You want to spiff up your kitchen and bathroom. Who could blame you? Just look at them, for crying out loud -- the worn cabinets, the avocado-green appliances, the pink and black tiles, the chipped Formica. Ick.

Don't rush into any remodeling job without doing a little research first. Such jobs are not alike -- not in their cost and complexity, and not in the amount you'll recoup when you eventually sell your home.

The magazine Remodeling recently published its annual "Cost vs. Value" report, detailing the average cost of various jobs, plus the average resale value for them, reflecting the percentage of the cost that you might eventually recoup. Here are sample numbers for popular home improvement projects:


avg. cost

National avg.
resale value


Midrange bathroom remodel




Upscale bathroom remodel




Midrange minor kitchen remodel




Midrange major kitchen remodel




Upscale major kitchen remodel




Midrange window replacement, vinyl




Midrange sunroom addition




Midrange master suite addition




Things to know
What should you take away from all these numbers? You can see that the projects that will maintain the most value are minor kitchen and bathroom remodelings. A more upscale project, featuring loads of special-order granite and fancy fixtures, might excite you more, but it might not excite your home's next buyer so much. 

Keep in mind that there are other important considerations:

  • If a particular job will result in immense pleasure for you for a long time, despite its low recouping level, it might still be worth doing. Your pleasure should factor into the equation, too.
  • Consider how the job will affect the house. As the magazine points out, if you convert a small bedroom into a large walk-in closet, you end up with one less bedroom to market the house with.
  • The numbers above are broad averages. Given your taste, your location, your home's condition and neighborhood, and your contractor's skill, you may end up recouping much more or much less of the money you spend. Some jobs will give you more than all your money back when your home is sold. 
  • Your location matters, too. Recouping percentages were generally far lower than average, for example, in the Midwest, and much higher than average on the West Coast.
  • You may not want to undertake certain jobs, but some are simply not optional. When your roof needs to be replaced, failing to do so can cost much more than replacing it. Replacing windows can be costly, but new ones can sometimes offer major energy savings -- and keep drafts from messing your hair while you watch TV.

Understand that you have yet more options when it comes to spiffing up your home. You don't have to spend $20,000 on your kitchen, for example. You might just replace all the knobs on your cabinets, instead. That investment, of perhaps $100 to $200, can give the kitchen a nice new look. Refacing cabinets instead of replacing them is also popular, but it can be just as costly as getting new cabinets from a low-cost vendor, such as IKEA. Another option is simply removing the cabinet doors to give your kitchen a more "open" look.

Another way to flip
Flipping the situation is yet another option. Instead of spending (and losing) a modest chunk of money remodeling, you might choose instead to invest it, aiming to earn money on it. You could even invest in remodeling-related companies. Home Depot (NYSE:HD) and Lowe's (NYSE:LOW) have both traded near 52-week lows. Drywall maker USG (NYSE:USG), insulation producer Owens Corning (NYSE:OC), or paint maker Sherwin-Williams (NYSE:SHW) could benefit from increased remodeling activity, as falling home prices lead owners to hold onto their properties for a while.

Learn more
If you're interested in other home-buying and -selling topics, such as mortgages, visit our Home Center, which features lots of money-saving tips.

And check these articles, especially if you'll soon be buying a new home:

Are you just a little short of where you need to be for that remodeling project? Eke out a bit more from every paycheck with Motley Fool Green Light. Every month, our personal finance newsletter tells you how to save money on the things you want and need with tips worth at least $450. Try it out for 30 days with no obligation and see how Green Light can save you money.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of Home Depot. Home Depot and USG are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Try any of our investing services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.