1. Front Yard Patio
Image: Westover Landscape Design, Inc.
Lawns are classic suburbia; they’re also classic maintenance time-sucks. Good-looking patios, on the other hand, don’t need mowing, watering, or fertilizing. Ever. Be a trend-setter and put one in your front yard for you to enjoy and your neighbors to envy. A professionally installed brick or flagstone patio runs $15 to $18 per square foot.
2. Vinyl Shake Siding
Image: Essex Home Improvements, Inc.
Vinyl shakes look as beautiful as real wood but they won’t crack, rot, fade, or need periodic staining and sealing. Even better: At $2 to $7 per square foot, installed, they’re about half the price of real wood shakes. Lots of colors available. Did we say that bugs don’t like them, either? Well, they don’t!
3. Quartz Countertop
Image: Bellingham from Cambria’s Waterstone Collection
Everyone seems to love granite — until it’s time to reseal it. You can get a look that’s just as gorgeous with engineered quartz countertops. Made with 95% quartz (one of the hardest known materials), a quartz countertop shrugs off stains, scratches, and germs (it’s antimicrobial). Cost is $40 to $100 per square foot, installed, about the same as granite. But — unlike granite — a quartz countertop is non-porous and never needs to be resealed. For that reason, quartz countertops are starting to rival granite as the preferred choice.
4. Fiberglass Entry Door
Image: Heckard’s Door
What looks like and feels as beautiful as wood, stains like wood, but never chips, warps, or cracks? Answer: fiberglass. All of which makes fiberglass an ideal material for high-style, low-fuss entry doors that mimic oak, mahogany, walnut, fir, and other woods. Average installed cost for this cool curb appeal upgrade: about $3,000.
5. Shaker-Style Cabinets
Image: Dwelling Studio / All Around Joe Construction
Can style be low-maintenance and gorgeous, too? Of course! These Shaker-style kitchen cabinets, with their simple lines and absence of frills and trills, make cleanup a snap. They also fit with most any design, from traditional to modern. Order them with a tough factory finish that resists stains.
6. Turf Grasses
Image: Takao Nursery
If you love a lawn but hate the upkeep, go alternative. Lush, green turf grasses are beautiful and specially formulated so they’ll grow well in various climates. Once established, turf grasses, like the buffalo grass shown here, require very little watering or mowing, and virtually no fertilizers or pesticides.
7. Direct-Vent Gas Fireplace
Image: Spark Modern Fires
OK, you’re not Grizzly Adams. You don’t care for chopping firewood, cleaning a sooty hearth, or paying somebody to sweep the chimney every year. But you still like to curl up in front of a blazing fire. Solution: A gorgeous direct-vent gas fireplace ($2,000 to $5,000) burns clean, is energy-efficient, and throws off tons of ambiance.
8. Manufactured Stone Veneer
Image: Eldorado Stone
One of our favorite faux finishes, gorgeous manufactured stone veneer won’t split, crack, or fade. At about $18 per square foot installed, it isn’t cheap, but “Remodeling” magazine’s “Cost vs. Value Report” says you’ll recoup about 92% of your investment at resale — one of the highest returns in the report.
9. Drought-Resistant Landscape Plants
Image: Abby Farson Pratt
Azaleas like these are in the genus Rhododendron, a group of woody shrubs that grow in many different climates and have showy spring blossoms. Beautiful azaleas are tough and hardy once rooted into well-drained soil, making upkeep easy and reducing the need for water.