A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

13 Home Improvement Projects That Practically Pay for Themselves

These smart upgrades pay off big in resale value and enjoyment of your home.

1 / 13

Bright ideas

“For an immediate face-lift, update your light fixtures,” says Kim Howard, Realtor and co-founder of Howard Homes Chicago. You can buy a stylish ceiling fan for $100 dollars or less and updated semi-flush ceiling mount lights for about $60. Not only do buyers love the cohesive flow new lighting gives the home, but Howard also says new lighting easily increases the value of the home by 1 to 2 percent, which translates to $10,000 on a $500,000 home.

2 / 13
Modern new light interior of kitchen with white furniture and dining table.

Give cabinets new life

“Replacing your cabinets is a huge cost that is not completely necessary if the cabinets are less than ten years old, functional, and made from a high-quality wood like cherry, maple, ash, hickory, or oak,” says John Milligan, Product Development Manager at N-Hance Wood Refinishing. Refinishing generally costs between $3,000 to $8,000 and can potentially bump up the value of your home between 3 and 7 percent. Here are 13 more tricks to make your kitchen look expensive.

3 / 13
Couple painting house wall

The biggest bang for your buck

A fresh coat of paint instantly updates and transforms the entire interior of your home, and when you consider that the average price tag of a gallon of one-coat coverage paint is around $38, that’s about the biggest bang for your buck you can get. “Grays are back in vogue, and create a neutral palette that lets your decor really pop,” says Steve Frellick, licensed contractor and founder/broker of Yonder Luxury Vacation Rentals. Repaint your bathroom blue, and your house could fetch as much as $5,440 more than expected, according to a recent Zillow report.

4 / 13
Rock and Wasp/Shutterstock

Renovate your views

Windows that stick or are warped or drafty aren’t doing your comfort level or your budget any favors. According to the 2018 Cost vs. Value report in Remodeling, vinyl replacements windows average just under $16,000 for ten 3-by-5-foot double-hung windows and have a resale value near $12,000. Plus, you’ll reap even more savings from your energy bill. Replacing the same number of wood windows is a bit pricier at around $19,000 with a resale value of approximately $13,500. Look out for these 12 hidden home expenses that are draining your bank account.

5 / 13
Luxurious new home with curb appeal. Trendy grey two-story exterior in Bellevue with large picture windows, stone siding, covered porch and concrete pathway. Northwest, USA

Dress up your siding

Manufactured stone veneer looks just like real stone but is made from less expensive concrete. On a home’s exterior, it adds texture and warmth and gives you a solid return on your investment. According to Remodeling, taking a 300-square-foot band of existing vinyl siding from the bottom third of the front of your house and replacing it with a manufactured stone veneer will cost around $8,200. However, you’ll recoup an impressive 97 percent of your costs when it’s time to sell.

6 / 13
Robert Kneschke/Shutterstock

Roll up the carpet

If you’re lucky, your wall-to-wall carpet will last about ten years. Well-maintained hardwood floors, on the other hand, last for at least 25 years. “Hardwood floors have a massive appeal and add an extreme level of warmth and comfort in your home and a definite return on your investment,” says Frellick. In fact, a recent Remodeling Impact Report from the National Association of Realtors showed that a whopping 91 percent of the cost is recovered. According to 2018 Home Advisor report, the average homeowner spends about $4,396 to install hardwood floors. Check out these 17 other home improvements you wish you’d done earlier.

7 / 13
Bathroom sink shot close up with a modern design white subway tile backsplash
Garrett Aitken/Shutterstock

Tasteful mini bathroom remodel

“It never hurts to put money into a tasteful bathroom remodel,” says Realtor Sam McLennan from Century 21 McLennan & Company in the greater Boston area. “Replacing the toilet, vanity, light fixtures, and mirror can add a new look and feel for under $3,000. For a few hundred dollars more, consider coating a dated fiberglass tub with a white epoxy and adding a curved shower rod and curtain to freshen the decor. McLennan says even a mini bathroom remodel can amp the increase the resale value 5 to 10 percent.

8 / 13
Closed wooden front door of a house during daytime
David Papazian/Shutterstock

Exterior facelift

New siding is like a facelift for the house, resulting in enhanced curb appeal. But replacing worn out siding isn’t just about looks: Damaged siding creates moisture and mold, and it leaves insulation exposed, causing your heating and cooling bills to skyrocket. According to the 2018 Cost vs. Value report in Remodeling, updating a 1,250 square feet of siding will cost around $15,000 and add about $11,500 to your home’s resale value. Find out how to save on all your utility bills this month.

9 / 13
Drip Irrigation System Close Up. Water saving drip irrigation system being used in a Blueberry field.
Max Lindenthaler/Shutterstock

The grass is always greener in your yard

Dragging out and moving sprinklers every week is not only time-consuming; it adds to your water bill. A better idea? Drip irrigation. “This puts water where plants need it—at the root zone—and it uses much less water over time, as the emitters are placed right near the plants and drip at a reduced rate,” says Tyler Davis, plant merchant for Orchard Supply Hardware. It’s easy to install, and at an average of $2.50 to $4.50 per square foot, it will pay for itself in a short time with water savings, he adds. A green and well-manicured lawn adds $2,000 to $7,000 to the resale value of your home. Here are 11 other home projects you can DIY this weekend.

10 / 13
Light green wooden doors in an old traditional English lime stone cottage surrounded by climbing pink roses, lavender, on summer day

A “welcome” upgrade

A freshly painted front door and garage are the main components of the all-important first impression, notes Allen Shayanfekr, CEO and co-founder of Sharestates. Simple touch-ups can be staining or painting the door. According to the 2018 Cost vs. Value report in Remodeling, a 16-by-7-foot garage door averages about $3,500 with a resale value of about $3,400. A new steel front door might set you back about $1,500 but the resale value is about $1,350.

11 / 13
Bright attic bedroom with wood double bed and floor panels

Give yourself some space

Creating more usable square footage is something you’ll never regret, whether you use it for storage or more living space. “Having a finished basement or attic can be as simple as putting up and painting sheetrock and putting down flooring,” says Shayanfekr. The costs will vary greatly depending on the square footage and materials used, but the Remodeling Impact Report from the National Association of Realtors shares that you’ll recoup 53 percent resale value with a $75,000 attic conversion, and a basement conversion of around $40,000 will recoup $25,000 at resale.

12 / 13
Roofer builder worker installing roof shingles

Replace the roof

Replacing a leaky or worn out roof may not seem like an exciting home improvement with that “wow” impact, but you’ll save in energy costs and prevent mold and moisture from damaging your home. And once the new roof is installed, it acts as the finishing touch to the curb appeal—not to mention, it pays for itself. According to the Remodeling Impact Report from the National Association of Realtors, a new roof averages about $7,500 but you’ll recoup 109 percent of the cost with $8,150 in resale value. Make sure you know about the 15 things all smart homeowners do once a year.

13 / 13
Bright garden furniture, grill and plants on cozy terrace with wooden floor and brick wall

Take it outside

Creating more living space without the breaking the bank is on the wish list of many homeowners, and upgrading your outdoor space is one way to do it. “An outdoor ‘room’ is the second most important room in the house, second to the kitchen,” says Kevin Guzior, vice president of marketing & product development at Pioneer Landscape Centers. For decks, expect to spend an average $9,000 to $24,000, depending on if you use composite or wood., while a concrete patio averages between $2,000 and $12,000 depending on poured pad or pavers used, Guzior says. A deck or patio will add about 80 percent for resale value and hours of enjoyment. Don’t miss these 31 home improvements that will double the value of your home.

Lisa Marie Conklin
Lisa Marie Conklin is a Baltimore-based writer who writes regularly about pets and home improvement for Reader's Digest. Her work has also been published in The Healthy, Family Handyman and Taste of Home, among other outlets. She's also a certified personal trainer and walking coach for a local senior center.