Stuck at Home? Here Are Projects to Tackle That Will Pay Off

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Bill Primavera

By Bill Primavera

As I sit at home with all the comforts that make me happy, I am isolated from the outside world.

With COVID-19 now ravaging much of the globe, there is no other option but to stay inside. Much as I love my home, I feel stuck, even trapped, just knowing that my freedom of movement has been restricted. What to do to maintain sanity?

My wife, who for years has compensated for my lack of wisdom, tells me to be grateful for what we have – most importantly our health – and to make the best of staying put. Okay, I’ll buy that. But dread keeps creeping in, mostly for others who have it a lot worse, those who are losing jobs, homes and loved ones.

Perhaps you’re like me when dealing with stressful situations; I look for handy projects around the house to occupy my time and, mostly, my mind. As for me, I am starting small, refinishing the top of a night table that’s become scratched and stained. That’ll give me one or two days of divergent activity.

When it comes to larger home improvements, there are two factors to consider when figuring out where to expend time and money: whether it’s something that will increase the pleasure you derive from your surroundings and whether it’s something that will increase the value of the house to others, if and when you decide to sell.

The most valuable home improvements are those that increase your home’s worth compared to the amount you spent on them. While the improvements that please you are subjective and hard to quantify, Remodeling magazine’s recent Cost vs. Value Report offers helpful national data on which home improvements provide the biggest bang for your buck.

According to, part of the network, there are six projects that top the list.

Upscale garage door replacement

It may not be the most exciting upgrade, but replacing your garage door with an upgraded model will recoup 98.3 percent of cost. This number increases sharply for specific areas, with 46 out of 100 markets seeing more than a 100 percent return for this project. That would be called money well spent.

What constitutes an upscale garage door? Today, it’s those built with durable materials like steel, wood composites and aluminum, and those that have high-performance additions such as energy-saving glazing and insulation. While wood is a classic choice aesthetically, it’s not particularly weather resistant. The best of both worlds is with fiberglass or wood composite, which can have the same appearance as wood without the downfalls of the material.

Wood deck addition

Interestingly, the renovations that give the most value in home improvement tend to be focused on the exterior of the home. Perhaps surprisingly, when it comes to a backyard deck or patio, wood is the way to go. A composite deck addition or a backyard patio won’t yield quite as much return as wood at 82.8 percent. (Composite deck and patios yield an average return of 63.6 percent and 47.6 percent, respectively.)


The kitchen is a major consideration when it comes to the most valuable home improvements. Buyers often look here first when determining whether a home is worth its asking price. Improvements range from energy-efficient, stainless steel appliances to painting or replacing cabinets and installing new countertops.

It isn’t necessary to spend a lot to get a good return. A minor kitchen remodel will recoup about 81 percent of cost in average resale value, while a major upscale kitchen remodel will recoup only 53.5 percent. The most valuable improvements in a minor kitchen remodel include upgrading cabinets and countertops, brand new appliances and updating the sink and faucet and flooring.

Siding, vinyl window

Old, damaged or deteriorating siding can seriously date the look of a house. Fortunately, updating siding is a valuable renovation, returning 76.7 percent of cost based on purchasing 1,250 square feet of siding.

At the same time, consider upgrading the exterior of the house with new windows. Low-energy vinyl window replacements provide a similar return to siding (74.3 percent). Also, new siding can clash with dated windows.


A mid-range bathroom remodel that might include updated tile, fixtures, toilet, counters and lighting will yield a 70.1 percent return nationally. And like the kitchen, doing more doesn’t equal getting more. An upscale remodel will only see a 56.2 percent return compared to a new bathroom addition (54.6 percent).

A highly valuable improvements is turning a standard bathroom into a universally accessible one. This includes widening doorways for wheelchairs, putting in a walk-in shower, lowering light switches and installing support bars near the toilet.

While this might not seem relevant for most of today’s buyers, it will be very soon. By 2050, it’s estimated that the 65-and-over population will more than double, and small accessibility modifications will have major appeal as homeowners and buyers grow older.

Manufactured stone veneer on exterior

A home improvement that offers a strong return on investment is enhancing the exterior of a home with manufactured stone veneer. It has the same look as real stone, however, and is installed in the same way. It’s a way to boost curb appeal and update an exterior. Doing just a portion of a home, such as the area around the front entryway, can reap benefits. The national average return for manufactured stone veneer is 97.1 percent, according to

Bill Primavera is an editor and public relations practitioner ( who also is a realtor associated with William Raveis Real Estate ( To engage his marketing and real estate expertise to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.      

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