Home Improvement 101

Home improvement is the practice of upgrading a home. The goal is to make improvements that increase a home’s comfort, security, and appearance. It also may be done to add functionality. Regardless of the reason, it is important for homeowners to plan projects carefully and choose qualified professionals. This will ensure a job well done and prevent costly mistakes.

Certain home renovations can’t be put off, such as a leaky roof or a rotting foundation. These fixes are essential to keep the family safe and prevent more costly damage down the road. Other home repairs are not as obvious and could be less urgent, but still necessary to maintain the integrity of the house. These include adding insulation and replacing old windows.

During the 1950s, returning World War II veterans and postwar suburbanization fueled interest in improving homes. Government mortgage insurance programs for veterans and highway construction helped to expand the market for new homes, while large builders like Levitt & Sons encouraged home ownership among middle class families. This paved the way for home improvements such as remodeling and landscaping. Homeowners could easily access credit for a wide variety of home improvement projects thanks to low interest rates.

Television home improvement shows, such as Bob Vila’s This Old House and Trading Spaces, further popularized the culture of DIY home improvement. These shows, and others like them that followed, showed viewers how to repair or renovate their own homes by following step-by-step directions. The popularity of these shows shifted the focus from contractors to do-it-yourself (DIY) consumers, allowing home-center chains to grow. It also shifted the gender stereotype of the “man’s” domain of construction and carpentry to the more feminine sphere of interior design and decorating.

Homeowners can improve their home’s function and resale value by making simple upgrades, such as painting the kitchen or installing an updated bathroom vanity. Adding extra living space such as a bedroom or family room is another common project that increases the value of a home, especially for those with growing families. Another way to add value is to make a home more energy efficient by installing new windows or a heat pump. These types of projects also lower utility bills and can pay for themselves over time, according to HomeAdvisor. A homeowner should always get a contract in writing before any work begins and should never pay for all the project costs upfront. The contractor should also provide warranties and guarantees for his or her work. The contractor’s name, address and MHIC license number should be preprinted on the contract. In addition, the contract should contain a detailed description of the work being performed. Having this documentation can protect a consumer in the event of a dispute. The consumer should also check with local authorities to find out what types of permits are required for a particular project. A permit may also indicate when inspections are needed and if there are any local ordinances that must be followed.