Spending on remodeling homes is expected to jump 5 percent in the coming year – in fact, one Harvard study puts the projection at 7.5 percent – as more folks tap the increased equity in their homes to fix up kitchens and bathrooms, upgrade flooring, add patios, decks or even entire rooms.
So what trends are we seeing for the year ahead?
Homeowner expenditures on improvements and repairs could approach $340 billion, according to the Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity.
"Despite continuing challenges of low for-sale housing inventories and contractor labor availability, 2018 could post the strongest gains for home remodeling in more than a decade," said Abbe Will, a research associate in the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.
Homeowners in the Bay Area spend the most on remodels -- $70,000 or more for large kitchens, for example, compared to the national average of $27,000-$42,000. That’s in part because labor costs tend to be higher in coastal regions, but also because homeowners are more likely to select high-end materials for the job.
So what are the trends for 2018?
1. Sleek, compact and clutter free. Homebuyers are going for smaller, more affordable homes, but want smooth surfaces and places to store everything. And those who already own their homes are renovating for sleek, decluttered looks.
According to Houzz -- website focused on architecture, interior design and decorating, landscape design and home improvement -- 75 percent of respondents to their 2018 Kitchen Trends Study said they were incorporating features to declutter their kitchens and dining spaces this year.
Kitchen islands are popular. So are pull-out waste bins, trays and shelves; vertical cookie sheet/tray organizers; revolving corner trays, deep drawer organizers; pull or swing out trays and shelves; built-in bookcases; and cabinetry for audio-visual equipment and other electronics.
Another trend is the so-called “chef” sink, which is installed under the countertop, has two or even three bowls, and is designed to create a more functional kitchen workstation. Often these sinks are sold with accessories such as cutting boards, multipurpose racks, colanders, and wash bins for maximum efficiency.
2. Upgraded countertops in kitchens and bathrooms.
Engineered quartz is replacing granite as the most popular material for countertops. Sintered surfaces, which are essentially very large porcelain slabs, are also gaining favor.
Both are durable, hygienic, easy to clean and maintain, non-porous and available in a variety of colors and patterns.
Other trending surfaces for countertops are marble, stainless steel and concrete.
3. White and gray, yes, but also jewel tones and pops of bright yellow.
Minimalist white-on-white or white with gray remain popular, but for the second year in a row, we’re seeing more deep, lush colors added to the palette.
Sherwin-Williams' 2018 Color of the Year -- Oceanside SW 6496 -- is an intense shade of blue-green, while Pantone’s pick is Ultra Violet.
Decorators are pairing these rich jewel tones with shades of gray and even dark or black trim around windows and doors. For a bold accent, add a rain-slicker yellow occasional chair, lamp shade, side table or wall feature.
4. Wood flooring.
Hardwood is still the most popular material for flooring, with the trend shifting away from the dark Brazilian cherry and walnut toward the lighter domestic woods such as maple, pine, or hickory, especially in wider planks.
Lighter tones, along with graywashed woods, and distressed or wire-brushed wood brighten interior spaces.
Less-expensive engineered wood products are also popular, and have the added advantages of being easier to walk on and more scratch-resistant – an important feature for households with pets.
5. Cabinets too are moving toward a simpler esthetic.
While a few years ago, most Americans were not interested in the smooth, modern finish of European-style flat-panel cabinetry, it’s seeing a surge in popularity. Shaker cabinetry – sort of a transition between traditional raised panel-style cabinets and the modern smooth finish -- is the top pick of remodelers this year.
6. Even more concrete.
We’ve been seeing concrete countertops for a while now, but the trend is moving to use this material in even more inside spaces. Concrete fireplaces, bathroom walls – usually in the form of concrete panels – and concrete floors bring the inside out and add to that sleek, modern look.
Concrete is cool and durable, but it can stain, so should be sealed like granite.
For those who prefer tile, the trend is toward larger tiles, although narrow subway tiles remain popular.
7. Black is the new chrome.
Black fixtures, especially matte black and black nickel, as well as satin brass and unlacquered brass, look great with rich colors and stone countertops – plus they are easier to clean than lighter, polished metals and don’t show water spots.
Mixing metals gives a more eclectic look, and many designers add hammered copper light fixtures to warm up the industrial feel.
Stainless is still strong for appliances, but black stainless, black slate and fingerprint-resistant stainless are also popular.
8. Large showers, free-standing tubs.
Homeowners who are remodeling bathrooms often replace their tubs with spacious walk-in showers with seats, multiple shower heads or body sprays, and grab-bars for safety.
In fact, some big master bath projects feature a “wet room” concept, which includes a free-standing tub inside the larger shower area.
9. Smarter homes.
Probably the fastest-growing trend is incorporating more and smarter technology in our homes.
About 11 percent of new kitchen appliances can be operated wirelessly.
Wi-Fi connected home assistants allow homeowners to start appliances remotely, reorder with shopping services, control climate and entertainment, and provide home security.
10. Hiring pros to do the work.
While do-it-yourselfers may be comfortable painting a wall or changing a faucet, for major renovations, most homeowners elect to hire professional contractors, architects and designers.
For referrals to professionals or to find out how much your planned improvements will add to the value of your home, contact your local Realtor today.
Cher Wollard is a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Drysdale Properties, Livermore.