DIY Do's And Don'ts

Top Home Improvement Projects for Your Townhouse

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Owning a townhouse isn't for everyone. Yet, for many people who cherish nearly maintenance-free homeownership, living close to neighbors, and communal luxuries (pools, gyms, etc.), they can't imagine living anywhere else. While outsiders may think that the townhouse has a rigid floor plan with preconceived furnishings, townhouse residents are often pleasantly surprised to learn of their unit's considerable versatility and opportunity for customization.

With that in mind, here are both the limitations and the top home-improvement projects that speak to issues specific to townhouses.


Exterior Home Improvements

Homeowners' associations are notorious for their mix of cliquey, petty, and draconian obstacles. But that doesn't change the fact that, for most townhouse owners, they also have all the power. Many HOAs actually continue to own the exterior structures of the communities they govern. Thus, they are responsible for maintaining and replacing roofing and siding. The economy of scale means that they can take care of these structures more cheaply than individual owners could. If you do own this responsibility, roofing and siding options will most likely be limited to a select number of colors and materials. The truth is that even if you did have carte-blanche, sticking with the consistency of the larger community is usually the best investment, anyway. That said, if you're in good with the powers-that-be, you can usually take a few home improvement liberties such as spiffed up window shutters, front doors and trim. (Find highly rated general contractors in your area.)


Interior Home Improvements

So with most of your attention focused on home improvements on the inside, what particular wisdom can be applied to remodeling townhouses? In many respects, the principles of remodeling stay the same, while the implementation of these principles may be modified to fit the space of a townhouse. Here are some of the projects that specifically address issues common to townhouses.
  • Strategies for small rooms: Townhouses may have virtually the same rooms and amenities as a single-family home but on a smaller scale. Fortunately, designers and decorators have taken up the call of finding home improvements to open up these compact rooms. Don't be afraid of using corners, especially in bathrooms where corner sinks can make a small bathroom feel more spacious, or a corner stall can turn a half-bath into a makeshift full bath. Contemporary lighting, from recessed lighting to sleek wall fixtures, is a miracle waiting to happen. Buying new furniture tailored to a room's dimensions can also have a huge impact. (Find highly rated decorators and designers in your area.)
  • Wallpaper removal/replacement: Wallpaper isn't dead, but old wallpaper is surely outdated and all too common within townhouses. Collages, murals, and crackle techniques (tearing up wallpaper to create imperfections and dynamic lines) have revived the possibilities for wallpaper. The downside is that these techniques are even more time-consuming than conventional wallpapering. You may decide to simply return to drywall and paint; drywall is preferred when you eventually put the unit up for sale. On the other hand, if you're looking for a way to break up the monotony of drywall but don't have the patience for modern wallpaper strategies, consider wainscoting or other wood paneling. (Find highly rated wall covering contractors in your area.)

  • Kitchens and basements: These areas tend to have the most appeal across different property types. Kitchens are essentially universal in their importance to the daily routine. Cabinets equal kitchen storage; counters equal food prep; appliances equal cooking and preservation. If you see room for improvement in any of these areas, it's hard to go wrong with a kitchen upgrade. Often, a lower-level basement is one of the things that set townhouses apart from condos. As such, try to design, renovate, and use this area to maximum effect. It will make your townhouse standout to potential buyers. (Find highly rated professional bathroom remodelers and basement remodelers in your area.)

Townhouses and resale value

Remarkably, when it comes to resale value for townhouses, location is even more important than it is for single-family homes. When you have to share a wall with your next-door neighbors, their daily and nightly habits are more than just a subject for your speculation. Likewise, the tight-knit cluster of residences leads to enhanced rewards for a community at peace, and heightened interpersonal tensions for a community at odds with itself. As part of a swanky, urban revival, townhouses are likely to hold their value just as well as, if not better than, single-family residences. Of course, the reverse is equally true and reputations for disquieting townhouse communities travel just as well as any other rumor.

With this in mind, whenever you invest in a major home improvement -- whether it's a single-family home, condo or townhome -- you should at least consider increased property value. Simply keeping everything up to date and in excellent condition is often the best insurance that your townhouse will retain its value, if not appreciate. People who buy townhouses often do so because they worry that an older, detached home is a money pit. You want your townhouse to act as a foil to these properties, offering turnkey, zero-maintenance convenience and peace of mind.

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