Top 10 Spring Home Improvements with the Best ROI: Costs, Pros & Cons

Home improvement in the spring is all about getting outdoors, enhancing the exterior of your home, and improving its curb appeal for the upcoming summer months and rest of the year. “Why bother with the curb appeal?”, you may ask. Well, curb appeal normally ties in with the greater enjoyment of your home, as well as better return on investment or ROI for your property.

The obvious considerations are landscaping improvements. Half of our list is devoted to those type of projects and the other half are home exterior and structural improvements. In a few instances, an update or inspection may be all that is needed, but since that may lead to a significant upgrade, it has made our list.

Landscaping Improvements

1. Improving Yard Drainage

via Dry Creek Bed

The need for this improvement stems from the obvious over saturation of water on your property. Soggy yards are not only hard to navigate through but can damage turf. If not addressed, the problem is likely to worsen. The worst-case scenario occurs when water collects near your home and, over a period of time, negatively impacts your foundation, possibly leading to a leaky basement.

The solution is as simple as using gravity to slope water from one spot to another spot, or to multiple spots. There are several methods to tackle the solution, and often a combination of steps is the best approach.

An obvious place to start is making sure your home’s drainage system is in working order. Clean gutters and downspouts, which is a great project to tackle each spring. After this, make sure the lower end of the downspout is directing water a good distance away from your home’s foundation. Ideally, you are directing the water to the yard’s drainage system for further discharge or distribution.

Yard drainage takes a bit of ingenuity and combines that with scientific principles. A landscaping contractor has experience to implement a solution that will work best for your property, or ones just like it. The basics though, are to make note of troubled spots, observe how water moves or remains stagnant over all areas of your property and come up with plan of action. A diagram or site plan that focuses on terrain and water movement (via arrows) can be of tremendous help.

From here, it is then about grading or sloping the property as one possible way to tackle the problem. Alternative and well tested solutions use various drainage devices to move water either off the property or around it, so distribution is as even as possible.

Cost: On average, improving yard drainage will range in cost from $2,250 to $5,500 for a typical project. The higher price accounts for additional underground devices that may be used in the sloping. Much of the cost deals with labor to pay for someone to do the work that goes with grading and digging.

Pros: Less areas on your property that are swampy, reassurances that foundation will not be inundated with water, redistribution of water offers better growth within various regions of your land – such that gardens can be had where previously they may have been ruled out.

Cons: Very little curb appeal with this project, creates an additional area of ongoing maintenance though that ought to be offset by the fact that an original problem is no longer a factor.

Additional consideration: ROI is between negligible and non-existent for this project because you are fixing a flaw more than upgrading an existing an aspect of your property. The next buyer of your home expects drainage to be in working order.

2. Installing a Sprinkler System

via TriState Water Works

The first project was about removing or redirecting water from your property, this one is about adding it for irrigation purposes. Gotta love the irony. A sprinkler system though seeks to effectively distribute water in an even fashion and remain unnoticeable when not in use.

Positioning sprinkler heads, digging trenches for underground pipes or hoses, and maintaining turf integrity are all tasks best left to a landscaping professional. While you can save on labor costs, the potential to do things incorrectly or worse, damage your property outweighs the costs that it takes to hire and pay for a landscaping crew to do this job.

Cost: Prices for fully installed sprinkler systems range from $2,000 to $5,500. Size of your property, labor for digging up and later restoring those areas, along with quality of the system account for most of the cost.

Pros: The return on investment for this project isn’t best measured in monetary value. It’s a hidden improvement that has little curb appeal other than a well irrigated yard. But the return is still significant. Coupled with a yard drainage system, your yard will flourish for a long time to come and will no longer require you to lug a hose around spending 20 minutes daily on manual irrigation.

Cons: It’s expensive when compared to the desire some get from spending 20 minutes daily on manual irrigation. Plus, if something in the system is not working properly, it can be challenging to determine the problem or expensive to fix it.

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BiPV Solar Shingles Cost vs. PV Solar Panels on Traditional Rooftops

Wait, What’s A Solar Shingle?

The technical acronym: BiPV stands for Building Integrated Photovoltaics. Simply put, embedding solar cell technology into building materials. For our purposes, we stick to roofing materials, or what is known as the solar shingle and/or solar tile. Especially, since these are the type of BiPV products being designed for the residential roofing and solar market.

If needing a quick refresher on solar technology (the PV part of the equation), see our piece on solar panels. There we note that solar tech is moving in a direction to product “enough electricity to power not just a few appliances, but an entire home, including transportation.” Here, we’ll show you how.

Difference between the Solar Shingles and Panels

First key difference is size. Panels are, or can be, huge. This translates into more solar modules (and cells) being installed on the roof than a shingle can currently offer.

Which leads to the next difference, power. A solar shingle produces around 15 to 60 watts, while a crystalline PV panel, typically 18 sq. ft. generates about 250 watts.

High efficiency solar panels from companies like LG, Panasonic, and SunPower can generate up to 400 watts per panel. In general, this means that a residential PV solar panel system will produce more electricity than a BiPV shingle system.

Then there’s the elegance factor. Not only are panels big and powerful, they’re big and cumbersome. They are adhered to a roof after careful surveying to make sure the structure of the (whole) house can handle the weight. Usually rack mounted, so they stand out above the roof surface. Noticeably stand out.

Solar shingles are usually near flush with the existing roof structure and becoming more of an option to be the actual roof structure with a beauty that mimics traditional roofing.

At the time of this writing, solar shingles have a metallic finish that is distinguishable from the rest of your roof, but still less noticeable than panels.

The bottom-line difference is that currently panels are more efficient and cost effective than shingles.

While shingles are more aesthetically pleasing and gaining traction to be the primary way anyone would choose to do solar power generation on their own residence.

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Average Roof Lifespan – How Long Does a Roof Last?

When estimating the average roof lifespan, don’t go by the warranty!

Roofing material warranty lengths have little to do with how long the roof will last. That’s reality.

An asphalt shingle with a 25-year warranty will look terrible in 20 years. Some shingles come with a “lifetime” warranty, “lol”.

A better way to ask the question is, “how long will that roof look good?” And yes, “how long will it keep out rain?” is obviously worth considering. The answers will be about the same number of years.

This no-nonsense guide gives you the real-life answers to the question – How long do shingles vs metal vs slate vs wood shakes, etc., last? Keep reading for the answers.

Most Common Roof Types and their Lifespans

Here’s the overview followed by a deep dive on the longevity of all roofing materials and options within them, such as 3-tab vs architectural vs premium asphalt shingles.

  • Asphalt Shingles – 12 to 30 years
  • Steel – 30 to 60 years
  • Aluminum – 40 to 70 years
  • Zinc – 70 to 100+ years
  • Copper – 100+ years
  • Cedar Shakes and Shingles – 25 to 40 years
  • Slate – 50 to “Forever”
  • Clay Tiles – 50 to 100 years
  • Concrete Tiles – 40 to 80 years
  • Synthetic Composite and Rubber Shingles – 20 to 50 years
  • Green or Vegetative Roofs – Up to 40 years
  • Flat Roofs – 10 to 40 years

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