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Guest Post by Elaine Thompson
The doldrums of winter: The days are short, the temperature is low, and people tend to hibernate. That usually means spending most of your time inside, staring at the same interior. It’s then that you notice the paint could use a touch-up in the living room, the bathroom is somewhat dated, or that you’ve always hated the carpet in the family room.
We all have these projects that we’ll get to “eventually,” but in the summer, we’re playing and spending time outside. Winter is an ideal time to do these projects (plus, staying busy will keep those winter blues at bay). Here are a few ideas to consider in the colder months that will make you happier and add value to your home.
1. Seal leaky gaps
When the temperature dips, energy bills rise. If you can find those drafts, you can save some money. Check the usual suspects, like gaps around the windows and doors. Install draft blockers on the bottom of exterior doors and add weather stripping or caulk around windows. For larger gaps, consider using insulation or expanding foam.
Pro tip: On exterior walls, it’s easy to overlook electrical outlets. Use a flame-retardant foam to seal them — it works far better than those thin insulating sheets.
2. Apply a fresh coat of paint
Being stuck indoors all winter surrounded by dingy or peeling walls can feel oppressive, but it’s nothing that a fresh coat of paint can’t fix. Painting is relatively easy and inexpensive, takes just a weekend, and can modernize and brighten up a room.
So maybe it’s time to give your living room a pop of color with a contrasting accent wall or brighten up the kitchen with a light yellow to remind you of warmer weather. Just make sure you’ve got some fans on hand to help air out the rooms you paint without opening up the windows to the winter chill.
Pro tip: Multiple studies have proven that color affects mood. Keep that in mind as you plan your painting. The palette could genuinely change how you feel in a space.
3. Upgrade the bathroom
The bathroom is one of the best rooms to revamp if you want to add value to your home. So now is the time to modernize the powder room or start that master bath upgrade you’ve been dying to make. The good news is that there are plenty of inexpensive bathroom upgrades.
Re-grouting the floor or shower tiles, resurfacing the tub, and re-caulking around the shower quickly makes the entire bathroom sparkle and look like new for minimal cost and effort. You can also replace the toilet with a more efficient one to save some money and boost value. Add a new light fixture and mirror, and you have a modernized bathroom.
Pro tip: Since bathrooms are often small, visit a local construction thrift shop like ReStore. They often have countertops that have been salvaged from larger kitchen projects. It’s a good place to get an inexpensive slab of granite or high-quality engineered quartz for a new vanity.
4. Give the kitchen a facelift
According to a 2018 Houzz study, the average cost to remodel a small kitchen (under 200 square feet) is $25,800. If you have that kind of money to replace appliances and redo fixtures, absolutely do, but your kitchen remodel doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars. Sometimes, all it takes is a new backsplash to reinvigorate an outdated space.
Pro tip: Cabinets tend to be a big focal point for kitchen remodels, but if the cabinets are structurally in good shape, do a resurfacing instead of a replacement. Installing new cabinet doors and hardware gives you an updated kitchen for a fraction of the cost.
5. Think about security
A full 74.5 percent of burglaries in the United States are residential — a concerning statistic in the winter months when you’re spending a lot of time cozy at home. And while the chillier months aren’t the optimal time to construct a privacy fence or do other security landscaping, you can still revamp your indoor security. Adding or upgrading some cameras and detectors around the house is a quick DIY project that you can tackle in just a day or two.
Pro tip: Investing in smart home tech can bring the safety in your home to another level. Smart leak detectors can alert you if a frozen pipe bursts, smart thermostats ensure your home temperatures don’t dip too low while you’re away, and smart locks let you check the front door remotely so you don’t have to cross the cold floor to re-check the entryway after you’ve settled into bed.
6. Update your lighting
When winter darkness has you down, bring some light into your space. Switching to CFL or LED lights will brighten up your space while also cutting your energy bill significantly. If winter has hit your mood especially hard, set up some smart, color-changing lights that you can program to match the color of warm summer sun.
Pro tip: Check out the national database for tax incentives — some of your new energy-efficient lighting may qualify.
One more consideration
If you have owned your house for at least two years and you’re still paying private mortgage insurance, consider getting your house re-appraised after completing your projects. If your property values have risen and your upgrades have added enough value, you may be able to refinance without that PMI. The appraisal won’t be free, but the long-term savings are worth it.
Even doing just a few of these projects can make your home feel fresh, safe, and comfortable. And when you’re adding value to your home while you’re beating those winter blues, well, that’s just a happy bonus.
Elaine Thompson is a digital journalist whose work focuses on business and technology, with an emphasis on sustainable practices. She also dabbles in some health and wellness writing.