Tips for sprucing up your spring home

deck improvements

If you’re thinking of sprucing up your home for spring, you’re not alone. One in three homeowners say they’ll tackle at least one home improvement project in the first half of 2014, according to a recent survey by Burst Media. And it turns out, that’s a pretty smart investment.

Home sales and prices are up while mortgage rates are still low based on historical standards. That combination is a recipe for a strong 2014 home remodeling forecast. Homeowners are regaining equity in their homes, which is expected to motivate them to take on deferred projects for their own enjoyment, or upgrade their homes for sale.

Remodeling Magazine reports in its annual survey that wood deck additions provide the second-highest return on investment of the home improvement projects surveyed. If you’re looking for a way to make your spring improvements add value to your home, wood is a quality option. Wood is known for its versatility, ease of use and natural beauty.

Whether you’re just looking to update your living space or are trying to transform your outdoor entertaining area, here are some simple, do-it-yourself pointers for incorporating wood into your spring home improvement projects.

Prepping decks for spring entertainment

The natural beauty of a well-maintained deck can transform a  backyard into a gathering place.

After you carefully clean your deck to remove dirt and debris, choose a finish. Both sealers and stains are designed to seal out elements. Clear sealers contain no pigment, allowing the natural beauty of the wood to show through. Stains may contain a little pigment (labeled as “tone” or “transparent”), be semi-transparent or come in solid colors. Be sure to avoid paint, which can form a film on top of the wood and bubble or flake.

If you can’t decide between a semitransparent stain and a water-repellant sealer, try using the sealer first. That way if you change your mind it’s easy to switch to a semitransparent stain when the deck needs refinishing. If you opt for a sealer, use one containing ultraviolet light-blockers to protect against sun damage and midewcides to inhibit the growth of mildew.

Add crown molding to a room

Crown molding gives an upscale, elegant air to any room. You only need some basic DIY tools to install it.

Crown molding bridges the junction of walls and ceiling — a visual location where an architectural accent can shine. Although it is a high-impact, higher-difficulty project, it’s well within the abilities of most DIYers. With a miter saw, nails and a hammer, it is easy to transform your favorite room with a custom finish.

When choosing your molding, be sure to keep a consistent scale from floor to ceiling. You might be tempted to install a wide, impressive crown molding and skimp on the base or casings, but molding sizes need to be balanced throughout the room. If possible, use corner pieces, plinth blocks and other transition pieces — they make installation simpler, minimize the need for miter cuts and help joints stay closed despite seasonal changes in humidity. Finally, don’t paint your crown molding and trim. Instead, you should opt for a clear sealer and allow the natural texture of the wood to shine through, adding warmth, personalization and a natural touch to your interior decor.

Install wainscoting

Wainscoting has long been a staple of fine construction and design. Wood paneling is applied to a lower section of wall – typically in dining rooms, but also in kitchens, hallways and even bedrooms. If you crave old-world elegance in your modern home, wainscoting is an easy, cost-effective way to achieve that look. Depending on the style you select and how you choose to finish your wainscoting, you can create whimsy or elegance, rustic appeal or modern sophistication.

If you choose to panel with wainscoting, make sure pieces are level. If yours will have a top cap, a router – a power tool used to bevel or round an edge on a square piece of wood – can provide nice detail at the top of panels. Finally, while wainscoting is frequently painted, there’s no rule that says you must paint yours. Consider a simple clear sealer or semitransparent stain that will allow the natural beauty and character of the wood to shine through. 

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