101 Worthwhile Home Improvement Ideas (Part 2: Kitchens & Baths)

Downstairs home improvement tips

This article is the second of our three-part home improvement series and it focuses specifically on kitchens and baths. These are the rooms of your home where upgrades can produce the greatest return on the time and money you invest. Every year there are studies confirming that improvements to kitchens and bathrooms measureably increase a home’s value, but the return on any particular project depends on planning and cost control. Cost control includes not just finding the best prices on materials and labor, but also not over-improving your property to an extent the market will not recognize. In plain English, this means not improving your kitchens and baths significantly beyond those available in other homes in your market.

Cost control takes effort.  The difficulty lies in knowing where to draw the line in terms of price and quality of planned improvements.  Every market has a price/quality ceiling beyond which prospective buyers can’t of won’t pay for.  You’ll find that the most basic improvements earn the greatest percentage return.  As the project scope increases, the finishing touches will likely earn the least percentage return and at some point the return even becomes negative.  Your job in planning the project is to apply research and common sense to find the point of diminishing returns.  There’s no formula to tell you where that point is, but if you know it exists you’re likely to come reasonably close to finding it.


Make sure the classic work triangle is incorporated into the kitchen floor plan, with the kitchen sink, refrigerator, and stove arranged in a triangular pattern.  This layout saves unnecessary steps while ensuring ease of movement and convenience.

Peninsula counter top.  If kitchen space allows, add a peninsula counter to increase workspace.  Select a two-level top design; providing workspace for the cook, as well as an area where family members can enjoy a quick snack.

Incorporate space-saving elements into kitchen design.  For instance, a built in refrigerator, coffee maker, or other built-in type appliances.  Buyers tend to favor kitchens that are uncluttered because they look like they have more space.

Fresh wall paint.  A proven, value-adding project that makes a huge improvement in room appearance.  More than pays for itself when it’s time to sell your home.  Consider washable wall paint in beige, yellows or mossy greens.  Stay away from trendy colors that may shortly become outdated.

New kitchen cabinet hardware.  Depending on the age, style and condition of your cabinets, replacing cabinet hardware alone can give your cabinets a modern appearance.

Replace old kitchen cabinet doors with new, quality doors.  Cheaper than full cabinet replacement while still yielding impressive results boost home market value.  You’re sure to find a lot of local businesses that do this or you can check the big-box home improvement stores for advice and guidance.  A very common upgrade.

Resurface counter tops.  If kitchen counter tops are old and you can’t afford new, give your kitchen a cost-effective update by resurfacing your counter tops instead of replacing them.

Install granite counter tops or counter tops made of other natural stone.  Stone counter tops installed with quality workmanship improve kitchen appearance and usability.  And did I mention they’re a big selling point?  If you can’t afford a real stone counter top, faux stone  can be equally attractive and nearly as compelling to potential buyers.

Replace old flooring with a hardwood floor.  If your budget doesn’t allow for conventional hardwood, consider a bamboo hardwood floor.  If new kitchen flooring is completely out of your price range, restoring a hardwood floor is your next best option.

Install a heated ceramic floor.  These are extremely popular because typical stone and tile floors tend to be cold.  Heated floors will warm your feet and are a persuasive selling point in cold climates.

Replace old appliances with new, energy-efficient models.  A great way to enhance household cost-efficiency and increase potential buyers’ interest in your home.  Usually pays for itself in increased home value.  [Remember, if you purchase new appliances, you need to keep them clean.]

Add a second kitchen work station.  A growing trend that allows more than one person to work efficiently in the same kitchen at the same time.  Makes your kitchen better for entertaining.  One option would be to add a free-standing butcher block work island.  Increases work space and ease-of-movement while preparing foods.

Add a kitchen pantry.  A design that includes pantry organizer shelving and innovative food pantry storage is a great way to better utilize available kitchen space.

Include a breakfast nook area.  Breakfast nooks are making a comeback, but you need to have room.  The two basic types are the corner breakfast nook and the secluded breakfast nook built off the kitchen.  Both types provide an informal dining area and a great family gathering place, sure to impress prospective buyers.  Do some research and you’ll be surprised at all the creative design options people are using.


Add a vaulted ceiling.  This both increases the bathroom’s aesthetic appeal and makes the room appear more spacious.

Add a bathroom skylight.  An impressive element that increases natural lighting, modernizes room design, and is aesthetically pleasing.  A vented skylight will increase air circulation as well.

Replace flooring with bathroom flooring tile.  If you want to do-it-yourself, peel-and-stick tile is a quick, cost-effective solution.

Install a heated bathroom floor.   A nice amenity that will impress potential buyers.

Update existing fixtures.  This includes faucets, shower tub, toilet, vanity, medicine cabinet, and lighting.  Put in new towel rods, toilet paper holders, and cabinet hardware.

Regrout and replace chipped tiles in your shower or bathtub.  Get rid of mold and mildew.  Replace caulking around tubs and showers.

Make sure the bathroom fan is working.  Clean or replace blades in any ceiling fans.

Increase bathroom storage, if possible.  Utilize unused space in corners.  Install corner shelving and cabinetry.  You want bathrooms to be clean and uncluttered which makes them appear larger.

If you have the space, add another bathroom.  Hard to go wrong adding another bathroom.  More is better.  High return on investment.  In a house with 1 or 1 ½ baths, the recoup for an averaged full-sized bath located near bedrooms can be up to 160% depending on your area.

Build a new master bathroom.  A powerful selling point with a high projected return on investment return.  If you want to go all-out on a room, this is the place to do it.  Tour some model homes first to see what builders in your area are offering in master bath amenities on new construction.

We discussed kitchen and bathroom remodeling separately because these projects are typically some of the highest yield investments in the spectrum of all home improvement projects.  But remember, you don’t have to do a full room remodel to significantly upgrade the appearance of kitchens and baths.  You can add a lot of value to your home simply by cleaning, polishing, painting, replacing hardware and adding storage.  If you do all the inexpensive suggestions listed above, you can be sure you’re adding value to your home while making it a far more competitive property.

Be sure to see Part 1 and Part 3 of this series, Your Home’s Interior and Exterior & Landscaping.