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Home Improvement 2006  

Planning it out

  The success of any remodeling or improving project may depend on planning from start to finish.
Remodeling trends stick to the script
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He'd like a nickel, he says, for every time a homeowner requested that he make a room open, airy and light. "We are always taking down walls and making space as large as possible."

Just like the Joneses
If you saw it yesterday in a high-end model home, expect mainstream Americans to add it to their renovation plans for 2006, says Slaughter. That translates to details such as $50- to $75-per-square-foot maple and bamboo flooring throughout the main level (yes, that's maple, the same wood used on basketball courts for years), and oversized showers with multiple heads making a big splash upstairs.

These shower heads aren't spitting out just any old water, either. Water dispensers in the refrigerator, and filtration systems at the sink, are so yesterday. In this millennium, people are investing in reverse-osmosis systems for the entire house, so they can bathe in the highest quality water possible, too.

"This is going to shock you -- tub baths, in general, are on their way out in the master bedroom," she says. "Consumers are getting more savvy. It's not just 'What do the Joneses have?,' it's 'Am I really using this today?'"

The attitude explains why remodelers like Butler are removing walls that separate formal dining rooms and spiffing up the mud rooms of the 1990s to serve as more of kitchen extensions, complete with cabinetry and solid-surface countertops that are usually just one notch below the grade they select for the kitchen itself.

No wonder the average cost to rebuild an upscale kitchen reached $75,206 in 2004, according to Remodeling magazine's annual Cost vs. Value report. A midrange redo came in at $42,660, while touch-ups usually set a family back $15,273. Midrange bathroom remodels average $9,861 but will climb as high as $25,273 for the fancier versions. Should you spring for a brand-new bathroom addition, you'll need to budget $21,087.

And then there's the master bedroom remodeling costs: On the high end, $134,364 buys you custom built-in bookshelves, a walk-in closet featuring natural daylight and a dressing area, a gas fireplace with the new ribbon flames, in-floor heating and a kitchenette. You'll spend $70,245 for a middle-of-the-road change that includes carpeting, painted walls, whirlpool tub and separate 3-by-4-foot ceramic tile shower.

Miller stays abreast of the next big thing by watching advertisements for national retail hardware chains like The Home Depot and Lowe's Home Improvement Center. Recently there's been a burst of interest in taking the garage seriously, with storage systems, work beaches and updated floor coatings.

But at the moment, the numbers indicate the big three rooms -- bathroom, kitchen and master bedroom -- will remain king of the remodeling world for the foreseeable future. Miller chalks it up to what he dubs "serial renovators" -- people who start on one room, proceed to the next and, when they reach the end, begin with the first room again.

"The World War II generation wasn't that much into keeping things up to date," he says. "If it worked, it was OK. If somebody wanted to buy the house, they could fix it up the way they wanted. Today's generations have a lot more interest in keeping things current and comfortable. The home is such an important part of who they are, where they spend their time."

Slaughter sums it up,"We're home-obsessed."

-- Posted: April 12, 2006
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