Room Remodeling 101: Your Guide to Costs, Materials, and High-Value Upgrades


Between custom cabinets, upgraded flooring, unexpected asbestos issues… the cost of room remodeling escalates quickly. Remodeled homes fetch higher prices than outdated neighbors, but without adequate planning, your remodeling costs may far exceed the returns you gain when it’s time to sell.

It’s best to start your room remodeling with a solid plan. To guide you down the right road, we’ve created a room by room remodeling guide informed by research on current trends, return on investment, and buyer’s wish lists. For added expertise, we consulted Carmen Gonzalez, a top selling real estate agent in Orlando, Florida who’s sold 76% more single family homes than the average agent.

A room that was remodeled.
Source: (Christa Grover / Unsplash)

Living room: Open up your layout and establish a neutral color palette

The room where family and friends gather, the living room is one of the best rooms to remodel to increase your home’s value and marketability.

Average cost: $7,400

What buyers want:

Open floor plans are still the most desirable living room layout. Open layouts feel bigger, invite in natural light, and encourage a social atmosphere. If your living room is walled off from the dining room and kitchen, consider opening up the space to modernize it. It’s fairly easy to remove a wall that is non-load-bearing (i.e., a wall that doesn’t support the weight of the floor or roof above), costing as little as $700. More complicated to remove, load bearing walls can set you back a few thousand.

Start with design:

When remodeling the living room, establish a neutral color palette to guide your choices. For cooler toned rooms, light gray walls pair well with medium to dark wood stains such as walnut, espresso, or onyx. For a warmer glow, soft tan or beige walls coordinate with a wide range of flooring stains such as provincial, dark oak, and dark mahogany.

Go-to materials:

Where to save:

Throw on your oldest hoodie and break out the paint buckets. A weekend of DIY painting saves you thousands of dollars and adds 1% to 3% value to your home. Paint the walls a neutral color like Sherwin Williams’ Agreeable Grey or Accessible Beige to appeal to the widest range of buyers.

Where to splurge:

If your floor plan allows, merge your living room and dining room to modernize the space. Replace old carpet and linoleum with new laminate wood flooring. Faux wood laminate ranges from $2.70 – $10 a square foot depending on the finish.

For bigger budget remodels and historical homes, splurge on hardwood floors. Hardwood costs more than laminate, averaging $3 – $14 a square foot plus a higher installation cost. However, you’re likely to see a high return on investment for the upgrade as 54% of homebuyers are willing to pay more for hardwood floors according to data from the National Association of Realtors.

A kitchen that was remodeled.
Source: (Mark McCammon / Pexels)

Kitchen: Upgrade to stainless steel and invest in gorgeous countertops

From colors to materials, kitchen design has changed drastically over the decades. If your kitchen is older than 20 years — it’s time for a remodel.

Average cost: $23,000 $50,000 

What buyers want:

New appliances score big points with buyers, especially stainless steel models. 40% of buyers said they would pay more for a home with stainless steel appliances, the majority agreeing they’d spend an extra $1,850.

When it comes to countertops, quartz and natural stone surfaces continue to gain popularity in the new decade.

“Now people are more inclined to quartz or stone instead of granite. You still see granite in a lot of homes, but it depends on the price point. In the higher end houses, you see more stone and quartz because these materials come in a wider range of colors and variations,” shares Gonzalez.

Start with design: 

A white kitchen is a clean and classic look that resonates with most buyers. Light cabinetry also reflects light, making your kitchen appear larger and brighter. For added storage, take a note from the farmhouse trend and install open floating shelves. Anchor in the room with a new kitchen island if space permits, accentuated by a dangling pendant lighting fixture.

Go-to materials:

  • Stone or quartz countertops
  • White subway tiles
  • Stainless steel appliances
  • Brushed stainless steel or matte black hardware

Where to save:

When remodeling this room, don’t get carried away with top of the line upgrades. According to Remodeling Magazine, a minor kitchen remodel yields a 77.6% return on investment while a major remodel only returns 58.6%.

For big savings, don’t replace your kitchen cabinets — reface them instead. Refacing existing cabinetry costs half as much as installing new cabinets. Depending on the condition of your cabinetry, you can refinish or paint the cabinet and drawer fronts, install a new wood or laminate veneer over existing cabinetry, or install new cabinet doors and drawer fronts.

Here’s more ways to maintain a wallet-friendly remodel:

Where to splurge:

“Concentrate the biggest part of the budget on the countertops because they’re a big piece that will attract the eye of the buyers more than the cabinets,” Gonzalez recommends. Quality countertops elevate the entire design of the kitchen. Spend time choosing the right material and color and ask for take home samples to compare in your kitchen’s setting.

A master bedroom that is remodeled.
Source: (Francesca Tosolini / Unsplash)

Master bedroom: Expand your closet and add comfortable flooring

The master bedroom is the most private room in the house. Remodel this space into a beautiful, peaceful retreat with ample closet space.

Average cost: $2,430 – $11,400

What buyers want:

No surprise, buyers want a large master bedroom with a sizable closet. 60% of homebuyers said they would pay more for a home with a walk-in closet. Increase closet size with an extension on the outside of the house or push into an adjacent secondary bedroom or bonus room (just don’t compromise the bathroom size).

Start with design:

Create a relaxing atmosphere where buyers can lay down and unplug at the end of the day. Paint the walls a light shade and pair them with comfortable flooring like cut pile carpet or a large area rug over hardwood. Skip the office and instead opt for a reading corner established by a built-in window bench and bookshelf. For a super customizable environment, install overhead dimmer lights and a ceiling fan.

Go-to materials:

Where to save:

Put on your painter’s hat again for the master bedroom. You already have the supplies from painting your living room!

Where to splurge:

Build a walk-in closet if you can do so without compromising on the size of the master bedroom or bathroom. Gonzalez also recommends investing in closet organizers to utilize as much space as possible. You can design your own organization system with endless options from the Container Store or hire a professional closet designer for a super custom result.

A bathroom that was remodeled.
Source: (Sidekix Media / Unsplash)

Bathrooms: Create a hotel spa atmosphere

Only second to the kitchen, bathrooms are essential rooms to remodel as they are a strong indicator of property’s overall condition.

Average cost: $21,000 – $67,000

What buyers want:

Buyers seek contemporary bathroom design with touches of spa like features — especially in the master bath. 71% of buyers surveyed by the National Association of Home Builders rated a double vanity as an essential or desirable feature. Dual sinks in the master bathroom give couples space to get ready and cleanse the day away.

Start with design:

Transform drab bathrooms into zen zones with light colors and contemporary features. Paint the walls a neutral color with a satin to semi-gloss finish. For added texture, install a white tile backsplash above the sink. Paint existing cabinets a light to medium gray, then top them with quality, white counters. If you have six feet or more of counter space in the master, install two sinks with a minimum 11 inch buffer between basins (to prevent elbow knocks!). Accessorize with:

Go-to materials:

  • Natural stone, granite, or quartz countertops
  • Matte black or brushed chrome fixtures
  • Ceramic floor tiles

Where to save:

Refresh existing sinks, showers, and bathtubs in half and secondary bathrooms. Scrub the grout clean with a homemade mixture of baking soda, vinegar, and water or with a store bought oxygen bleach product. Scrape off stained or moldy caulk and carefully apply a fresh seal. Reglaze dingy bathtubs to renew their appearance (costs between $250 – $650).

When it comes to new countertops, Gonzalez offers a pro saving tip:

“Advice that I sometimes give to my clients who are on a budget is to look for remnants. Since the bathroom cabinets are smaller than kitchen cabinets sometimes you can find pieces that will work and you can save a lot of money that way.”

Remnants are leftover pieces of material from custom projects. Most warehouses, contractors, and dealers who sell counter materials will offer remnants at a discounted price.

Where to splurge:

Splurge on upgrading the master bathroom to hotel-level luxury. Create a double vanity if space permits. Replace the shower with a new frameless enclosure and shower head like the Moen S6320 Velocity Two-Function Rain 8-inch Shower Head which swaps between a rain and jet flow. For the ultimate spa experience, complete the room with a free standing soaking tub.

A laundry room that was remodeled.
Source: (Artazum / Shutterstock)

Laundry room: Maximize functionality and keep material costs low

The laundry room is a small, but essential area in your home. Make this room more efficient and enjoyable with some light remodeling.

Average cost: $500 – $5,000

What buyers want: 

If you don’t currently have a contained laundry room, consider building one to attract buyers. A recent survey by the National Association of Home Builders reveals buyers desire laundry rooms more than any other home amenity. Convert a storage closet or push out a hallway into a secondary bedroom to create space for a new laundry area.

Start with design: 

Whether you’re building a new laundry room or upgrading your current one, carefully plan the room to maximize storage and functionality. Start by finding layout inspiration on sites like Pinterest and Houzz. For small rooms, buy a front load washer and dryer — you can stack them on top of each other or place them side by side with a folding counter on top. As an added bonus, front loaders clean clothes more efficiently than top loaders.

Next, make use of vertical space with:

Go-to materials:

Where to save:

Keep material costs for this space low for the best return on investment. Save on storage and install your own open shelving instead of calling in a cabinetry professional.

Where to splurge:

Invest in high rated Energy Star certified appliances. Energy Star washers use 25% less energy and 33% less water than regular washers while Energy Star dryers use 20% less energy.

An office that was remodeled.
Source: (Curtis Adams / Pexels)

Home office: Increase your storage and opt for covered cabinets

Spare rooms often become catch-alls for clutter, kids toys, work out equipment, crafts and office supplies. When it’s time to sell, single purpose rooms look much tidier than the multipurpose alternative. Remodel your spare room into a home office to increase storage and appeal to a wide range of buyers.

Average cost: $400 – $1000

What buyers want:

Home offices are gaining popularity as more and more Americans work from home. According to a recent Gallup story, 43% of Americans work from home occasionally. Flexjobs suggests flexible working is quickly becoming the new normal, reporting a 159% growth in remote work in the past 12 years.

Start with design: 

Increase storage with white built-in shelves and cabinetry. Opt for covered cabinets to open to hide clutter and maintain a simple design. Install blinds over the windows to direct light during different hours of the day.

Go-to materials:

Where to save: 

If you use your home office exclusively for a personal business, remodeling costs are tax deductible.

Where to splurge:

Avoid costly upgrades to this room aside from personal items you plan to take with you to your next home.

Header Image Source: (Christa Grover / Unsplash)