10 must-have home upgrades that are actually worth it

Whether you’ve recently purchased a new home or you’re planning a long-dreamed-of remodel, you can feel good about investing in your home, and ultimately your quality of life, with these expert-approved upgrades. A mix of practical updates will better protect your house and make it more efficient, while creating opportunities to adapt to your lifestyle. Although some of these ideas are a big commitment, the result of your investment is a more stylish, comfortable and functional home. These interior and exterior upgrades add value to your everyday life—and many are good for resale value, too.


Before starting a home renovation, be sure to check local building codes to ensure maximum safety and compliance.


Marty Baldwin


1. Zero-threshold showers

Remove barriers and get a sleek look by switching to a shower that lacks the lip or edge of a traditional shower enclosure. “Zero-threshold showers are a huge plus if you’re building your ‘forever’ home or remodeling a master bathroom so you can enjoy it forever,” says Jamie Gold, a wellness design consultant. “There’s a little more work and expense involved, but it can definitely be worth it to future-proof your investment,” she says, referring to the benefits of barrier-free showers for those who are aging or injured. As larger showers continue to trend in bathroom remodeling, this accessible design style is both practical and stylish.



2. Cool Roofing

Heat is the problem everyone is interested in tackling right now, according to Matt Power, editor of Green Builder magazine. For peace of mind and savings on your energy bill, Power suggests investing in cool roofs, which reflect more sunlight and absorb less heat than a traditional roof, improving indoor comfort and reducing energy use to cool the home. Cool roofing materials are available as reflective coatings, sheet coatings, tiles and shingles as well as metal roofing. While you have the most choices to consider when replacing your roof, you can upgrade an existing roof with reflective coatings or retrofit reflective material to get some of the benefits of a cool roof as well.



3. Kitchen worktops

Worktops are an integral part of your kitchen’s style and function. Visually they make a big statement and physically they have to withstand cooking, spillage, craft time and frequent cleaning. If you have quality cabinets, but your countertops are an eyesore or difficult to maintain, it’s worth investing in new countertops.


Choosing a material like quartz—the top countertop material in trend reports from both Houzz and the National Kitchen and Bath Association—provides a fresh look while making your kitchen more functional and easier to maintain. It is important to note that replacing countertops can also affect the existing backsplash, sink and faucet. This small kitchen renovation is the perfect opportunity to consider an easy-to-clean configuration with brushed faucets, an undermount sink, and a slab backsplash.


Right look


4. Updated garage doors

With so many great styles to choose from, a new garage door is a quick and easy way to enhance curb appeal, according to Warren Wilson, general contractor and owner of Wilson Homes in Vancouver, British Columbia. If your garage is used for something like a workshop, a new door with better insulation or windows for natural light can make it more comfortable, says Wilson. Plus, according to cost-to-value remodeling data, garage door replacement has one of the highest returns on investment when it comes to resale value.



5. Radiant-warm flooring

Installed under the floor, a radiant heating system heats rooms from the bottom up, providing evenly distributed heat that is comfortable for your feet. Adding a radiant system to your home requires tearing out the existing floor—and while it’s a big project, the upgrade also offers big benefits. Not only is it luxurious on cold mornings, but radiant heating is also quieter than rattling radiators and rumbling forced air valves. In addition, it is often more energy efficient and can be added to many rooms in the home. “One of the most popular uses is the master bathroom floor, but whole-house projects are worthwhile,” says Gold. While some approved vinyl and laminate floors can be paired with radiant heat, it works best with ceramic and porcelain tile and natural stone. Gold notes that radiant heat is popular in all climates and is even being installed in outdoor living spaces.



6. Automatic bathroom fans

You might be surprised how many homes have outdated bathroom fans or models that don’t match the size of the room. An exhaust fan should quickly cope with a steamy mirror and remove damp air after a shower. Look for a model with a humidity sensor that activates the fan automatically – it’s perfect for those who forget to turn it on before bathing, and it prevents you from wasting energy if you forget to turn it off.


Some older homes have no ventilation at all, or they dump the exhaust into an attic or other area of ​​the house. New ventilation will be a major project in these homes, but you can feel confident investing in a system that prevents mold and mildew with little manual effort after installation.



7. Tankless water heater

Wilson recommends replacing a traditional water heater with a space-friendly and energy-efficient tankless water heater. Instead of continuously using energy to keep a large tank of water heated, a tankless water heater provides on-demand hot water, meaning it only uses energy to heat water when and to what temperature it is needed. “They’re small, they bolt to the wall, and they take up a lot less space,” says Wilson. “Plus, they last about twice as long as a standard unit.” Another advantage of a tankless unit is that your hot water supply is not limited to how much water the tank can hold. Tankless water heaters have higher upfront costs than traditional water heaters due to both the purchase price and installation costs, which may require rerouting gas lines.


Edmund Barr


8. Decks and terraces

Interest in outdoor spaces exploded last year, and it continues to be a place homeowners are looking to enhance and enjoy. Big or small, a new deck is a simple way to add a lot of value to your property. With just a few pieces of furniture (like this three-piece Better Homes & Gardens set, $698, Walmart) and lighting, it becomes a flexible space where you can work, play, and entertain. Although lumber has been expensive and a wood deck may seem like a bargain, you can feel good about its resale value. Alternatively, composite decking is durable and environmentally friendly, and it also has a great return on investment.



9. Improved kitchen storage

Now is the time to invest in the cooking skills and supplies you acquired during the pandemic. Adequate storage of all your utensils, appliances and pantry items will play a role in making your kitchen more orderly, functional and pleasant to use – and help you nurture those new culinary talents. Adding custom organizers like the Better Homes & Gardens Pantry Basket, $13, Walmart, to cabinets and drawers makes the most of your existing cabinetry. As traditional pantries are making a comeback, consider building out an underutilized corner of the kitchen, tapping into the wall of a nearby room, or converting a nearby closet if you have one. This increased storage is not only better for your daily use, but it will also add value to your home.



10. Solar energy

Falling costs of materials, paired with tax credits and incentives, have continued to make solar energy a more attainable option for homeowners. While still a significant financial investment, the need for renewable energy brings solar energy closer to home. Supplementing your home with solar energy can reduce both your energy bills and your carbon footprint, and Power says it also appeals to homebuyers.




But you don’t have to invest in running your entire home on solar right away. Power suggests that one way to approach solar power is as a back-up: something that can keep the lights on and the fridge running when the power goes out. Instead of buying a gas-powered generator, he recommends choosing battery sizes and panels to accommodate this type of power supply for your home.

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