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When Should You Spend Money on Remodeling?

spending money to remodel

Although it seems like no time since we moved in, next year marks twelve years spent in our current house. Aside from some DIY projects, changing out stained carpet, and having the exterior painted a few years back, we haven’t done any major remodeling. Now it seems several things need updating or repair, the biggest one being our master bathroom. How do you know when it’s time to spend money on remodeling?

Three Questions Before a Major Purchase

As with most big decisions, it’s best to make a list of pros and cons and ask yourself the three big questions everyone should consider before shelling out money.

I’ve seen variations of the big three, but in a nutshell,

1) Is this something I need or will it add value to my life?

In our case, we really don’t need to remodel. I’ve known many families who never update anything. It might not bother them to live continually in 1987, but remodeling our master bathroom would add tremendous value to my life.

2) Do I need it right now?

No, we are not on any sort of time line, but if we did ever decide to list our house, remodeling would have to be done to get top dollar.

3) Is this the best price?

If we did decide to go ahead with a remodel, honestly, we’d probably use our go to contractor. He isn’t the least expensive, but I trust his work and know he would be fair. When doing a home project, sometimes it doesn’t pay to go the cheapest route.

So looking at those answers, we get a mixed bag. Lets move on to the pros and cons.

Pros of Remodeling

Increase in Home Value

Remodeling kitchens and bathrooms generally offer the most bang for your buck. Dollars spent can often return more than 100% back in increased home value. If we sell the house, this is great. If we live in the house for another 10 or more years, this is sort of irrelevant.

Added Comfort and Function

When building our current home, the bar was pretty low. We have some nice finishes in parts of the house, but Jim and I were coming from a very basic starter home. We thought just having a garage and more than one bathroom was fantastic and didn’t really consider layout or design. As a result, we have a huge jetted tub that we don’t use and a small shower that we use every day but hate because of how it’s crammed into the corner. The shower head also does not stop dripping unless you pull Houdini like moves to get the on/off nozzle in the correct position.

Basically, we’d like to trade the giant whirlpool for a smaller soaking tub and make the shower larger with nicer finishes. I know it’s a first world problem, but if we’re going to do it, why not do it right?

Cons of Remodeling


To get our bathroom the way we want, the cost would be substantial, several thousand dollars. Because we’d be moving plumbing, it’s also not something we can do ourselves.

A huge problem with remodeling is the unknown variables. What if the whole room gets torn apart and an unknown problem presents? Also, when you’re in the midst of a stressful project, sometimes you don’t always follow your head when it comes to cost saving measures. What if the tile I want is on back order, but I can have a more expensive one done today?


If you’ve ever lived in a remodeling project, it’s not fun. Having workers trekking around the house for a maybe weeks would suck. I think we’d try to schedule most of the work at a time when  we’re out of town if possible.

When is it Time to Remodel?

I’m not sure if we’re ready to spend money on remodeling. Jim would have done it last summer if I’d been on board, but I’ve become very stingy with money over the last few years. I guess it comes down to how annoying our current situation is, how much we need to spend to get what we want, and how we will fund it. Lot of people take on debt for home repairs or remodels.That’s not always a bad use of money, but we don’t want to go the financing route. It will be paid in full or not at all. At least we should get some awesome credit card points when we finally decide to pull the trigger!

Have you done a major remodeling project? How did you know when the time was right?


About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. We got our master bathroom completely redone about two years ago. It was ok, but knew that if/when we went to sell it’d likely need to have something done to it. We had saved the money for it and have a good friend who is a contractor so that helped us out a lot. We also added a pretty good sized deck this past summer. That one was mainly to add value to our day to day lives and should add something once we go to sell. That being said, I agree, if you’re going to do it – do it right. You’ll be glad you did in the long run.

    • I believe decks are one of the items that can add decent value when selling a home. The fact that you get to enjoy it now was probably reason enough.

  2. Definitely good things to think about. We’re in the same boat of wanting to make a few improvements, but we also have to think about the fact that in 3 (or so) years our house will be a rental. I think the most important thing, at least for us, is the value that we will receive back in rental income for any improvements we may make, as well as making sure to put in quality improvements that will stand up to tenants. Aside from the cost, these are tough decisions!

    • Tenants are funny. The things I think are important are not necessarily what renters look for. I think as long as the kitchen and baths are good, it’s hard to go wrong.

  3. We have done several major remodeling projects. I seriously regret the improvements we made at our old house because we poured so much money into them. Oh well – you live, you learn!

  4. We’re in the middle of a kitchen remodel, so I just finished 5 months of washing dishes in the bathroom. The intermediate result (having a dishwasher in our 1960s kitchen) is definitely worth it, but we’ve still got a way to go, with my husband doing most of the work.
    We knew when we bought our house it needed some work to bring it into the current century, and have had a list of projects on the table for 5 years. It’s nice to see some of them completed, but I like your checklist as a way of prioritizing all of what we left.

  5. Two years ago we did a basic remodel of our bathroom and we’ve never looked back. Our house was built in 1984 and the bathroom had never been updated… It was pretty gross. Now every morning when I get into the shower, I feel like I’m in a hotel and that makes me happy. Our remodel was pretty basic – it involved changing counter tops and sinks, replacing the toilet, ripping out the shower/tub combo and tiling the surround, and installing new fixtures, but it has come a long way. All told we probably spent $4000 but it was well worth it. Good luck with your decision!

    • I think I’ve stayed in too many nice hotels. I always evaluate the hotel bathrooms and think about how nice that would look in my house!

  6. If it makes you feel better I thought your house was beautiful and all updated. You could live in my apt for a week and go back and you’d probably think your house was super fabulous. lol!

    • That does make me feel better, but we hide the master bathroom shower from guests. I hope you didn’t look inside! I know we have a very nice house and I have nothing to complain about.

  7. When we purchased our home, it was 25 years old and I assumed that I would remodel every last inch of the home. Then I decided to start my company and our extra cash went to the business, but I found that things that I thought would bother me when we first found the home, really weren’t a bother once we moved in. It’s easy to convince yourself that you want or need a nice/new home, but it’s really not a necessity and can be a real waste of money if it won’t add value when you go to sell your home.

    • That is certainly the truth. I love the look of custom finishes, but getting stock from Home Depot looks about as nice and works equally well.

  8. We’re in the midst of a long remodel that is hopefully coming to in end in the next few weeks. One the rooms we redid was our master bathroom and in doing so we uncovered a pretty significant problem. I’m not happy about the extra cost, but it could have been a huge safety issue that we wouldn’t have realized until the damage was done, so in that respect, I am grateful that they uncovered the problem. Remodeling is always tough because in many instances, it not so much a necessity but more a want, which isn’t wrong or bad. But it can make it tough to know when to pull the trigger and spend the money. Like you, I consider whether the remodel will improve my life, add value to the home and we can afford it. If those three criteria are meet, than I don’t mind making the investment, even if I will likely have a migraine throughout the process. 🙂

  9. We’ve had other financial priorities, so we’ve only fixed what needed fixing. One day, it’d be cool to have a bigger tub (assuming we could actually configure the bathroom differently so there’s room). And at some point I want to tile our shower stall. It’s pretty tiny, especially since we shower together, so getting rid of the shell could mean an extra 2″ of much-needed space. And of course, it’d look nicer.

    But we have no plans to move up house-wise. So any remodeling will be done solely for our own enjoyment. Which makes decisions a lot easier, really.

  10. Our house is only 8 years old so we haven’t done anything. We may finish our basement in 3 years when I get some extra time. I have watched my parents go through two major remodels on their house that both cost more than the original cost of their house back in the mid-70’s. None of them came in with cost or on time. This last one came in almost double the estimate. I love watching the remodel shows on TV but really wonder how “added value” comes in when you don’t intend to sell. Always good to think it over and evaluate the want versus need aspect of remodels.

    • If you never intend to sell, I think your house should be just as you like it, even if that’s not what trends say should happen. In our case, I don’t think we’ll sell for a while, but we have been tempted a time or two. I’d like to at least keep up with some upgrades so if we did decide to move, we wouldn’t have to do everything all at once.

  11. IT is definitely first world problems, but if you plan to get a higher resale value it is worth it. If you plan to never resell it, then at least you will feel at ease and not cramped. Its a win – win. Get a few estimates, and don’t pay for it full up front. I say do it.

    • It does seem sort of silly to talk about remodeling when lots of people don’t have adequate shelter. I am certainly spoiled.

  12. Well we did some massive “remodeling” of our yard this Summer when I built our 40 foot retaining wall and moved 12 cubic yards of dirt…..but as far as interior we need to basically do everything. We bought a house that is definitely a fixer-upper that is basically outdated in every way. We’ve done some cheap/low pressure renovations with new light fixtures, paint, etc., but we need some major renovations done. Our bathroom is in a pitiful state and it’s going to be our first project. I was anxious to do it a year or so ago but now we’ve fallen in love with throwing money into our investment account…which obviously makes us think “how long can we put this off???” The longer we can ‘live with’ the old/outdated aspects of our home, the more money we can throw into investments. I think we’ll eventually hit a point where we know “now is the time” but there is so much value in putting things off!

    • I know the feeling. It’s so hard to put investing goals on hold to remodel, but you do get to the point when it has to be done.

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