A new survey says almost half of homeowners want are willing to spend $5,000 or less on a home remodel—here’s what that sum can buy.

By Lauren Phillips
March 22, 2019
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Remodeling isn’t cheap. Any home remodeling veteran can attest to the surprise costs, delays, and more that pop up during a remodel, but new homeowners—or those who haven’t attempted a remodel yet—may not be fully aware of how much the home updates they dream of might cost. And even someone who has gone through a remodel, large or small, may be surprised by how much the next project costs, even if it is a DIY home project.

The cruel truth of home remodeling is that expectations and plans likely won’t match up with reality. A new survey of 1,300 U.S. homeowners by real estate search site Trulia finds that 90 percent of homeowners plan to remodel their home at some point, but 47 percent (almost half) of them are not willing to spend more than $5,000 on that remodel. A similar survey from home improvement site Porch finds that 69 percent of homeowners want to do a major home improvement project in the next year, and they plan to spend an average $3,911 on those repairs and improvements; 83% plan to spend less than $5,000 on their remodeling.

$5,000 is a huge sum, but in the remodeling world, it can’t go nearly as far as one would hope. Adding an inground pool to a home is a pipe dream for many, but becoming one of those houses with pools costs almost $50,000 on average, which may be far more than anyone would guess; frighteningly, the same difference between guessed cost and actual cost applies to almost all home remodeling projects.

Also, all home improvement projects are different; identical kitchens installed in two different homes can have wildly different price tags, depending on the home, area, contractor, schedule, and more. Remodeling costs are so subjective, in fact, that it’s nearly impossible to put a standard price on anything, so look at the cost breakdowns here with the knowledge that every project is unique. That said, what can a $5,000 remodel buy?

Kitchen remodel cost

Trulia’s “Remodeling on the Rise” survey reports that kitchen remodels are the most popular among homeowners planning a project at some point. Unfortunately, kitchen remodels are also incredibly expensive.

Most people spend between $25,001 and $50,000 on a kitchen renovation. A good rule for kitchen renovation budgeting is to spend at least 5 percent of the home’s value on a kitchen renovation. The average U.S. home value is $226,300, so the average homeowner would want to spend—at minimum—$11,315 on a kitchen remodel. Spending even that sum on a full kitchen remodel may be difficult, though, considering how pricy kitchen updates can be.

A full kitchen remodel would likely involve replacing cabinetry, rather than refinishing kitchen cabinets. But homeowners who pick refinishing kitchen cabinets over replacing them can do so for about a third of what new cabinets might cost. The average cost for refinishing kitchen cabinets is $2,456; with the relative savings from that, compared to a $6,000-plus new set of cabinets, a budget-savvy homeowner could get new appliances, too, and still finish the kitchen remodel for less than $5,000. New countertops might not fit inside that budget, though—the cost to install a countertop averages $2,909, but factors such as kitchen size and surface choice can change that.

With these figures in mind, it’s no surprise that a kitchen remodel can easily cost more than $25,000, especially if the update involves high-end materials, fixtures, and appliances. After all, a full kitchen remodel requires new lights, new paint, a new kitchen backsplash, new floors, and sometimes new plumbing and electric work, plus labor, on top of the cost of new cabinets and countertops.

Considering Trulia’s survey finds that only 20 percent of homeowners are willing to spend more than $10,000 on a home remodel and Porch’s finds that only 6 percent plan to spend that same amount, a full kitchen remodel may be out of reach for many, at least until they’ve had time to save. Of course, smaller kitchen updates such as a new paint job, a new backsplash, or new appliances are always possible, and often for less than $5,000.

Bathroom remodel cost

Trulia’s survey says a bathroom is the second-most popular home remodeling project. Alas, a bathroom remodel is not that much cheaper than a kitchen remodel, and typical homeowners hoping to spend less than $5,000 on a remodel may find themselves disappointed. The national average cost to remodel a bathroom is between $9,000 and $15,000, depending on who you ask. (Home improvement sites such as Thumbtack, Angie’s List, and HomeAdvisor offer varying estimates.)

Budget remodels can cost as little as $2,000 or $3,000, but such projects run the risk of going out of style—or lacking much-wanted features—which could hurt a home’s overall resale value in the long run. Small bathroom remodel ideas can help, and so can limiting a project to one or two features at a time and avoiding high-cost changes that require moving plumbing and doors or windows.

Flooring cost

On average, the cost to install flooring nationally is $2,886, putting new floor installation squarely within the $5,000 remodel range many homeowners are planning for. Of course, factors such as home size, type of flooring, and installation quality can raise or lower that price. Having old flooring removed—and addressing any issues that removal may reveal—can also add to the price tag.

The hardwood flooring cost is the highest, followed by laminate, stone, and tile flooring costs. Most flooring materials are paid for in square feet, so larger homes will require a larger investment. Picking the right flooring material and limiting new floors to high-traffic spaces, such as the kitchen or hallways, can also help minimize costs.

Cost to paint a house

For most other rooms—think bedrooms, the living room, and the dining room—true remodeling options are minimal, assuming the typical homeowner doesn’t plan to move doors or add windows. In these spaces, a new coat of paint can completely change the look and feel of a space—and at relatively low costs.

The cost to paint the interior of a house is, on average, $1,750. Generally, the cost of painting an individual room can be between $380 and $790, and homeowners can choose to skip professional painters by doing the painting themselves and following these tips to save money on a paint job.

Painting interior doors is another low-budget option that is very DIY-friendly. Other wall-oriented remodeling options include adding baseboards, crown molding, other trim, or wainscoting, all of which are relatively affordable (and could likely be paired with a new paint job for an even higher-impact upgrade).

For exterior paint jobs, national averages are between $2,500 and $3,000.

Other home remodeling ideas

Many of the most popular home remodeling projects are broken down above, but there are countless other projects that 47 percent of homeowners can tackle with their $5,000 budget. In the survey results, Porch estimates homeowners need an average of $5,000 to replace a roof, which is an unglamorous but valuable project. Other remodeling options that can vary widely in price include installing new siding on a home’s exterior, installing new windows, adding a new air conditioning or heating system, and adding or updating a fireplace.

All remodeling costs vary, but researching and planning projects carefully can reveal ways to lower costs as much as possible. $5,000, though, won’t get anyone the completely remodeled home they might dream of.

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