A new kitchen can cost $20,000: Here are the 3 other home improvement projects Americans spend the most on

Don’t start a project until realistic price “for every single line item.”


With Americans spending a lot more time at home this past year, many homeowners are turning to renovations or repairs to maximize their comfort. So are eager buyers who purchased fixer-uppers as a way into the hot housing market.

Analysts don't expect that trend to change any time soon: New data from Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies projects solid growth in home improvement and repair spending throughout the rest of 2021 and into 2022.

"With a financial boost from recent federal stimulus payments and strong house price appreciation, homeowners are continuing to invest in the upkeep and improvement of their homes," Chris Herbert, the center's managing director, said in the release. "This lift in incomes and ongoing strength of the housing market are providing homeowners incentives to make even greater investments in their homes this year."

Big projects can come with big price tags, however: Remodeling your kitchen, for example, could cost about $20,000, depending on how major the renovations are. And that's not even the most expensive home project.

Upgrades, repairs, and improvements can "range as low as $1,540 for a quick paint color or fixture change to $30,000 for a kitchen, and $300,000-plus for a full remodel," says David Steckel, a home expert at Thumbtack. "This cost includes labor and materials, and varies based on how extensive the renovations are."

Here are the top four home improvement projects, and how much they typically cost, based on the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Housing Survey.

1. Roofing

Roofing repairs and improvements cost roughly $58 billion each year overall, according to the Census data. Real estate website Fixr estimates a single project could cost between $3,500 and $40,000 depending on whether there was damage, the roofing material, and how big of an undertaking it is.

A roof repair with asphalt shingles would cost about $24,700, for example, according to Remodeling's 2020 Cost vs. Value report. If you're getting metal instead, that average price jumps to more than $40,300.

2. Kitchen remodeling

With so many Americans working from home, a lot of kitchens also serve as classrooms and home offices. It makes sense why people might want to make the most of that space.

Kitchen remolding projects cost Americans about $49 billion a year in total, according to the American Housing Survey. An average remodel could range between $2,856 and $6,483, according to Thumbtack, with high-end remodels costing roughly $23,900. The prices can get much more expensive, too.

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A remodel with just minor layout changes could cost an individual an average $20,000, according to Fixr. A full-scale remodel could cost a whopping $75,000 or more.

The typical price per square foot for a kitchen renovation: between $75 and $250.

3. HVAC: Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning

HVAC systems heat and cool your home, and include air conditioners, thermostats, and other comfort controls. These systems also rank among the highest where people spend the most to upgrade or repair, generating at least $49 billion spent in 2019.

A full HVAC replacement ranges from $5,000 to $10,000, according to HomeAdvisor.com. That price includes the new unit you're receiving and its installation, plus sometimes the removal of the old unit.

Your specific cost depends on the type of system you need work on, and the extent of the work needed. Most updates run between $150 and $450, according to HomeGuide.com. Many homeowners shell out around $319 on air-conditioner service and $268 on furnace jobs. Contractors are typically paid $75 to $150 an hour.

4. Bathroom remodeling

Bathroom remodeling projects cost Americans a total of $37 billion annually. Like kitchens, bathrooms can have various levels of remodeling that can lead to a wide range of costs.

Including touches like fixture replacements and tub, toilet, and plumbing repairs, full-size bathrooms cost $4,500 to $9,000 to update, per Fixr. Remodeling's report puts the average price ever higher: almost $21,400 a for a midrange bathroom remodel, and over $67,000 for an upscale bathroom.

Do your due diligence before buying a home

The national median home value in the United States is about $272,450. A 20% down payment would be almost $54,500. That's not including closing costs, which averaged $6,087 for a single-family home last year. It's no wonder the last thing buyers want is more costs.

Over a third, 38%, of adults in a Clever survey of 1,000 people, said the prospect of major repairs was their biggest homebuying fear. Half, 47%, cited hidden fears as their top concern.

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If you are a prospective homebuyer, make sure you do your due diligence before closing a deal. Whether you visit the place yourself or fall in love sight unseen (like the 2 in 5 millennials willing to buy a house they've never been in), experts recommend getting an inspection.

An expert examination can flag any number of expensive issues and give you the grounds to back out of the deal. "You never want to forgo an inspection. Ever," Sue Riley, a real estate agent in Northern New Jersey, told Grow. "There's a lot of hidden things that can come up, and you don't want to be on the losing end of that."

And since roof issues in particular can be so pricey, you might consider a separate roof-specific inspection to gauge its age and condition.

'Do not start until you have a number that is realistic'

Take a comprehensive approach to save for an upgrade, whether you're new in the market or already own a home. Stash away a bit of money at a time in a dedicated emergency account, experts recommend, so you can be ready to handle whatever expenses may arise.

While renovations are often important to keep your home in good shape, you'll likely pay more than the project adds in home value. Remodeling's report estimates homeowners recoup 63.7% of a project's cost, on average. But among popular projects it tracks, that rate ranges from a low of 51.6% (for a $282,062 upscale master suite addition) to a high of 95.6% (for a $9,357 manufactured stone veneer project).

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If you're making changes to get more money when you sell, it helps to pay attention to what features are desirable in your neighborhood. And it's another reason to stay on budget.

"Be transparent about your budget and allocate an extra 10% for when you think about something [else] you'd like to do during the project," says Steckel. "Adjust materials until you get the right combo of what you want and what you can afford. Do not start until you have a number that is realistic and acceptable for every single line item."

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