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The best home renovation tips from the stars of “Good Bones”

Ned Ehrbar
Producer

On their HGTV series “Good Bones,” mother-daughter team Karen Laine and Mina Starsiak tackle some pretty extreme renovation jobs. While you might not be looking to completely gut your home to achieve your dream or turn a profit, there are still plenty of tips Laine and Starsiak can offer.

“I feel like there's always a project, whether it's just a small one or a big one,” Starsiak says.

The key to any home renovation project is to first identify your goals. “The first question is, ‘Am I doing this for myself because I love my home and I want to stay here forever, or am I doing this with resale in mind?’” says Laine. “If you decide that it's for yourself, what's the most important thing to make your home feel comfortable? What is it that you need to really love this home?”

That answer will differ depending on the home, the homeowner and the funds available to make improvements. And the changes you’re considering can vary from the cosmetic -- like tiling or a new paint job -- to more structural work.

Renovation mistakes to avoid

As Laine and Starsiak are quick to point out, home renovation goes well beyond curb appeal. “A mistake some people make is just doing all the pretty things and not necessarily addressing the mechanicals or insulation behind the walls, those kind of big things,” says Starsiak.

Laine agrees: “Those things aren't what are considered sexy because they're not pretty and no one sees them. But they’re going to make a difference in your everyday life.”

Knowing when to DIY

One major factor to consider -- especially with the less cosmetic jobs -- is what you can handle yourself. Laine and Starsiak stress that the most important thing in home renovation is having a clear understanding of your own skill set.

“Most of the mechanicals -- plumbing, HVAC, electrical, the big things that can cause a flood or a fire -- don't do yourself,” Starsiak says.

But if you have the skills, saving money is easy, especially with the increase in homeowner-friendly products on the market, like peel-and-stick backsplashes that emulate actual tile or snap-and-click flooring that’s easier to install.

“Certain things like painting, give it a shot,” Laine says. “Worst-case scenario, you realize you're no good at it and you hire a professional and they fix what you've done.”

Best bang for your renovation buck

If you’re renovating primarily for resale potential, the best bang for your renovation buck is in the kitchen and the bathrooms. “Those are bigger projects to tackle if you're not happy,” Starsiak says. “Done right, they're definitely huge selling features.”

In fact, as Laine explains, the return on invest for kitchen and bathroom remodeling is 85%, a tough number to reach in other renovation areas. “Rarely are you going to make money on a remodel,” she says.

A big way to lock in savings for a job like that is being careful when choosing materials -- even if you’re going for a trendy, contemporary look.

“You can buy $2-a-square-foot subway tile, or you can buy $50-a-square-foot subway tile. There's not a whole lot of difference,” Starsiak says. “So buy the $2-a-square-foot subway tile. It's going to look beautiful and it'll sell all day long.”

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