Boost your home's value

To make your renovation dollar go furthest, focus on the part of the house everyone sees first.

2 of 5
Get yourself a deck
Get yourself a deck
Payback: 73% to 82% for a mid-range project

Cost: $11,000 to $37,000 for a 16-foot-by-20-foot wood or composite deck

When it makes sense: You live anywhere but the most frigid states.

Best way to do it: Go for cedar. "You can't find a better-looking wood," says Eric Stalemark, a contractor and founder of "Cedar also smells beautiful, and it'll last you 15 to 20 years." And when it's time to sell, wood returns the most money of any material. If staining and sealing every two years isn't your thing, however, select a composite that looks like wood but doesn't require the elbow grease.

Caveat: So that your hardware won't wear out before your decking does, you'll need to spring for stainless-steel screws and bolts.

Cost-saving move: Have a contractor dig the footing and build the frame (the hardest part), and then finish the job yourself. "A do-it-yourselfer can easily put a floor on the deck and install a railing and some stairs," Stalemark says. You'll save 50% to 60% of the labor costs.

NEXT: Buy new windows
Last updated February 20 2009: 8:42 AM ET
More Galleries
8 great summer vacation deals Want the perfect summer getaway? MONEY searched for destinations with balmy weather, unique attractions, fun stuff to do, and great deals from four different categories: beach, mountain, culture and city. More
Best ways to catch up on your retirement savings Even the most financially responsible people make a few mistakes or run into obstacles along the way. These tips -- from cutting taxes to selling securities -- can preserve a safe retirement. More
Nearing retirement? Fortify your finances Your financial goals are within reach. Here are tips and tools to make sure you achieve them. More

Special Offer

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.