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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Remodeling remains robust in ailing real estate market

Remodeling remains robust in ailing real estate market

An upward bounce in a popular remodeling index shows that homeowners are going ahead with remodeling projects despite the dismal real estate market. In fact, BuildFax says that remodeling projects were up across the country in May continuing a 19-month trend. "Even with the continued struggles in the economy, the remodeling industry has been a bright spot, as consumers look to make upgrades to their current homes, rather than purchasing a new residence,” said Joe Emison, Vice President of Research and Development at BuildFax.

Based on construction permits filed with local building departments across the country, the BuildFax index shows that in May remodeling increased by 12 percent in the Northeast, 7 percent in the South and West and 18 percent in the Midwest. “Based on the trends from the first months of this year, we expect to continue seeing strong gains from coast to coast," said Emison.

Apparently, homeowners aren’t waiting to replace aging appliances, worn flooring or banged-up countertops. And they don’t have to spend a lot to do so as Consumer Reports testing shows. In our recent special reportYour New Kitchen we found major appliances and home improvement products that’ll stand the test of time, including:

Flooring. In our latest tests we found that the best oak and bamboo floors can fend off most wear and tear for about the same price as vinyl, which is still tops at resisting dents. Three oak floors from Mullican, Lumber Liquadators and Bruce topped our tests of sold-wood products. And Congoleum and Armstrong produced the top-scoring vinyls.

This year we added bamboo, recycled glass and soapstone to our tests of countertop materials. The bamboo was a bust and was the lowest-scoring product in the entire kitchen report. Granite and quartz, an engineered stone, were the only materials that aced most tests.

Cabinets. Well-made cabinets are likely to look good year after year. Look for doors with solid-wood frames, drawers with solid-wood sides and dovetail joints and shelves made of ¾-inch plywood or medium-density fiberboard.

Major appliances. Our new Ratings of refrigeratorsdishwashersranges, and cooktops and wall ovensfeature a lot of bargains. And keep in mind that today’s refrigerators and dishwashers use less energy and water.

If you’re planning to remodel your kitchen, take a look at our special video section which has makeovers that cost $5,000, $15,000 and $50,000 as well as interviews with homeowners about their biggest remodeling mistakes. Number one? Not planning ahead.

—Mary H.J. Farrell

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