*This* small kitchen reno could add $1,547 to the value of your home

We know what you’re thinking: granite countertops. But before you rip apart your kitchen (and spend thousands in the process), consider the surprising findings in a recent survey from Zillow.

The real estate marketplace looked at more than 135,000 photos from listings that sold between January 2010 and May 2018 to identify homes that sold for more or less than their “zestimate.”

RELATED: Home renovations to test out

Affordable renovations that can skyrocket your home's value
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Affordable renovations that can skyrocket your home's value

Do the Right Work Yourself

Home improvement labor isn't cheap, so you can save a bundle doing some of the work yourself — tackling a two-hour painting job, for example, can save you a couple hundred dollars. But stick with jobs you won't botch. "Homeowners can save money by doing the demo themselves and leaving the large projects to the contractors," said Mary Riebert, a realtor based in Snow Hill, Md.

For those wishing to give DIY a try, find out which renovations you can tackle to increase your home's value

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Buy Salvage Materials

Habitat for Humanity provides safe and affordable housing through a network of volunteers and with full participation from the homeowner. The organization sells leftover and donated supplies and materials at its ReStore salvage stores, where you can get below-retail pricing on appliances, building materials and used furnishings. Auctions are another source of good resale materials.

 Photo credit: Getty

Choose a Steel Entry Door Over a Wood One

Replacing your old front entry door with a new steel door costs much less than replacing it with wood, and it returns 91.3 percent of your investment, according to Remodeling's 2018 Cost vs. Value report. A high-end steel door with sidelights can cost between $1,000 and $3,000, but a high-end wood version can cost over $4,000.

Get Started Now: 10 Home Renovations to Make Before You Retire 

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Opt for Vinyl Windows Over Wood

Unless you're going for historical accuracy in an older home, consider vinyl windows over wood to save money and maintenance, and earn an almost 5 percent larger return on your investment. On average, vinyl windows cost $130 to $500 each, compared to $150 to $800 each for wood, according to Fixr. Insulated vinyl frames might be more expensive than non-insulated ones, but they'll make your vinyl windows at least as energy efficient as wood to help you save on heating and cooling costs

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Use Bamboo Flooring Instead of Hardwood

There's no substitute for a wood floor, but prices for the various options vary quite a bit. At $2 to $4 per square foot, material costs for bamboo can save you up to $4 per square foot compared to the cost of maple or red oak, and up to $7 per square foot over the cost of Brazilian walnut, according to HomeAdvisor. You can also save on labor costs because, unlike hardwood flooring, bamboo typically comes prefinished.

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Choose Ceramic Tile Over Stone

Unlike artificial wood flooring, which lacks the warmth and texture of the real thing, ceramic tile can be a dead ringer for stone tile, but at a fraction of the cost. High-quality ceramic can cost up to $5.50 per square foot, but can be as low as less than $1 per square foot compared to natural stone flooring costing up to $10 per square foot, according to Home Flooring Pros. Ceramic is often less expensive to install, too.

Worth Doing: Home Renovations That Will Pay You Back 

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Use Stock or Semi-Custom Kitchen Cabinets

Cabinets are one of the most expensive parts of a kitchen remodeling project, so you'll want to consider saving on this upgrade by choosing good-quality stock or semi-custom cabinets over fully customized or refinished cabinetry. Stock cabinetry costs $80 to $400 each compared to $150 to $1000 for semi-custom, $500 to $1500 for custom and $1,400 and up for refinished, according to HomeAdvisor.

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Purchase Cabinets Directly From the Manufacturer

Homeowners who are able to install their own cabinets can save big by bypassing retail stores. "I save one-third on kitchen cabinets by purchasing them directly from the manufacturer," Riebert said.

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Pick Solid Surface Counters Over Granite or Marble

A midrange major kitchen renovation earns you a slightly better return on your investment than an upscale one does, at about half the cost, according to Remodeling's 2018 Cost vs. Value report. A midrange overhaul includes laminate countertops, which cost an average of $52.50 per linear foot compared to $148 per linear foot for granite and $154 for marble, according to HomeAdvisor. 

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Retain Bathroom Plumbing Configurations

Replace fixtures, cabinetry and flooring when you redo your bathroom, but avoid changing the room's layout. At an average hourly rate of $45 to $150, requiring your plumber to tear up flooring to reroute pipes can triple your plumbing costs, reports HomeAdvisor.

Beware: Sneaky Expenses of Renovating Your Home 

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Use Shower Curtains Instead of Shower Doors

Shower curtains come in a nearly endless choice of styles, patterns and colors, and when paired with a liner, are a cinch to maintain. You can get a high-quality designer one from a pricey department store for under $150, whereas midrange frameless tub shower doors easily cost over $600. 

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Buy Landscaping Materials in Bulk

Even if you're breaking your landscaping projects up into stages, thinking and shopping ahead can save you money because you can buy your materials in bulk. Buying mulch in bulk is far less expensive than buying it by the bag, and the quality is often better. "One yard of bagged mulch is about $54. A yard of good-quality bulk mulch [purchased] from its source is $23," said Jen Uhlig, owner of Sharpest Tool Landscaping in Berlin, Md. And considering regular landscaping costs add on to the maintenance of your house, you'll be happy to save where you can. 

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Use Your Renovation to Get a Cheaper Mortgage Loan

Homeowners paying mortgage insurance because of low equity can boost the value of their home remodeling projects by taking out a rehab loan and then using that money to pay their mortgage insurance. "Once the updates are complete, you will have more equity and can refinance with no mortgage insurance," said Riebert.

Remodeling 101: From HELOC to a Happy Home 

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Consider All the Ways to Save

Reducing renovation costs isn't the only way to save money on your projects. Projects that increase your home's value also increase your equity and can return more than you spend on them in some cases, so don't be opposed to all renovations even if they cost a little more. It might just be worth it.

Up Next: 20 Home Renovations That Will Hurt Your Home's Value 

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The verdict? A bucket of paint is all you need to add value to your kitchen. Yep, that’s right, tuxedo kitchens—with dark cabinets and islands and light colored walls—can make a $1,547 difference in sale price.

The analysis controlled for other wall colors within each room type, square footage, home age and ZIP code in the listing month. Pretty darn scientific.

So grab a brush and get to work. It’s about time you accepted that matte black is the new sparkling white anyway.

RELATED: More home reno inspiration 

Never DIY these home improvement projects
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Never DIY these home improvement projects

Painting kitchen cabinets

Choosing the perfect color is the least of your problems if you're planning to paint your own kitchen cabinets. "What many people don't know is that painting kitchen cabinets are a lot trickier than a bedroom dresser," says Newell Slade, a general contractor for Newell Building, LLC. "Often, there is a buildup of cooking grease and finger oils on the surface of the wood. Prep means extensive cleaning with a degreasing agent such as diluted TSP and using oil-based paint, fed through a sprayer." This home improvement is quite an undertaking and involves specialized equipment and safety measures than most homeowners don't realize. A skilled painter knows how to paint cabinets in a timely fashion with beautiful results. (Don't miss out on these 16 things every smart homeowner does at least once a year!)

DIY custom jobs

"Homeowners typically fail at DIY projects that require intimate knowledge of a process that a professional would take great care in completing; typically something that is beneath the surface, where they're more focused on the final cosmetic appearance," says Brian C. McHugh, owner of McHugh Construction. "A homeowner wanted to save money by forming their own custom shower pan and curb. They did not install the membrane correctly, resulting in water leaking below the shower and damaging the sub-floor and drywall below," says McHugh. Unfortunately, much of the project had to be re-done, costing the homeowner a large chunk of change. The desire to customize your own home improvement project defeats the purpose of saving money unless your skill set is keen. "If you don't know what you're doing and it has the potential of going south quickly, just hire a professional," recommends McHugh. These are the 11 secrets contractors wish every homeowner knew.

Malfunctioning sink pipes

Drano didn't get the water flowing again but it's pretty clear the pipe under the sink is the culprit. All you need is a bucket and a wrench to get that hairy clog out, right? Think again. Doyle James, president of Mr.Rooter Plumbing says unless you are certain you know where the problem is, dismantling pipes can be risky. "Pipes are complex and very tricky to reassemble, particularly when they're in close proximity to other plumbing components and machinery, such as dishwashers or garbage disposals," says James. Even if you're certain the obstruction is under the sink, if you don't have prior experience with dismantling and reassembling pipes, you better leave it to a plumber, James says.

Installing dishwashers

Buying a new dishwasher at a superstore doesn't always come with free installation, but hiring a pro is definitely worth the extra cost according to James There's a lot of moving pieces and it could be more trouble than it's worth. You may have to drill into a cabinet to make holes for the water lines, position the water and electric lines, hook up the water lines, and more. "The complexities involved with setup, such as installing water and drainage lines under the kitchen sink cabinet, are best handled by a professional."

Low water pressure

Does it take forever to fill up your big spaghetti pot? Low water pressure is frustrating and sometimes easily fixed. According to James, removing the aerator and cleaning out the gunk may do the trick but if it doesn't, that's probably a sign this may be a DIY improvement to leave to the pros. "From time to time, low water pressure and the causes behind it could be indications of greater problems within a plumbing system. It could be a fractured pipe, an eroded water line or a water leak in the system," says James. (Make sure you never ever pour these 12 things down the drain!)

Removing walls

Removing walls is often a viable option to creating a larger space or an open floor plan, but before you start swinging that sledgehammer, get a contractor to verify the wall isn't load bearing. "Damaging a load-bearing wall could have serious consequences like a ceiling caving in," says Jesse Fowler, President of Tellus Build. That's bad enough, but it can also be dangerous for the homeowner and result in serious injuries. On the other hand, removing wallpaper only takes a few steps and is something you can definitely DIY.

Installing new lighting

Installing new light fixtures to save money may seem like a no-brainer, but you do a lot can go wrong when dealing with electrical. "Aside from the risk of forgetting, or not knowing how to turn off the live power to whatever is being worked on, there's the possibility of getting shocked," says Fowler. "In addition, wiring anything incorrectly or overloading your power draw often equates to popping breakers, additional hassles, sparking outlets, and repairs that are more costly down the road, especially if walls needs to be re-opened up to fix the mistake," he warns. " A mix of low-voltage and higher-voltage electrical products make electrical wiring even more complicated for a DIY job. Fowler says to leave it to an electrician. "Safety and fire concerns make electrical DIY projects a bad idea."


Maybe you noticed a leak in your bedroom ceiling or the last storm took off a few shingles. No need to call a roofer for such a small job, right? Joe Percario General Contractors, LLC says what appears to be a simple home repair can cost way more money down the line. "To repair a leak, you have to identify the trouble spot and replace the shingles or other components without causing any more damage, utilizing costly tools and hopefully matching materials. In most cases, this results in an area that doesn't match the rest of the roof," says Percario. This 'band-aid solution' usually just compounds the initial problem. In fact, Percario says roofs should last anywhere from 18-30 years but amateur workmanship usually causes more problems down the road. (Check out these 14 things every smart homeowner does at least once a month!)


You didn't store your treasures properly and now they're floating in the basement, so you've called some buddies and this weekend you're going to stop the water once and for all! Unfortunately, digging, applying the waterproofing material and then back filling takes a lot more time than you thought. "We commonly see that the job was started by the homeowner who dug the hole but didn't complete the job. The hole was left open to take in more moisture and in some cases cave in. Or the ground was so saturated with water that it had to dry out before it could be properly excavated," says Jamie Hallett, a RCC Waterproofing Consultant. The biggest concern when doing a waterproofing project like this is safety. "Every year there is typically one fatality as a result of trenches caving in," says Hallett.

Installing a GFCI switch

The GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) is the switch located where an outlet might come into contact with moisture. You probably have them in your bathrooms, kitchen and laundry room. One of the problems with this home improvement is that many of the GFCi switches have been redesigned or reformatted so the online how-to videos you find may not suit your switch. "The GFCI switch is very important for safety and electric shock hazard, so installation should always be done by a professional," says Daniel Ives, co-owner of SJDI Electric Inc., an American Home Shield service contractor. While some new lights on the patio would make it more enjoyable, it's common to hook up the wiring on the wrong side or install it so that the outlet works but not the essential safety features. "And as with all electrical repairs, there is always a risk of shock for those doing the installation, but that risk significantly increases if you're not a licensed professional who knows what they're doing," says Ives.


You've resigned to the fact that you're not the DIY home improvement type. But that doesn't mean you can't save some cash and do the demolition yourself—after all, how hard can it be to tear stuff down? It may even seem like fun, at least until you take a sledgehammer to a wall and destroy vital support structure or worse, hit electric wires. "This becomes costly for the client and can delay the project," says Yoel Piotraut, managing partner at MyHome, a kitchen remodeling and bathroom renovation company. "A contractor must be called. During demolition, it's very important to be careful not to damage any parts of the space that will stay." Aside from demolition mistakes, check out the pictures of these home improvement failsthat will make you cringe!

The neighbors 

There may be some dumb laws in your state, but we're pretty sure it's illegal to do a project that destroys your neighbor's property. "From a DIY cement wall collapsing on a neighbor's driveway to repairing an above ground pool that collapses and floods a neighbor's basement, I've seen it all," says Robert R. Pellegrini, Jr. Esq, president of PK Boston, a real estate law firm. DIY home improvement on a larger scale require more than just the right tools. "Many people who kick off a large DIY project don't realize they need to check the property line—as a professional contractor would—and inadvertently compromise their neighbor's land," says Pellegrini. A DIY fail may cost you a good relationship and attorney fees. One homeowner, Pellegrini recalls, added a small addition that didn't meet the required setback and was forced to demolish the structure after 9 months of construction. Even though we've given you a list of things you should never do yourself at home, here are some home improvement projects you don't need a professional for!



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