Home Improvement 101

Home improvement

The home improvement industry encompasses any renovation or modification to a home, residence or other dwelling. This includes, but is not limited to: alterations, remodeling, repairing, renovating, restoring, modernizing, adding or removing components. Improvements may include replacing old or worn-out surfaces, finishes or structures; adding new or removing existing insulation; and changing the electrical, plumbing or heating systems. Home improvements may also include landscaping, fencing, patios and decks, or nonpermanent additions to a structure.

Home improvements that will add value to your house in the long run include upgrades to your kitchen, master suite and bathrooms, as well as energy-efficient windows, a heat pump and added insulation. These improvements typically pay for themselves in lower utility bills, and they are attractive to buyers when you’re ready to sell.

It’s important to note that resale values differ by region, and even if you have the money to do major improvements, you should speak with a real estate agent about what projects are most popular and valuable in your neighborhood. It’s also wise to budget for unforeseen costs, as these can quickly add up. A 10% buffer on your project estimates is a good rule of thumb.

A few home improvements, like a leaking roof or termite infestation, are urgent and should take precedence over cosmetic ones. Hiring a professional to inspect your property is the best way to discover problems that you might not be aware of, such as a hidden water leak in a wall or under a floor.

According to the September NerdWallet survey, homeowners report a Joy Score of 9.9 for DIY projects completed by themselves and a 9.6 for projects done by professionals. Whether you’re an experienced DIY-er or are looking to save some money, make sure you’re up for the challenge before diving into any project.

When it comes to choosing contractors, you should look for those that are licensed in your county and have a solid reputation. Ask for references, and be sure to check them. You should also get a written contract before any work begins. Maryland law requires that contracts for home improvement include the contractor’s name, address and MHIC license number, as well as a payment schedule and a list of all materials to be used.

It’s also a good idea to find out if the contractor offers a warranty on their work, and be sure to read it carefully. A warranty will protect you if the work isn’t completed or is done incorrectly. You should also ask about whether the contractor is required to have workers’ compensation and general liability insurance, as these will protect you if an injury or property damage occurs on the job. If the contractor doesn’t have these policies, you should look for another contractor. If you do hire a contractor, be sure to keep detailed records of all payments made, and don’t give any final payments until the work has been completely finished and all required inspections and certificates of occupancy have been obtained.