Proceed With Caution: Permanent Home Improvements
• Concrete staining: Concrete acid staining is perhaps the most direct example of an irreversible home improvement. Although it can be applied with breathtaking effects, the acid stain seeps into the concrete, making it impossible to remove and difficult to camouflage. With garage flooring and outdoor patios or driveways, you need to take your time choosing the staining pattern because you won't get a second chance. You have a little more leeway with basement flooring, where you may be able to install tile or laminate over the concrete, sometime down the road. (Find highly rated concrete contractors in your area.)
• Tile and epoxy grout: When planning for new tile, your choice of grout is often one of the toughest home improvement decisions to make. Epoxy grout offers unmatched longevity, but it's darned near impossible to remove, a problem if the tile is laid poorly. Plus, a high-quality cement grout and sealer can still last several decades, so why take the risk? On the other hand, if your tile contractor swears that the tile will look immaculate, who doesn't want worry-free maintenance for the future? If you're confident in your choice of tile, and your contractor is willing to put guarantees into the contract, epoxy grout could be a worthy choice. (Find highly rated bathroom contractors in your area.)
• Tree removal: If your tree is terminal through disease or severe damage, that's one thing, but to voluntarily cut down a tree as a home improvement can be a big mistake. For one, it may be illegal, depending on where you live, but it may also have a negative impact on your property value. Many homebuyers are also tree lovers, and might appreciate the shade (and as a result -- energy savings) that a tree provides. But, most of all, trees can't be replaced. Tree transplants are nifty fixes, but they won't have the deep root systems that allow trees to survive through future disease and calamity. If you don't like to rake leaves, invest in a leaf-blower or pay a lawn maintenance company, instead of a tree removal service. (Find highly rated professional landscapers in your area.)
• Wall cavities: Tearing down the walls for a bathroom or kitchen remodel home improvement? Replacing drywall in an area with water damage? Take a look at your wall cavities to see if your home needs insulation, pipes, electrical wiring or ductwork. Installing new drywall without evaluating the possibility of improvements within your wall cavities is kind of like paying a tattoo artist $250 to put on a wash-off tattoo. (Find highly rated drywall professionals in your area.)
No Sweat: Reversible Home Improvements
There are also quite a few home improvement mistakes that may seem like enormous problems but have a pretty easy fix. Of course, this doesn't mean that these projects should be installed without regard to quality, but when problems do arise, they may not be fatal. Here's a list of some of the common projects -- big and small -- that fit into this category.
• For carpet: Burns and many stains may be permanent, but the carpet itself usually isn't. Hopefully you had the foresight to save spare carpet runs, but even if you didn't, the manufacturer may still have the carpet in stock. Alternately, carpet pros can cut out a piece of carpet from an inconspicuous corner to replace the stain or burn, then use a "close match" in the corner of the room. (Find highly rated flooring contractors in your area.)
• For decks: You may have let your wood deck go too long without sealant, causing fading, warping or other deterioration. As long as the deck framing and support structures remain in solid condition, there is a good chance that you can lay composite deck tiles on top of the old wood planks and create what looks like a brand new deck for a fraction of the cost. (Find highly rated deck and porch professionals in your area.)
• For asphalt roofing: Keep an eye on your roof. Once a leak or other signs of initial damage occur, contact a roofing contractor. Similar to wood decks, you may be able to install a new layer of asphalt right on top of the old and, with a little luck, nearly double the life of your roof. (Find highly rated roofing professionals in your area.)
• For wood cabinets: Homeowners who complete kitchen or bathroom remodels may find their wood cabinets don't match their new decorating schemes. If you have solid wood cabinets, resist the urge to replace them. Imitation wood is cheap and cheaply made; replacement solid wood is prohibitively expensive. Rather, have your light wood cabinets refinished to a darker color. Paint over your dark wood cabinets or have a light-colored wood veneer applied on top of the original cabinets. (Find highly rated professional painters in your area.)
Final tip: With any home improvement project, it's just as important to evaluate the long-term consequences as the immediate impact on your home and daily routine. This understanding can allow you to creatively plan for the future, troubleshooting phantom problems while keeping open additional options.