Television schedules are packed to the rafters with shows about home improvements. Tell us: Are you more of a Fixer Upper person or a This Old House person?
But it’s one thing to watch a TV show about home improvements . . . and another thing to do it yourself!
If you’re thinking about renovating your house, you probably have questions. Like, what is the most popular home renovation? What renovations will make your house worth more? And which common home improvements should you think twice about before heading in with the sledgehammer?
Those are all great questions—so let’s get some answers.
What Are the Most Popular Home Improvement Projects?
People renovate their homes for lots of reasons, like increasing their home's value, selling it, or making the most of their space for themselves and their family. And those are all great things!
But you know what isn’t great? Jumping into a renovation without a budget or a plan.
To help you get started, here are the most popular house renovations—plus what they typically cost.
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The Most Popular Indoor Home Improvements
Minor Kitchen Remodel: $26,8001
The kitchen is the heart of any home, and minor kitchen home improvements could include replacing cabinet doors, countertops, lighting, flooring and appliances. The great thing about a minor kitchen remodel (compared to starting from scratch) is the return on your investment. If you sell your house, you could get back around 86% of the money you spent.2 And if you’re staying? Upgrading your kitchen is well worth it if you spend a lot of time in there.
Midrange Bathroom Remodel: $24,6003
Bathroom remodeling is big business! Home buyers love to see a bright, modern bathroom, which is why it’s such a popular room to renovate.
Common updates include refreshing shower areas, replacing vanities and toilets, laying new tile, fitting new countertops, or adding fixtures and lighting. Aim for midrange fixtures—they have the same visual impact as the high-end options, but they won’t break the bank.
Midrange Primary Suite Addition: $157,9004
Who doesn’t love extra bedrooms and bathrooms? This is a popular house renovation because it adds value and living space, which is especially great if you have a growing family.
A primary suite (that’s a bedroom with its own private bathroom, walk-in closet and maybe a dressing area) is one of the most expensive home improvements. It will add value to your home and improve your chances of selling it. But if you’re doing this just for resale purposes, talk to a real estate agent about your proposed changes to make sure they’re worth it.
If you want a primary suite but you’re not sure where to put it, try the attic! Another way to use the attic without spending as much is to turn it into a spare bedroom—no plumbing needed. Or save money and still create a master suite by adding a bathroom and walk-in closet to an existing bedroom.
Basement Remodel: $21,9005
Basements are no longer the setting for creepy scenes in horror movies. These days, finished basements work as game rooms, gyms, family rooms or even personal bars. The options are endless, so plan wisely in the beginning to avoid out-of-control construction costs.
Find expert agents to help you sell your home.
And remember, basements are a magnet for excess water. Have a pro inspect it for potential damage or future problems before you start hanging drywall. That way, you won’t have to make any repairs after you install your rotating karaoke stage.
The Most Popular Outdoor Home Improvements
American homeowners love landscaping. Fresh landscaping makes a great first impression—and you know how important that is. Curb appeal, baby!
So, head to your local garden center for advice about how to spruce up your yard. They can help you choose the right plants and decorations. They can even tell you how to attract local wildlife (or repel them if that’s not your thing).
Composite Deck Addition: $23,4007
What better way to spend a beautiful summer evening than outside on your deck with family and friends? Outdoor living areas (including those with a fire pit, grill or wet bar) are becoming more common.
The average cost of a deck depends on the materials you use to build it. Wooden decks are cheaper, but composite decks last longer (which could save you money in the long run).
New Front Door: $2,2008
Replacing your front door is an easy change that makes a big impact. A steel door isn’t as expensive as a solid wood one, but it can still make a stylish impression and give your home an instant facelift.
New Exterior Veneer: $10,9009
If your home has vinyl siding, installing veneer (like manufactured stone) on the front of your house instantly classes up the joint. Plus, it holds value really well: If you sell the house, you’ll get back the money you spent adding the stone veneer and then some.10
New Vinyl Windows: $20,10011
Windows are important. After all, they protect your home from the elements. They also complete the look of its exterior. So, if yours are the worse for wear, replace them with new vinyl windows. And as a bonus, your utility bills could also go down since your house will be better insulated.
Garage Door Replacement: $4,30012
If you’ve just replaced your front door and installed beautiful new stone veneer, your old garage doors are going to bring down the whole vibe. Upgrading garage doors is one of the most popular home improvements because it adds value to your home and gives you the biggest payoff—you’ll recoup about 103% of what you spend.13
Be Careful Not to Overspend
Remodeling your home is fun, but it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and overspend.
Many people just choose materials they want without really thinking about the cost. All those expensive floors, cabinets and other fixtures add up—especially when it comes to luxury options. And when the contractor runs into problems that need to be fixed? Sure, just slap that on the tab too! It’s all fun and games until the bill comes due.
If that’s how you handle your renovation, you’ll end up overspending—or worse, going into debt to finish the project. No thanks! That’s not what you want.
It’s important to plan for the costs of any home improvement project. And by plan, we mean find out what it typically costs, know what you’re willing to spend, and stick to that budget like glue. Never take out a home equity loan to finance a renovation. That way, when your project is done, you can celebrate in your newly remodeled, debt-free space. How awesome is that?
What Renovations Make a House Worth More?
You can’t go wrong with any of the popular home improvements we’ve covered so far, but you can do more than just the most common home improvements.
Here are some maintenance improvements that’ll make your home more comfortable and efficient—and add value. They’ll also help you avoid problems at home inspections when you’re ready to sell your house.
New Asphalt Roof: $29,13614
The lifespan of an asphalt roof is around 20–30 years.15 So if yours is heading for that age, it’s time for a new one.
We get it: Shelling out thousands of dollars for a new roof is nowhere near as fun as getting a new bathroom or kitchen. But if you’re selling your house, a roof that’s in good shape will give buyers peace of mind. After all, who wants to buy a house knowing they’ll need to fork over tons of cash for a new roof as soon as they move in?
In either case, get a professional who can inspect your current roof and tell you the truth about its condition. And then get some advice on what type of roof will work best for your budget and home.
Attic Insulation: $2,50018
Installing fiberglass attic insulation isn’t a sexy home improvement, but it can help lower your utility bills. If your attic isn’t properly insulated, it can be a problem during home inspections when it’s time to sell. Insulation probably won’t add a ton of value to your home, but not having any insulation could be seen as a negative for buyers.
New HVAC: $5,89519
The average heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) unit usually lasts about 10–20 years.20 So, it’s an important renovation if your unit is reaching its expiration date. (In other words, if you’re on a first-name basis with your HVAC repair guy.) Having an updated HVAC system also makes your home more attractive to home buyers. And if you’re staying in the house long term, a newer, more efficient HVAC system can save you a bundle on utilities. Keep in mind, the cost to replace one depends on the size of the unit and whether you upgrade the ductwork at the same time.
Hardwood Flooring Installation: $4,72221
The average cost to add hardwood floors all depends on how much flooring you want to install. Generally, you can count on paying $6–12 per square foot.22 Hardwood floors are a big hit with buyers because they last longer than carpeting, they’re easier to clean, and they look great.
New Walk-In Shower: $6,45023
A walk-in shower is what most buyers want. Bathtubs are okay, but they take up a lot of space and some homeowners may have trouble getting in and out of them. A well-finished walk-in shower is easier to use, and you can even make it extra fancy by adding power jets or a spa system.
Bathroom Additions: $57,09024
In the real estate business, it’s a well-known fact that people love having more bathrooms than bedrooms. If your home only has one main bathroom, think about creating another. If you don’t have space or you want to save money, you could opt to add a half bath instead. But again, if you’re upgrading just to sell, talk to a professional first.
How Do I Decide What Home Improvements to Do?
Because there are so many choices, we put together some do’s and don’ts to help you figure out what you should renovate and how much you should spend.
Here are the things you should do:
- Prioritize your projects. There’s no sense impressing the neighbors with awesome landscaping when your roof is about to collapse. Figure out if you need to replace your roof, insulation, HVAC or windows first. These are important structural parts of a home you need to consider before adding luxury or decorative features. Once you’re sure you don’t need them, move on to the renovations you have your eye on.
- Think about your goals. If you’re staying in the home, choose house renovations that’ll improve your quality of life the most. And if you’re selling, choose common home improvements that attract buyers and get the best bang for your buck. And once you sell your house, some of those home improvements could be tax deductible.
- Set a budget—and stick to it. Home improvements are great . . . when you can afford them. Make a budget and stick to it. (Pro tip: Throw in a little extra cash to deal with unexpected repairs or problems that pop up along the way.)
- Walk around your neighborhood. Home buyers will indirectly compare your house to others nearby, so look at what your neighbors have renovated. You can also check local listings online to see what types of interior house renovations they’ve done.
- Find out how much your home and others in your neighborhood are worth. That’ll help you make a wise decision about how much money to put into renovations. You don’t want your house to become the most expensive one in the neighborhood—that makes it much harder to sell in the future.
- Renovate a little at a time. Can’t afford to remodel your whole kitchen in one hit? Then don’t! Set a timeline and do one or two parts of the project a month.
- Update your home insurance when you’re done. As you renovate, the value of your house goes up—and your old insurance policy may not offer enough coverage anymore. Talk to a home insurance pro to make sure your policy is as up to date as your house.
Renovation Mistakes to Avoid
And here are the things you shouldn’t do:
- Don’t overspend. You don’t need top-of-the-line appliances and imported Italian marble countertops when your home is only worth $200,000. Choose updates that fit your house well.
- Don’t go into debt. Debt is never a good idea—for a lot of reasons. Think about it: You pay thousands of dollars for the project, plus even more in interest. And you don’t even own all those shiny new renovations—the bank does! Pay cash for those home improvements instead.
- Don’t outpace the neighborhood. If you go wild and buy a hot tub or an expensive fountain for your backyard when your neighbors’ yards are pretty modest, yours will stand out—and not in a good way.
- Don’t do it alone. If you’re renovating with the intent to sell soon, get the advice of a real estate pro before you make any high-end upgrades.
If you’re in no rush to sell and you’ve covered the basics, simply tackle the upgrades that’ll give you the most enjoyment. Create the kitchen you’ve always wanted or convert the basement into a home gym. Again, just make sure the renovations are within your budget. No extra bathtub or two-story deck is worth going into debt.
What Home Improvements Are Cheap or Free?
Now, if you haven’t quite saved for that attic conversion or bathroom remodel, don’t lose hope! There are plenty of small changes that’ll make a big impact. Some of them are easy enough to tackle as a DIY project. Take a look:
You can add crown molding to give any room an elegant finish, especially if you pair it with matching baseboards. Keep in mind, you’ll need a miter saw and some other special tools if you tackle this project by yourself.
Kitchen Cabinet Paint
If you can’t afford to replace your kitchen cabinet doors, why not just repaint them? You could also get new knobs and handles for an instant update.
New Lamps and Light Fixtures
Changing up the lighting in your home can have a huge impact. Adding new lamps and ceiling fixtures is a fun way to do this.
You could go to town with new shades or create an accent wall. A gallon of paint will only set you back about $30, so painting is about the cheapest DIY project around. And if you’re selling soon, neutral shades are always popular with potential buyers. And don’t forget your ceilings. A freshly painted ceiling really spruces up a room.
You can transform a room simply by refreshing the cushions on your couch or buying a new armchair, rug or dining room set. Save even more money by buying used furniture from a reputable seller.
If the exterior of your home is outdated and you can’t afford brand-new siding, why not repaint your existing siding? You can hire pros for a few thousand dollars or do it yourself if you’re willing to learn.
Bonus Room Upgrades
If your home has a bonus room, make it work for you. It could become a movie room, play area, home office or craft space. Buy furniture to define these areas. Potential buyers will dream up their own ideas if they see yours first.
So, cleaning isn’t really glamorous. But if you’re looking for free home improvements, grab some cleaner and a bucket of water and get to work. You’ll be amazed at how dirty your walls and floors can get—and how much difference a little elbow grease can make. Want to go the extra mile? Wash the doors and windows too.
Pressure washing your deck, driveway or siding can make dirt and green mold disappear like magic. Most hardware stores have pressure washers available to rent.
Doorknobs and Hinges
Brass hardware is so 2008. Replacing interior brass doorknobs and hinges with something more modern will add a touch of class to your house. And if you’re short on cash, you don’t have to do all the doors at once. Do a few at a time when you can afford to buy new hardware.
Replacing toilet seats is an inexpensive way to spruce up an older bathroom. But if you want to replace the whole commode, that’ll cost you more.
You don’t have to be a plumber to replace a bathroom throne. It’s a lot easier than you might think. And it can save you money on your water bill.
Hey, it wouldn’t be a home improvement article without at least mentioning Chip and Joanna Gaines’ favorite wall covering: shiplap. Covering an accent wall with these trendy wood planks is a fairly inexpensive DIY project.
Getting the Most Out of Home Improvements
If you have house renovations in mind, you need an expert opinion. Talk with a RamseyTrusted real estate agent. These agents are top-notch pros in your local area who we’ve vetted to make sure they’ll serve you well.
They can help you decide which home improvements could add value now and pay off in the long run when it’s time to sell. They’ll also know about the types of homes people are looking for in your neighborhood.
Frequently Asked Questions
What home improvements will add the most value?
Most of the time, you won’t recoup all the cash you spend on a home improvement, but replacing a garage door or adding stone veneer to the front of your house both return more than 90% of your costs.25 That makes sense, right? Both of those have a big impact on curb appeal.
What home upgrades are not worth it?
A bathroom or bedroom addition might really improve your quality of life, but you’ll only recoup about half of the cost when you go to sell your home.26 But not having to share a bathroom with your kids who spit toothpaste all over the mirror might just fall under the category of “priceless.”
What part of my house should I remodel first?
Figuring out what part of your house to remodel first depends a lot on your personal preferences. Maybe your 1980s kitchen doesn’t bother you, but the dirty carpet in your living room drives you nuts. It’s up to you what to update first. But some renovations—like fixing a leaky roof or replacing a janky HVAC system—are essential. Needs should always trump wants.