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10 Best Home Renovations to Squeeze in Before Winter

Create a "wow!"-worthy home before snuggle-weather hits.

Couple painting house wall

We get it: The remodeling struggle is real

According to the 2019 Remodeling Impact Report, 35 percent of U.S. homeowners would rather move to another home than remodel their current dwelling. We don’t blame them: Between the time and expense involved—not to mention people trampling in and out of your home—it’s easy to feel like scrapping it all and hiring a Uhaul instead. Yet listen up: According to the report—which was conducted by the National Association of Realtors Research Group— three out of four home-owners surveyed have an increased desire to be in their home after remodeling.

We asked real-estate experts for their top pre-winter suggestions when it comes to upgrading your home, plus tips on getting the best result.

Master Bathroom Interior in New Luxury Home with Dark Hardwood Cabinets, Freestanding Bathtub, and Shower visible in Mirror Reflection

Kitchen and bathroom upgrades

Our experts agree: If you’re going to focus on any room in the house, kitchens and bathrooms are good areas to start with. “These are certainly the areas where you’ll get the biggest return on your investment,” says Karrie Gavin, a Philadelphia real estate agent. One caveat, though: If you anticipate staying in your house for fewer than five years, opt for upgrading rather than a complete overhaul . “I rarely advise a seller to do a complete kitchen or bathroom remodel if you’re planning to sell it in the near future,” says Gavin. “It’s risky because you don’t know what the buyer will like. That’s why I typically recommend simply upgrades instead, like replacing worn-out countertops or bathroom vanity, for example.” (If you are planning a complete remodel, best to save it until spring if you want to avoid the “will it be done by the holidays?” angst.)

HVAC Air Conditioning Unit on concrete slap with new construction brick house
John Royal/Shutterstock

HVAC replacement

Winter’s coming, which means it’s a perfect time to make sure your HVAC system is running most efficiently. Not only will you save money on your heating bills throughout the winter, but it made the top three list in terms of both attraction to potential buyers and realtors’ advice for important value-adds to your home.

master bedroom
Artit Wongpradu/Shutterstock

New master suite

Building a new master suite can pay off in two ways: For one, if you are adding a bathroom, that’s automatically going to be attractive to buyers, says Gavin. “Just having one bathroom can sometimes be a deal-breaker for buyers,” she says. “The potential buyer will be spending a lot of time in the master suite, so making it really appealing for the decision-maker is also a good idea.” A new bathroom is on the list of 31 home improvements that will double the value of your home.

Ipe decking installation with carpenter hands holding tropical wood slats

New wood flooring

Wood flooring has a two-fold benefit to it. According to the realtor report, replacing wood floors is a good investment: Homeowners can, on average, get a 106 percent return on their money. “There are some things that are fairly universal that most buyers respond better to, and hardwood floors are tops on that list,” says Gavin. “If you have older carpets and are considering whether to replace it or exchange it for hardwood, it’s usually worth it to install wood flooring.” Installing them in the fall is ideal as you’ll be able to take advantage of the chillier air’s lower moisture content. Check out these 15 secrets to locking down the sale of your home faster.

empty basement in abandoned old industrial building with little light and a wooden stairs

Basement/attic conversion to a living area

Turning an unfinished basement or attic into a separate living area—or even adding a guest bedroom and bathroom—has a “happiness payoff,” reports the realtor study. Ranking certain projects from one to ten, the survey found that a basement renovation rated a Joy Score of 9.5. “It also adds liveable square footage to your house, so it’s a good investment to consider,” says Gavin. It also gives you a chance to upgrade your insulation just in time for winter. But don’t take on this task if you’re not a pro. Binge-watching Fixer Upper may get your wheels turning but, you probably shouldn’t DIY these home improvements.

Big wardrobe with male clothes for dressing room
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Closet renovation

Closets are the unsung heroes of the house. They make room for all of your stashing and storing, but because they’re out of sight, they can sometimes also be out of mind when it comes to renovation. Not so fast. Remember the Joy Score we just mentioned? A closet renovation scored a perfect ten. Closet clutter got you down? Here are 12 storage hacks you need to know to banish clutter.

Young asian happy woman painting interior wall with paint roller in new house

Painting a room

There’s nothing like a fresh coat of paint to instantly transform a room. Homeowners agree, giving a room painting a Joy Score of 9.7. Painting during the fall months is ideal, too, because of the lower moisture content in the air, making it easier to apply and faster to dry. If you’re thinking of selling sooner than later, though, keep in mind Gavin’s suggestion: “Keep it in a neutral color,” she recommends. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be all white, but stick to grey and tan and lighter shades.”

steel door to the house with a wall made of wood and bricks

New steel or fiberglass front door

A new door may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to home remodeling, but it has a pay-off: Not only can a new door be more energy-efficient for you now, but it also provides appeal for potential buyers down the road. “The front door is someone’s first impression to your home,” says Gavin. “Having a nice front door, either new or freshly painted, sets the tone for your house, so a new door is always a good investment. Windowless, steel and fiberglass doors rank higher in energy efficiency; look for the National Fenestration Rating Council label, which rates two factors: how well a door deflects unwanted solar radiation, and its ability to retain heat from escaping.

Сutting foam after mounting a door. Handyman knife cuts off excess mounting foam. Installation of doors using polyurethane foam mounting. Polyurethane foam for thermal insulation.
Volodymyr Plysiuk/Shutterstock

Insulation upgrade

Insulation provides a good return on investment, with 83 percent recovered from the project, says the realtor survey, not to mention the immediate cost savings with an energy-efficient home.

Have a renovation plan in hand now? Great. Now follow our advice for getting the best result…

engineer people meeting working and pointing at a drawings in office for discussing. Engineering tools and construction concept.

Have a clear vision…

And if you don’t, no worries. “My job is to help a homeowner with their vision,” says Trace Brash, a contractor in Portland, Oregon. “Sometimes, people think ‘I just want new tile, new countertops,’ that kind of thing, but your contractor should help you envision ways to open up the space in a different way, or look at your space in a way you wouldn’t have thought about.” For design inspiration, check out free room design templates at various websites such as Home Depot, Lowe’s, and CliqueStudios.

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Communicate your budget

This may sound like a given, but not necessarily, says Brash. “It’s common for people not to want to tell their contractor what their budget is because they’re afraid their contractor will push it right up to the limit of their budget or even go over, which makes it hard for us to do our job,” he says. “You need to trust your contractor and tell them upfront what your expectations are budget-wise so you can know if they’re realistic. A good contractor will include an allowance number in their bid, which is a pool of money for those items that haven’t yet been decided upon—fixtures, wall hangings, medicine cabinet, and the like—so there are no surprises down the road.” Find out the 11 secret contractors wish all first-time homebuyers knew.

Construction: Home Inspector Reviews Documents.
Sean Locke Photography/Shutterstock

Ask for updates

With many home renovation projects, there are a lot of moving parts. Ensure that nothing falls by the wayside by keeping tabs on the progress, which is especially important during the fall months, to ensure it’s completed by winter. So don’t be shy, and ask for weekly or even daily reports, suggests Brash. “You want your contractor to be as transparent and communicative to the point of ‘alright alright, shut up already,'” he laughs. “I have project managers who send out regular emails saying ‘here’s what happened today, and here are the expectations for tomorrow, and what subcontractors will be there and when,’ so we’re all on the same page with the timeline.” Next, read on for the 50 must-do things to get your home ready for colder weather.

Megan McMorris
I'm a health, wellness, and lifestyle writer who has written for outlets such as Reader’s Digest, Glamour, Real Simple, Every Day With Rachael Ray, Marie Claire, Shape, Runner's World, Prevention, Yoga Journal, and more. I also use my journalism skills for a variety of ghostwriting and copywriting projects on topics as diverse as high-finance, law, technology—even robots! No matter what the topic, I love delving into a subject matter and making it interesting and accessible for the consumer audience.