Home improvement is the process of renovating or altering a house. It can involve adding, repairing or replacing elements such as windows, roofs, kitchens and bathrooms. It can also involve making rooms more energy efficient by installing new insulation or upgrading heating and air conditioning systems.
Some home improvement projects are purely cosmetic, while others may add value to the house. Some projects require attention to detail, such as painting or staining woodwork. Others are more complex and time consuming, such as remodeling a kitchen or installing a new bathroom. Homeowners often hire professionals to complete major renovations.
In the United States, home improvement is a multibillion dollar industry and one of the most popular consumer industries. The home improvement industry comprises a number of segments, including remodeling contractors, building supply retailers and manufacturers of appliances, cabinets and fixtures. In addition, professional home improvement services are provided by interior designers, landscapers and plumbers. Home improvement is a crucial industry to the economy because it creates jobs in construction, retail and wholesale trades, as well as in real estate and finance.
According to the American Housing Survey (AHS), homeowners reported spending more than 50 percent more on home improvements than they did during the last recession in 2010, with older households driving most of that increase. Almost half of all AHS respondents were 55 and older, who spent 45 percent more on home improvements than did other owners.
The emergence of home improvement television shows, such as Bob Vila’s This Old House and Trading Spaces, further promoted DIY home improvement. These shows helped blur the lines between traditionally male dominated areas of home improvement, such as carpentry work, and the largely female spheres of decorating and design. A strong interest in antiques and historical styles also contributed to the expansion of the industry, as did a desire by consumers to customize their homes in accordance with a unique aesthetic.
When hiring a contractor, consumers should always get bids from multiple firms and compare prices, experience, reputation and licensing information. Consumers should also ask about warranties and whether the firm is insured. A contract should state the name and address of the firm; the contact person; a description of the job to be performed; a detailed price breakdown; a start and completion date; the amount of the down payment; and the total cost of the project. A written estimate should also include a disclosure that any dispute between the contractor and consumer will be settled by mandatory arbitration.
Some projects should be done to protect the safety and health of the family, such as addressing electrical or plumbing problems, or improving the condition of a crumbling foundation. Others should be made with an eye toward resale value, such as adding a master suite or converting the basement into a living area. Talking to a real estate agent about specific home improvements that will add value is a good idea before beginning the work.