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Low-Cost, Easy Home Upgrades

Low-Cost, Easy Home Upgrades

Pros are well versed in the complexities of their fields, of course.

But their on-the-job everyday experience has also given them insights into the little tricks that deliver the biggest results, from adding affordable storage in the kitchen to enhancing the efficiency of your radiators.

READ: 50 Nifty Fix-Ups For Less than $100

These techniques may be largely subconscious; the contractor, electrician, or architect may not even realize how valuable such gems are to regular DIYers like us, but we did.

So read on for some of This Old House's favorite been-there-learned-that bits of wisdom gleaned from some of the nation's top pros, including our own.

(ThisOldHouse.com)
Arched Passageway

PRO: Stewart Davis, principal architect, CG&S, Austin, Tex.

SECRET: Convert a square or rectangular opening into an archway to call more attention to what lies behind. "An arch is a powerful design element because it has a pronounced center that turns whatever it frames into a focal point," says Davis. So whether it's a fireplace in the family room or the family room itself that you want to highlight, an arch is the ticket. Thanks to new kits, which include an elliptical template for creating a new header out of drywall, curved moldings for the top, and a pair of side jambs, adding an arch is relatively easy and affordable for DIYers.

READ: 7 Small-Budget, Big-Impact Upgrades

(Lisa Romerein. Illustration: Jason Lee | ThisOldHouse.com )
Kitchen Storage on a Shoestring

PRO: Joanne Hudson, kitchen designer and founder, Joanne Hudson Basics, Philadelphia

SECRET: Make open shelving for everyday dishes out of butcher-block countertop material. Sturdier than stock shelves sold at the home center, butcher block offers a chunky, high-end look for a fraction of the price, says Hudson. Use a circular saw to rip a 25-inch-deep slab in half lengthwise, creating two 12½-inch-deep shelves. For a free-floating appearance, support the butcher-block shelves on threaded steel rods anchored into your wall studs.

READ: 21 Ways to Save On Your Remodel

(Getty Images | ThisOldHouse.com)
Distinctive Doors

PRO: David Logan, owner, Period Woodworking Co., Winchester, Va.

SECRET: Add plinth blocks to the base of your door casings. These ornamental wood trim blocks, installed where side casings bite into baseboard moldings, are thrifty, yet provide architectural style and give weight to your door openings, says Logan. Regardless of the profile you choose, be sure that the plinth block is about ¼ inch wider than the casing and 1 inch taller than your baseboard. It should also stand proud of the baseboard and shoe molding that skirt it. For a simple DIY plinth made of poplar, use a plane to create a slight taper from the center of the block's face to the door.
 

(Susan Seubert | ThisOldHouse.com)
Stock Tile, Restyled

PRO: Nicholas Yankanich, tile specialist and owner, Nicholas Tile Co., Conshohocken, Pa.

SECRET: Add inexpensive oomph to a tiled bathroom wall or kitchen backsplash by turning simple square tiles on a 45-degree angle to make a diamond design. For large areas of tile, such as in a shower enclosure, Yankanich likes to install a square grid halfway up the wall, cap it with chair-rail tile, then lay the same tile on an angle above the chair rail. It's a great way to get the most out of your materials; you get two tile looks for the price of one, he says.

(Kolin Smith. Illustration: Jason Lee | ThisOldHouse.com)
Weighty Windows

SECRET: Give dimension to flat window casings by wrapping them with backband molding. "It's easy, and it really enhances the depth and design of your casings," says Norm. A hallmark of vintage millwork, L-shaped backband molding, which cups the outer edge of the casing, also lends historical authenticity to newer homes. Choose your style from the many offerings at online molding retailers, or pick up a simple stock profile at the home center or a local lumberyard to save on shipping costs.

TOH Tip: To install one-piece backband molding, miter the corners, secure with finishing nails, and paint or stain to match the casing.

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