Help your home make a good first impression

Rosie Romero, Special for The Republic

Want to spiff up the exterior of your home? One of the easiest ways to improve its curb appeal is with a coat of paint, as we discussed recently. But if you’ve done all that and the appearance of your home from the street still doesn’t impress you, there are many other projects to take on to improve your home’s curb appeal.

Replace or refinish your front door: When you first bought your house, you really loved that majestic wooden front door. But now it’s looking a little dull due to exposure to the Arizona sun. It needs to be sanded down and refinished. Maybe you can even change the color of the stain. You could do it yourself, but it would be a whole lot easier — and probably not as expensive as you think — to have a professional take it off and do it. A good refinisher can do the work in less than a day whereas you might need a couple days for the job.

In addition, refinish the wooden threshold in the doorway and fix any broken or chipped areas on the door casing. The improvement in the door’s appearance will enhance the inside of the house as well. After that, you need to keep maintaining that wooden door. To keep the door looking great, do some light sanding and brush on a new protective top coat of urethane finish every couple of years.

Install a new door: If your front door is too far gone, you can buy a new one. If you want to get something that can stand up better to the sun than wood — especially if your door faces south, southwest or southeast — get a fiberglass model.

Replace the old hardware on your front door and possibly replace the lighting fixtures: Once you have that new door, you want to replace the old, chipped hardware as well. Don’t look for the cheapest door handle and deadbolt lock; you want one that’s bump-proof to protect against burglars and one with a finish that will last a long time in the Arizona sun.

New windows: If the windows in the front of your home are shabby, replace them, too. You don’t have to change every room in the house if you can’t afford it. Do the ones out front and do the rest later when your budget will allow it. But if you replace all your windows with mid­range aluminum-clad wood models, you can recoup most of that investment if you sell your house.

Install new outdoor lighting: Redo the lighting for your yard and the front of your house, preferably by installing new LED fixtures. Path lights with LED bulbs come with the bulbs inside just as halogen systems do. These lights are 2watts each and are about the same as a 20-watt incandescent or halogen bulb. Using LEDs will cast a kind of warm glow that will make your home look more inviting. LEDs cost more, but they will pay for themselves with the savings on electricity.

If you have a large signature plant in your yard — a big saguaro or agave or a dramatic tree — light it up if you haven’t already done so. Go for more watts to do some uplighting on that plant. Make it the focus of your yard.

Replace your old cracked driveway or sidewalks with concrete pavers: I’m a big fan of pavers because they are easy to install. They’re also easy to change out if a few of them get cracked or stained. Usually, you have to tear out the old driveway and walkway first, according to Todd Whittaker of TWD Inc. in Peoria, but sometimes you can do it without the demo.

Cover an older home with stucco: If you have a home built in the 1960s or 1970s with siding and brick or stone trim, you can get a completely new, desert-style look by covering the whole house with stucco, Whittaker says. The siding and brick don’t have to be removed, but the vertical trim pieces that hold the siding together at corners and joints do have to be removed. Then the stucco is applied with pop-out trim framing around the windows.

Many of these homes have thin-looking 4-by-4 vertical posts that hold up patio ceilings or the entryway ceiling. As part of the re-stucco process, the posts can be enlarged to 8-by-8’s to make them look more substantial and attractive.

Buy a new garage door and clean out the garage: Clean out the garage? What’s that got to do with curb appeal, you’re probably asking. “There’s nothing that detracts from the curb appeal of a house like a bunch of cars parked out front,” says John Gluch of HomeSmart Realty in Phoenix. “You want to park your cars inside the garage.”

So get rid of the boxes and storage in the garage and park your car inside again.

Create a mini container garden of interesting desert plants at your front door:Choose an assortment of fairly large pots that look good together and put a couple of plants in each pot. If you stick to small cactuses and interesting succulents instead of flowers, it will be easier to keep your little garden green and thriving.

Renew the plants in your front yard: If you’re a proponent of desert gardening, make sure your yard is weed-free. If you have a more traditional look with a lawn, water and fertilize more regularly to keep it green. “If there are any big trees or bushes that obstruct the view of the house, you want to prune them back,” Gluch said. “Try to make a canopy out of that big tree.”

Add a gate or a new low wall to the front of the yard: Paint it in an interesting accent color to contrast with the earth tones on the house.

When you’ve made a few of those improvements, you’ll know you have done a great job when the neighbors come around to ask you who did the work.

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