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Top Home Improvement Projects for Adding Value to Your Home

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The home improvement projects that add the most value to your home may not actually be the first ones that comes to mind. Most frequently we tend to think of cosmetic projects, like installing granite countertops, or wrought iron banisters. However, in the long run, basic home maintenance projects actually hold more value than cosmetic updates. Home improvement projects that create the most value vary by region, but there are some general rules of thumb. Projects that replace old components with upgraded, functionally superior products of the same nature (think doors, windows, and siding) tend to bring the highest return on investment. Kitchen remodels are the exception when it comes to cosmetic projects. They are on-par with replacing siding, recouping almost 92% of cost in resale value (based on a $15,000 remodel).

Real estate professionals estimate the average return on investment for home improvements in 2016 was 6.7% higher than 2015. With projects costing an average of 4.7% more, that still leaves a 2% net gain for home improvement projects this year. It's also estimated that around 60% of home buyers begin a home improvement project within the first six months of owning a home. A project's payoff is also adjusted by typical factors including home value, location and projected market growth, and it's best to scale investments appropriately.

If your roof, siding, windows, and plumbing are all up-to-par, consider these three home improvements to get the most out of your investment:

Manufactured Stone Veneer

Manufactured stone has come a long way from its beginnings and today's veneers give fireplaces, home exteriors, and landscaping the look of real stone at a fraction of the cost—and packs a hard ROI punch. Homeowners who invested in manufactured stone veneer reaped an estimated 92.9% return.

The mass of full-weight stone makes it hard to transport and puts more strain on both walls and foundation. Artificial (manufactured) stone veneers work like wood veneers, covering a surface to make it appear as though real stone has been used on the entire structure. Made of cement laced with mineral oxide pigments, there is little difference in the durability and look of manufactured stone when compared to natural stone.

Home exteriors are the most common way to utilize stone veneers in home improvement projects. Accent siding with a few feet of stone along the lower-third of an exterior wall or at the base of outdoor pillars. Instead of painting old stone to give it a facelift, veneers are a great way to mask an outdated fireplace while keeping a natural stone look.

Installation abides by the same rules as traditional stone masonry. Modular panels fit together to cover surface area quickly. Panels are bonded to base surfaces using a polymer modified mortar for both the bond coat and joint fill grout.

Fiberglass Attic Insulation

Americans consume 25% of the world's energy, accounting for just 5% of global population. Energy efficiency in homes is becoming a larger factor in both new home construction and improvement projects for existing homes. The U.S. government offers tax credits on home updates that increase a home's energy efficiency, from furnaces to light bulbs and yes, improving insulation.

Insulation improves a home's ability to keep cold air in during summer months and warm air in during winter. It puts less strain on your HVAC or heat pump systems, prolonging their longevity and reducing a home's energy consumption. Effective insulation lowers utility bills and helps keep your carbon footprint in check.

Attics are one of the biggest culprits of potential heat loss, especially in older homes. Fiberglass attic insulation is one of the few home improvements in which homeowners actually made money in the purchase and installation according to the Remodeling's Cost vs. Value 2016 report. The report found the addition of fiberglass attic insulation to be the only home improvement project to generate a return of greater than 100%, estimating the project will bring in $116.90 in return for every $100 spent. Refunds through tax credits compound ROI even more.

Insulated materials are rated based on their ability to resist heat flow (the opposite of conductivity) and are measured with an R-value. Materials with a higher R-values are better insulators.Loose-fill fiberglass insulation is a great alternative to cellulose. During installation, an application machine conditions fiberglass insulation by breaking it up, adding tiny pockets of air that all act as insulators. Layers are blown over existing insulation until the desired R-value is achieved.

Entry Door Replacement

Replacing a home's entry door with either a steel or fiberglass model topped Remodel's list of home improvements with the best ROI. Solid wood doors expand and contract with temperature change. If your front door is hard to open and shut during winter months, but works like a charm in the summer, you probably have gaps between the door and door jambs. These gaps leak airn, meaning your heating and cooling systems have to work harder to keep your home comfortable (causing the same issues as faulty insulation). Condensation between window panes (if your door has them) is another sign your door needs to be replacement. Water build-up is especially concerning in older doors that have a wood core because mold and mildew are likely the byproducts of trapped condensation. If mildew spreads throughout the wood core, it could create a nightmare mold problem throughout an entire home.

In both fiberglass and steel doors, curb appeal can be added with energy efficient windows or dutch split doors. Both materials are incredibly durable and built to last. Fiberglass doors are engineered with energy efficiency in mind and most are ENERGY STAR rated. Due to the nature of the material, they won't expand and contract like wood doors, but can be stained on both sides to look like real wood, adding instant curb appeal Steel doors also come with the option of a woodgrain finish and are significantly more energy efficient than wood doors. Different glaze options layer on higher R-values and many options are more affordable than wood doors. Steel doors are also the best option if security is a factor.

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