Give a Room a Crown
An investment of $300 to $500 a room can set a home's "tone."
If you're not up for spending five figures on home renovations, consider a smaller fix, like decorative molding. While many new homes include at least some trim, others are left bare, with nary a window casing in sight. "Trim work can really add interest, depth, and sophistication to your house," says RealEstate.com's consumer expert Holly Slaughter, "and put money back in your pocket at resale."
An investment of $300 to $500 per room ($8 to $12 per foot) to install crown molding, for example, can help set the "tone" of a home, giving it a more finished feel. "When you're comparing two houses, the one with the crown molding is going to show better," says Steve Berges, author of 101 Cost-Effective Ways to Increase the Value of Your Home (Kaplan Publishing; $18.95).
But this is not a do-it-yourself project. Unless you're handy with a compound miter saw and have a mind for geometry, you're better off leaving installation to the pros. Kevin Wales, president of Just Moulding in the Washington, D.C., area, says he often gets calls from homeowners who've made a couple of attempts themselves. "They buy 120 feet of material and realize they've done it all backwards." He explains that crown molding has to be cut upside down and backwards at a 38- or 45-degree angle. Complicating matters is that few ceilings and walls meet at exactly 90 degrees. The carpenters at Just Moulding cut the trim in their shop with high-tech equipment, turning most jobs around in one day. Wales suggests asking at your local lumberyard for recommendations on specialists.
Before you get your checkbook out, however, make sure you choose a molding that jibes with the architectural style of your home. "Suppose you have a Mediterranean revival house and you throw in a crown mold that is more appropriate in a colonial house," says Paul Winans, chairman of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. "You've lowered the value." As a general rule of thumb, mission or craftsman-style homes look best with the cleaner lines of plain-profile trim. Save the fancy molding, like wainscoting and multiple-piece crown, for more traditional homes.
This story appears in the December 25, 2006 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.