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Inching Toward a Remodeling Comeback

The scream of a circular saw in my house this weekend might have convinced a passerby that there was a whole lot of construction going on inside. Actually, it was just a tiny do-it-yourself job that might more appropriately be considered decorating rather than remodeling. But it still represents the first home-improvement spending we've done since late last summer when it became clear that the economy was starting to fall apart.

Anticipation of visiting relatives next month finally prompted us to re-do a half bathroom that was looking mighty shabby, with dated wallpaper (yes, that's redundant) that was wrinkled and starting to peel. We're ripping out the paper (my part of this DIY job) and replacing it with bead board wainscoting and crown molding (my husband's part). We're spending just under $300 on materials, including about $100 budgeted for a new wicker wall cabinet.

Looking at the news, I see that we're not alone taking baby steps back toward spending. On May 14, the National Association of Home Builders reported a jump in its Remodeling Market Index -- improving from abysmal to simply bad. An index under 50 reflects that a majority of remodelers surveyed do not anticipate an improving market. In the last three months of 2008, that index hit a record low of 18.6. But their index of current market conditions hit 34.5 percent, up from 25.5 in the fourth quarter of 2008. The greatest jump came in the minor home addition category, which increased to 39.1 from 31.5. Major additions increased to 32.7 from 19.4. Maintenance and repair climbed to 30.4 from 23.6. Officials at NAHB said remodelers are starting to get more requests for bids and proposals, though it's still a challenge getting customers to actually sign on for a job.

Lowe's, the big home-improvement supply store, reported quarterly financial results yesterday that were less lousy than expected. Lowe's 32-cent per share earnings were better than the 25 cents per share that analysts had expected. The company expects current quarter earnings of between 51 and 55 cents per share. Home Depot is scheduled to release its earnings report at 9 a.m. today.

I don't know if the super luxe bath finishes that became so common during the boom will be much in demand after the economy recovers. Consumers' new frugality may have become a habit by then. I know our little half-bath facelift is much more modest that we would have liked it to be. It would have been delightful to hire someone to do the work for us. We're re-using the same pedestal sink and toilet, even though both could stand to be replaced with something more stylish and functional. The old ones will do for now -- and probably for quite a while.

Do you think luxurious bath finishes will be a thing of the past, or they still high on your list?

By Elizabeth Razzi  |  May 19, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Home features , Remodeling and repair , The economy  
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The ultimate bathroom retreat is not complete without a bidet or better yet.......a hand bathroom bidet sprayer. The hand sprayer gives you superior control and water volume and if the bathroom was not designed to allow for a bidet it offers the convenience of installation on the existing toilet AND you don't have to get up and move every time! You will pay for it many times over in toilet paper savings. Available at Blog;

Posted by: jeffsamuels9 | May 19, 2009 9:17 PM | Report abuse

Due to a failing toilet and sink fixtures, I had my one and onlly bathroom redone about a year ago. It cost $5000, and, believe me, it's a modest size. Is it luxurious? No. However, I have plenty of storage and it turned out to be a nice little space. This year, I would have just gotten a new toilet and sink faucet!

Posted by: MILW | May 22, 2009 8:54 AM | Report abuse

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