Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How To Spend a Tax Refund - Home Improvement Style!

Justin and I got a pretty significant tax refund a few months ago and we have been trying to figure out how to spend it. Yes, I know that if you are receiving a tax refund (adjust your withholdings...blah, blah, blah) that means you are letting Uncle Sam hold too much of your money; however, for some reason we still get giddy when we hear that we are getting money back. We are planning on putting some of it toward a trip this Fall (location/date TBD), but we were going to use the other part of it towards what else? Home improvements.

Here are the top three improvements we are contemplating:

1) Backyard Redo

Ever since we moved into our house we knew that we would have to redo our backyard eventually. After this incident, it became even more apparent that our backyard concrete slab was unsatisfactory. Last fall I applied for DC's RiverSmart Homes Program, which gives money to DC homeowners interested in bayscaping, rain gardens, rain barrels and pervious pavers. Pervious pavers are landscaping surfaces that allow water to seep into the ground rather than in storm drains, which thereby reduces the pollution that might end up in location streams and waterways. We were interested in replacing our cement slab, and for homeowners interested in installing pervious pavers, the program offers a $1,200 subsidy.

Last month, someone from the RiverSmart Homes Program came over to do a stormwater audit of our house. Upon realizing that our entire backyard was concrete, she said that the removal of the concrete, installation and the pervious paver materials would cost anywhere from $20-25 per square foot. For an area the size of our backyard, that would be upwards of $10K! Yikes. The $1,200 subsidy definitely wasn't going to go a long way. With that said, redoing our entire backyard in pervious pavers was out of the question, but on the bright she said that including green space in our design would reduce the costs. So in a few estimates that we've requested, the designs have included grass and planter boxes with the pervious pavers. We're just waiting on one more estimate to see if this is the route we want to take.

2) Repair and Refinish the Hardwood Floors Upstairs

Although we have wood laminate on the main floor, we have original hardwood floors upstairs. Before you go into your "oohs and ahhs" about the original heart of pine hardwood floors, I have to burst your bubble and tell you that they are in crappy condition. They have always been in terrible condition and this is another thing we knew we would have to fix down the road. Some parts just need to get sanded and refinished like this part in our master bedroom.

However, other areas will also need to get repaired like this part in the hallway.

It is clearly damaged and was poorly patched. Because this area is located in front of our upstairs bathroom, I'm surprised we haven't gotten splinters from it or stubbed our toes on the jagged area more often. This area has been subjected to doggie pee (Can you image how hard it is to clean? It sucks.), but we have just learned to live with it nonetheless. If we choose to fix the floors upstairs, I know it won't be as "fun" compared to a new backyard, but it's much needed and of course it'll add value to our house.

2) Wrought Iron Fence and Hand Rail for the Front Yard

As much as we love our neighborhood, one of the worst things about is the trash. There is trash everywhere. I'm not saying that we live in a dump, but we do live on a high traffic street (between the metro station and a Safeway) where there is always an errant piece of trash laying around. Passersby just don't know how to use a trash can, even if their life depended on it.  And where does the trash end up might you ask? Our front yard and sometimes our treebox.

The trash my friend is blowing in the wind...
The neighbors to our right have a fence so when the trash gets blown around, its stops right at the fence and into our yard. During the Fall when we rake leaves, Justin always grumbles about it without fail! Come to think of it, the fence would also prevent any extra leaves from blowing into our yard as well. As evidenced by our neighbors, a solution to prevent the trash from coming into our yard would be to fence it out! Plus, we'll have a fenced in area for the boys (aka: Louie and Derby) to play in.

Get us out of here!
You must to admit that nothing is more charming than a DC rowhouse with wrought iron fence! :)

If we decide to go with the fence, we figured we might as well do the hand rails, too. Last year when we were renewing our homeowners insurance, we not only got pinged for a lack of handrail on our back steps, but our front steps as well. The insurance company didn't make us rig up a handrail for the front steps, but they put us on notice that'd we might be penalized for it in the future. I feel like a handrail would complete the look of the fence and make for a overall cuter facade!

If you were in our position which one would you choose? A new backyard to enjoy for the summer? A shiny new hardwood floor to brag about? Or wrought iron details that add instant curb appeal? I would love to get all of this done, and all of it will get done eventually, but which one would you do first?

No comments:

Post a Comment