Cost vs. Value: Which Home Improvement Projects Are Best

Adding a bathroom or remodeling an outdated kitchen might bring some joy to your life, but it might not be the best when looking at cost vs. value.

In a perfect world, home improvement projects would add as much value to your home as the amount you spent on the work. But that’s rarely the case. In fact, some projects might only bring you half as much value as you paid.

According to 2020 national averages obtained by Remodeling Magazine, manufactured stone veneer offered the best bang for your buck at a 95.6 percent recouped cost. Conversely, an upscale master suite addition, which averages $282,062, had the lowest return at just a 51.6 percent recouped cost.

Stone Veneer

Best Projects for Recouped Value

(Project; Job Cost; Resale Value; Cost Recouped) 

  • Manufactured stone veneer: $9,357; $8,943; 95.6 percent.
  • Garage door replacement: $3,695; $3,491; 94.5 percent.
  • Minor kitchen remodel | Midrange: $23,452; $18,206; 77.6 percent.

The next highest were fiber-cement siding replacement and vinyl siding replacement at 77.6 percent and 74.7 percent recouped value, respectively.

woman visualizes a kitchen remodelAndy Dean Photography/Shutterstock

Worst Projects for Recouped Value

(Project; Job Cost; Resale Value; Cost Recouped) 

  • Major kitchen remodel | Upscale: $135,547; $72,993; 53.9 percent.
  • Grand entrance | Fiberglass: $9,254; $4,930; 53.3 percent.
  • Master suite addition | Upscale: $282,062; $145,486; 51.6 percent.

Manufactured stone veneer, metal roofing replacement and an upscale master suite addition were the only projects that gained value compared to 2019, according to Remodeling. Most projects either remained the same or dropped from the previous year.

Home improvement projects gained rapid popularity in 2020 due to quarantine and stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus pandemic. As a result of increased demand, the prices of lumber and other materials skyrocketed.

Rising costs, and in particular the prohibitively high cost of lumber, were major factors holding back the construction industry in 2020. New reports suggest material shortages will continue in 2021.

Upscale projects like a kitchen remodel and master suite addition brought the least value for their cost, according to Remodel. A Houzz survey indicated a whopping 94 percent of kitchen renovators had work done on their cabinets in 2020 to increase storage, while 63 percent replaced their cabinets entirely.

Every two years the Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI) conducts the Product Purchase Track Study, which analyzes homeowners’ purchase behavior, characteristics and attitudes related to home improvement. This list shows the top five most popular home improvement projects.

Remodeling’s database also allows for sorting based on region. For instance, stone veneer replacement in portions of the Midwest is far lower than the national average, sitting around 60 percent recouped value. Their database allows you to search for cost and value on projects based on reported 2020 averages. You can sort by price, resale value and cost recouped.

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Alex Shoemaker
Alex is an avid DIYer but had little experience before purchasing his first home in 2019. A Family Handyman subscription was one of his first purchases after becoming a homeowner, and he's been hooked ever since. When he’s not working, he can be found fixing up his 1940s Florida home or relaxing on the beach with his family.