From Spotlight: New Homeowners’ Survival Guide

Renovation Projects on Your Wish List (and What They’ll Cost!)

Newly renovated kitchen with hex tile backsplash
Image: Katie Harrington of @ahappycasa

Some might not cost you a dime in the end — if you do them right.

You've got the enthusiasm. You've got the dream. The budget?

Weeeell ... Budget-conscious homeowners sometimes put off a home renovation they really, really want because it feels like a treat rather than an investment.

But if you look at the data found in the “Remodeling Impact Report" from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, that "treat" could be a super-smart financial thing to do.

See for yourself. Here are the projects most homeowners covet, what they cost (keep in mind, these are pro-installation costs), and whether that cost will pay for itself:

Deck or Patio: $6,400 to $9,450

Decks and patios, which are among the most-loved projects by homeowners, are legit investments. Both can return more than 100% of your renovation costs if you sell. (A free deck isn't bad, eh?)

So get that Adirondack out of the dirt. Treating yourself to a patio or deck is an investment you can love and profit from.

New Hardwood Floors: $5,500

Hardwood flooring in a home kitchen
Image: Mandy Spry at Welcome Arms Photography/Alyssa White Design/I Love Renovations

A span of luscious hardwood is some seriously rewarding eye candy: It lasts for decades and typically returns 118% of your investment.

Tip that ROI scale closer to 100% with these money-saving tips:

  • Keep the layout simple (no intricate borders or inlaid patterns) to save $1 to $2 per square foot.
  • Handle prep work, like removing and disposing of the old flooring and removing furniture, to cut labor costs.

Full Kitchen Renovation: $80,000

Renovated kitchen with colorful tile floor
Image: Rainer Holz/Westend61/Offset

Big money for big joy: That's one way to describe a full kitchen reno.

Homeowners in the RIR survey scored it a 9.8 out of 10 for the amount of joy it brings to their lives. (Which makes sense, since we spend so much time there.)

And if you need an excuse, er, reason, to get cooking on a renovation, consider this: You could recoup $60,000, so you're basically getting an $80,000 kitchen — plus years of enjoyment — for a mere $20,000.

To keep from busting your budget (most homeowners do), spend at least six months deciding what you really want so you're less likely to create costly changes along the way. Work added on after the contract is signed bumps up homeowners' budgets by an average of 10%.

Bath Redo: $35,000

Renovated attic bathroom with hex tile wall
Image: The Crown Inn of Oxfordshire, England/Dexterous, interior design

For a room that occupies so little of the house, the bath packs a lot of pricey items. Countertops, cabinetry, flooring, and plumbing fixtures add up.

To make sure the renovation looks as good 10 years from now, and to recoup most of your investment (typically 71% — more if you mostly DIY it):

  • Consider tile flooring that looks like wood but performs like porcelain. Splashed water and humid air will warp real wood.
  • Limit the amount of tiny tile you use. All that grout requires serious upkeep to keep clean.
  • Opt for white tubs and sinks that will never go out of style. Just think about all those 1950s aqua toilets you're glad you don't have. Right. White would have been a better choice.

Landscaping: $4,750

Nicely landscaped mulched front lawn

Talk about curb appeal that pays you back.

A typical landscaping project with bushes, mulch, a stone walkway, flowering shrubs and a tree or two has great impact on your home's curb appeal — just another way of saying "cha-ching" when you sell.

Because you almost always get your full investment back on landscaping projects. In fact, you usually get a bit more.

Basement Conversion: $57,500

Renovated home basement

Talk about the possibilities: a home theater, playroom, office, or even a rentable apartment. And, much like the kitchen and bath, you'll get a good bit back — typically 86%.

To keep costs down and bring the ROI up, think about what you need from the finished basement:

  • Is a bathroom a necessity? Does that bar actually need to be wet? Adding basement plumbing will significantly boost your budget because of the whole making-water-defy-gravity thing.
  • Would finished concrete floors with rugs suffice, rather than getting into the costs of vapor barriers, subflooring, and carpet padding? Plain old concrete sure makes for easy clean-up in a rec room or play space.
  • Do you need separate rooms? Create one open space and you'll save on doors, studs, and drywall. Plus, nothing feels like a better add to your home than a new, giant, woo-wee, look-at-all-this-space room.

New Roof: $12,000

Newly replaced roof on a house
Image: Wsfurlan/Getty

You can finally understand just what your parents meant when they said, "I put this roof over your head. . . ."

It's kind of a big deal. You rely on a good, healthy roof to keep costly threats — namely water, insects, mold, and wildlife — out of the house and keep conditioned air inside.

While it may not be a "dream" investment, the ROI for a roof is pretty dreamy, often 100%.

Some homeowners opt to shingle over an existing roof rather than springing for a new one, but that's a waste of money. You won't be able to see (much less repair) damage to the actual roof unless you take the shingles off.


Author photo of Amy Howell Hirt
Amy Howell Hirt

Amy Howell Hirt has written about home design for 13 years. Her work has been published by outlets including "The Home Depot," "USA Today," and Yahoo! Homes. She previously served as home and garden writer and columnist for "The Cincinnati Enquirer."