, you can finally make a case for the financial viability of building a home addition that centers around weekend barbecues, Fourth of July parties, and kicking back with a glass of lemonade and a good book on a beautiful spring afternoon!

Making Your Dream Deck a Reality

Of course, if your aim is building a deck that you can enjoy and that will turn heads if you put your home on the market, you might want to consider incorporating a few extras into your deck design as well. Multiple levels, innovative deck lighting, built-in deck furniture, and throwing a spa into the mix, are all original ways to set your new deck apart from the competition. More importantly, they are excellent options for creating a deck that you and yours can enjoy for years to come, whether you end up putting your home on the market or not.