If you have just bought or live in an older home, the chances are that you are thinking about renovating your kitchen and bathrooms. Here are 10 things I found to be extremely cost-effective to do during such renovation that drastically increase the quality of life, save money in the long run, and increase property value.
#1 Replace your windows with dual pane glasses
If your windows are already dual pane and in good condition, leave them be. Chances are they will last for a good many years. Modern windows are very well constructed.
However, if they are single pane, I strongly recommend getting dual pane. This is the single most influential factor in windows to reduce electrical and heating bills and eliminate wind drafts. After you rip out the old window, now it's an excellent time to add thermal insulation. Many older homes do not have thermal insulation at all since these materials were not available back then. Now it's also a perfect time to replace and rewire any electrical for an upgrade.
#2 Upgrade your electrical and plumbing
If you are replacing windows and renovating the kitchen and bathrooms, there are many open walls for a good portion of the electrical and plumbing to be upgraded.
Older electrical wires are not up to today's code and are fire hazards. Better wiring also means you will no longer have the problem of electrical tripping when multiple appliances are in use simultaneously.
Ask your plumber to upgrade as much plumbing as he/she has access to. With a plumbing upgrade, you will no longer need to call a plumber to snake drains or deal with a sewer backup every so often. Plumber repairs calls are a huge time sink and add up quickly.
#3 Turn a hallway closet into a laundry facility
You have already upgraded your electrical and plumbing. It will be no trouble to add electrical, water, and drain hookup and turn a hallway closet into a laundry facility. I have two hallway closets, so I turned the one right outside of my nursery into one with a compact size stackable washer and dryer set. I am amazed to find that my small laundry facility runs all the time, diligently taking care of my baby's laundry needs. I am glad that I have them installed because of the water-saving capacity compared to hand washing.
#4 Add a wet-bar to your nursery
As a new mother with postpartum health complications, I find it difficult to maneuver between the kitchen to wash and access the refrigerator and the nursery. So I had a wet bar put in with 80 inches of base cabinets, a 15-inch sink with a kitchen faucet, a mini-refrigerator, an instant hot water filter, and a quartz counter over it. Now I can get everything done without leaving the nursery: washing baby bottles, storing extra milk in the mini-frig, hand washing a piece of clothes real quick, or make myself a cup of hot tea. The counter gives me extra space to put the formula maker, UV sterilizer, etc. It's nice to compartmentalize the baby stuff and not feel that the whole house is full of baby stuff.
#5 Add an instant hot water dispenser with a filter
Add an instant water dispenser and water filter to the kitchen faucet. This means you can just turn a knot to get filtered hot water instantly. Great for tea lovers.
I got both the instant hot water dispenser and water filter from Amazon. The total material costs with taxes included are no more than $500, but it saves me so much time with the kettle, and the quality of life improvement is just drastic for a tea lover like myself.
Do ask your general contractor to leave a hole on the kitchen counter for the dispenser sprout and an electrical outlet under the sink.
#6 Add a water heater to your jacuzzi
If you are renovating your bathroom, I highly recommend replacing an older tub with a Jacuzzi and installing a built-in water heater. A Jacuzzi is not much more expensive than a basic tub but gives you the flexibility for hydrotherapy whenever you want. Installing a water heater during this time is the most cost-effective. It will let you enjoy a warm bath for as long as you wish!
#7 Add a shower over the jacuzzi
For my bathroom with the jacuzzi, I added a showerhead and enclosed the tub with sliding glasses. This way, it gives me the flexibility to take a shower or soak at my leisure. Also, the enclosed sliding glasses let me turn the jets all the way up without splashing water out of the tub.
#8 Add a steam shower to the walk-in shower
A steam shower is a machine that gets built-in behind the shower wall. It is virtually maintenance-free and will give you the experience of a wet sauna. Just purchase a steam shower, and your plumber will know what to do. Then enclosed your walk-in shower fully with glass to keep the steam in during the shower.
#9 Replace toilets with powerful low-flow toilets
Newer toilets use much less water per flush but generate a more powerful flow that is great for the environment, reduces your electrical bill, and saves you the trouble and time to call a plumber. These units are only marginally more expensive than regular toilets.
#10 Add a standalone shower to your backyard
This is great for washing your hands and feet after gardening or just to cool off on a hot summer day. The cheapest standalone shower is less than $200.
When electrical and plumbing are being modified, these amenities are straightforward to add. The key is advanced planning. It is easy to forget the lifestyle what you wanted during a hectic and stressful home renovation project.
Things I did not care to spend too much money on
The high-end kitchen cabinets can be 3-4 times more than the basic ones, and I did not find the enhancement worth the extra costs.