Renovating Tips

Spending on remodeling is expected to reach $316 billion this year alone, and the number is still climbing, according to The Home Improvement Research Institute. So make sure you're dumping cash in the smartest spaces to get the best return on your investment. Your kitchens and bathrooms are key areas that will make a big difference.


Mini-makeovers for Bathrooms

Cheap:

Install new tile from the bathtub to the ceiling. It'll make the room feel fresher, seem lighter, and it helps cut down on mold.


Cost:

From 39 cents per tile




Cheaper:

Buy a curved shower curtain rod to give a small, boxy tub a luxurious feel. They're available in a variety of finishes, including bronze and pewter. Hang an extra-long liner on the inside and a standard drape on the outside for a luxe look.


Cost:

Under $100




Cheapest:

Get rid of those old incandescents for new, color-enhancing fluorescent lighting to downplay grungy tile.


Cost:

About $3 each




Mini-makeovers for Kitchens

Cheap:

Redo floors. Plunk down wood or stone laminate planks that click into place -- they look like the real thing.


Cost:

$4-9 per square foot




Cheaper:

Update the backsplash.


Cost:

$130 per square foot of stainless steel; $6-20 per sheet of glass mosaic; or $10-30 per square foot of ceramic tile




Cheapest:

Swap that beat-up faucet for a sleek new one in chrome or bronze.


Cost:

Starting at about $50




How to Hire the Right People

Look for Experience


Your pro should have several years of experience with similar projects. Find out whether a professional association, such as the National Kitchen and Bath Association, has certified your contractor.




Get References

And check them! Try to visit homes your contractor has worked on.




Know What You Want

Take along magazine photos to give examples of looks you like, a list of must-have features, and your budget .




Get at Least Three Bids

Don't always go with the lowball price. The contractor charging you the least amount may plan on using unskilled carpenters or materials of a lower quality.




[Nestperts] Jon Boyd, president of the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents; David Finch, a loan specialist for Washington Mutual; Keith Gumbinger, vice president of HSH Associates Financial Publishers of Pompton Plains, New Jersey