From kitchen makeovers to outdoor additions and more, experts say which ones are worth the investment.

By Caroline Biggs
May 25, 2021
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woman tearing down wall in bathroom
Credit: Guido Mieth / Getty Images

The right home renovations can do more than upgrade the aesthetic of your space—they can increase the resale value of your property, too. "Rather than demolishing your entire house to start fresh, tackling certain areas of your home can immensely improve its value and make it more attractive," says Breegan Jane, interior designer and Trane Residential partner. "Some renovations can increase the interest of prospective buyers or simply make your home the oasis you've always dreamed of having so you can continue to grow your family and make the most practical and efficient use of your home."

While smaller cosmetic changes to a space, such as painting the walls or updating the finishes, are affordable ways to increase the return on your investment, Jean Brownhill, founder of Sweeten, says that other popular—but important—renovations, like kitchen and bathroom remodels, can be pricey. "Anything that involves moving walls, electrical, plumbing, and gas lines puts your project in a different category that typically comes with additional costs for permits and specialized labor," she explains. "Starting your dream renovation is more than possible, just be prepared for the grittier and more expensive behind-the-scenes steps that come along with major work."

Curious which home renovations experts say are the most popular, and about how much they'll cost to complete? From kitchen makeovers to outdoor additions and more, here are five common home renovations and the money required to complete them.

Kitchens

The kitchen is the space where families and friends gather, which is why architect Tai Ming Moy of KIMOY Studios says kitchen renovations are one of the most sought-after home upgrades. "Frustration with an outdated or cramped kitchen is one of the main reasons our clients begin a renovation in the first place," he explains. "Older houses and apartments often have their kitchens separated from the dining room, so our design goal is usually to open them up so that kids and guests feel part of the action in the kitchen—but also out of the way. "

While kitchen renovations remain extremely popular, Linda Bell, a personal finance expert at NerdWallet, says they're often the most expensive home makeover project. "Our analysis of the latest Census Bureau data found that while it can cost $9,000 to remodel a kitchen, a major kitchen renovation can set you back up to $35,000," she explains.

Bathrooms

Next to the kitchen, Moy says bathroom renovations are the second most requested home upgrade, particularly if the home only has one. "In a small bathroom, it might mean trading a tub for a glassed shower, which will make the space feel more open," he explains. "If the plumbing and tub are in good shape, changing out the sink for a vanity and retiling are relatively inexpensive and can really wake up a bathroom."

However, if your plumbing needs to be updated and your shower or tub needs to be replaced, Bell says that a total bathroom overhaul can cost thousands of dollars. If you always dreamed of changing your bathroom to an at-home spa, the upgrades can be expensive," she warns. "A major bathroom renovation can cost more than $14,000, according to NerdWallet's review of the latest available Census Bureau data."

Conversion Spaces

Whether it means converting an attic or garage into a livable space or finally finishing a basement, Brownhill says that room conversions are a great way to add square footage to your home without actually having to enlarge its footprint. "We're remodeling a lot of ADU (accessory dwelling unit) projects, where people are turning their garage into a home office that is also a studio apartment that they could rent when they go back to the office, as well as attics-turned-playrooms and basements converted into gyms," she explains. "The transformation of under-utilized spaces is a trend here to stay."

Depending on whether or not any major structural changes are necessary, such as plumbing and air conditioning, Bell says the costs of a room conversion can vary greatly. "A major renovation or replacement of a room can cost up to $17,000, according to NerdWallet's analysis of Census Bureau data, but some DIY alterations to an existing space can cost as low as $3,000," she explains.

Outdoor Additions

Brownhill says the pandemic prompted a slew of outdoor renovation trends, including outdoor landscaping and patio upgrades. "We could possibly still be socially distancing next summer and wanting to spend time with friends and family but having to do it outside," she explains. "Being able to host the whole event outside, not having to run back and forth inside, makes the event a better experience."

Fortunately, Bell says that these popular outdoor upgrades can be a lot less costly than common interior renovations. "NerdWallet's review of Census Data found that a major renovation or replacement of your landscaping can cost around $2,000 and $5,000 (or more) for a deck, porch, or patio," she explains.

Air Conditioning Upgrades

While homeowners are often drawn to more affordable cosmetic updates, Jane says she always tries to stress to her clients that structural changes that help maintain a comfortable, efficient home should also top renovation wish lists. "One of the most common—and most valuable—renovations include upgrading your home's HVAC system," she explains. "If your air conditioner is on its last leg, for example, consider replacing it with a more energy efficient HVAC system that could appeal to a buyer or make a healthier home environment for your family."

While updating or replacing your current air conditioning system can cost up $10,000, Jane says that investing in a smart thermostat, like the ComfortLink™ II XL 1050 ($540, amazon.com) by Trane, is a more affordable way to maintain desired temperatures in your home while also managing your energy usage. "They're easily accessible from a smartphone, tablet or a computer, which makes adjusting the temperature for your family's comfort a breeze," she explains. "If you set your thermostat seven to 10 degrees above your normal setting while you're away, you could save as much as 10 percent on your electricity bill."

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