How to budget for a home renovation

In this crazy housing market, more homebuyers are seriously considering fixer-uppers, or settling for properties that may not have everything they want or need from the day they move in — to say nothing of those who are waiving inspections and other contingencies in their contracts, which could lead to even more surprises on closing day.

If you recently bought a house that needs some TLC, the crucial first step is getting a handle on exactly what work needs to be done (versus what would just be nice to have) and how much those must-do items will cost.

When budgeting, it’s helpful to think of these projects in three broad buckets, according to Liz Lovery, an interior design and DIY social media influencer who participated in a Bankrate-produced video series. The categories she identified more or less fall in order of necessity: structural renovations, functional/systemic renovations and interior renovations.

Here’s what you need to know about each home renovation category, and how to plan for related projects.

Structural home renovations

You don’t have a house without a structure, which is why this is category number one. It includes things like the foundation, walls, floors, roof, windows and doors, all of which need to be in a state of good repair to ensure your habitat is inhabitable — and stays safely livable for the long term.

You should also consider why you’re doing the work, says Ari Rasekh, co-founder of, an app that helps homeowners keep track of their property’s maintenance needs.

“Are we talking about repairs, routine maintenance or home improvement?” he says. Repairs come first. “Routine maintenance is to avoid a repair and home improvement is by nature more optional. When I look at prioritizing, I look at those factors.”

While some structural projects can be more of a wish-list item, like adding an extension to your home, the majority of them fall into the vital-repair category: Work that tends to be more necessary than discretionary, like dealing with a leaky roof or a seriously cracked foundation.

There’s a huge amount of variability, price-wise, with structural projects. For example, replacing a roof typically costs between $5,601 and $11,729, while replacing windows costs between $175 and $1,800 each, according to Angi, the contractor search service site. Of course, the costs will depend on the size and location of your home, the materials you choose and local labor charges.

You should always build a little extra into the budget, too. Since the start of the pandemic, shortages and supply-chain problems have caused construction material costs to rapidly increase, with drywall costing between $12 and $20 per panel, according to HomeAdvisor powered by Angi, nearly a 16 percent increase over 2021 prices, per the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

Rasekh says doing regular maintenance can help homeowners avoid more serious and expensive sudden repairs. He advises his customers to budget between 1 and 4 percent of their property’s value for maintenance every year.

Functional/systemic home renovations

This next-most-important category includes systems that keep your home functioning: plumbing; heating, cooling and ventilation (HVAC); electrical wiring; and other necessities.

Repairs in this category can still be urgent. If your toilet is spraying water all over your bathroom, for example, you’ll want to address that ASAP. Even updates to small fixtures can be extremely important.

“There are over 25,000 fires in the U.S. each year where smoke alarms were present and should have been working but failed to do so,” Rasekh says.

Once again, costs for systemic repairs can vary widely by location, materials and other factors about your home.

new HVAC system costs between $5,000 and $12,500, while re-plumbing a home (replacing pipes or running new ones) costs between $2,280 to $5,120 on average, depending on the size of the property. Much of that price goes towards labor.

It can be hard to anticipate when one of your home’s vital systems will need a repair, which is why Rasekh says it’s important to always have emergency funds in the bank.

“Putting aside contingency for those types of scenarios and being on top of your preventative maintenance can really save you in the long -run,” he says.

Interior home renovations

By nature, interior renovations are the most discretionary, but they’re also often the most exciting for new homeowners. Part-functional and part-decorative, they include things like new paint, appliances, hardware, window treatments, furnishings and fixtures — all the design-for-living elements that make a house a home.

This category is also where cost can be the most variable because homeowners have an almost infinite array of styles, materials and finishes of various qualities to choose from. You can spend as little as $195 on a new bathtub, or as much as $500,000 on a chandelier.

Of course, interior renovations also often include upgrades in the structural or systemic categories as well, which can make superficial home improvements or renovation projects more expensive. For example, a major kitchen remodel (changing both the size/layout and features of the room) averages between $25,000 and $40,000, while a similar redo of a full bathroom runs $10,000 to $25,000. While it’s discretionary, you have to be disciplined with this category, since it’s so easy to overspend — especially when stylistic changes start involving structural ones.

In general, interior renovations are the lowest priority. A popcorn ceiling or peeling paint may be annoying to look at, but it won’t force you out of your home like a wall that has lost its structural integrity.

Other home renovation tips

Home renovation is a huge undertaking, and almost invariably takes more time and costs more money than homeowners expect.

Rasekh says it’s a good idea to set 20 to 30 percent of the total cost of your project aside for the unexpected — that’s up to 30 percent on top of the project’s original cost estimate.

He adds that it’s important to get multiple bids, especially if you’re getting ready for a major renovation. “Get a few different contractors in there, you’ll learn from them, not just for price comparison’s sake, but also the factors to consider,” Rasekh says. “Make sure you’re not overextending yourself too much financially.”

The bottom line on home renovation budgeting

Home renovations are a big undertaking, and can involve many twists and turns, fast decisions and nasty surprises. Whether you opt to divide your budget into three buckets — structural, functional and internal — or use some other approach, the important thing is to plan, prioritize and anticipate. Organize your projects early and allocate your spending carefully. And stick to your budget, being sure to set money aside for the issues that invariably pop up.

8 Tips for Budgeting for a Home Renovation

kitchen renovation

Whether you plan to renovate a house before moving in or are preparing to remodel your current abode, we know budgeting for a home renovation can be a tough process. First, you’ll need to determine what it is you really need versus what you simply want. Next, you’ll have to figure out how you’re going to finance the renovation in the first place. Once you have a general idea of how much money you have to spend on renovations (and where that money is coming from), you should be able to make better decisions on finishes, appliances and other renovation features.

Remember: most renovations end up costing more than originally thought, so be sure to have a money cushion set aside in case of emergencies. This is especially true if you plan to tear down walls and make structural changes, as these projects often end up with unwelcome surprises (think: water damage, mold or electrical and wiring issues). Many homeowners may also be concerned with ways to cut costs and save money without compromising the quality of the home. For tips on budgeting for a home renovation, check out our expert advice below.

8 tips for budgeting for a home renovation

  1. Decide on your top renovation needs and priorities
    The reason for renovating your home probably has something to do with a need that isn’t being met by your current living situation. Perhaps it’s a need for more space or perhaps it’s a need for an updated bathroom. Whatever the reason (or reasons) for renovating, be sure to write down and prioritize all of your remodeling goals. For instance, a larger kitchen island may be at the top of your priority list, whereas updated appliances may be lower down on the list of needs. Keep your goals in mind and avoid getting side-tracked with smaller projects that can wait for later.
  2. Look at cost vs. value for each renovation project
    Planning to sell your home in the future? Keep the return on investment top of mind when choosing home renovation projects. After all, there’s no reason to pour $40K into a kitchen, if the home isn’t going to sell for more than you originally paid. Once you’ve prioritized your home renovation needs, research each project’s cost vs. value using Remodeling Magazine’s latest Cost vs. Value report. The report includes the cost of common remodeling projects and compares them to that project’s resale value. This should give you an idea about which projects are worth the money and which projects aren’t. For instance, the 6 most valuable home improvement projects of 2018 included an upscale garage door replacement, manufactured stone veneer, the kitchen, siding and vinyl window replacements and a bathroom remodel.
  3. Figure out how you’re going to finance the renovation
    Now for the hard part: figuring out how exactly you’re going to finance this renovation. First, take a look at your current finances. Do you have enough cash to cover the renovation? If so, great. If not, you’ll need to borrow money for the project. Unless you have a fairy godmother willing to loan you cash, we recommend either using a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC), where homeowners can borrow money against their home. Many homeowners also use credit cards to finance their renovation projects. This may be a good idea – assuming you have a plan to pay these credit cards off. If you have strong credit, you may also be able to obtain a loan through SoFi, an online personal finance company providing personal loans and mortgages to high income individuals.
  4. Talk to others who have finished similar renovations
    Discuss your renovation project with someone who has experienced it first-hand. In addition to obtaining knowledge and tips on how to complete a successful renovation, you may also learn how to cut costs and budget appropriately for certain projects. For instance, someone who has renovated a master bathroom before should be able to give you tips on where to find good deals on hardware and supplies. In addition to telling you what to do, they should just as easily be able to tell you what not to do when it comes to renovations. Learning from their mistakes could end up saving you a substantial amount of money.
  5. Create a list of specific needs and goals for contractor bids
    After going over your needs and wants, create a clear list of renovation goals to hand to contractors. This will ensure that your bid (or cost estimate for the renovation) is as accurate as possible. Make sure to include both major structural changes to the home and cosmetic changes. Examples of what to include on a kitchen renovation list include demo, new quartz countertops, new custom-made cabinets, painting kitchen cabinets and walls, new subway tile backsplash, ceiling beam installations and new GE appliances. Make sure to include specific brands you plan on using as well. From here, a contractor should be able to give you a much more accurate quote.
  6. Obtain bids from at least three general contractors
    If you’re planning to use a general contractor, we recommend obtaining bids from at least three different contractors. It’s not uncommon for bids to differ wildly. If a contractor is particularly busy or charges a hefty percentage, then you can bet that bid will be higher. According to Angi, most general contractors charge “between 10 to 20 percent of the total cost of the job.” The total cost of the job includes materials, supplies, labor, permits, etc. Be aware of contractors that give you a too-good-to-be-true estimate. For example, if three different contractors tell you that the project will likely cost between $30K and $40K, but one contractor tells you he can do it for $10K, this could be a red flag that the contractor is either lying to you or is inexperienced.
  7. Research materials and sources for the new home
    When budgeting for a home renovation, it’s absolutely crucial that you have some idea about how much everything costs. We recommend spending a substantial amount of time researching your specific renovation needs. From the cost of countertops and appliances to the cost of bathroom vanities and flooring, researching these specifics will allow you to keep an ongoing tally of renovation costs. While you can always research costs online, you should also spend time at your local Home Depot, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Ferguson Showroom and local warehouses where granite, marble and other stone surfaces are sold.
  8. Cut costs where you can
    Of course, cutting unnecessary costs where you can is never a bad idea – especially if you’re on a tight budget. Those unwilling to compromise on quality materials or finishes should look into purchasing gently-used or refurbished items. Your contractor may also be able to find leftover stone slabs from previous projects. Other ways to cut back on renovation costs include purchasing items when they go on sale, hiring subcontractors instead of a general contractor and doing a little DIY work (i.e. painting a room yourself).

Preparing to renovate your new home?

Renovating a home can be an all-consuming process, meaning you likely won’t have time to plan a complicated move. Fortunately,’s extensive network of reliable movers makes it easy to book the best moving company for the job. All relocation companies in our network are licensed and insured, so you can rest assured that your move will be in good hands. Best of luck and happy moving!

The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Home Renovation

How to Plan a Home Remodel

Starting a home renovation can be overwhelming, especially if you haven’t completed one before. Whatever the project, your remodel will involve so many details it can easily become daunting.

Use these steps and tips for planning a home remodel to choose how to order, prioritize and build a detailed home project plan that will help reduce your stress level while keeping you on budget and on schedule.

How to Plan a Remodel in 5 Steps

1. Build a Detailed Home Improvement Project Plan

The first step in a remodeling project is to develop a plan that clearly states the goal for your renovation and includes designing inspiration and an outline of the work that needs to be completed.

Your project plan should also include:

  • Blueprints or sketches of your finished project.
  • A list of needs and wants for your project.
  • Project steps divided into DIY steps and steps that will require a professional.

At this point in planning a home renovation, investigate local zoning regulations and permits. Make sure your neighborhood is zoned for your remodel (some renovations like garage conversions are not allowed everywhere) and find out if you’ll need a permit. If you are completing a project that will change the structure of your home or the use of a room, you will most likely need a permit. Wait to apply for permits until you’ve hired a team and built a project timeline.

When to Start: 6 to 12 months before you’d like to start your project

2. Set a Project Budget

The next step when planning a home renovation is to determine your budget and financing. Your budget should include the costs for permits and building materials, labor costs and the cost of decorations or cosmetic touches.

To build your budget:

  • Decide how much you want to spend and finalize financing. Set aside at least 10% of your budget for unexpected costs.
  • Request cost estimates from professionals.
  • Price out all required materials.

If your cost estimates do not fit in your budget, use your home improvement project plan from step one to eliminate project elements that are a lower priority. Request cost estimates from multiple contractors to find the best option for your budget.

When to Start: 3 to 6 months before starting your project

Handshake With Contractor Over Remodeling Plans

3. Hire Contractors

Next in your home project planning, you’ll need to hire your team. Don’t choose your contractors on cost estimates alone. When interviewing and selecting your contractors, also consider:

  • Years of experience: A contractor who’s been doing business for a long time makes them a safer bet than one who is new to the business.
  • Contracting license: Make sure your contractor has gone through all the steps needed to obtain any required certifications specific to their line of work.
  • Certificate of insurance: Contractors should have workers’ compensation and liability insurance for the type of work they perform.
  • References: Request and call references. This is a great way to make sure your contractor isn’t just good on paper.
  • Payment schedule: A reputable contractor won’t ask you to pay the full price upfront, and the Better Business Bureau advises not to. However, it’s important to discuss payment terms before construction begins. In some cases, it’s better to spend a little extra to get someone you’re comfortable working with.

Use this checklist for hiring contractors to complete the process.

If you are hiring multiple contractors for a job, determine who is in charge before the project begins to avoid confusion or slowdown later.

Completing a DIY project? During this step, make sure you have the expertise and support you need to complete the job without hired helped, including confirming the help of friends of family for when you project starts.

When to start: 2 to 3 months before your start date

4. Build a Timeline

Once you have your budget and team in place for your remodeling plan, it’s time to put together your timeline. First, choose a desired start date, or if you’re hoping to have it completed by a specific date, work backward from that date instead. Sit down with your contractors to determine the length of time each portion of the project will take. Discuss which steps of the remodel need to be completed first, how long they will take and which project portions can be completed concurrently.

Additionally, be sure your timeline:

  • Includes time to clean out the project area.
  • Allows for the shipping and delivery of materials.
  • Accounts for any holidays your contractors may take off.

Use a calendar to mark out each step of the project. Set a completion date that includes a few days’ worth of wiggle room for unexpected issues. Confirm with your contractors or team members that the timeline is realistic and keeps you within budget.

When to start: 2 to 3 months before your start date

5. Pack Up and Prepare for Your Home Renovation

Now that your home project planning is nearing an end, it’s time to prep the space and make plans to avoid using the room while it’s under construction.

Whether or not you should live in your home during construction depends on what work is being done. Planning on having major work done to your kitchen? Build a temporary place to cook and eat and remove all your dishes and minor appliances. Renovating the master bedroom? Make new sleeping arrangements and find somewhere to store your furniture. If you’re planning a whole home renovation, you might want to move out completely for a short time.

When to start: Make plans 2 to 3 months before your start date; pack up and move 1 to 2 weeks before your start date.

Couple Planning Remodel With Blueprint

Tips for Planning a Home Renovation

Ask Your Contractor Plenty of Questions

When planning your home renovation, don’t be afraid to quiz your contractor about every step of the process.

Find out their professional opinion about your:

  • Budget
  • Schedule
  • Other contractors
  • Materials

That being said, stick to your plans as much as possible. Don’t let a contractor force a more expensive product or service on you unless there’s a good reason for it. Just use their expertise to validate your choices and prevent serious mistakes.

Plan for Problems When Renovating

Even the most detailed home remodeling plans go awry. Don’t let it get you down. Be prepared for delays and issues by setting aside a chunk of your budget for unforeseen costs and allotting a few extra days in your project timeline. This will prevent stress and overspending during the renovation and will help you stick to your plan in the end.

Complete Structural Projects First

When you’re planning a home renovation, make sure you’re prioritizing any structural projects first. If your roof, foundation or electrical system needs improvements, be sure to complete those before spending money on general cosmetic changes.

While a kitchen renovation might improve your day-to-day life, a leaky roof could destroy your new kitchen if it’s not addressed at the first sign of a problem.

Plan Ahead for Waste Removal

Don’t wait until your contractor is piling concrete in your driveway to think about waste removal. Include the cost of getting rid of debris in your budget and make sure you discuss plans with your contractor before the project begins. Decide who is responsible for finding a waste removal solution for construction debris, what it will be and where it will be located during the planning process.

Finish Your Home Improvement Project Plan and Get Ready to Renovate

Now that you know how to plan a home renovation, use our project guides to learn more about the step-by-step process of completing a project:

6 Tips for Hiring a Home Improvement Contractor

The exterior of a beautiful house with a pool at dusk

After months of planning, dreaming, saving, and picking out samples, it’s finally time to take action on your big project. Whether it’s a bathroom remodel or a new addition off your main level, a home improvement contractor can lend their specialized experience, skills, and knowledge to your project. Here are six essential tips to keep in mind when hiring a local contractor near you.

1. Communicate Your Goals

During your first conversation with a prospective contractor, discuss your goals for the project, from the final result to the small details. Don’t be afraid to ask your contractor questions and discuss how you can keep in touch regularly throughout the project. Hiring for home improvement requires trust, so make sure you see eye-to-eye and choose a contractor that understands your vision and has the experience the job requires.

2. Be Clear About Your Budget

A contractor discussing renovation plans with homeowner

Communicate exactly what you want done and how much you’re willing and able to pay for the job. This way, the home improvement contractor you hire can give you a quote that sets expectations for both parties, and you won’t end up with any surprises at the end of your project.

If necessary, break the project down into multiple phases. Although spreading out project milestones may push out the project’s completion date, it may be a better option for your budget to minimize the upfront cost. Homeowners can also often save money on a home improvement project by doing small tasks on their own, such as cleaning and painting.

3. Understand That Price Often Reflects Quality

Ask your contractor for their recommendations on all project deliverables and timelines and request a written description of the materials necessary for the job. While the lowest bid might sound the easiest for your budget, it’s not always the best option in the long run. An unusually low bid may indicate that a contractor uses sub-par materials, cuts corners, or is unlicensed or uninsured. 

You can avoid home improvement fraud and get the quality you’re looking for by going with a more accurate project bid somewhere in the middle and requesting past-client references to follow up with.

4. Know a Contractor’s Credentials

Before hiring a contractor, brush up on common industry standards and qualifications, including any certifications they have from a national trade organization. Abbreviations behind your contractor’s name indicate that the company belongs to certain organizations that bind them to a strict code of ethics. Memberships, titles, and abbreviations may include:

Also, insist on hiring a licensed, bonded, and insured contractor. This is a must. Otherwise, as the property owner, you are liable if a work crew member gets injured on the job.

5. Get Your Home Improvement Contract in Writing

Home improvement contractors are different from general contractors because they typically keep work in-house and don’t hire subcontractors. 

Your home improvement contract should include:

  • Detailed timelines
  • Total cost
  • Payment arrangements
  • Your contractor’s license number
  • Project description
  • Names of parties involved
  • How to handle additional costs, if necessary

Your contractor should give you a timeline for the job to be completed. If they don’t, ask for one! This will give you peace of mind throughout the process and ensure everyone is on the same page with their expectations. Plus going without a timeline can really slow down your home renovation.

Do your best to stay organized by keeping job-related documents, such as contracts, payments, receipts, and contact information all in one place in case you need them for reference.

6. Educate Yourself About the Home Improvement Requirements

Doing some high-level research before the hiring process will help you understand what requirements and regulations need to be followed for your remodeling project. While your contractor will likely apply for and acquire all necessary permits, it doesn’t hurt to ask for process details and updates.

The cost of the job will likely increase if the contractor is surprised by outdated wiring or other concealed budget busters, so it’s important to know what’s going on behind the scenes in your home as well.

Tips For Budgeting For Your Home Renovation

How to Renovate Your Home on a Budget: The Top 5 Budget Tips - Smartland  Residential Contractors

When dreaming up a home renovation, it’s easy to become overwhelmed as to where to begin. Instead of stressing, let us help you prepare! Keep reading for our top tips on how to create a plan to pay for a home renovation.

Pick your projects
The number one goal with any renovation project is to increase the value of your home. It’s important to choose popular projects that will outlast trends and that transcend your personal taste (although you should, of course, love the final product). But how do you know what is a worthwhile project in which to invest?

First, we recommend checking out the Cost vs. Value report that Remodeling publishes annually. It’s a clear snapshot of which upgrades are consistently trending upward and seeing a significant return on investment, and which are falling in the ranks. For example, manufactured stone veneers increased in resale value in 2020, with an average of 95.6% of costs recouped upon resale. That’s a signal to you to check them out and see if they might be right for your home!

Second, we recommend speaking to a local expert to get their insight. Real estate agents, contractors, and architects have their finger on the pulse of what your local housing market is seeing at any given moment and can provide valuable insight into the direction your area is headed in terms of home design. They can also provide helpful feedback on prioritizing home improvement projects to ensure you see a return on investment.

Request estimates
With your ideal list of projects in mind, you can start reaching out to contractors for quotes. We recommend reaching out to at least three contractors who come highly recommended by friends or family. Request quotes and timelines from each one, but keep in mind that the lowest bid shouldn’t always win if the quality of that contractor’s work isn’t up to snuff. Quality workmanship is so important, particularly when it comes to big alterations to your home. Also, remember that a good contractor will work with you to make a plan for your home renovation and will be willing to outline their estimate in writing. They know that everything can’t happen all at once and will help you determine what makes the most sense as your starting point.

Determine your budget
Now that you have cost estimates from a few contractors, it’s time to determine what you can afford. Seeing those estimates may have been unnerving, or it may have been a relief. Either way, keep in mind that generally, home renovation projects will take more time than initially planned and can cost more than expected as a result of unforeseen hurdles. Also, remember that you’re looking to increase the value of your home without spending a huge percentage of the value of your home so that you can recoup those costs when you sell. With all of this in mind, and armed with the quotes from your contractor, start doing some math on what you can afford to spend.

Prioritize your projects
Since it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to afford to accomplish all of your projects at once, you’ll want to prioritize your project list. There are a few ways you can go about this:

  1. Prioritize by sense of urgency. Is something in your home leaking, smelling or rotting? There’s your first project. Projects that address safety concerns or make an unlivable area of your home livable are considered urgent.
  2. Prioritize by expense. Depending on your financial situation, it may make sense to save for and start with your most expensive project, or it may be more feasible to accomplish smaller projects as you save for your most expensive one.
  3. Prioritize by prominence. If nothing is particularly urgent and cost isn’t a huge concern, you could prioritize your projects in order of how frequently they will be seen by others. For example, if you need to replace your siding and renovate your master bathroom, replacing your siding would come first since neighbors, guests and passersby will see your siding infinitely more than your bathroom and this will offer stronger curb appeal to potential buyers.

Now you’re ready to kick off your first home renovation project!

Home Renovation on a Tight Budget

How to Renovate a House on a Budget – It Can Be Done!

Money and budget are of foremost concern when dealing with the issue of whether or not to renovate. You see your dream home in your mind. You know exactly how you want the newly designed space to flow and function. And yet perhaps your available funds aren’t letting you go quite as extensive as you want on the remodel. At CHI, we work with clients all the time when it comes to balancing their ultimate home renovation goals and the realities of their budget.

Our job is to create for you a stunning space that will bring a new life and vibrancy into your home. And yes, you can renovate that home on a budget. We’ve compiled some tips and ideas for those looking to remodel while still adhering to their budget.

1) Working around existing plumbing placement.

One of the more costly projects associated with home renovations is moving plumbing fixtures such as toilets, sinks, and showers. It’s not simply relocating a fixture, but rerouting the entire plumbing line, drains, and systems. And this doesn’t come cheap. If you can upgrade your current bath and yet still keep things pretty much where they are, you’d be surprised at how much this may save you in the long run.

2) Big Impact Cosmetic Changes.

Structural changes are certainly nice. Moving walls, adding windows, and completely reimagining the space may be the stuff of your dreams. But again, remember these major structural shifts are expensive. When trying to figure out how to renovate your house on a budget, you may want to consider more cosmetic changes that can still have a significant impact. Things like flooring, paint, appliances, and lighting don’t necessarily cost as much and yet can drastically change the overall vibe of the space.

3) Shopping Everything Around.

Price comparing is essential if you’re working from a tighter budget. From searching for contractors offering attractive estimates, to the best-priced materials, you want to know that you are getting the most “bang for your remodeling buck”. Be cautious however, it’s not just about finding the lowest bidder. You want to always maintain quality in tandem with the affordability factor.

4) What You Want versus What You Need.

Certainly, you have a wish list of exactly what you’d like to see for your new space. But when trying to decide how to renovate your house on a budget, it’s about prioritizing. What does your family absolutely need as far as the flow and function of your space? And what can you put off until a bit later when the budget is less stringent? Really take the time to think about how the space works for you now. Versus how you want to see it work for you when the job is done.

5) Reuse and Repurpose.

From furniture to cabinetry, maybe it’s not about just “getting rid of” something; if you can find a way to incorporate it into your home renovation then you stand to save yourself some money. Can a dresser be painted, or recycled in some way? Maybe bath cabinets just need a bit of a facelift. Get creative, use your imagination, and try to see your current pieces in a whole new light.

6) Think in Terms of Stock Sizes.

Custom costs money—this is a no-brainer. Specialty sizes, colors, finishes all come with a pretty substantial price tag. The more in line with stock options and choices we can stay, the more money you save in the long run.

7) Minimize Changes.

You’ve had plans drawn up, your contract with the design-build firm is in place. And then suddenly you totally change your mind and want to move this fixture, upgrade this counter, or add a window here. All such changes cost money, not to mention the time associated with executing said change. Come up with a game plan and, especially when trying to stick to that budget, don’t veer from this plan or you may need to look into additional financing options. We know you don’t want to do that though so keep in mind….too many of these kinds of alterations and you could be looking at some major expenditures.

You can renovate your home on a budget. What we have found in working with customers, is that the key to a successful renovation in terms of adhering to a definitive budget is to keep your focus, exercise control, and don’t lose sight of the fact that your remodel will be gorgeous in the end!

Want to get started on your remodel?

Fill out the form below and we will reach out to you within 24 hours to schedule a free design consultation.

26 Ways To Renovate a House with No Money

How to Renovate a House with No Money

The best way to renovate a house with no money is to become resourceful with what you have, and only buy materials that will add more value than their cost.

Keeping renovation costs low is important not only to homeowners but also to real estate investors, especially when it comes to flipping homes. Flippers, both new and seasoned, have to strike a delicate balance between modernizing a space, without going over budget and eroding their bottom line.

Kitchen Layout Templates: 6 Different Designs | HGTV

While it may seem impossible, it is not, as this article breaks down the top 26 ways you can renovate a house with no money, and still end up with a product that appeals to buyers.

#1: Do a Deep Clean

Before starting any renovation work, do a deep clean of the home’s interior and exterior. A deep clean, even if it isn’t a smoker’s home, is the most cost-efficient way to assess what actually needs to be fixed or replaced. Surprisingly, some items in the home simply need a little elbow grease to look new.  Additionally, a deep clean is necessary to undertake many remodeling tasks.

#2: Paint the Exterior

Painting the exterior façade of a home is one of the most critical expenditures, as it brings the most value to your renovation budget. There are countless homes that are beautifully re-done on the inside but languish on the market for months because the investors ran out of money and left them outside in a state of disrepair. Avoid this common trap, by investing early on in painting the exterior. The right color combination can truly bring new life to a house and make it stand out. 

#3: Landscaping

In the same respect, don’t neglect the exterior landscaping of your renovation project. Landscaping can easily and cheaply be upgraded with items, such as new rocks, pavers, shrubs, and flowers. The goal is not perfection, yet simply making the front and back yards appear neat and move-in ready.

#4: Repaint the Windows & Shutters

Similarly, repainting the windows of a home will rekindle its character and provide the home a fresh look, on the inside and outside, at a relatively low cost. Do, however, proceed with caution, as you don’t want to make the mistake of painting windows shut. This will only give the impression of a rushed job, which is not desired.

#5: Upgrade the Front Door

Consider upgrading the front door by repainting it with a bright and welcoming color, such as red, yellow, or a baby blue. Additionally, research ways to add specialty or decorative statements to the door, and upgrade the hardware, as well. A unique door will instantly capture the buyer’s attention and imagination, justifying the extra $40 to make it pop.

#6: Repaint the Interior

Paint will not only work wonders for the exterior of a home, but also the interior. A few coats of new white paint, with one or two accent walls, can transform even the drab best home into a comfortable environment that is attractive to potential buyers. Another great feature about painting is you can easily cut down on labor costs, by doing it yourself.

#7: Repaint the Kitchen Cabinets

While it might be tempting to buy brand new kitchen cabinets, they are very expensive and may not even be necessary. Instead, refinish and repaint the existing cabinets that are there to closely resemble their modern counterparts. With proper sanding and the right type of paint, even the most dated cabinets can look modern and new.

#8: Replace the Cabinet Hardware

Additionally, entertain the idea of getting new pulls and handles for all cabinets and drawers in the kitchen and bath. Psychologically, cabinet hardware that is new, shiny, and modern will make the naked eye believe the cabinets are new as well, also saving the budget tons of money.

#9: Upgrade the Kitchen Appliances

For especially tight renovation budgets, do not remove kitchen appliances. If the deep clean was not enough to bring their original shine back, give existing appliances an upgrade by repainting them, re-coating them with a faux stainless steel film, or covering them with magnetic decals that blend in with the surroundings.

#10: Install a New Backsplash

Tile backsplash in a kitchen or bathroom is common indicators potential buyers will use to judge the quality of a remodel. As areas in need of a new backsplash tend to be small, make the small investment and install a new tile backsplash. Even the simplest subway tile with black grout can provide a stylish look, for practically no money.

#11: Peel and Stick Countertops

If your home is in need of new countertops, but your budget is tight, leverage the plethora of peel and stick self-adhesive contact paper for countertops for sale online.  Competitively priced and made to look like real marble, stone, or wood, peel and stick countertops instantly give an upgraded look to existing counters.

#12: Peel and Stick Wall Panels

There are also many manufacturers that offer peel and stick wall panels, which can be used to add a personal character to a house. They make great textured accent walls, as well as cost-effective wainscoting.

#13: Cover Old Flooring

If the home you are renovating has dated vinyl floors, cover them using modern-day peel and stick vinyl flooring. Unlike their predecessors, today’s vinyl flooring is cheap, attractive, and does not require special skill or expertise for proper installation.

#14: Replace the Carpet

Replace torn and ragged carpet with a newer, modern carpet. Compared to other types of floor, carpet remains relatively cheap, and with a few D-I-Y videos can easily be cut and installed by even the most novice of investors. Furthermore, carpet is a versatile material. It covers old subflooring, adds life to rooms, and gives off that new house smell of buyer’s love.

#15: Upgrade Sink & Shower Fixtures

Nothing reeks more of a dated home than sink and shower fixtures from the 1950’s. Make it a priority in your budget to upgrade the bath and kitchen fixtures to give the home a contemporary feel.  

#16: Refinish the Bathtub

Replacing an old bathtub can be pricy, and if not done properly can cause even more damage. Avoid the additional cost, and have the surface re-glazed of the existing tub. In older homes, especially, this enables you to maintain the original character, which buyers love.  

#17: Refinish the Doorknobs

Another cost-effective approach when remodeling an older home is to refinish the existing doorknobs. Utilize spray paint or bronzer, to give previously worn-out handles a fresh coat of liveliness.

#18: Remove old Shower Doors

Old shower doors scream dated. Take them out completely and use an adjustable shower pole with colorful curtains in their place. Not only will this completely modernize a bathroom but will also leave it feeling more spacious and open.

#19: Update Light Fixtures

One of the best investments you can make in a remodeling project is to give dated light fixtures a modern touch. Rather than buying entirely new ones, spray paint existing fixtures with dark colors (to conceal any imperfections). Replace old sconces with wired hardware, or don’t replace them at all. Exposed lightbulb pendants are growing in popularity, and can be easily incorporated into a renovation.

#20: Replace the Toilet Seat Cover

New toilets are surprisingly expensive, and not always necessary.  Instead of replacing the entire toilet, simply remove and install a present-day seat cover that is the same color.

#21: Change the Lightbulbs

Lighting plays a key role in setting the tone and mood of different rooms in a home. If the house you are renovating is too dark and moody, it will turn potential buyers off. If a house is well-lit and bright, it again leaves the impression of newness with buyers. Bring in a new light by changing older lightbulbs for LED bright lights.

#22: Large Area Rugs

As you get closer to the end of your renovation, there are many zero to low-cost final finishes that can be used to tie all the elements together. The first is a large area rug in a central room of the house. Large area rugs that are bright and modern will instantly elevate a room into a livable space.

#23: Install Full-Length Curtains

Full-length curtains, also, bring a touch of elegance and height to a room. They come in an array of colors and patterns, providing many options, and are quick, cheap, and easy to install.

#24: Open shelving

Open shelving is the latest trend in renovated homes and can add a lot of value and wow factor to your renovation. With materials as simple as reclaimed (old) wood, sandpaper, and shelving racks, you can transform many different parts of a home’s interior into modern spaces that capture a buyer’s attention.

#25: Plants

Plants additionally, are a necessary item to incorporate into the staging of a home, as you come closer to the end of your renovation. Plants fill up space and literally have been proven to pump oxygen into a room. Used appropriately the break up the monotony of a newly renovated home, and bring even more life to dead spaces than furniture.

#26: Art

Lastly, as you begin to prepare the home for open houses and showings, art plays a crucial role in tugging at the heartstrings of potential buyers. The right art placed strategically throughout a home, will help people visualize the elevated lifestyle they can have if they were to live in the home. Art can evoke positive emotions and leave people with a great first impression of your newly renovated house.

Where Do I Find These?

Many of these items can be found either online, or around your town. When it comes to renovating a house with no money, become friendly with your local dollar store and the clearance bin at every major retailer. Also, scour sites like Facebook and Craigslist. Surprisingly, many people are willing to part ways with expensive furniture and construction materials, sometimes for free, so long as you get it out of there fast.

Final Thoughts

As you navigate renovating your first or next project without spending any money, keep in mind you don’t want it to look like you didn’t spend any money. This can easily be done by investing the time to make sure renovations are done correctly the first time. Pay attention to the details, and avoid mistakes, such as crooked paint lines, or door handles not screwed in all the way that can be embarrassing and cost you a potential home buyer.

13 Popular Architecture Styles for Homes

Construction companies in Maryland

One of the first steps in planning and designing your own home is selecting the floor plan and architectural style you want. Because each style of home has its own unique characteristics and floor plans, choosing your style first means many of your other decisions will be dictated by the style you choose.

To help you make your decisionhere are 13 popular home architectural styles:

Cape Cod

Though most Cape Cod-style homes in the United States were built after World War II, the style originated in the 1600s. This style is characterized by its two-story layout, with the master bedroom typically located on the main floor. Cape Cod homes have steep roofs and large chimneys to withstand the cold winters in the Northeast.


This style of the home emphasizes the use of natural materials – wood, stone, or brick – and features lots of built-in furniture inside. An open floor plan is paired with these natural materials to keep the interior from feeling closed-in. Craftsman homes have wide front porches and low-pitched roofs.


Another architectural style born out of the 1600s, “Colonial” actually encompasses a variety of sub-styles. However, all Colonial-style homes typically share an emphasis on symmetry, with evenly spaced shuttered windows. Exterior elements also tend to be evenly proportioned, including dormers, columns, and chimneys.

Dutch Colonial

A sub-style of Colonial, Dutch Colonial homes feature a broad gambrel roof, with shingles extending down over the top floor. These homes also have dormers, flared eaves that extend over the porch, and a decorative hood over the front door. Some Dutch Colonial homes feature Dutch double doors, where the top of the door swings independently of the bottom, originally intended to allow air into the home without letting farm animals inside.

Georgian Colonial

This is the most common and simplest of the common Colonial styles. It features a basic box shape and two stories. The front door usually is paneled and sits under a decorative overhang that’s framed by simple columns.

Federal Colonial

Far more ornate than Georgian Colonial style, Federal Colonial architecture is modeled after Roman classicism. This style features extra wings extending off the basic box shape and more decorative embellishments on the exterior. Most often, Federal Colonials feature a brick exterior.

Mid-Century Modern

Popular in the middle third of the 20th century, mid-century modern homes feature lots of flat planes, large glass windows, and open space. They take advantage of materials made readily available after World War II, including steel and plywood.

Greek Revival

Commonly found on large estates and old plantations, Greek Revival architecture is characterized by its tall columns and pediments, often with painted plaster exteriors. These homes are symmetrical in shape and feature imposing, bold molding and embellishments.


Popular from after World War I to the early 1980s, Mediterranean architecture featured red tile roofs, arches, and plaster surfaces. Many also include ornate exterior elements, such as porticos, balconies, and ornamental details – heavy wooden doors or multicolored tiles, for example.


Inspired by the modernist art movement, Modern homes feature open living spaces and clean, geometric lines. The focus of Modern design is function over form, so it is usually very little in the way of embellishment on these homes.


Usually, single-story, Ranch-style architecture is somewhat similar to Modern architecture with its open floor plans and emphasis on function over design. Ranch homes usually locate the bedrooms in one wing and the common living areas – kitchen, living room, etc. – in another wing. Many also feature attached garages.


Often found in the Midwest and along the East Coast, Tudor homes have steeply-pitched, multi-gabled roofs. The decorative half-timber framing, often paired with a brick exterior, is one of the features that make this style one of the most recognizable in American architecture.


Similar to Colonial architecture, there are many sub-styles of Victorian homes – Queen Anne, Romanesque, and Gothic revival, for example. Among the most ornate of all architectural styles, Victorians focused on beauty over function. Common traits include ornate trim, bright colors, large porches, asymmetrical shapes, and multi-faceted roof lines.


Your home can influence your health and quality of life. Most of us spend a huge percentage of our lives indoors so it is well worth thinking more closely about the quality of life in our homes. This article discusses the probable sources of indoor air pollutants as well as the potential associated health consequences of undertaking renovations or home extensions. It gives advice and actions that you may take to guard the health of individuals living in your home. It is going to also assist you in making better-informed decisions about health and indoor air quality issues when discussing a new construction renovation or project with your architect, designer, builder, or building material supplier.

There is now growing scientific research to prove that our environment affects our physical and mental health in many ways. The relationship between our surroundings and our well-being is important.

For example, it is suggested that looking at a beautiful view results in a rush of endorphins which in turn leads to a feeling of peacefulness and well-being. By paying attention to the place and space around us, we can feel better. Therefore, living in a well-designed and healthy home can do more than improve our mood, it can affect our immune system and physical health as well.

According to a recent survey carried out by Houzz, a well-designed kitchen can transform the way you live and promote a healthier lifestyle. It was found that more people are encouraged to cook and bake at home, with fewer takeaways being ordered in. Not only is this good for physical health but it’s great for mental health too. A well-thought-out kitchen not only fosters an interest in home cooking but inspires the kids to get involved. This all contributes to more quality, family time.

Not only does living in a cold, damp, badly lit, and poorly designed house with a burst pipe or crumbling walls feel depressing, but it can make you less inclined to look after it and invite people around. This lessens opportunities for social interaction, which can lead to further feelings of isolation and depression. Improving your home can influence how you interact with others as well as how you feel individually. A welcoming, well-designed and organized home will encourage you to invite friends over which will enhance the social side of your life.

Air Quality

A properly renovated home, such as one with a house extension will be ‘airtight’. However, it will also be well ventilated. Living in damp-free, well-ventilated home results in better health all around.

The air inside an older home may be affected by damp, mold, and condensation. This is especially true if we block up vents and shut windows to keep draughts at bay. Therefore, moisture-laden air can’t escape, which leads to the formation of damp and mold. If a room is poorly ventilated moisture can easily build up – from showers, kettles, bubbling pots and pans, and even our own breath. Damp manifests in wet patches, mold growth, and often a musty smell. If left untreated, it can result in the corrosion of internal finishes and cause health problems, especially in very young and elderly people and those with respiratory conditions such as asthma.

In order to achieve optimum health, fresh air should constantly be flowing through your home to replace stale, moisture-laden air. Condensation, which is exacerbated by poor insulation, inferior windows, and inadequate heating, will be a thing of the past if you choose to retrofit your home.

There are health consequences from poor indoor air quality from mild and generally non-specific signs such as headaches, tiredness, or lethargy, to more severe effects such as aggravation of asthma and allergic responses. Most of these conditions may also arise in a range of different causes other than the grade of the atmosphere in your house.

Ask your doctor if you are worried about any of these health conditions.

If a source of air pollutants triggers an indoor air quality problem or not depends on:

  • The type of air pollutant
  • The quantity and rate at which it is released from its origin
  • The level of ventilation available in the home to eliminate it from inside.

Common sources of indoor air pollutants include:

  • Construction operations and construction materials
  • Household products
  • Different human indoor activities
  • External variables (from outside).

People are most frequently exposed to air pollutants when they breathe within an atmosphere pollutant or allergen; vulnerability by swallowing or through the skin may happen in some circumstances. The body has an array of defenses against airborne compounds (e.g. skin, liver, immune system). Some defenses keep substances from their body; others conquer substances once they enter the human body.

Four steps to Enhance air quality

  • Remove: Identify the source of air problems and where possible eliminate through better product choice and design.
  • Ventilate: If only a small amount of fresh air enters a home, pollutants can gather to levels that can pose health and comfort problems. Ventilate the home to remove these.
  • Separate: Separate problem substances from occupants by using air barriers or sealers such as coatings.
  • Absorb: Indoor plants may be used to improve the quality of the indoor environment, in addition to adding beauty.

Questions for a healthful home

If purchasing or moving to an established house, will major renovations be required?

The substances utilized in some previous homes, in addition to the activities related to renovation, can increase the health risks for renovators and anybody else in the home during the job. Assess the risks of moving or putting in structural timber beams and manage them through safe work practices and clean-up.

How efficiently does the property’s design use natural ventilation?

Fantastic design and orientation can encourage breezes and convection currents to draw stale air out and fresher air in. If windows have been shut for safety or noise reasons, install fixed wall vents to make sure there is adequate ventilation. Strike a balance between the need to introduce new air, keep comfortable room temperatures, and save energy.

Does the home’s design keep moisture to a minimum?

In brick houses, if a damp-proof course has not yet been fitted or was broken, moisture may migrate out of the floor to the wall. Prolonged periods of humidity can increase the moisture within the environment. Keep away from mold growth by lessening moisture levels in your environment making sure that all the general plumbing is up to standard.

Can dust be easily removed from the rooms?

The visible and invisible dust in your home is made up of several substances. Even though most of the dust will likely be benign, there may be a little proportion that, if inhaled or swallowed, could trigger a health response. Design and furnish your home with easy to clean and washable surfaces or fabrics.

Are there any carpeted floors?

If new carpeting has adhesives underneath, these can contain VOCs. Underlay may also be a supply. Ask to observe rugs encouraged by producers as ‘low emission’ merchandise. Ensure that your provider unrolls the carpeting in a well-ventilated area and lets it air for several days until it’s delivered and installed. Trapped dust and microbiological pollutants might be a problem if they come from the carpet to the air, or might be an immediate problem for crawling babies and young kids playing on rugs. Consider laminated flooring as it will reduce the amount of dust absorbed in your environment.

Home Renovations with the Best Return on Investment

Home addition

It’s the fundamental question facing anyone who has ever embarked on a home renovation: How likely am I to get the money back when I sell my house? There’s no easy answer because what a buyer might be willing to pay depends on many factors — everything from the choice of project to the materials you use to the value of other homes in your neighborhood.

But it’s important to have some idea of what your improvements might be worth. If you want to invest more than you can hope to recoup because you love your house and plan to live in it for a long while, that’s fine. But consider the following guidelines and you’ll avoid unpleasant surprises when it comes time to put up that For Sale sign on the lawn.

What Home Improvements Give the Best Return?

Not all remodeling projects are created equal. Kitchens, baths, family rooms, or master suite add-ons will have the biggest return on investment.

Here’s a breakdown of the average ROI one year later after some common home improvement projects:

Home Improvement Return on Investment

ProjectAverage CostAverage Resale Value One Year Later% Return
Minor kitchen remodel$14,773$13,039.0087%
Two-story addition$67,743$56,770.0083%
Bathroom addition$14,216$11,704.0081%
Major kitchen remodel$38,769$31,344.0080%
Family-room addition$46,738$37,217.0078%
Master suite$63,275$47,699.0074%
Attic bedroom$31,366$23,232.0073%
Home office$10,526$5,723.0054%

Figures are national averages Source: Remodeling Magazine (;

Spending More, Doesn’t Always Mean Higher Return

“People buying a house look first at kitchens and baths,” says Kermit Baker, director of the remodeling futures program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. So while these rooms can be the most costly to redo, they’re more likely to pay for themselves. Adding rooms, such as a family room or master suite, also tend to fare well at resale time: Bigger homes command higher prices.

At the other end of the spectrum, swimming pools hardly ever return their cost, because a lot of buyers aren’t willing to shell out more for a house just to acquire what they consider maintenance bother. Home offices tend to be low-return for the same reason: Only a handful of buyers will want a room designed for working. (Think of it this way: How high a premium would you be willing to pay for a convertible if you were never going to put the top down?)

Kitchen Remodel ROI

And just because a project is expensive doesn’t mean it will pay back more. Often, minor improvements can yield major dividends. According to Remodeling magazine’s annual analysis of cost versus value, a kitchen “face-lift” — painting, refinishing surfaces, and upgrading appliances — will return more than a full redesign.

The key to spending less is spending it wisely. “If you take $20,000 and spend it judiciously on a kitchen, you can make it look a million times better,” says Remodeling senior editor Jim Cory, who supervises the survey. “The design and product selection are key.”

Is Remodeling A Good Investment?

Even when your remodeling job is an appealing improvement for most buyers, it adds little value if done to just your taste. “You might want a room in your house in the shape of a cat or a mouse, but can you find a buyer who wants it?” says Gopal Ahluwalia, director of research at the National Association of Home Builders. “You have to think in the back of your mind that you’re going to have to sell someday.”

If you’re living in a Craftsman gem and want to tack on a family-room addition, for instance, keep the design in harmony with the original look and feel. That goes for the height of the ceilings as well as the style of the windows and moldings. “You don’t want to lose the integrity of the house,” says Bobbi Chasin, a real estate agent in Evanston, Illinois. “Putting a big box on the back of the house will spoil the entire appearance.”

The same holds true for smaller projects, too. For example, when choosing kitchen cabinets, countertops, and flooring, aim for classic or neutral colors and styles. “Years ago, I had a client who wanted a purple kitchen, to match the purple grout on her fireplace,” says Mark Scott, a remodeler in Bethesda, Maryland. Scott argued strenuously against it, but the homeowner insisted that she was planning to stay in the house for the rest of her life. If you can’t make that kind of commitment, don’t expect somebody else to pay for your unique and funky choices.

5 Factors That Impact Resale Value and ROI

1. Neighborhood

Before Kevin and Julianne Warren spent $42,000 to remodel the kitchen in their nicely detailed 1950s ranch house, the home was probably worth about $150,000. But their location, the Forest Hills section of Grand Rapids, Michigan, gave them confidence that the improvements were a smart bet. “This is a high-end neighborhood for schools. Everyone tries to get into this area,” Kevin says.

Even better, the Warrens’ home is surrounded by properties worth $200,000 or so. That means they haven’t priced themselves out of the local market, a very important consideration with any remodeling project. “Are you going to do work that makes your house worth $300,000 when it’s sitting in a $100,000 neighborhood?” asks Israel Ramos, a real estate agent in Phoenix, Arizona.

“Don’t exceed the ceiling for the neighborhood, or you won’t get your money back.” Just as your home’s cost should be in line with your neighborhood, your improvements should be in line with the value of your home. In Seattle, real estate agent Kay Rigley recently discovered that a former client spent $90,000 on remodeling two bathrooms, complete with heated floors and Italian tile. “I said, ‘I wish you had talked to me first,'” she says. Between what they paid for the property and other improvements, the owners spent more than half a million dollars on a home that Rigley estimates is worth $450,000 at most.

2. Region

What part of the country you live in affects several remodeling decisions. Labor tends to be cheaper in the South than the Northeast, for example — enough so that Remodeling’s annual survey prices the same master bedroom suite at $59,401 in Louisville, Kentucky, and $73,814 in Westchester, New York.

Local factors also influence demand. Buyers everywhere will probably like a new, well-appointed family room. But fireplaces sell better in the North than in the South, and decks add more value in warmer climes. There are no hard-and-fast rules, but keeping an eye on local trends is a good way to ensure that your choices will appeal to house-hunters.

3. Market

Where regional differences really come into play is in the real estate market. If housing is in great demand, buyers are likely to be willing to pay more for your improvements. Bethesda builder Scott says he billed $300,000 recently for an expanded kitchen, breakfast room, and study — the most expensive renovation per square foot he’s ever done. But the couple got the money back when they bought an even bigger house last year. “Around the Washington, D.C., area, it’s way different than Missouri,” Scott observes. “People are paid an awful lot of money to be here.”

Be careful, however. Even in a strong market, you can over-renovate. Brett Weinstein, a real estate broker in Oakland, California, has lived through the Bay Area housing boom. While prices remain high, he says, “if someone paid $200,000 over the asking price last year, they bought when the market was red hot. So if they want to spend $60,000 for a kitchen remodeling, they’re going to have to live there a little longer to see that money back.”

4. Timeline

As Weinstein points out, the longer you stay in your house, the more likely you are to recoup your costs. With home prices rising about 5 percent a year, your outlay will eventually be absorbed into the increase in the property’s value. (Plus, you’ll be able to enjoy your renovations for those years.) A few caveats: There is no natural law that says prices must go up, so don’t depend too heavily on that annual bump. And remember that sometimes life can throw a curve, and you might have to put your house on the market sooner than expected.

For some projects, time also works against you. “There’s stylistic depreciation,” says Harvard’s Baker. “All the fads now are for knocking down walls and making big rooms. But ten years from now, that might not necessarily be the case.” Kitchens and bathrooms are especially prone to looking dated, as anyone who has blanched at discovering avocado-green appliances in their dream house can tell you.

5. Hidden Expenses and Issues

If you think a project will pay for itself, but just barely, be prepared for something to tip the balance against you. Home renovation is rife with “hidden” expenses: the extra costs when a project takes longer than planned; the experts’ fees for asbestos testing or heat-loss calculations; the monthly interest payments for a home equity loan. Not to mention the higher property taxes you may have to pay when your new-and-improved home is reassessed.

When all is said and done, most experts counsel against home improvement as an investment. Be smart about what you spend, sure. But a new deck isn’t a mutual fund. Real estate agent Chasin suggests that once you’ve done your homework, make your decisions based on what you want and what you can afford. “I had a listing where the husband had taken early retirement, so his wife convinced him to put in a very expensive home office for $50,000. Ultimately they moved to Florida, and they didn’t get the money out of that home office,” Chasin says. “But she didn’t care. It made him happy.”

Payback by the Project

Since the mid-1980s, Remodeling magazine has done an annual analysis of cost versus value for residential remodeling projects around the country. By polling real estate agents and appraisers in various regions, the editors determine how much projects cost to complete and how much those improvements might add to a house’s selling price one year later. The report is widely considered the most authoritative study of the subject. But even Jim Cory, the editor in charge of the survey, admits it only goes so far. “We provide a benchmark with our study,” he says. “Cases have to be decided on an individual basis.”

Looking for more help with repairs around your home? A home warranty may help. Check out the This Old Houses Reviews Team’s in-depth reviews on: