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Curb Appeal

by Lindsey Getz
Even small changes can improve the look of your home and boost its value.

They say first impressions are the most important—which is why a gourmet kitchen, lavish bathrooms and a state-of-the-art media room won’t make up for a ragged front walk, peeling paint or overgrown flower beds. Moreover, adding extras like a luxurious outdoor patio dining area or a luscious garden of shrubs and colorful plants can take your home’s look from average to outstanding.

“Outdoor spaces are a great way to increase the value of your home,” explains Brian Gill of Gill's Landscaping in Mullica Hill. “For example, a deck or new patio can not only add more living space for you to enjoy—it can add value and beauty to the overall look of your home.”

But this outdoor makeover doesn’t have to require a huge investment. Even small updates can add value, like adding some quality plants, replacing siding or giving the home’s exterior a fresh coat of paint.

Add Some Color
Want to give your home some instant curb appeal? Add a splash of color, suggests Harold Dambly, owner of Dambly’s Garden Center in Berlin. “Whether it’s annuals, tropicals or perennials, color is really important for a home’s exterior,” says Dambly. “For the fall, mums are a great way to add color, as are roses—knockout roses in particular. There are also various shrubs you can consider. Burning bushes are always a nice backdrop, though they can get tall, so be mindful of where you place them.”

Bright colors instantly draw attention to your flowerbeds and front yard, so opt for some variety, suggests Dambly. “From the standpoint of curb appeal, color is really going to jump out at you and get your house noticed,” he continues. “Whether you’re just looking to beautify your property or you’re looking to sell, it’s always nice to give your house that extra edge. Colorful flowers and shrubs draw your eye—they’re noticeable and inviting.”

Install Lighting
Outdoor lighting has multiple benefits to your home’s exterior. Artistic accent lighting enhances the home’s appearance, even into the evening hours, says Weedeman. In addition, it also adds a level of safety and security. A well-lit property—particularly on walkways and the driveway—will help prevent falls and deter intruders when you’re not at home.

Weedeman says that one of the biggest trends today is the use of LED low voltage lighting. He calls it a “go green approach” to outdoor lighting. Also popular is the addition of audio. “New plug ’n’ play cables can incorporate audio within the outdoor living space,” says Weedeman.

Steve Joseph of Joseph’s Landscaping recommends landscape lighting as an inexpensive but visually dramatic improvement to make a home seem more inviting

The key to adding both aesthetic and monetary value, Joseph says, is choosing cost-effective projects. “It’s an enhancement to the house that’s somewhat inexpensive, but you get a lot for the money you’re spending,” he says.

Hardscaping Options
Many older homes were made standard with concrete stoops and steps, but Eric Setzer of Lumberton-based SLS Landscaping says that having a segmental retaining wall put in can definitely dress up the look of the front of the house. “Instead of just a straight line of the sidewalk between the driveway and stoop, you can put in some nice curves,” says Setzer. “It also creates additional areas for plant installation.”

Sprucing up the driveway or surrounding walkways is another hardscaping element that can enhance the look of your exterior. Using decorative concrete gives you the option of creating a brick, stone or other decorative look while still getting the bang for your buck from using concrete, says Jill Muhlbaier of StraightEdge Concrete in Salem. “It gives you a much more attractive look than regular concrete, but is cheaper than pavers,” says Muhlbaier. “You also get the durability and easy maintenance that concrete offers.”

Stamped concrete has an increasing number of styles, patterns and color combinations and can be made to look like brick, slate, flagstone, stone, tile and even wood. Because of its realistic design, it blends well with existing brick or stone in other areas of your home. In addition to driveways and walkways, it’s also ideal for patios and can incorporate steps and sitting walls, says Muhlbaier.

Joseph’s Landscaping can cap off existing concrete steps with paving stones in varying colors and textures, which can also be used in front walkways for a complete new look.

“It’s an aesthetically pleasing look. You walk up a nice walkway rather than just a standard walkway,” he says. “And it’s good for resale value, too.”

The cost for a paving stone walkway can run from $2,000 to 4,000, Joseph says, with an additional $2,000 to $2,500 to also redo the front steps. “But you’ll get 95 percent of the return value once you sell the home,” he says.

Windows, Doors and Walls
While most homeowners tend to think about windows in terms of energy savings—and that’s certainly a critical purpose—windows do also contribute to the exterior look of your home. The right windows can also help keep maintenance to a minimum. “Putting vinyl replacement windows in eliminates the worry about paint chipping off the frame,” says Jack Merryfield, owner of The Window Factory in Haddon Heights. “A vinyl window never needs to be painted. It looks new even years down the road, and you never have to worry about the upkeep. Most windows also come with a lifetime warranty—ours do—and it’s just one less thing to have to worry about.”

New doors are another simple way to freshen up the look of your home. Right now the most popular trend is steel doors with a wood-grain finish. “Even if you didn’t do any other work and you changed the door, it would change the whole appearance of your home,” adds Merryfield. “The door is the gateway to the home, and it’s usually the first thing someone notices. It’s a very easy way to give your home a fresh new look.”

Of course, the siding of your home is also a critical aspect of its exterior appeal. And, like windows, it also contributes to energy efficiency. “If you put down an insulation barrier before the siding, it will make your home more energy efficient and save you money,” says Merryfield. “It will seal everything underneath and never rot, so it will always make your home look newer. Plus vinyl siding is easy to maintain: just spray it with a hose and you’re done.”

Maintain Your Landscape
After all the improvements and landscape transformations are complete, keeping your property well-groomed and maintained will ensure your home looks its absolute best.

“When it comes to curb appeal, professional landscapers will keep a home’s exterior looking great throughout the year by maintaining the property with the best tools and advice for the job,” says Henry Weedeman, landscape designer at Young’s Landscape Management in Moorestown and Lumberton.

Weedeman says the key to a well-maintained landscape begins with proper pruning and mulching each year, as well as regular fertilizing to keep plants healthier for longer.

“Everyone forgets about watering!” says Dave Feast, owner of Elite Landscaping. He notes that landscaping requires proper maintenance in order to have the best results.

“Irrigation is very important for your property. We recommend landscaping investments include [an irrigation] system to monitor and track the amount of water you’re putting on it according to weather,” he says.

Homeowners should speak with landscaping professionals about ongoing maintenance needs like mowing, watering, weeding and chemical programs for turf and plantings, he adds.

Whatever your budget, South Jersey’s landscaping architects, designers and professionals will help you improve your home down to the last detail.

Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 7 (September, 2011).
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