Ask Brian is a weekly column by Real Estate Expert Brian Kline. If you have questions on real estate investing, DIY, home buying/selling, or other housing inquiries please email your questions to [email protected].
Question from Malinda on the Michigan Peninsula: Hello Brian. It’s cold outside but I miss working on home projects this time of the year. What can you suggest going into the holiday season that won’t make life rough for our family of five? Of course, cost is also important because of holiday expenses.
Answer: Hi Malinda. The calendar might not actually say winter but the weather is telling a different story. This is the time of year that most homeowners (at least in the north) want projects that are indoors. Still, the cold months can be challenging even for many indoor projects. Particularly for projects that require plenty of fresh air and ventilation. Malinda, if you have the luxury of picking and choosing the projects you want to work on, avoiding sanding, painting, and other projects requiring ventilation during the cold months makes for more pleasant weekend projects.
Two worth considering are brightening up a laundry room and adding crown molding to a living room or dining room. Certainly, there are others but these are two easy ones that are more or less at opposite ends of the spectrum. Crown molding can go in your main living space to be admired by family and friends during the holiday season as well as add a uniqueness along with increasing home value if you are considering selling anytime soon. Laundry room improvements are mostly for your private enjoyment and can be done at your leisure.
Crown molding can be plain, ornate, or in-between. It’s commonly used as trim between the tops of walls and the ceiling but can also be used for projects like bookshelves and kitchen cabinets as accent features. A good starting point is first considering if a plain or ornate style is most suitable. For contemporary architecture, you’ll want to go with a plain design that doesn’t involve an elaborate pattern (although these aren’t always as plain as the name implies).
A plain crown molding simply has a soft, elegant look with clean lines. The classic ornate styles have names like cartouche, dentil, egg and dart, ovolo, carvetto, rosette, and gulloche. Some people prefer these to give their walls and ceilings an elegant, finished look.
The other thing to consider is that crown moldings come in a variety of widths. Most range in width from about 2 inches to 20 inches or more. The height of the ceiling is usually the determining factor for the appropriate width. For 8-foot ceilings, you don’t want to go wider than 6 inches. Nine-foot ceilings can handle anything up to about 8 inches in width and 10-foot ceilings are good to about 9 or 10 inches. Anything wider than that is typically used in very high foyers and other exceptionally high ceilings.
Most of today’s crown moldings are made of polyurethane instead of wood. That means you shouldn’t have to do any sanding. But these do mostly come in a plain white color. You’ll need to do some painting but it is minimal and can be done in a garage before installing. Installation can easily be done over a weekend with nothing more than a good miter saw, ladder, and hammer.
Many laundry rooms don’t have windows so opening to the outside cold isn’t an option. It’s also a mostly private space that doesn’t need to be impressive to guests. That makes simple peel and stick wall coverings a good option for your own eye appeal. There are other winter-appropriate improvements that you can make. You can put up additional and more attractive shelving that is more functional. If you have the space, you can add an ironing countertop or folding table. If space is restricted, you can build a custom portable counter that sits on top of the washer and dryer. These are the months of the year when large appliances are often on sale if you’ve been thinking about replacing your washer and dryer. And while you’re at it, give the dryer duct a good cleaning.
Winter can be a challenging time for DIY projects, especially in cold climates. In addition to keeping the dust and paint fumes at a minimum, most homeowners don’t want to tackle major renovations that leave rooms unusable while the family is stuck inside for the next several months. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any projects to work on. You just want to show some consideration when deciding what everyone will tolerate while cooped up inside.
What good winter DIY ideas can you add? Please leave your comments.
Our weekly Ask Brian column welcomes questions from readers of all experience levels with residential real estate. Please email your questions or inquiries to [email protected].