Sure, it’s critical to keep your home well-maintained — clearing the gutters, tuning the furnace, sealing the deck and so on. But ask any homeowner, and they’ll tell you that the projects they get the most excited about are those that improve their home’s appearance.
So which upgrades have the biggest impact on aesthetics? While personal preference plays a part, HomeAdvisor's 2019 State of Home Spending survey of 1,500 homeowners pointed to five projects that clearly earn big points for style.
1. Lay down new flooring.
In today’s age of open-plan living, floors have become a primary focal point, often responsible for creating a seamless look throughout the home. The warmth and beauty of natural wood results in the highest satisfaction rate with homeowners. If you’re worried about wear and tear, consider wood-look porcelain tiles, which combine beauty and durability. Other synthetic materials, such laminate and vinyl, cost less to install, and the manufacturing process has improved to the point where faux patterns closely resemble the real thing, whether wood or natural stone.
What you’ll spend: The average cost to install flooring is $3,000, according to HomeAdvisor’s True Cost Guide, though it varies by choice of material. Real wood averages $4,250, laminate is around $2,800, and vinyl can come in under $500.
2. Reface the kitchen cabinets
If you’re happy with the layout of your current cabinets, and the units are structurally sound, refacing them is a way to transform the look of your kitchen for about half the cost of full replacements. The process involves replacing your cabinet doors and drawer fronts, leaving the existing boxes in place. Many homeowners take the opportunity to make the cabinets more functional — for example, adding easy-access drawers to base cabinets. If you have wood cabinets, a fresh coat of paint or stain is an even more cost-effective way to update their look. The project is best-suited to frameless cabinets with simple fronts, like those in the Shaker-style. It’s DIY-friendly, though more tedious and time-consuming than many people realize.
What you’ll spend: The typical cost to reface cabinets is just under $7,000; cabinet refinishing averages $2,750.
3. Do a room remodel.
When it comes to aesthetics, the room remodels with biggest impact focus on public areas of the home. So-called great rooms, which combine the kitchen and adjacent living area, are popular candidates. Homeowners also report high satisfaction rates with basement remodels. And while it stretches the definition of “room,” updating or creating an outdoor living space will do wonders for both the look and functionality of a home. Full-scale room remodels get expensive fast, so the best strategy is to leave the layout intact and concentrate on surfaces — a new paint color on walls, for example, or new decking for the outdoor living area.
What you’ll spend: Renovating a great room, basement or outdoor room can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars. With smart planning, you can achieve big visual impact for $3,000 to $5,000.
4. Paint the exterior.
Nothing enhances curb appeal like a fresh coat of house paint, especially if it’s been 10 or more years since you last tackled the project. While wood and stucco homes are the obvious candidates for the project, innovations in materials mean even vinyl homes can now be repainted. When choosing an exterior paint palette, take cues from the surrounding neighborhood, imagining how your colors will fit in, without being too close to other homes on the block.
What you’ll spend: The average cost to paint a home’s exterior is $2,800, according to HomeAdvisor’s True Cost Guide.
5. Put in new landscaping.
Front yard improvements are also linked to curb appeal. The enhancements can also increase your relationship to the natural world in positive ways (the buzzword in architecture is “biophilic design,” or the creation of living spaces that connect people and nature). Keep in mind, however, that caring for landscaping can be labor-intensive, which could take away from the enjoyment, unless you’re prepared to hire out the ongoing maintenance.
What you’ll spend: The average cost to install new landscaping is $3,250, according to HomeAdvisor’s True Cost Guide. Landscaping services could add another $100 to $300 per month during the growing season, depending on the size of your property.