10 Home Improvements That Pay Off the Most

Paul Ausick

The number of opinions on the value of a particular home remodeling project is at least as large as the number of remodeling projects homeowners might want to tackle. One constant, though, is how the project enhances the value of a home and, ultimately, its resale value.

Remodeling projects can be large (for example, adding a second floor to an existing house) or small (replacing the main entry door). On average among 27 projects included in a recent survey by Remodeling magazine, the average residual value one year after the project is completed is 64.4% of the project’s cost.

As a result, all projects are not created equal. According to the “Remodeling 2016 Cost vs. Value Report” from Hanley Wood’s Remodeling, on a national basis only one remodeling project yields an increase in value that is more than the cost of the project. The other 26 projects return anywhere from around 91% of the cost to around 56% of costs.

We looked at the projects that return the most value nationally because some of them struck us as surprising given the conventional wisdom. Note, too, that mid-range costs are based on typical quality materials and the estimates were generated from identical specifications for the work to be done. The report also included projects calling for upscale work that is more expansive and complicated and uses more expensive materials than the baseline mid-range projects.

Among the mid-range projects are three that return more than 90% on the homeowner’s investment and two that return more than 80% but less than 90%. Among upscale projects, only one returns more than 90%, two return more than 70% and two return more than 60% but less than 70%.

The single project that returns more value to a homeowner than its cost is adding fiberglass insulation in the home’s attic. The project calls for a pro remodeler to air-seal a 35×30 attic floor to address any air leakage from conditioned space to unconditioned space. Then the pro would add fiberglass loosefill insulation, placing it on top of existing insulation if present. Fiberglass loosefill would be applied until thickness equating with R-30 insulation value is reached. The estimated cost of this project is $1,268 and the estimated return is $1,482, or nearly 117%.

Here are the five mid-range remodeling projects with the highest return on investment. The list includes original cost, resale value, percentage return and a description of the project.

Manufactured Stone Veneer
> Cost: $7,519
> Resale value: $6,988
> Return: 92.9%

This project replaces 300 square feet of vinyl siding from the bottom third of a house with manufactured stone veneer, two separate layers of water-resistive barrier laid over bare sheathing, corrosion-resistant lath and fasteners, and a nominal half-inch-thick mortar scratch coat and setting bed.

Garage Door Replacement
> Cost: $1,652
> Resale value: $1,512
> Return: 91.5%

Remove and dispose of existing 16×7-foot garage door and tracks. Install new four-section garage door on new galvanized steel tracks; reuse existing motorized opener. New door is uninsulated, single-layer, embossed steel with two coats of baked-on paint, galvanized steel hinges and nylon rollers. Includes 10-year limited warranty.

Entry Door Replacement (Steel)
> Cost: $1,335
> Resale value: $1,217
> Return: 91.1%

Remove existing 3-0/6-8 entry door and jambs and replace with new 20-gauge steel unit, including clear dual-pane half-glass panel, jambs and aluminum threshold with composite stop. Door is factory finished with same color both sides. Exterior brick-mold and 2.5-inch interior colonial or ranch casings in poplar or equal prefinished to match door color. Replace existing lockset with new bored-lock in brass or antique-brass finish.

Minor Kitchen Remodel
> Cost: $20,122
> Resale value: $16,716
> Return: 83.1%

In a functional but dated 200-square-foot kitchen with 30 linear feet of cabinetry and countertops, leave cabinet boxes in place but replace fronts with new raised-panel wood doors and drawers, including new hardware. Replace wall oven and cooktop with new energy-efficient models. Replace laminate countertops; install mid-priced sink and faucet. Repaint trim, add wall covering and remove and replace resilient flooring.

Entry Door Replacement (Fiberglass)
> Cost: $3,126
> Resale value: $2,574
> Return: 82.3%

Remove existing 3-0/6-8 entry door and jambs and replace with new fiberglass unit with simulated wood grain, stained same color both sides; dual-pane, decorative half-glass panel with zinc caming; PVC-wrapped exterior trim in color to match existing trim; 2.5-inch interior colonial or ranch casings in hardwood stained to match door. Replace existing lockset with mortise lock with lever handle and integrated deadbolt in oil-rubbed bronze or satin-nickel finish.