Here’s what homeowners are spending on kitchens, baths, decks, and more

Home Improvement
Homeowners spent an average of $57,172 in 2017 for professionals to handle their major kitchen remodels. Adobe Stock

Wondering how much home equity you’d need to remodel your kitchen, or how much to budget for a new bathroom if you make an offer on that fixer-upper? New home improvement spending data compiled by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies can provide some real-world numbers to get you in the right neighborhood.

Americans reported spending an average of $57,172 in 2017 for professionals to handle their major kitchen remodels, for example, and $9,582 for them to do a minor makeover.

The cost of a do-it-yourself kitchen remodel, by comparison, was $3,406 for a modest upgrade and $26,682 for a full renovation — a savings of more than $30,000 over hiring a contractor. (Whether you have the skill sets to do the remodel is a discussion for another day.)

Not surprisingly, that trend held up across most types of home improvements. “A DIY project will be about a third of the cost, on average,” said Abbe Will, associate project director of the JCHS Remodeling Futures program.

A major bathroom remodel averaged $30,435 when performed by a pro, but just $12,305 when homeowners did most of the work themselves, for a savings of more than $18,000, according to the report. And a minor bath upgrade cost $5,021 to complete professionally, but just $1,788 for the DIY variety.

About 1.7 million US homeowners installed a deck, porch, patio, or terrace in 2017. More than half hired a professional to do the work, paying an average of $8,407. (That’s roughly in line with the $8,713 Angie’s List says is the average cost of a new deck in Boston.) Those who did the job themselves spent a more modest $2,844.

The study classifies projects like kitchens, baths, and new decks as discretionary improvements, as opposed to replacement work such as installing a new roof or furnace. “It’s more fun to spend the money on those types of projects than a new roof, which is important and necessary, but not exciting,” Will said.

In the decade since the housing crisis, discretionary projects have lagged behind more practical replacement spending, as the overall housing stock continues to age. “During the downturn, all that discretionary work disappeared. Homeowners were putting off those projects they didn’t think they needed to do. But you can’t put off a roof replacement forever,” Will said.

But discretionary improvements have been making a comeback as the economy improves and home values rise, providing both an incentive to invest in one’s property and the equity to finance such projects.

Kitchens and baths are also the types of projects homeowners are more likely to try tackling themselves, Will said — at least in part. “They’re just more comfortable doing the sink or tub replacement or the tile work or flooring. Those are more manageable projects compared to some of the exterior replacement projects,” Will said. “Not many homeowners are going to want to get up on the roof or are skilled enough to do it safely or competently.”

While 44 percent of reported kitchen remodels were performed by the homeowners themselves, only 15 percent of HVAC-related work was DIY. “Certainly anything related to HVAC or electrical, you’re not going to see the typical homeowner doing that kind of work too often,” Will said. “And in some cases it’s just really necessary to have a professional do that type of work.” (There were no data on the cost of a DIY septic tank installation, for what I hope are obvious reasons.)

As a homeowner, these average expenditures can give you a ballpark idea of what to expect when planning a big home improvement project — and whether it’s worth trying to tackle the job yourself. Just remember that these figures are national averages, so you may pay more in the Boston area — or save more, if you take the DIY route. “Ultimately if you’re doing a professional job, a huge part of that spending will be for labor,” Will said, the cost of which tends to be higher in expensive metro areas like Boston.

Project (by a pro, unless noted)

Average expenditure

Siding replacement


Roof replacement


Major kitchen remodel


Major kitchen remodel (DIY)


Major bath remodel


Major bath remodel (DIY)


Central air conditioning


Deck, porch, patio, or terrace


Bedroom addition


Insulation (overall average)


Water heater (overall average)


Septic tank


Garage or carport


Jon Gorey blogs about homes at Send comments to Follow him on Twitter at @jongorey. Subscribe to our free real estate newsletter at