Homeowners spent more on home remodeling projects in 2021 than in the previous four years—20% more, spending a total of $624 billion in 2020 and 2021 combined. Motivated by increased time at home, Americans tackled 134 million renovation projects, crossing off some indefinitely postponed projects at the bottom of the to-do list.
While some industries took huge financial hits or even disappeared entirely during the global pandemic, home improvement companies thrived. Hobbies replaced vacations and social events, and novices tried baking sourdough, gardening, and home organizing. Those pesky idiosyncrasies of our homes that we used to live with suddenly became intolerable problems.
Belong, a property management alternative, used 2021 American Housing Survey data from the Census Bureau to find the 12 most popular home improvement projects. Rankings were based on the number of projects completed by U.S. homeowners over the past two years. The analysis also includes estimated costs, individually and nationally, which do not affect the ranking. Renovations (which involve moving, adding, or removing walls) are counted separately from remodels (which don't include structural changes).
Repairing or adding a driveway or walkway is one of the more expensive options among the most common home improvements, with an average cost of $4,336. Americans spent $19.5 billion on almost 5 million projects in the past two years. Homeowners may only break even making this investment, but not fixing an old or broken driveway or walkway decreases curb appeal and potential income.
Updating a home's electrical wiring can be pricey, depending on the needed improvements. In the past two years, Americans spent an average of almost $2,000 on 5.6 billion electrical remodeling projects—totaling $10.3 billion nationwide. Electrical improvements to fuse boxes or breaker switches can be dangerous, and some states require permits to ensure building and safety codes are met. Consulting with a professional electrician could be worth the money, even for the bravest DIYer.
Repairing or adding fencing keeps children and pets safe while adding an element of privacy. This remodeling project also appeals to renters with pets. Average fencing improvements cost almost $3,000, and people spent $16.2 billion on an estimated 5.7 million projects. Many homeowners consider fence repair and installation a DIY project.
Remodeling the bathroom is one of the top improvements to increase home value and rental income. With an average of $7,636 per remodel, the Census Bureau estimates people spent $51 billion on 6.7 million projects. Both renters and buyers prioritize updated bathrooms, which can make this investment worth it.
No matter where home is, renters and owners want the peace of mind of feeling safe. One of the least expensive remodels, security systems are among the most common choices; the average cost is less than $800.
Americans spent almost $5 billion on 6.9 million security system projects. Available features range from DIY-installed cameras and motion-activated lights to professional 24/7 monitoring systems. Many factors affect insurance costs, but any security system improvements save money on premiums for both owners and renters.
Gardening became a big hobby during the pandemic downtime, and landscaping or adding sprinkler systems has accounted for 7.6 million remodeling projects. With an average cost of $2,778 per remodel, national expenditures exceeded $20 billion during the last two years.
For landlords, installing a sprinkler system and securing landscaping services—whether through a property management company or on your own—reduces maintenance headaches and improves curb appeal.
Roof replacement is the most expensive project on our list, and 7.6 million American households took on roofing jobs, spending almost $10,000 on average per project. Homeowners often wait until roofs incur weather-related damage covered by insurance. A deductible is usually easier on the wallet than paying out of pocket. Still, a roof that is 25 to 30 years old—no matter the condition—makes finding insurance harder and costlier. Energy-efficient improvements qualify for tax rebates, and incentives offered by the Department of Energy and regional power companies can help take the edge off the price tag.
Energy-efficient doors and windows also qualify for financial incentives like Energy Star federal subsidies, but saving on utilities is just one of many benefits. The personal touch of a unique door—whether it is a fresh coat of paint in an eye-catching color or a whole new replacement—can increase value and homeowner satisfaction. This remodel comes with an average cost of $4,217, and people spent $33.4 billion nationwide on over 8 million installations.
Updating plumbing and adding new fixtures accounted for 9.3 million remodeling projects. Nationwide, people spent $15.6 billion on these improvements, costing an average $1,769 per project. Tthe return on investment on fancy faucets may not be reflected in the bottom line, but the increased demand from potential buyers and renters is worth it. Keeping plumbing up to code is a must, especially in older homes with old drains and pipes.
Maybe nothing can change a home's look more than new flooring, fresh wall treatments, and a smooth ceiling. Despite the $3,696 average price tag, people spent over $40 million on 1.2 million remodels. DIYers can get a lot of bang for their buck with today's new flooring options and easy-to-install drywall.
The Census Bureau estimates people replaced or added 11.3 million heating and cooling systems in the past two years. With a hefty $5,334 sticker price, a new HVAC system can break the budget, but Americans spent more than $56 billion on 11.3 million units. Taking the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" adage to heart, most people update HVAC systems only when they fail. Energy efficiency subsidies can help offset what is often an unexpected expense at the worst possible time.
Replacing appliances takes the top spot on this list of most popular remodeling projects. Water heaters are essential, and upgrades by way of dishwashers or garbage disposals are almost-expected perks that can reap premium profits for owners who choose to rent their homes. The average remodel is $985, but installation is negligible for the DIYer. Census Bureau data shows that Americans spent a total of $15.1 billion on 16.1 million remodels.
This story originally appeared on Belong Home and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.