My Dream List of Home Upgrades

My Dream List of Home Upgrades - up close picture of man's hands putting together floor boards

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As many of you know, we moved late last year and bought a new-to-us home in early 2014.  Our house was fairly nice already, but we did set aside money for a few upgrades that would ultimately make it livable for us.

For the most part, those upgrades included new carpet and tile flooring to replace the carpet that was over ten years old and in really bad shape, but we also did a little DIY before we moved in.  

For example, we painted the entire freakin’ house ourselves, and I think you know why.  Hiring painters is crazy expensive!  I will gladly paint the entire interior of my home off-white if it means saving $5,000 thank-you-very-much.  Speaking of that, if I ever quit writing for a living, I am definitely starting a painting business!  I am awesome at painting entire rooms, including trim, and I am also efficient.  I could make a ton of cash!

My Dream List of Home Upgrades

Let’s get back on topic, shall we?  It’s Christmas Eve so I thought it would be fun to create a wish list of home upgrades I would splurge on if I wasn’t so cheap.  Actually, these are all things we *might* do once we pay off our stupid mortgage.  Until then, I can only fantasize about them and make plans for the future.  Here are the upgrades I would seriously consider if money were no object:

Staining my kitchen cabinets made my floors look worse!

New Wooden Floors

As I mentioned last year, I sanded and re-stained every single one of my kitchen and bathroom cabinets myself.  The entire project cost less than $25, but took a few weeks to complete.  Anyway, you know how improving one thing can make the things next to it look like crap?  That’s basically what happened in my kitchen.  Improving the look of the cabinets and counter tops made the wooden floors look pretty bad, and now I wish I could upgrade to better hardwood floors that would be more consistent with the wooden cabinets and trim them.  First world problems, I know.

Tile Floor in the Master Bathroom

Peel-n-stick floors: Functional, but not cute
Peel-n-stick floors: Functional, but not cute

No one would ever know, but we actually have peel-and-stick flooring in our master bathroom.  I am not a huge fan at all, but it’s hard to justify replacing it when it looks nice and is fairly easy to care for.  One day I hope to replace it with ceramic or porcelain tile similar to the tile floors in our other bathrooms.  Until then, it will have to do.  Honestly, no one ever goes into our bedroom anyway.  So, who cares?

My shower is boring.
My shower is boring.

Tile Shower Surrounds

This house came with standard bathroom features that have never been upgraded, and that includes the basic tub and shower surrounds that you see in most homes.  I recently visited a family member who had just redone both of their bathrooms in tile, and it looked soooooooooo nice.  One of these days, we might look into redoing our showers in ceramic or glass tile.  In the meantime, it’s hard to complain too much about what I have.  At least it’s easy to clean- and at least everything works.

Furniture in My Living Room

Sit on the floor, people!
Sit on the floor, people!

We’ve been living in this house for almost a year now and my living room has been empty the entire time.  Even though it is a fairly spacious room with excellent overhead lighting, we mostly use it as the kid’s playroom and as storage for my giant armoire and all of the stuff that is in it.  Once the kids get a little bit older, I hope to find a nice L-shape couch and desk on craigslist and use the living room as a place for the kids to hang out and do homework.  But with so many toys in our lives, it seems pointless for now.

Putting My Dream Upgrades On Hold

All of these dream upgrades sound nice, but it’s hard for me to justify improving our home when we still owe money on it.  Like I said before, I seriously hope to kill this mortgage sooner rather than later.  Then, and only then, will I consider pouring any money into superficial improvements.

But it’s still nice to dream, and it doesn’t cost anything to fantasize about the many home improvements I would make if money were no object.  Hopefully one day my dream upgrades will become a reality.

What home upgrades do you fantasize about?  What home remodeling projects would you take on if money were no object?

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  1. We painted the whole house when we moved into our first house. My mother-in-law was gracious enough to come spend that first week with us. As we went off to work for the day, she would get to painting. We helped as much as we could in the evening and weekend. But she did the lion’s share of the work. The painting wasn’t all that bad, except the pantry. I did not enjoy that part. But the result was worth it… It looked awesome in bright white!

    1. That was so nice of her! My mom has helped us paint or remove wallpaper several times too.

    2. We too painted our whole apartment, almost, when we moved in. But we never got around to the closet and pantry. This summer, my parents and my husband did the pantry as I tended to our newborn. And it also looks *amazing* in bright white! Isn’t it awesome what fresh paint can do?

      We live at a boarding school and thus move often. Painting our new apartment the second we moved in really helped it feel like our space moreso than any other place we’ve lived here.

  2. I really want to upgrade our bathroom, but like you. we aren’t making any huge changes until the mortgage is paid off. Probably by then we’ll need a new kitchen too!

  3. These all sound pretty reasonable, but I get why you are holding off. I have a few upgrades and repairs I want to make too, but they aren’t NEEDS. There are a couple NEEDS too and I hope to take care of those with my bonus after the first of the year. Until that comes through though I haven’t scheduled any work to be done, I don’t want to have that money spent before it’s here. Yes, I’ve spent it in my mind, but at least I haven’t actually spent it by scheduling the repairs already.

    1. Yeah, none of my dream repairs are needs either. Just wants! =)

  4. We are putting in hardwood in our living room as soon as we pay off our house. It definitely keeps me motivated to keep paying down the mortgage!

  5. As a wise man once taught me in regards to my wife’s remodeling dreams: “Don’t kill your wife’s dreams, let reality kill them.” We’ll get there eventually.

  6. We’re doing the kitchen and living room (the living room is just new tile) this year… which is nice since I’ve been waiting 5 years to do it. =) Further down on the list is re-jiggering the bathrooms, possibly changing the layout to maximize space there, and finding a nice sofa with a pull-out bed to put in the guest room instead of the queen bed there. That way I can get more use out of the guest room as an office instead of the space being totally occupied by a giant bed all the time. But other than those little (j/k!) things… house is perfect just the way it is. =)

    1. Ha! I hope you like how it turns out! I also hope you post before/after pics. =)

  7. Looks like we’re in the same boat when it comes to family room. We just moved in about 1 month ago and a lot of rooms are still without furniture.

    1. Yep! I’m just going to wait until we get out of the small toy phase. Right now it’s too easy to keep a few totes with toys and books in there.

    1. I actually have a bean bag chair. I just don’t keep it in there.

  8. Your kitchen cabinets look great. Good job. We want to replace our kitchen appliances. Other than the stove which was replaced in 1997 they have been there since 1988. We want to paint the kitchen cabinets, apply tile back-splash, and install hard-wood or bamboo flooring on the main floor front room, dining room, and kitchen.
    I also want to clear some lawn in the backyard and drop some crushed stone for an extended sitting area and include a fire pit. Its nice to plan for and look forward to home improvements. I plan on doing all the work myself so its more budget friendly.

    1. I’m sure you could pull it off! My skills are mainly limited to sanding, staining, and painting.

  9. All the upgrades sound nice! Happy Holidays to you guys!!!

  10. Holly,

    We moved into our place this September and much like your family room we have rooms that are still empty. Right now we have no intention of filling them with stuff as we are in the process of getting rid of stuff. We did become mortgage free this November and have focused on renovations that improve our quality of life rather than cosmetic appearance. For example our house was built in the era of infinite wisdom where all you needed was a lamp ran from a light switch to satisfy your lighting needs. A couple weeks ago we installed a roof mounted light in the middle of the living room and have been much happier than our initial lamp set up.

    1. Sounds like it! You guys need some light up in there! =)

  11. I’ve thought the same thing about starting a painting business! I’m a great painter too! And, it’s kind of fun once you get into it. Took us forever to refinish our kitchen cabinets too, but, I’m glad we did it. Yours look great!

    Our wood floors are also starting to show their age (hound claws digging in doesn’t help 🙂 ) and my mother-in-law says that Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner can help make them look newer again. She has used it on their floors but I haven’t done it yet (for reasons of expense and time), but, it’d be a lot cheaper than refinishing.

    1. I use Bona. It really does work great. I like it better than other cleaners because it doesn’t leave any residue behind and I can use it with my steam cleaner. I use it in a spray bottle and simply spray a little here and there while I steam clean the floor. It does a really good job- almost too good- because we slip on the floor all the time because it is so clean! =)

  12. I like your ideas for the shower upgrades. When I gutted my bathroom I went back in with tile on the floor and around the tub. Made a huge difference.

    For what it’s worth, I think you would do well in the painting business. Perhaps when the kids get a little older you have an idea for another source of income. You could even do it on part-time basis and do well. Another way of diversifying your income…

    The Stoic

    1. Oh, I would kill it in the painting business. I’m an excellent interior painter, super efficient, and not nearly as creepy as a lot of the interior painters I’ve seen!

  13. I feel sort of stuck because I rent, but my bathroom is falling apart. The paint is peeling and the cabinets are so old and yucky. It’s stuff my landlord won’t fix. I really want to hire you to come paint it because I absolutely loathe painting! But even if I had it painted, what do you do about peeling paint where the wood is exposed? I have no idea! The two renters on either side of me actually paid money themselves to have the carpet taken out and laminate floors installed. It looks SO much better than my place, but how in the world could I justify that expense when we are renting?! Crazy!

    1. I wouldn’t invest my money in a rental I didn’t own either!

  14. I wrote a post about this soon after we moved into our house. Now that we’ve been here over two years and I’ve accepted the fact that this will always be a starter home – and will need to be marketed that way when we sell it – I’ve tampered down my “wants” for the house. Now I’m thinking practically – there is some good laminate flooring that looks just like wood flooring but is 1/3 the price. If I go DIY then I will spend about $2k (or less) for the ENTIRE first floor of our house. Our bathroom and kitchen has never been upgraded, but now I’m thinking practical for upgrades. The “No Nonsense Landlord” convinced me to put in a surround instead of tile in the bath/shower combo. Tile looks great, don’t get me wrong, but like he was saying the surround will never go out of style and tile might look out of style after just a few years. But alas we will be selling this house within 10 years or turning it into a rental, so at this point I’m thinking from that perspective.

    Now if we are talking about our “forever” home…that’s a different story 😉

    Merry Christmas to you and Greg!

    1. I *think* this is our forever home, so that probably plays a part in my remodeling desires. I can’t imagine why we would move~

  15. I do like the look of tile but the one thing I found is I hate grout. It is so friggin hard to keep clean. And once the dirt gets set in, forget about it. We are building a home next year and I am definitely getting a high grade surround for the tub. As for the flooring, it will be a type of tile that I can use dark colored grout with so any dirt doesn’t show up.

    1. Yeah, I hear ya. The grout in our old kitchen drove me insane. It not only showed dirt, but it also came up all the time. I had to add grout to our old kitchen floor more than once. The tile done in this house must have been installed by someone using better grout because I never have that problem now.

  16. We bought our house with cash, and the intention to cashflow a DIY remodel and make the house a reasonable mid-grade, lowish maintenance rental in 3-4 years when we move again. So far we’ve done a lot better job with building up cash reserves than we have actually upgrading. We have painted and insulated, and that’s about it :/

    1. Hey, nothing wrong with that. Paying in cash= awesome!

  17. Holly, those are good upgrade. Next year I am targeting to redesign our bed rooms including kids’. And, I would change some furniture in the living room. So excited about the design and concepts! Merry Christmas Holly!

  18. I love that you guys are putting that stuff on hold until the mortgage is paid off because it shows true commitment and perseverance. I’m with you on the fancy bathroom surround tile too – we love oohing and aahing over that fancy tile when we’re at the home improvement store. Have an awesome Christmas/New Years, Holly!

  19. My husband paints for a living, haha! (And does a bunch of other handyman work.) I am definitely shocked at what people will pay, but I will say — before we had kids I would help him out every now and then at the vacant homes, and man – painting is a LOT of work!! I personally would never pay to have it done either, though.

    I think your upgrades sound awesome! When we buy a home in a few years, we will probably put a good amount of work into it right away (knowing my husband…if it were up to me we would wait). Since the majority of your time is spent at your house, it’s totally OK to want to make it nice and a pretty place to call home!

  20. We’re in the same boat with our current home. We’ll be moving in the next few years and, aside for a kitchen upgrade, I doubt we’ll be making any big changes in the short term. We come from the ‘if it ain’t broke’ perspective, so it’s hard making changes specifically for aesthetic purposes.

  21. I love your kick-butt way of approaching things, Holly, and the way you let us tromp through your house like this. You have a great list of upgrades. I love your kitchen/dining room. That, to me, is an ideal set-up. Plus, I want your cupboards & counter tops! Would you believe mine are metal from the 40’s? Kitschy at first, but I’m ready for a change! 🙂

  22. When we moved into our new-to-us-but-definitely-not-anywhere-near-new home, we had budgeted for a number of improvements, including replacing all the ancient major appliances, DIY interior painting, new living room furniture, and a kitchen renovation. We decided to wait on the kitchen, and we held off for several years until the cabinets were literally falling apart before getting it all redone. Now our dream list includes renovating both baths, replacing the front door and hardware, and some new flooring. I think all homeowners have a running list in their heads like this, because there is always something you want to improve or update. But the “wants” will have to wait.

  23. I’d love to have an updated bathroom as well! Kudos to you for doing the painting yourself. I’ve often thought I should try to get into a painting gig of some sort–they make pretty sweet money. Happy holidays!

    (I’m part of the new Happy Homeowner team. It’s now me, Mark, and Noah at the reigns. Stop by and read our post from the other day where we introduced ourselves!)

  24. Stick and peel tiles are really horrible. Even if no one sees them! They are Shiney and awkwardly out of place. They ruin the entire room IMHO.

    Much luck on the new(ish) home!

  25. I’m glad to read this article about these dream list home upgrades. Its additional learning and many great tips here. It’s very inspiring article. Thanks for sharing this article. It’s such a great post

  26. We bought a new home two years ago that we designed so there’s almost nothing I would want to change and its a great feeling. There are a couple minor things and eventually we will need to do some renos (ie. finishing the basement) but I’m quite happy with it for now. The rental on the other hand needs some work…..

  27. It’s never once occurred to me to hold off on house upgrades until the mortgage is paid off. Maybe it’s because our loan is so big compared to 200k-300k homes elsewhere, or simply because we benefit tax-wise from our mortgage, but I don’t have much intention to pay off the mortgage anytime soon. Plus we spend so much time in our home, I’d for sure want to keep it looking nice and upgrades help with resale value too.

  28. My experience is on a smaller scale, but I think the nice thing about your gradual approach is that you can take the time to make quality improvements and ones you know you’ll be satisfied with. When I moved into my new apartment we did everything all at the beginning. We brought or bought all the furniture we needed week one. It’s a small apartment, so no couch in the living room would mean no seating in the house besides the bed. Now that I’ve lived there a while and learned the quirks of my home, I know the old apartment lends itself to a lot of dust. I wouldn’t have had black furniture pieces had I known this. While there are quite a few changes you want to make in your home, doing them slowly is obviously better financially, but you can also look for the right product at the right price.

  29. I refinished my floors in an earlier house….it took some big-time elbow grease but looked sweet afterward! If you want to save money and have better floors, get Greg working on that! (I’m awesome at giving Greg tasks…..)

  30. I have a laundry list of items I want to do. Bathrooms, basement, kitchen, and landscape. We knew it would take a lot to get our new house to where we wanted it, but we have time. There are some days I want to get started right away just because I love doing the work.

  31. I fantasize about buying a home right now! All of those upgrades sound awesome. I’ve always had hardwood floors so I hope to get a house with lovely floors. I’d also like a laundry rooms since that is something I’ve never had and am tired of laundromats.

  32. Do you have a post on painting?! I need to know how to be fast and efficient. I’m painting my whole house (with stupid 10 foot walls) and I’m slooooooow.

  33. I don’t understand either why painting is so expensive, but I’m glad you were able to save money and do it yourself. If you do any major upgrades to your home, you should consider having your home reappraised for the value and insuring this new value instead of the old one. Thanks for sharing your wish list with us!

  34. The toughest part of owning a house is putting all your dreams on hold while you pay off the mortgage! I just keep adding to my Pinterest dream board…one day 🙂

  35. We live in a condo and nearly all of the changes that I would like to make do NOT pay back at all. The building is only 6 years old, so it’s hard to justify replacing much. I would like new counter tops, instead of the basic grade ones, especially because the bar top narrows down to the end, to a point where it’s almost useless. I would also like hardwood instead of the industrial carpet, but again, it won’t even come close to paying for itself. We have done a lot of little things here and there, some which cost money, but they make it a lot more livable, like adding a second hanger row in the bedroom closets.

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