Television schedules are packed to the rafters (see what we did there?) with shows about home improvements. Tell us: Are you more of a Fixer Upper person or an Extreme Makeover 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 to increase their home's value, help sell it, or make 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 plan.
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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. Then when your project is done, you can celebrate in your newly remodeled, debt-free space. How awesome is that!
To help you get started, here are the most popular house renovations—plus what they typically cost.
The Most Popular Indoor Home Improvements
Minor Kitchen Remodel: $26,2001
The kitchen is the heart of any home, and a minor remodel 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 70% 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: $24,4003
Bathroom remodeling is big business! House buyers love to see a bright, modern bathroom, which is why it’s such a popular room to renovate.
Updates include refreshing shower areas, replacing vanities and toilets, 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 Master Suite Addition: $156,7004
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 master 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 do want a master suite but you’re not sure where to put it, try the attic! Another way to use the attic for less: 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: $21,5505
Basements are no longer the setting for creepy scenes in horror movies! These days, they work as game rooms, gyms, family rooms or even your personal bar. The options are endless, so plan wisely in the beginning to avoid out-of-control construction costs.
And remember, basements are a magnet for excess water. You should have a pro inspect it for potential damage or future problems before you start remodeling. 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.
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: $22,4007
What better way is there to spend a beautiful summer evening than outside on your deck with family and friends? Outdoor living areas (including those with a firepit, 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: $2,0008
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: $10,4009
Installing veneer (like manufactured stone) instantly transforms the look of your home. Plus it holds value really well: If you sell the house, you’ll get back over 90% of the money you spent adding stone veneer.10
A change of siding can also modernize the exterior of your home and give it more curb appeal. But keep in mind that siding costs more—and you won’t get as much money back when you sell.11
New Vinyl Windows:$19,40012
Windows are important. After all, they protect your home from the elements! They also complete the look of its exterior. So if yours are 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: $3,90013
If you’ve just replaced your front door and installed beautiful new stone veneer, then 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 94% of what you spend.14
What Renovations Make a House Worth More?
You can’t go wrong with any of the popular home improvements we’ve covered so far. Renovations like remodeling your kitchen or replacing your windows will make your house worth more. But you can do more than just the most common home improvements!
Here are more renovation ideas that are sure to add value.
New Asphalt Roof: $28,30015
The lifespan of an asphalt roof is around 20–30 years.16 So if it’s heading for that age, it’s time for a new one!
If you’re selling, a new roof makes it easier to find home buyers. 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? If you’re staying, consider how much the roof costs and how long it lasts. For example, metal roofs cost almost twice as much as asphalt . . . but they last anywhere from 20–60 years longer!17,18
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: $1,90019
If your attic isn’t properly insulated, it’ll not only hit your pocket when you pay utility bills, but it could also be a problem during a home inspection when it’s time to sell. Installing new fiberglass insulation will help lower those bills and add value to your home!
New HVAC: $7,00020
The average heat, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) unit usually lasts 10–15 years.21 So it’s an important renovation if you know your unit is reaching its expiration date. Home buyers love to know they won’t have to foot this cost. And if you’re staying in the house long term, a newer, more efficient HVAC can save you a bundle on utilities. Keep in mind, the cost to replace one depends on the size of the unit and whether or not you upgrade the ductwork at the same time.
Hardwood Flooring Installation: $4,50022
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.23 Hardwood floors add value to your home because they last longer than carpeting, they’re easier to clean, and they look great.
New Walk-In Shower: $6,00024
A walk-in shower adds value to your home because it’s what most buyers want. Bathtubs are okay, but they take up a lot of space, and some homeowners may have difficulty getting in and out of them. A well-finished walk-in shower is easier to use, and you can make it extra fancy by adding power jets or a spa system.
Bathroom Additions: $56,90025
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 want to save money, you could opt to add a powder room instead. But, again, if you’re upgrading just to sell, talk to a professional first.
How Do I Decide What Home Improvements to Do?
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. There’s no sense impressing the neighbors with awesome landscaping when your roof is about to collapse. Figure out if you need a new roof, insulation, HVAC or windows. 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 will 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.
- 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 will 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.
And here are the don’ts:
- 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 Can I Do for 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:
Add crown molding to give any room an elegant finish, especially paired with matching baseboards.
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. And if you’re selling soon, neutral shades are always popular with potential buyers.
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 area, 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.
Okay, so this one isn’t glamorous. But if you’re looking for free home improvements, grab some cleaner and a bucket of water and get to work! You’d 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!
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 part of our Endorsed Local Providers (ELP) program—meaning you can work with someone in your area who we’ve already vetted and trust to 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 buyers are looking for in your neighborhood. Want to connect with a top agent in your area?