The Big Payoff

Your kids won’t bring anyone to the house because there’s that ’80s vibe thing going on, and you think your aging parents might need to move in, but your bank account says, “Let’s go slow.” Get the most bang for your renovation buck with these tips from local experts.

Photograph by Luanne Demeo

Gourmet Kitchen Remodel

Our expert: Sam Tidwell, Owner and Lead Carpenter, Tidwell Reconstruction

As one of your home’s primary gathering spaces, the kitchen should provide both functionality and beauty. Aesthetic updates can create a sense of hospitality, while an improved layout can provide accessibility to guests and family members of all ages and abilities. The expense of a major kitchen remodel can certainly be justified by the improvement to everyday quality of life, but if you’re primarily looking to make a buck, Sam Tidwell of Tidwell Reconstruction offers this caution: “If you’re going to sell in less than five years, don’t remodel.”

Average Midrange Cost: $59,593 • Average Resale Value: $36,875 • Cost Recouped: 61.9%

Where to splurge

Layout “Layout is the most expensive thing to change, but it has the most impact on how the kitchen works and feels,” Tidwell says.

One unique focal point Choose one “wow” item that will become the conversation piece of the kitchen—like a cast iron sink, a gorgeous gas range, or open shelving.

Backsplash Adding a special design to a tile backsplash is a relatively small investment that can have a big impact on overall aesthetics.

Where to save

Cabinets Go with a builder’s grade cabinet and dress it up with trim and crown molding.

Flooring  A luxury vinyl or durable tile can be more affordable than hardwood.

Countertops  If you want to shell out for granite, go with a Level 1 option.

Work with your existing footprint  “If you want to save money on your remodel, don’t use a sledgehammer. As soon as you move walls, your cost is going to go up significantly,” says Tidwell.

If moving gas or water lines, make sure your contractor gets a permit. This ensures that an inspection happens before lines are covered up.

Exterior Curb Appeal

Our expert: Andrew Glasgow, President, H. Glasgow Construction

First impressions are important, and a facade upgrade can ensure your home
is putting its best foot forward. Major exterior renovations (think siding and stonework) are among the best performers for recouping the cost of the investment in a resale. If a major facelift isn’t in the budget, even small changes—like a flower bed or new shutters—can go a long way in improving curb appeal and getting prospective buyers through the door.

Vinyl siding: Average Cost: $11,998 Ÿ Average Resale Value: $7,533 Ÿ Cost Recouped: 62.8%

Where to splurge

Landscaping Remove outdated landscaping (like large shrubs) and use accent landscaping to highlight the home’s best features.

Porch Adding or updating a porch is “worth the investment, whether on the front or back of the house,” says Glasgow.

Concrete driveway  Glasgow says the higher upfront cost of concrete will be a better long-term investment than blacktop (asphalt).

Where to save

Landscape lighting  Down or up lighting is a relatively small investment for a big impact.

Porch railing  Decrepit porch railings are both a safety and aesthetic problem. You can go with a lower-end version without sacrificing safety.

Siding  Opt for an inexpensive vinyl version over fiber cement, with added details like shakes or scallops, which add “depth and character,” says Glasgow.

Make sure a new porch or landscape design does not create blind pockets by the front door, which can entice burglars.

Soft soil may be an issue: When excavating, dig deeper than the overdig of the house to ensure a long-lasting investment.

Tip: luxury vinyl flooring can be a more affordable option than hardwood.

Photograph by Luanne Demeo

Selecting A Remodeler

Before you hire someone to start swinging a sledgehammer in your home, it’s crucial to ensure your remodeler is credible, is qualified, and does quality work. According to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), the best way to start your search is word-of-mouth referrals from friends, real estate agents, or local material suppliers (a.k.a. not Google).

Then, check whether your remodeler is licensed to do business in Ohio, is registered with the local building department, is accredited and has a good rating by the Better Business Bureau, is certified by NARI, and has the proper insurances (such as liability, commercial vehicle, and workers’ compensation) to safeguard you from liability should an accident happen on your property.

The remodeler should also be able and willing to provide at least three client references for you to contact.

Questions to Ask Your Remodeler

Before you sign on that proverbial dotted line, make sure you’ve got answers to these questions in writing:

  • What inconveniences (such as shutting off electricity or water) might occur during this project?
  • Does your proposal include all project costs, including design plans, permits, labor, and materials?
  • What are the approximate start and completion dates?
  • Will subcontractors be used, and if so, will a project manager or lead carpenter be present to supervise the project at all times?
  • What conditions would constitute an additional fee?
  • What is the best way to ensure timely and thorough communication with you—phone call, text, e-mail, or something else?

Spa-Style Master Bath Remodel

Our expert: Bob Hermann, General Manager, Ryan Remodeling, Inc.

Done right, a master bath can become more than just a place to brush your teeth. It can become your haven and your sanctuary. It’s also one of two places that add the most buyer appeal when it comes to reselling (the other is the kitchen), according to Trulia. Not sure where to start? Bob Hermann of Ryan Remodeling says most customers start with the shower, as it’s often the area where the most improvement is needed—and where there are the most ways to customize.

Average Midrange Cost: $17,565 • Average Resale Value: $10,088 • Cost Recouped: 57.4%

Where to splurge

Shower Don’t be afraid to upgrade on accessories like European shower doors, a rainfall showerhead, and high-end tile.

Plumbing fixtures Hermann says it’s crucial not to scrimp on the quality of “the guts”—things like faucets and showerheads—because you want these items to be long-lasting.

Lighting Bathrooms should have proper lighting design, especially in a makeup area.

Where to save

Vanities “You can get good-quality cabinetry without spending an arm and a leg,” Hermann says.

Sinks and toilets Standard options are perfectly suitable.

If the configuration of the bathroom is being changed, it’s likely that plumbing lines will need to be moved, which “adds an additional level of complexity to the project,” says Hermann.

Mother-in-Law Suite Addition

Our expert: Tom Woeste, Owner, Woeste Remodeling, Inc.

Adding a mother-in-law suite, or any bedroom suite for that matter, is truly the mother lode of renovations. Though it comes with a hefty price tag, this renovation buys not just an additional bedroom, but also an additional bathroom, added square footage, and maybe even another food preparation and storage space. Important things to consider upfront, says Tom Woeste of Woeste Remodeling, are how much privacy the room should afford and how much the room should integrate with the rest of the house.

Average Midrange Cost: $114,793 • Average Resale Value: $65,800 • Cost Recouped: 57.3%

Where to splurge

Functionality Consider investing in an exterior entrance.

En suite bathroom A must-have. Woeste suggests making it ADA compliant for future aging needs.

Food preparation Add kitchenette or small bar area for food prep.

Where to save

Ceilings Use 8-foot ceilings instead of 9-foot ceilings to reduce the per-square-foot construction cost.

Interior windows Forgo traditional windowsills and simply “case” them instead.

Exterior windows Use vinyl. “If the addition is toward the back of the house, the windows don’t have to match the rest of the house perfectly,” says Woeste.

Shower pan Use a fiberglass surround instead of tile.

Foundation Build the room on a slab instead of constructing a full basement underneath.


  • Make sure the house has enough amperage to support the addition.
  • If the house uses a septic system, it must be big enough to accept a new bathroom.
  • The time of year you choose to renovate can impact soil conditions.
Tip: Layout can be the most expensive (and complex) thing to change when remodeling.

Photograph by Luanne Demeo

Custom Basement Remodel

Our expert: Alan Hendy, CEO, Neal’s Design Remodel

Unlike a kitchen or bathroom, a finished basement isn’t always paramount to a home’s functionality, but it sure is a nice perk—and prospective homebuyers love them. In addition to that all-important extra storage space, basements offer bonus living area that can tap into a homeowner’s creativity. A sports-themed man cave? An English pub? A magical playroom? The possibilities for both style and function are virtually endless.

Average Midrange Cost: $67,718 • Average Resale Value: $39,625 • Cost Recouped: 58.5%

Where to splurge

Lighting “Treat yourself to good lighting,” says Hendy. “A well-lit lower level is not an expensive thing to do; it’s just a smart thing to do.”

Install a fireplace This will make the lower level feel like an upstairs living space.

Home theater Essential for a space that will be used for entertaining crowds.

Rubberized floor If you’re planning to use part of the basement as a home gym.

Where to save

Carpet Carpet comes in a wide range of grades. Consider a middle-of-the-road option instead of top-of-the-line.

Bar Install a simplified bar without a sink.

Storage To optimize flexibility, opt for freestanding storage units, which are relatively inexpensive, as opposed to semi-custom built-in cabinets.


  • Verify that the basement is dry and mold-free before beginning any remodeling.
  • Structural posts: “You have to make sure you design something that’s going to work with where those posts are,” Hendy says.

Universal Design Ideas for Easy Access


  • Leave room under sinks/counters to fit a wheelchair or add a work area to store a step stool.
  • Add grab bars and a seat in the shower.
  • Put controls at lower heights.
  • Create a curbless shower entry for wheelchair accessibility.
  • Install an elevator between levels.
  • Be mindful of countertop heights.
  • Include low storage options.


  • Create handicap ramps into the house.
  • Avoid stamped concrete, which can get slick when it’s wet.
  • Make sure doorways are wide enough to fit wheelchairs.
  • Use lever-style door handles, which are easier to operate than traditional doorknobs.
  • Add a walkout to the outdoors on a finished lower level.

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