Renovations: The Most Bang For Your Buck

It’s no secret. Renovations are costly and can do a real number on your daily routine. Depending on how extensive your renovation is the time it could take stretches anywhere from a few days to a month. But, when done well, home renovations are a great way to increase the function of your home while also adding to its value. There’s a long list of things to renovate, and when you’re starting out the list of things you want will be quite long. But to get the most out of your renovation, check out these projects that bring the biggest return for your investment.


Minor bathroom renovations – keeping the plumbing where it is and updating flooring, fixtures, tub and sink – can bring a return of just over 100%. To keep costs down and maximize space, take the shower doors off and replace with a glass wall covering about half of it creating an open shower to give the appearance of a bigger bathroom. Tiling your walls can be more costly and will take more time, but they are more durable in such a humid environment. New plaster and paint, however, will also work just fine. Price tag comes in around $11,000. For major bathroom remodels, you’re looking at a return in the 93% range. Still nothing to scoff at, but with a complete makeover priced around $26,000 you can have the bathroom of your dreams and recoup most of the costs.


Minor kitchen repairs – again, don’t knock down any walls and throw in a kitchen island just to have a kitchen island – will bring back around 98% of your investment. Replacing flooring with an inexpensive, sustainable bamboo click-lock option works. Upgrading your sink, fixtures, and countertops are a great idea. Switching to energy efficient appliances will run up the cost, but will also cut down on your water and energy bills. Instead of installing all new cabinetry, sand and refinish or paint your cabinet facing. Making small decorative changes – like new molding and trim – can also make a big difference. You’re looking at the $15,000 price range, but it will be worth it. Similar to bathrooms, with a major kitchen remodel (pretty much new everything) will total around $44,000 and return around 91%.


A big part of selling your house is its curb appeal. And while you may not be selling in the very near future, having a new front yard to welcome you home can also work wonders for your mood. You’re likely to spend way less than $10,000 on a newly designed and landscaped front or back yard, depending on what you want. While you’re updating your yards, consider drought tolerant plants and groundcovers to not only bring a unique new look to your home, but cut down on water usage while supporting the biodiversity of your ecosystem. Using grass and plants local to your area and implementing a stunning fixture, such as a fountain with recycled water, is a great way to bring beauty to your home and take care of the environment at the same time.

Windows And Doors

If saving energy is at the top of your to-do list, installing new doors and windows should be right up there with solar panels, energy efficient appliances and geothermal HVAC. It’s estimated that about 40% of heat and air are lost through seeping windows. You can always keep up with your windows by checking the caulking and weather stripping. But technology being what it is today, there are also a variety of options from low-e glass to argon gas inside the panes to retain heat and air, as well as prevent outside temperatures from affecting your indoor climate. In most climates, you’ll see savings in your energy bills, but also recoup about 89% of your investment.

When it comes to making home improvements for the sake of savings, resale value, and efficiency, there are a number of things you can do. Just be sure, whatever remodels you do choose to tackle, that your end product doesn’t go beyond your price range and also doesn’t price your home out of the neighborhood market. If creating a spa-like bathroom in the master bath bumps the price up too high, you could feel the effects in the sellability of your home. But with the right contractor and research on your end, you’re sure to come out on top.

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Hidden Budget Blunders of Renovations

The first thing anyone who’s ever been through a renovation will tell you is to create a realistic budget and stick to it. It’s easier than you think to go crazy with little upgrades here and there. It’s only an extra twelve cents per square foot for the nicer tile… Only fifty bucks more for this toilet with more features… It’s a five dollar difference between this fixture or that switchplate, and the list goes on and on. But it isn’t just those little expenses you have to consider when creating the budget that you will stick to no matter what. There are other little things that add up. Here are a few hidden – rather not thought of – things to think of when creating the budget for your renovation.

Where are you going to put all that stuff???

In preparing for your renovation – whatever the room – you’re going to need to move all of your belongings out of that area and any surrounding areas that will have an increase in traffic once work begins. For security, preventing the possibility of your personal items from being broken by completely removing them from harm’s way is the best measure. For any room that has furniture, that could be quite the upheaval and your house might not have the space for it. Getting an exterior storage unit is a great option if you have to clear out a furniture heavy room. You’ll also need a moving truck to transport these things there and back again. These two things add anywhere from an extra $40 – $200/month charge and an average of $50/day for a rental truck with fuel included.

Are you really going to cook tonight???

Cooking dinner every night after a long day at work is already challenging enough for most families. Add the disarray and chaos of a renovation and your motivation to cook will plummet faster than a rock in water. Dining out every night is expensive. Even when you go through fast food drive thrus. A family of only 2 can spend $10 – $15/meal at a fast food restaurant easy. The cost doubles when you dine in at a sit-down establishment and triples when you order delivery after taxes, tips, and fees. And that’s for just 2 people. A family of 4 and that shoots up to $20 – $35 for dinner at a fast food chain. On the low end, spending $20 every night for dinner for a month is $600 a month for just dinner. There’s still breakfast and lunch to think about. If every meal cost $20 you would spend $1,800 in food for one month of a renovation alone. And that’s without splurging on delivery or dine-in. The spike won’t be that drastic as you’re already spending money at the grocery store, but there will be a spike in your spending. Brace yourself and put away a little extra for food.

If your renovation is in the kitchen be very clear and direct with your contractor about whether or not you can cook during construction and for how long. You don’t want to commit to cooking during the renovation and then being blindsided by an extra expense. If you do end up cooking and don’t use that money tuck it back into savings or treat yourself to something special for the new space.

Gettin’ the heck outta Dodge!

This isn’t an absolute must – and for some people, it isn’t feasible, but that’s probably because they’re not working it into their budget from the beginning – but being able to get away for a night or weekend, to stay in a hotel and leave all the mess and destruction behind you is highly recommended. The Money Pit may be a funny movie, but comedy comes from truth and that truth is usually painful. There are a half dozen or so people coming and going in your house all day long. Things are draped in drop cloths, shoved to one side of the room and nothing is where it’s supposed to be. Any hiccups in the process and you have to make decisions that split your attention all day. It’s just a stressful situation. Set aside some money for a night away. Spoil yourselves as much as you like, but get out of the house and into a place of peace and quiet and cleanliness. It will do you all a world of good.

Granted, none of these costs really compare to the overall expense of your renovation, but the little things add up. Just like that blasted dollar section at the entrance to Target. You may think, I’m only getting what I need. Oh this towel is only a dollar! Oh this mug is only three bucks! And before you know it you’ve got a hundred dollars worth of stuff and you only need half of it. Save yourself some stress and factor these things into your final budget for a better reno experience.

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