Best Foot Forward

When you look at the front of your house, what's the first thing you notice.  You have to be objective and not think about how much you love your front door color if the shutters are hanging on by one screw.  If that's the case, no one is looking at your gorgeous door color and everyone is wondering when that dangler is going to fall.  Trust me.  Here's a little bit of our before and after.

The ho hum before - 

The pretty awesome after -

Although we added the portico over our front door, most of the other change were pretty minor.  The new black shutters really make the windows stand out, and moving the gutter pipes makes the front of the house seem larger.  Most houses don't need made architectural changes to gain a lot of curb appeal.  A basic spruce up which costs very little money can make all the difference.

Here are initial things to consider:

1)  Junk, junk, junk - You can make a big change in your house at no cost by removing any junk you may be overlooking.  Remove unused planter and window boxes, flowerpots, broken fencing, and decrepit porch furniture.  Dead shrubs and other plantings should be removed (including stumps).  Even if you aren't replanting new shrubs right away, it will still look better with nothing than with dead stuff.  Cost: Free!

2)  Paint - Peeling paint on your siding, trim, or door will majorly detract from your house.  Get out the can or hiring someone to get it done.  Be sure to prep the surfaces well and replace any rotten or cracked wood along the way.  Cost:  Varies

3)  Clean it up - Power wash any vinyl siding, unfinished decking and fencing, and sidewalks and driveways. Cost:  Free if you have a power washer or you borrow a friend's, otherwise about $25 to rent one.

4)  Landscaping  - Trim the shrubs!  I did this last weekend and it made a huge difference in the look of our house and the shrubs will do better over time.  If you cannot plant new shrubs, plant some inexpensive annual flowers appropriate for the season for color and interest.  Even a large planter on the front porch with colorful flowers can brighten up the overall look.  Plant grass seed on any bare patches, or invest in a little bit of sod to fill any holes - much quicker and easier to maintain.  Spread fertilizer and weed killer to start building up your existing lawn.  Cost:  Varies but potentially free if you are just trimming and removing dead stuff.

5)  Shutters (if you have them) - Rehang any fallen or dangling shutters.  If you have broken shutters, fix them or take ALL of them down unless you plan to replace the broken shutter quickly.  Paint the shutters if they look faded or have pealing paint.  Consider replacing wood shutters with good quality vinyl or fiberglass to avoid ongoing maintenance.  If you want to paint them a new color and don't know what to paint, black is almost always a good choice and can be achieved with a can of good spray paint.  Cost:  Starts at about $50 per window for new shutters.

Heath Zenith SL-4192-BK Six-Sided Die-Cast Aluminum Lantern, Black with Beveled Glass6)  Light Fixtures - Replace any missing or burned out bulbs with bright compact fluorescent bulbs (cheaper to run and don't need replacement nearly as often).  Replace fixtures that are broken, dated, undersized, or just plain ugly.  No electrician required in most cases so long as you have existing fixtures.  Bonus points:  Connect exterior lights to timers allowing them to turn on and off automatically.  Cost:  Starts at about $25 each for new fixture and $25 for the timer.

7)  Fences - If you have fences in your front yard, be sure they are in good repair - no pealing paint, missing parts, or broken gates.  If you can, remove any chain link fence since that will add nothing to your home's curb appeal.  You'll be amazed by the difference, and good fences don't necessarily make good neighbors - especially in the front yard!  Cost:  Free if you are just removing.

Here are some good resources on gaining curb appeal from This Old House, BHG, and HGTV.

Let me know if you have other low-cost ideas on how to spiff up your abode.  Be sure to send before and after pictures!