The improving U.S. economy has homeowners opening up their pocketbooks, according to the seventh annual Houzz & Home survey of nearly 150,000 respondents. About 51 percent of homeowners who use Houzz say they plan to begin or continue renovations, with kitchens and bathrooms representing a major area for home improvement.

“All of the evidence from our research points to 2018 likely being another robust year for the home improvement industry,” said Nino Sitchinava, Houzz principal economist. “Recent buyers and long-term homeowners alike are keen on investing in major projects. Kitchens and bathrooms continue to fuel spend, while exterior features and systems, such as home security and automation, are on the rise.”

According to Houzz, remodeling activity and spending was strong in 2017. About 58 percent of homeowners renovated their residences at a median cost of $15,000.

Kitchens and bathrooms topped the list of remodels for both renovation frequency and spending in 2017, with nearly one-third of renovating homeowners redoing their kitchens (31 percent), followed by guest bathrooms (27 percent). At 24 percent, master bathrooms overtook living/family rooms as the third most popular room to renovate.

Tom Salmetow, salesperson at Michigan Shower Door & Mirror Co. Inc. in Livingston County, Mich., says that master bathrooms are more popular than guest bedrooms for shower door installations in the area. European-style shower doors are a popular choice.

“People like the clean, frameless look. Clear glass and the barn door-style hardware with exposed rollers are popular.”

Circle Glass in Fairfax, Va., started installing shower doors in 2008. Since then the company has dedicated an entire truck to shower door installations, with another for window glass and another for both.

“People are choosing frameless units for the new, clean look,” says Jordan Marquess, office worker at Circle Glass.

He and Salmetow agree that all-glass shower doors will be used increasingly in bathroom renovations going forward.

Home exterior upgrades, which include new doors and windows, represented 59 percent of renovation activity in 2017. Windows or skylights were 22 percent of all exterior upgrades, while exterior doors represented 21 percent of those projects.

Professionals in Demand

Nearly nine in ten homeowners chose to hire a professional for renovation needs (88 percent). As demand climbs for systems and exterior feature upgrades, homeowners are more likely to hire specialty service providers to complete work without the involvement of a construction manager, such as a general contractor or builder (51 percent in 2017 versus 44 percent in 2015).

However, professionals who specialize in doors and windows only represented about 6 percent of those hired directly by homeowners (the survey doesn’t include specialists who might have been hired by construction managers as subcontractors on projects).

Houston, Los Angeles Lead Spending Gains

Median spending on home renovations in the Houston metro area increased by 60 percent, from $15,000 in 2016 to $24,000 in 2017, following the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey. That represented the fourth-highest level of spending among the top 50 U.S. metros last year.

“Houston’s rebuilding activity has brought the city’s median renovation spend up to one of the highest in the nation, while coastal cities maintain nearly double the median national spend,” said Sitchinava. “We expect the momentum to continue in 2018.”

After Houston, the second-largest increase in median spending was in the Los Angeles metro area, where it rose by 25 percent from $20,000 in 2016 to $25,000 in 2017. Houzz said the increase is likely driven in part by the Southern California wildfires. In fact, natural disasters are cited more frequently as a reason for renovation in 2017 (six percent) as compared with prior years (four percent).

Median spending tends to be highest in major coastal cities with San Jose ($30,000), San Francisco ($25,000) and Miami ($21,000) making the top five list, along with Houston and Los Angeles. In contrast, Columbus, Ohio, accounts for the lowest median renovation spending among the top 50 metros at $10,000.

The Houzz & Home Survey was sent to registered users of Houzz and fielded in March-April 2018. The full U.S. report is available here.