Homeowners: What are small yet uncommon / impactful home upgrades?
April 11, 2022 1:47 PM   Subscribe

For example, a glass rinser installed in a kitchen sink.

Other ideas I've learned about:
- pot filler
- soft touch cabinet doors
- appliance garages
- bidets on every toilet
posted by shrimpetouffee to Home & Garden (50 answers total) 112 users marked this as a favorite
Sliding barn-style doors are fantastic. Instant-hot water dispensers in the kitchen.
posted by jquinby at 1:54 PM on April 11, 2022 [5 favorites]

Toilet seats that go down smoothly, without slamming.
Timers on the bathroom fan
Locks that all use the same keys
Remote controls to turn off all the christmas lights all over the house, if that's your thing.
Almost every room should have a drawer somewhere with a box cutter, scissors, pens, sharpies, and note paper.
posted by bondcliff at 1:59 PM on April 11, 2022 [12 favorites]

We have the soft-closing cabinet doors and love them, but whenever I visit my mom I slam the absolute shit out of her cabinets. It's fun!
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 2:00 PM on April 11, 2022 [13 favorites]

Oh, and we have a numeric keypad lock on our front door and literally no house key. It's neat!
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 2:01 PM on April 11, 2022 [19 favorites]

One thing I love in my kitchen is cork-lined drawers. This way things don't go sliding all to the back every time I open one quickly, and it looks better than the textured rubber drawer liners.
posted by Fuego at 2:01 PM on April 11, 2022 [28 favorites]

Lots of fluorescent/LED tube-lighting in the garage (if you have one). Just full-width side to side every 2-4ft. You can get them for about $50 for 6x4ft at 2000ish lumens, or double the lumens for 50% more. Here's 18x4ft/2200lm for $120.
posted by rhizome at 2:04 PM on April 11, 2022 [5 favorites]

I put a motion sensor light strip in the hall closet. It's LED and can be taken down to recharge. Instant closet light is pretty cool.
posted by mersen at 2:09 PM on April 11, 2022 [7 favorites]

Washlets for your toilets, especially ones that will heat the water.

The ones that are integrated with the seat -- and thus can heat the seat as well -- are even better (but can be much more expensive). But a warm stream of water really improves the experience of using the toilet.

(on edit: dang, missed that you called those out explicitly in your question...)
posted by kdar at 2:10 PM on April 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

My husband’s office has a kitchen tap that dispenses carbonated water. I’d love one but for now we just have a soda stream…

Remote controls (or something like Amazon Echo) for lights in a room that aren’t connected to a wall switch

Towel rack that warms your towels
posted by music for skeletons at 2:11 PM on April 11, 2022 [4 favorites]

Whole house humidifier. Eliminates the awful task of cleaning and refilling the portable ones.

Pull out sprayer style kitchen faucet.

A sink strainer with no moving parts
posted by advicepig at 2:11 PM on April 11, 2022 [6 favorites]

Spring hinges on doors you'd prefer to stay closed, like bathrooms or closets, are very nice.
posted by mhoye at 2:23 PM on April 11, 2022 [2 favorites]

Heated towel rack in the bathroom. Especially if you live in a damp and/or cold climate; it is life-changing.
posted by niicholas at 2:25 PM on April 11, 2022 [9 favorites]

Sinks that can be turned on with a wave of the hand or a foot pedal or some other automation so that you don't have to touch the handle when your hands are dirty or potentially have bacteria from raw meet.
posted by radioamy at 2:34 PM on April 11, 2022 [9 favorites]

In the closet, design a designated space for 4 narrow laundry bins marked by type of laundry (lights, darks, linens, and delicates) so it’s super easy to pre-sort the laundry as you undress. Use hampers that are individually removeable and hold exactly one load each (ikea Skubb tall narrow hampers are ugly but very practical for this) so you can just drag out the exact hamper load and quickly toss it into the machine.

Designated hooks for “not dirty yet” clothes to keep them from piling up

A British style airing closet so clothing can hang dry in the furnace room and humidify the house

A three way split faucet in the shower - rainfall top shower, hand held hose (for washing kids and pets and easier showering if you don’t want to wet long hair) and a toe tap for buckets.

Two dishwashers! Saves putting away dishes.

Wall sconces in the dining room. They look fabulous and cast a much nicer light than an overhead fixture.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 2:36 PM on April 11, 2022 [8 favorites]

Step-stool concealed in the toe kick area of your lower cabinets.
posted by aramaic at 2:36 PM on April 11, 2022 [12 favorites]

Motion-sensing footlight and timers for fans in bathrooms.

A built-in step in the shower.
posted by mullacc at 2:37 PM on April 11, 2022 [2 favorites]

My lower kitchen cabinets all have shelves that slide out. I don't know how I lived without them.
posted by FencingGal at 2:47 PM on April 11, 2022 [18 favorites]

While this may not strictly be a home upgrade, it's very easy to buy a re-usable spray bottle, some vinegar and your preferred essential oils (I'm partial to oregano, sometimes citrus?), diluting some vinegar in the spray bottle and adding the smells of your choice. Dusting and wiping down surfaces becomes a more pleasant experience when it makes the house smell just like what you want.
posted by mhoye at 2:54 PM on April 11, 2022 [7 favorites]

A heat recovery ventilation system.

Maybe a hot water recirculating loop as well.
posted by JoeZydeco at 3:11 PM on April 11, 2022 [7 favorites]

foot activated kitchen faucet.
posted by ReluctantViking at 3:12 PM on April 11, 2022 [4 favorites]

Heated floors. All the apartments I lived in in Korea have their heating in the floor. Makes for nice cozy toes in the winter.
posted by kathrynm at 3:32 PM on April 11, 2022 [9 favorites]

Someday I hope to install a pull-out cutting board in my kitchen.

Hooks, hooks, hooks. Everywhere I install hooks, I end up filling them with stuff.
posted by hydra77 at 3:34 PM on April 11, 2022 [2 favorites]

It’s a little silly and I can’t speak for longevity, but I now really hate showering in a non-thermostatic shower. I have the Moen smart-home-connected system but there are non-electronic ones.
posted by supercres at 3:35 PM on April 11, 2022 [4 favorites]

TBH I don't love pull-out cutting boards, you can never get them totally clean. In order to clean them you have to let them dry, and nobody wants to leave a cutting board pulled out in the kitchen.

Agree with FencingGal about the pull-out shelves, that's a game-changer for sure, we have those in lower cabinets. One lower cabinet also has a pot/pan/lid rack installed. My dad's entire pantry cabinet has pull-out shelves and they are so great.
posted by radioamy at 3:36 PM on April 11, 2022 [8 favorites]

All drawers in my bathroom instead of cabinets. A footrest in the shower for shaving. A trash compactor. Our front doors are double wide and can both be opened, which makes for ease of moving things in and out. I wish I had outlets in the floor in more rooms so I could have easy access for lamps.
posted by dpx.mfx at 3:37 PM on April 11, 2022 [5 favorites]

I will second a lot of these

- heated towel rack in bathroom (heated floors are great too if you're someplace cold)
- bathroom timer fans
- whole house humidifier
- pull out cutting board is good for breads, bad for other stuff as radioamy mentions

A few more

- switched outlets (US style seems to be an outlet where the top plug is activated by a wall switch, I actually like UK/AUS style where the switch itself turns off)
- under cabinet lighting is maybe standard but if not, it's great
- drawer for spices using some little riser scheme
- I'm a big fan of those shower systems where you set the hot/cold mix ONCE and then every time you turn on the shower, it's that temperature, so like a temp mix knob that is separate from the on/off knob

I inherited a fancy house with some of these things and two things I can NOT suggest but that some people like are x-10 systems (or equivalent) which will turns lights on and off at certain times of the day. The tech is better now but when these systems fail, they fail HARD. This house is also in a humid area and there were mixing valves installed on the toilets which put warm water in them to keep condensation from forming outside. Maybe fine if you're using all the toilets but otherwise was just a mold growth medium.
posted by jessamyn at 3:38 PM on April 11, 2022 [4 favorites]

I'd love a cabinet above the sink that has a rack instead of a shelf so you can put your wet dishes there to drip dry into the sink.

I forget what it's called, but the vacuum built into the wall so you can sweep directly into it.

Built in drying racks in the laundry room. If the house has multiple levels, the laundry should be on the same floor as the bedrooms.

No unnecessary steps so you could use a wheelchair. I imagine there are a bunch of accommodations that could be built in for disabled people.

A fireplace with those fancy vents to direct the heat into the house.
posted by meemzi at 3:39 PM on April 11, 2022 [2 favorites]

Depends on how you define "small". But we got new storm doors with full glass and a retractable screen and new solid interior doors and it's amazing. Like, life changing amazing. Both are things we had delivered by the big box stores, then installed by a local company. We've been doing a ton of stuff on the house but the doors... wow.
posted by Crystalinne at 3:57 PM on April 11, 2022 [6 favorites]

Not built-in but the Litter Robot cat box is amazing. Provided your cats like it (mine do but I bought it from a lady whose cat did NOT). Anyway it is amazing.

I would KILL for a shower w/ built in shelves/ footrest. All the standalone versions are either crap or succumb to mold. Or both.
posted by emjaybee at 4:08 PM on April 11, 2022 [2 favorites]

Clothes chute if your laundry facilities are below your bedroom space. Ours happened to line up.
posted by kiblinger at 5:17 PM on April 11, 2022 [3 favorites]

Heated bathroom floors. If you're tiling a floor the extra cost is tiny and it makes every day start off a little bit better. I leave it on 10 months a year. We love it, and regret not putting it in every bathroom (just the master bath)
posted by mmf at 5:41 PM on April 11, 2022 [7 favorites]

The ability to make useful upgrades depends to a great extent on what level of renovation you may be doing anyway. Often, things that are impactful are dependent on other things, sometimes major things. Assuming you're doing work in the relevant areas, my learnings from being most of the way through a whole-house renovation are:
- More power points everywhere than you can imagine ever using
- New power points and light switches everywhere
- Replace all the light globes so they're all the same colour temperature
- Soft-close cabinet doors in kitchen, laundry, bathrooms
- Drawers instead of cupboards in the kitchen everywhere possible
- pull-out spray in the kitchen sink mixer
- Washing machine taps and power point inside a cabinet rather than on the wall
- Footrest and recessed shelves in the shower
- Double shower with rainhead and flexible spray
- Heated towel rails
- Hold-backs on all doors (we used magnetic ones)
- Replace all the painted-over door hinges
- storage space and lights in the attic.
posted by dg at 6:32 PM on April 11, 2022 [6 favorites]

A shower curtain with pockets! (This is the exact one I have). Saves you from getting the gross rings that inevitably build up under bottles, great if you don’t have the space/money to do bigger tub modifications.
posted by ActionPopulated at 6:58 PM on April 11, 2022 [4 favorites]

An under-cabinet vacuum makes it easy to keep the kitchen floor clean. I’ve been very happy with this
posted by kc8nod at 7:26 PM on April 11, 2022 [5 favorites]

Outlets with USB ports.

Kitchen turntables for any awkward cabinets, or for that shelf in the fridge that's not tall enough to reach your hand across to get little jars from the back.
posted by wondermouse at 7:29 PM on April 11, 2022 [3 favorites]

A recycling station by the front door with a box cutter.

Plug sockets / USB in the back of drawers for gadgets or hairdryers.

Built in storage to make good use of the funny shape area under the stairs.
posted by quacks like a duck at 8:57 PM on April 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

Agree about drawers or slide out shelves for lower cabinets.
Under-cabinet lighting- it’s so nice to be able to work with no shadows!
Pot fillers seem like a good idea, but you still have to empty the big pot of water when you’re done. Seems like a lot of added expense, and a new potential plumbing failure point for marginal benefit.
Heated floors everywhere.
posted by dbmcd at 11:03 PM on April 11, 2022 [2 favorites]

Dimmer switches for all important lights. I like to have the ability to make my living room super-bright, but that's not how I want it most of the time.

Wall-mounted magnetic knife strip in the kitchen.

Wireless lamp remote controls. Never fiddle around with lamp switches again.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 12:59 AM on April 12, 2022 [2 favorites]

I was going to say "curtains" but perhaps I should say "window treatments ". Ant particular window may have a problem that can be ameliorated to some extent. In our house, we have installed stuff to prevent drafts, to reduce heating from summer sun, and to block light at night.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:37 AM on April 12, 2022 [2 favorites]

I think USB ports might become a frustration over time, considering how many of my old USB chargers don't put out enough power for modern devices, or indeed aren't the right shape for them.

I have remote-control window blinds, and they're a very nice thing that I would recommend, but if I did it again, I would get them wired into the mains (battery packs turn out to be a huge pain), and ideally get some that can also be opened and closed manually if need be.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 5:20 AM on April 12, 2022 [2 favorites]

second heated bathroom floors. huge improvement.

yes magnetic knife strip on kitchen wall.

I love having a pull out shelf in a lower pantry that is the perfect size for the instant pot to live in. appliance garage would do as well.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:23 AM on April 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

dish drying cabinet
posted by oceano at 8:09 AM on April 12, 2022 [3 favorites]

Not small but: insulated roof is what I currently want (not that common in my area).
Garden foundatin with proper reservoir under it and power.
Dusk to dawn lights on garage and porch lights.
Motion sensing floods.
Irrigation timer that runs from an app on your phone is a game changer.
Light of some sort in the closets.
Under-sink water filter.
posted by bluesky78987 at 8:12 AM on April 12, 2022

I replaced all of our recessed lights with LED fixtures (taking care with light temperature) and air-sealed them at the same time. And replaced god-knows-how-many fluorescent tubes with LED tubes. Haven't changed a light bulb since. And I'm SO happy every time I turn on the garage lights and they just ... light up, the fluo never did.

Swapped out an outlet with USB outlets. As someone said above, be sure to get at least 3 amps, and get the combo of plugs that works for your needs.

Replaced a lower cab in the kitchen with pull-out garbage and recycling bins.

Nth the numeric keypad for door locks -- have not carried a key in years. That said, be sure to keep the batteries in good shape, because locksmiths are expensive.

Programmable thermostat. Even the simpler ones (non-Nest) are great.
posted by Dashy at 8:33 AM on April 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

Many doodads break and are a huge pain to repair, so be wary of gadgets.
I'm so sorry no one suggested a heated floor when I re-did the bathroom.
I have a built-in shelf in my tub/ shower, and it's so handy to have a place for all the stuff. There's a water pipe behind it, the ledge is above where that pipe runs, so a nice use of available space.
A dedicated space for unloading keys and stuff near the door.
On a new build, more insulation, more passive solar, solar panels, heat exchanger.
Attic exhaust fan & vents.
Landscaping that saves energy, like deciduous trees that provide shade in summer, no shade in winter. The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The 2nd best time is today.
Grab bars and a handheld sprayer in showers and tub.
posted by theora55 at 10:47 AM on April 12, 2022 [2 favorites]

oh yeah, grab bars in shower, tub, adjacent wet areas. Disguise them as towel bars if you can; there are ones now that you can't tell the difference. Convenient for hanging extra stuff and can make the difference between a serious injury and a "wow I'm so smart for putting that there!" moment.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:56 AM on April 12, 2022 [2 favorites]

Exterior electrical outlets. Permeable drainage pipes in your yard that take a lot of the water from your gutters and distribute it around your yard. You don't have to water your lawn nearly as much.

If you live in a hill where it's feasible, underground fresh air lines for a patio (or inside if it's really feasible) - it's natural air conditioning. .
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:30 PM on April 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

If your climate is amenable, a whole-house fan is genius for suddenly cooling your house when the sun goes down. Modern ones aren't as deafening and they're easier to install. I love mine (note: Bay Area climate). Besides bringing in massive amounts of outside air, they vent into your attic so you ALSO cool down your overheated attic in short order.

...just make sure your attic is adequately vented; they move enough air that they can overpressure your attic and do crazy things like pop recessed lights out of your ceiling.
posted by aramaic at 1:49 PM on April 12, 2022 [2 favorites]

Hanging pot racks.

Also seconding electronic blinds - I have some in my bedroom set to open shortly before my alarm goes off.
posted by catquas at 7:50 PM on April 12, 2022 [2 favorites]

« Older Tiptoe through the tulip festival   |   How to find a great tech recruiter - as an... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.