The 11 Worst Home Renovations for the Money

Man remodeling a bathtub with tile
forestpath / Shutterstock.com

Remodeling Magazine’s 2020 Cost vs. Value Report takes a look at national average costs for 22 home remodeling projects.

It compares construction cost estimates for each project with the likely resale value. To get those resale estimates, the researchers surveyed real estate agents in 101 U.S. real estate markets, asking them these projects’ value when a remodeled home is sold.

Some of these are “upscale” jobs, others are “midrange” in cost. Although regional results vary, nationally, none of the jobs here can be expected to totally recover their cost.

Here, from bad to worst, are the projects that make particularly poor choices for payback.

11. Bath remodel (midrange)

Artazum / Shutterstock.com

Average cost: $21,377
Return on investment: 64%

This project, updating a 5-by-7-foot bathroom, involves installing ceramic tile on the floor, new wallpaper, new toilet and a new tub-shower with a ceramic tile surround. Also included are a new medicine cabinet and light, and a solid surface vanity with a built-in sink. Mid-priced materials are used.

On average, you would recoup not much more than half of the investment if selling the home at today’s prices. However, a bathroom renovation is one of the home projects that give owners the most satisfaction of all, as we report in “19 Home Renovations That Give Owners the Most Joy.”

10. Bath remodel (universal design)

Man Wheelchair accessible bathroom Washing Hands In Bathroom
Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock.com

Average cost: $34,643
Return on investment: 62%

There are other reasons, as this project demonstrates, for remodeling besides return on investment. These improvements are likely to markedly improve the quality of life for older and disabled residents of a home.

This project requires altering the door to allow wheelchair entry and installing flat-panel electrical switches for access at sitting level. Other improvements include a lower, elongated toilet with bidet features and a tiled, no-curb shower with a fold-out seat and bi-directional glass door. It also involves replacing flooring to allow electric radiant heat beneath luxury vinyl tile and adding nine towel bars that can support 250 pounds.

9. Roofing replacement (metal)

LesPalenik / Shutterstock.com

Average cost: $40,318
Return on investment: 61.2%

This project includes putting an ice-barrier membrane and a high-grade synthetic underlayment under the new 3,000-square-foot roof.

A $40,000 roof replacement is no small expense. But there are ways to keep costs down — see “7 Tips for Getting the Best Deal on a New Roof.”

8. Major kitchen remodel (midrange)

A senior couple cuts vegetables for a salad while cooking a meal in their kitchen
Prostock-studio / Shutterstock.com

Average cost: $68,490
Return on investment: 58.6%

From the day homeowners buy an older property with an outdated kitchen, many dream of remodeling the space, the most-used and favorite gathering place in many homes. Sinking nearly $70,000 into a midpriced kitchen project may be a life upgrade that repays you in happiness, but this major remodeling job is not a true investment, since the return on the money spent is only about 58.6%.

This midrange remodel of an outmoded 200-square-foot kitchen includes new semi-custom wood cabinets, a 3-by-5-foot island, laminate countertops and a double-tub stainless-steel sink. Custom lighting, resilient flooring, fresh paint and new appliances are also included.

7. Master suite addition (midrange)

Breadmaker / Shutterstock.com

Average cost: $136,739
Return on investment: 58.5%

Adding a new 24-by-16-foot master suite is a dream project. The all-new construction, the privacy of having an ensuite bathroom just off the master bedroom and the pleasure of expanding a home’s living space all count when considering this job. The project doesn’t pay back well, though, if return on investment is the goal.

This midrange master suite addition offers the perks of a master suite without going all-in on luxury features. In addition to the bedroom area, the suite provides a walk-in closet/dressing area and bathroom with a freestanding soaker tub, separate tiled shower, toilet and double-sink vanity.

6. Bath remodel (upscale)

Alena Ozerova / Shutterstock.com

Average cost: $67,106
Return on investment:
56.6%

Remodeling Magazine’s upscale bath remodel envisions nearly tripling the size of a 35-square-foot bathroom, to 100 square feet without adding to the home.

The job involves adding a freestanding soaker tub and a 42-by-42-inch tiled neo-angle shower, with body-spray fixtures and a frameless glass door. A stone countertop with twin sinks, mirrored medicine cabinets, custom cabinets, new lighting, a toilet compartment and a heated tile floor are among the features.

5. Bathroom addition (upscale)

pics721 / Shutterstock.com

Average cost: $91,287
Return on investment:
54.7%

Homeowners who add a bathroom to their home get a ton of joy from the purchase, research has shown, even if the payback isn’t great.

Envisioned here is an addition of a 100-square-foot bathroom with many of the features of the upscale bath remodel that opens into a home’s existing master bedroom. The new bath would have electric heat under a tile floor, a 42-by-42-inch ceramic-tiled neo-angle shower with frameless glass door, freestanding soaker tub, stone countertop with twin sinks, new cabinets, lighting and a private toilet compartment.

4. Bathroom addition (midrange)

bath time
Anna Om / Shutterstock.com

Average cost: $49,598
Return on investment:
54%

This bathroom addition is neither a luxury-level project nor an economy job. It involves building a new 6-by-8-foot space with poured concrete walls at the back of the home.

Features include a cultured-stone vanity top with molded sink, a 30-by-60-inch fiberglass tub-shower with ceramic tile surround, a low-profile toilet, new lighting, a tile floor and linen storage closet or cabinet.

3. Major kitchen remodel (upscale)

Breadmaker / Shutterstock.com

Average cost:$135,547
Return on investment:
53.9%

At $135,547, this major kitchen remodel is another project that you’d do for the joy of it, rather than financial return. Remodeling Magazine says that, although projects done in the home’s interior appeal to owners, they don’t pay back as well as improvements to a home’s exterior.

“Feedback indicated that larger discretionary projects, such as kitchen, bath, and master-suite remodels, tend to be too individualized to provide broad appeal,” the researchers say.

This upscale remodel of a 200-square-foot kitchen includes custom wood cabinets, stone countertops with imported ceramic- or glass-tile backsplash, an island, new appliances, sink with water filtration system and tile or wood-look flooring.

2. Grand entrance (fiberglass)

David Papazian / Shutterstock.com

Average cost: $9,254
Return on investment:
53.3%

Home upgrades that add to curb appeal often can be a good idea. But this relatively inexpensive project can be one of the worst investments to make in a home, the research found.

The project involves removing a home’s standard entry door and enlarging the space. A larger, “upscale” fiberglass door with sidelights on either side is the replacement.

1. Master suite addition (upscale)

Luxury upscale bedroom bathroom
ShortPhotos / Shutterstock.com

Average cost: $282,062
Return on investment:
51.6%

The worst bang for your remodeling buck, this study finds, results from constructing a new, high-end master suite.

At a return of roughly 51.6%, the cost of this project — $282,062 — buys a 32-by-20-foot addition housing a spacious sleeping-sitting-lounging area surrounded by custom bookcases, built-in storage and walk-in closet. A stone hearth and custom mantle frame a high-end gas fireplace, and a nearby hospitality area provides a bar sink, refrigerator, microwave and custom cabinetry. The bathroom is equally grand.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
The Worst Nursing Homes in America Are Revealed
The Worst Nursing Homes in America Are Revealed

The nursing homes with a history of providing subpar care previously hadn’t been identified for a government list.

7 Surprising Features That Boost Your Home Value
7 Surprising Features That Boost Your Home Value

You can add value to your home without hiring a contractor to do expensive renovations.

Don’t Pay for These 10 Things: They Are Free With a Library Card
Don’t Pay for These 10 Things: They Are Free With a Library Card

Before you spend another dollar on items and services like these, check with your public library.

Cut These 11 Expenses Now If You Hope to Retire Early
Cut These 11 Expenses Now If You Hope to Retire Early

Like the idea of financial independence? Part of the FIRE equation is cutting costs.

2-Minute Money Strategy: How Should I Invest My Retirement Savings?
2-Minute Money Strategy: How Should I Invest My Retirement Savings?

If retirement is on the horizon, you can’t afford to take too much risk, but you also need to make as much as possible. Here are your options.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
9 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Shopping on Amazon
9 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Shopping on Amazon

Are you losing money due to any of these missteps?

Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?
Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?

The rules are complicated when it comes to eligibility for survivors benefits.

7 Changes Coming to Social Security and Medicare in 2021
7 Changes Coming to Social Security and Medicare in 2021

Recently, both Social Security and Medicare made some major announcements about benefits for 2021.

Can a Twice-Divorced Woman Claim Social Security Survivors Benefits?
Can a Twice-Divorced Woman Claim Social Security Survivors Benefits?

Understanding survivors benefits rules is the key to getting the most from your benefit.

These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation
These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation

Two types of vehicles are especially likely to see steep plunges in value.

10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s
10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s

From snacks to sweets to side dishes, stock your cart with these time-tested favorites on your next TJ’s run.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

Longer Trips to This Type of Store May Raise Coronavirus Risk
Longer Trips to This Type of Store May Raise Coronavirus Risk

An airborne-disease expert recommends exiting these stores within 30 minutes.

5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021
5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021

These adjustments will affect both workers and retirees in the new year.

11 ‘Disposable’ Items You Should Be Reusing
8 Things You Should Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores
8 Things You Should Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores

You don’t have to be a chef or a restaurant owner to shop here.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

There are easy high-paying majors available in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required. We’re here to help you find easy degrees that pay well.

Stop Buying These 19 Things Online
Stop Buying These 19 Things Online

The internet has changed how we shop. But for some things, you’re still better off buying the old-fashioned way.

27 Things You Should Never Pay For — and How to Get Them for Free
27 Things You Should Never Pay For — and How to Get Them for Free

When you know the tricks, you can save big on all kinds of useful things that others pay for.

4 Tax Credits That Will Be More Generous in 2021
4 Tax Credits That Will Be More Generous in 2021

If you are eligible for these tax breaks, they will slash your federal income tax bill — dollar for dollar.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing emergency food supply. Is your pantry well-prepared for emergencies? Knowing what to stock up on for emergencies can be a difficult task and we’re here to help.

7 Reasons to Carry Mortgage Debt Into Retirement
7 Reasons to Carry Mortgage Debt Into Retirement

It often makes financial sense to not pay off your mortgage before retiring.

15 Things You Can Get for Free in December
15 Things You Can Get for Free in December

December is here, which means it’s your last chance to take advantage of fabulous freebies in 2020.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.