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Instant curb appeal: 10 simple, high-impact projects.

I recently watched a TV show that showed ways to improve a home's curb appeal. The crew built the homeowner a new front porch, a circular driveway, and a fountain. They also planted a luscious garden or two. Three months and $60,000 later, that house undoubtedly had curb appeal.

But there are dozens of small, inexpensive improvements you can do that add up to a dramatic upgrade. This article contains a menu of ideas to consider.

Tackle first things first. If the paint on your house is peeling, faded or outdated, break out the paintbrush. No matter what other projects you do, your house will never reach maximum curb appeal with shabby-looking paint.

Also consider how much time you re willing to invest, an terms of both undertaking the project and maintaining it afterward. Lining a walkway with bricks or installing a screen door can eat up a day, but neither requires much maintenance. Installing a flower box is quick and easy but requires regular upkeep. And keep the big picture in mind. If you're replacing your old light fixture with a brass one, your door hardware and house numbers will probably look best in brass too.

Go at it, add your own touches and have fun!

1 Paint, paint, paint

Cost: $25 and up

Time: Half day and up

Whether you paint your front door, your trim or your entire house, few projects can transform a house as dramatically and inexpensively as paint. Topnotch paint costs only a few dollars more per gallon, but it will cover better, go on smoother and last longer than the cheap stuff--it's a smart investment.

A few rules of thumb: If you want a small house to look larger, paint it white. If your house is a mishmash of styles or has sagging soffits or other flaws, paint everything the same color to help visually unify the house.

Several paint manufacturers market computer software that allows you to mock up different paint color schemes on a digital image of your house (or on a house close in style supplied by the program). Visit, and to find out more.

2 Install new house numbers

Cost: $1 and up for individual numbers; custom plaques start at about $50

Time: 1 hour

Replace shabby or dated-looking numbers with ones made of brass, aluminum or stainless steel. They'll look best if the finish matches that of the light fixture and door hardware. You can buy do-it-yourself address plaque kits from Ace Hardware ( For custom plaques, contact or

3 Upgrade your mailbox

Cost: $10 and up

Time: 1 hour and up

Whether you have a box mounted to the house, a letter slot next to the door or a freestanding box on a post near the street, a new mailbox can add a splash of curb appeal. Purchase an approved mailbox and follow regulations regarding height; for example, curbside mailboxes must be mounted so bottoms are 42 to 48 in. above the ground. And remember, hanging plants and flowers growing around a mailbox may increase curb appeal, but the bees and other stinging insects these plants attract aren't always your mail carrier's best friend.

Visit for a wide selection of mailboxes and letter slots.

4 Line a walkway with bricks or pavers

Cost: $2 to $4 per linear foot

Time: Half to a full day

Is your concrete walkway in decent--but boring--shape? Adding color, texture and width to an existing walkway by lining it with pavers is a whole lot easier and cheaper than replacing it. Stone, clay and concrete pavers are all good choices. The basic procedure involves digging a trench one paver wide along the walkway, leveling in a bed of sand or pea gravel, then setting and tamping pavers so they're flush with the top of the walkway.

For more how-to information, see June '01, p. 82. To order a copy, see p. 7.

5 Replace a light fixture

Cost: $25 and up

Time: 1 to 2 hours

Consider function as well as style when selecting a fixture; it should light up your steps, house numbers and door without being too dominant. To simplify the project, buy a fixture that has the same mounting system or screw spacing as the existing fixture.

Make certain the power is off and the new fixture is rated for exterior use before installing it. Some sconce-style lights are now available with unobtrusive, built-in motion detectors.

6 Plant a tree

Cost: $30 and up

Time: 2 to 4 hours

Plant a tree and you get not only curb appeal but also shade, an improved view from the inside and fall color. Before planting, determine the mature size of the tree. Plant it far enough away from the house so limbs won't overhang the roof or cause other problems. A tree planted in the right place can help block wind and act as a mini solar device by screening out the hot summer sun when it's in full leaf and letting in welcome winter sunshine when it's leafless. Consider planting two trees to "frame" the house or entryway. Foundation plantings are another way to add appeal.

7 Add low-voltage lighting

Cost: $50 and up

Time: 2 hours and up

Low-voltage lighting can dramatically improve your home's nighttime curb appeal, and by lighting walkways and dark corners, it can improve safety and security as well. Lighting can be grouped into three basic categories: downlights, uplights and specialty lights. Buy a transformer that includes a timer or light sensor so the lights automatically turn on and off.

8 Install shutters

Cost: About $4 per sq. ft. for standard vinyl shutters; $25 to $50 per sq. ft. for custom-made wood shutters

Time: 1 to 2 hours to paint, 1/2 to 1 hour to install Decorative shutters can add color, quaintness and depth to a house. Shutters with louvers or raised panels have a traditional look; those with decorative cutouts have more of a cottage or country feel.

For an authentic look, mount wood shutters using special shutter hinges and keep them pinned against the house with old-fashioned shutter dogs. Shutter clips are available for "invisibly" mounting vinyl shutters.

9 Install a new storm door

Cost: $100 and up; door shown, about $400

Time: 2 to 4 hours

Even if your primary door remains the same, a storm door with an oval window or decorative glass can act as a great cover-up. It can add security and increase your home's energy efficiency.

Self-storing units with glass and screen panels that can be adjusted in tracks according to season are the most convenient. Those with interchangeable screens and storm panels have a cleaner, uninterrupted look but require a safe place to store the unused panel.

10 Install flower boxes

Cost: $20 to $30 each

Time: 1 hour to install store-bought boxes; 3 to 4 hours to build and install your own

Few projects add as much charm and color to a house as flowers in window boxes. These work best when mounted below double-hung, slide-by or stationary windows--casement and other swing-out window sashes will decapitate the flowers. Use a plastic liner to prolong the life of the planter and simplify fall cleanup.

Easier yet, arrange container gardens in pots and planters on the front stoop or along the walkway.
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Author:Carlsen, Spike
Publication:The Family Handyman
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Jun 1, 2005
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