23 Renovations That Can Add Unexpected Value to Your Home

white brick fireplace
Photo: Kim Cornelison

Are you looking to invest in your house? Interior designers and real estate experts share the top remodeling projects that will increase your home's value.

01 of 24

Whole-House Renovations: Put Wasted Space to Work

living room white tv console
David Tsay

Transform a plain wall into a storage and display showcase by adding stacks of open shelves or cutting out the drywall to create a recessed niche. Built-ins not only look beautiful but boost a home's storage capabilities. Include a mix of open and closed storage to increase the functionality of your built-in shelves.

02 of 24

Whole-House Renovations: Refinish Wood Floors

living room with salvaged marquee letters
Kim Cornelison

"Refurbishing hardwood floors will enhance the look and the value of your home," says John A. MacDonald of Keller Williams Real Estate in Levittown, Pennsylvania. Just be ready for a few days of dust. If your floors are worn or stained, replacing them might be the better option. Consider splurging on wide-plank hardware floors in your foyer and living room, then scaling it back in the bedrooms.

03 of 24

Whole-House Renovations: Set a Budget

shelves in living room with TV and artwork
Dylan Chandler

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04 of 24

Whole-House Renovations: Replace Windows

master bedroom white gray with warm accents small table next to window
Nathan Schroder

You don't have to put up with drafty rooms. Trade in older, energy-squandering windows for new high-performance units that swing in for easy cleaning. Energy Star windows can cut your fuel bills by as much as 12% over drafty, single-pane units.

05 of 24

Whole-House Renovations: Accentuate the Architecture

teal and white bedroom
David Tsay

Call on simple moldings or trim to draw attention to existing bonus features, such as a high ceiling, or an attractive view from a window. In this cottage bedroom, pronounced beams provide a visual transition between the walls and ceiling.

06 of 24

Whole-House Renovations: Add a Fireplace

white brick fireplace
Kim Cornelison

"A fireplace adds ambience that can't be attained any other way," says real estate expert Donna Freeman. It adds warmth and creates a focal point for the room. Dress up the firebox with a tasteful surround and a classic wood mantel. If you opt for a gas unit, upgrade to one with the most realistic-looking logs.

07 of 24

Whole-House Renovations: Install New Lighting

black wall lights white shiplap
Robert Brinson

You'll be amazed by how well-placed pools of warm light can make your home inviting and user-friendly. Even inexperienced remodelers can easily install simple plug-in puck lights under kitchen cabinets, inside built-in hutches, or in bookcases. Or swap out a dated ceiling fixture for a quick refresh that catches the eye.

08 of 24

Whole-House Renovations: Add Function to an Awkward Space

kitchen banquette with bold artwork in reds
Annie Schlechter

Transform a basic bay or box window into a reading nook, or furnish an empty corner of the living room with a game table and storage cabinet. These features add value to your home and, when it comes time to sell, will likely resonate with potential buyers.

09 of 24

Whole-House Renovations: Maximize Storage

2 door man closet
Jay Wilde

Upgrade your closets by installing rods on two levels for hanging shirts and pants. Add pullout bins for socks and undergarments. Make sure to include shoe storage solutions. Increase the storage in your kitchen cabinets by installing a spice rack or a lazy Susan in a corner cabinet.

10 of 24

Entryway Renovations: Upgrade Your Foyer and Staircase

entryway black staircase diy wood bench
Nathan Schroder

Since it's the first thing visitors will see upon entering your home, make sure the entryway welcomes them in style. If you can't change the whole space, concentrate on high-impact items. Splurge on the entry flooring, or focus on improving the staircase. Sand and restain treads and paint risers. Replace railings and newels. Be sure to check local building codes regarding your railing height and spindle spacing.

11 of 24

Laundry Room Renovations: Polish Up the Laundry Room

laundry room with modern tile and mint-green shaker cabinets
Jay Wilde

Create an attractive, functional laundry room by replacing old appliances with units that offer the latest energy- and fabric-saving features. Also, equip your laundry room with long stretches of counter space for folding clean clothes and tuck-away bins for sorting dirty laundry. Install cabinets to keep detergents stowed out of sight, and add a built-in ironing board.

12 of 24

Dining Room Renovations: Find the Right Spot

white marble circle table chairs
Ed Gohlich

Add a small table at the end of a work island, or fit a bench and a table inside an existing bay window to create a cozy dining alternative to a breakfast bar, where diners look at their food instead of one another. Even a small bistro set can provide a destination for quick meals and snacks.

13 of 24

Kitchen Renovations: Upgrade Countertops

Kitchen counter with geometric backsplash
Annie Schlecther

Durable granite is "Still by far, the most requested countertop material," says interior designer and space planner Mary Fisher Knott of Mary Fisher Designs. If granite is beyond your budget, however, consider laminate countertops that offer the look of natural stone at a fraction of the price. Add a beveled edge to these laminate countertops for an authentic stone look.

14 of 24

Kitchen Renovations: Add an Island

kitchen with marble island top and subway tiling
Nathan Schroder

For many homeowners, an island workspace is a kitchen must-have. For easy traffic flow, be sure to allow at least 39 inches of space all the way around it, Knott says. Need a budget-friendly option? "Use a sofa table topped with tile, or place two painted chests back-to-back and top them with butcher block," she suggests.

15 of 24

Kitchen Renovations: Replace Old Appliances

copper range hood
Brie Williams

If your appliances are more than 10 years old, consider buying new ones that will use less energy. ENERGY STAR appliances are good for the environment and for your pocketbook, too. The appliances cost a little more upfront, but the money you save on energy bills will, in the long run, more than make up for the initial price difference. Similarly, energy-efficient water heaters and furnaces pay back the extra cost within a few years of service and will continue to save you money for years to come.

16 of 24

Kitchen Renovations: Create a Pantry

minimalist style large pantry
Paul Dyer

A shallow pantry can be squeezed into just about any kitchen. "Hire a carpenter to frame the space between two studs and finish with cabinet doors," Knott says. "It's great for storing spices, soft drinks, or canned pet food. You can also adapt this idea for all those jars and bottles in the bathroom." If you have room for it, adding a walk-in pantry will pay off even more.

17 of 24

Kitchen Renovations: Change the Backsplash

sea tone kitchen backsplash
Laurie Black

Add personality to your kitchen by installing a new backsplash. For a low-budget update with big impact, choose inexpensive ceramic field tiles and add sparkle with knockout decorative pieces in glass or metal. Or, consider installing a checkerboard pattern of several hues for a bold new backsplash.

18 of 24

Bathroom Renovations: Add a Bath

bathroom black frame shower
David Tsay

"Properly executed, a powder room, second, or even a third bathroom is an advantage. But if it's too small, doesn't fit into the flow of the house, or seems like an add-on, you do yourself a disservice," says designer Shannon Freeman. Also, make sure the room includes an exhaust fan—something home buyers rank high on their list of desires—and a window that will bring in plenty of natural light.

19 of 24

Bathroom Renovations: Change Your Showerhead

rain shower head
Michael Partenio

A new showerhead can dramatically improve your morning routine. Consider installing a pan-style model that simulates a refreshing rain shower. This DIY home upgrade can be done in just a few minutes.

20 of 24

Bathroom Renovations: Install a Second Sink

petite subway tiles double vanity
Werner Segarra

As any growing family or working couple will tell you, a second sink in a primary bathroom adds immeasurable value. If there's room to install two sinks within 30 inches of each other, the two can share drainage and supply lines, which decreases costs.

21 of 24

Bathroom Renovations: Upgrade Bath Materials

Wood Plank Walls blue vanity
Christina Wedge

Change the faucets and fixtures on the sink, tub, and shower to stylish models in popular finishes like satin or brushed nickel. "Then upgrade your cabinet hardware, lighting fixtures, and mirror to complete the fresh look," Knott says.

22 of 24

Outdoor Renovations: Add a Porch

porch black rocking chairs
Edmund Barr

Front porches are back in business, especially if there's room for a bench or a chair to welcome guests to the front of the home. Be sure to check building codes for setback requirements. Also, if you plan to entertain there, make sure your porch has at least 12x24 feet of space.

23 of 24

Outdoor Renovations: Replace the Siding

blue home exterior red door
Rob Cardillo

The most affordable siding option is vinyl. Once a bland material that paled in comparison to real wood, vinyl is now available in a wide variety of colors and styles, including scalloped and square-cut shingles. If your vinyl siding is in good condition but looks worn or faded, consider sprucing it up with a product that cleans and restores its original color and sheen.

24 of 24

Outdoor Renovations: Freshen the Landscaping

dog sitting at front door of home red door
Kevin Miyazaki Photography

Quality landscaping enhances the style of your home and makes the exterior more attractive. "Cut back overgrown bushes, and fill in those bare spots," says Stacey Moncrieff, editor in chief of Realtor magazine. "A neat, well-maintained landscape instantly increases your home's curb appeal and suggests that your interiors are equally well-maintained."

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