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5 Driveway Improvement Ideas

Consider the standard unsung driveway at most U.S. homes. Could it pave the way to something better? While the primary function of driveways is usually parking, they can also offer recreation space for children and pets, increase property values, and enhance curb appeal.

Both building and maintaining a driveway are costs of owning a home that could benefit from financial planning and weighing options for materials, location, and design. Here’s a breakdown of key driveway ideas to help make your home improvement dream a reality.

1. Choosing a New Surface

Figuring out what material to use is a logical starting point when approaching new driveway ideas.

The chosen surface will affect the project’s cost in terms of the material itself, labor to install it, and how it will be maintained for years to come. The local climate is another factor to consider, as it plays into the durability and drainage of certain surface materials.

Let’s take a closer look at the pros, cons, and considerations for some popular driveway surfaces, including what to budget for.


Asphalt is a leading material used for roads and driveways alike for several reasons. The smooth finish to asphalt can present a polished look that is also easy to clean. At the same time, it offers good traction for vehicles, which is a big plus for sloped driveways in particular.

Asphalt comes with some downsides, too. The leading concerns stem from frequency and cost of long-term maintenance, as resurfacing is recommended every two years. Runoff is another potential issue, but adding drainage and landscaping to capture water can help remedy the environmental impact.

The local climate can play a role in picking a material, too. Generally, asphalt is better than other surfaces in colder climates. Specifically, it is advantageous for snow plowing and handling freezing temperatures and ice. Think of it as a way of winterizing your property.

On average, asphalt costs from $7 to $13 per square foot, and much of the price can be attributed to the labor and heavy machinery required.


Given its prevalent use in public sidewalks, it may come as no surprise that concrete is also a popular material for driveways.

On the positive side, concrete driveways can be installed quickly, offer good traction, and may last for several decades with proper maintenance, such as annual resealing to prevent cracks. Concrete is also well suited for warmer climates because it doesn’t hold heat as long as asphalt.

Conversely, concrete is not the cheapest material and can be prone to runoff, which is a concern for homeowners in regions with heavy precipitation.

Concrete driveways may range from $4 to $15 per square foot, with an average cost of $6 per square foot, according to HomeAdvisor. Factors that may increase costs include removing an existing driveway or adding reinforcement, which may be necessary if heavy vehicles like RVs are present.

Concrete requires less machinery and is safer to work with than asphalt, so construction-savvy homeowners with smaller driveways may opt to install the component concrete slabs themselves to see further savings.

If concrete doesn’t sound like the ideal aesthetic, there are options to customize a driveway to your liking. Spruce-ups include using stained or tinted concrete, adding a decorative stone border, and integrating a patchwork of unpaved greenery, which can also help with drainage.

Recommended: Home Renovation and Remodeling Cost Calculator


Gravel may vary in composition and rock type, but generally speaking, it can be thought of as a mixture of loose stone. It is a common material used in pathways and playgrounds but can be applied to driveways as well.

Of all the surface options, gravel is typically the cheapest and most DIY-friendly. The cost varies by the need to clear land and type of stone, but the expected price is roughly $1 to $2 per square foot without serious excavation.

Though gravel driveways can require some topping up and reconfiguration as stones move around, it is incredibly durable and does not need costly maintenance.

Gravel may be well suited for a rustic aesthetic in rural areas, but it may be less appropriate or feasible in more urban areas and housing developments. Furthermore, gravel may not lend itself to shoveling and plowing snow from the driveway without clearing away stone.

To determine the total gravel needed, a general rule of thumb is to have at least 4 inches of coverage, though more may be necessary for extra drainage.

Stone and Brick

Stone and brick have been used for roads and as building materials for centuries.

Using stone and brick for a driveway can create a historic and refined appearance and raise the property value. Also, the ability to integrate patterns, design elements, and colors into the stone or brickwork can complement the design of a home more than other materials might.

Beyond the visual appeal, the materials can endure for decades, and maintenance can be done one stone or brick at a time instead of resealing or paving the entire surface.

The primary drawback of stone or brick driveways is cost of materials and installation. Depending on the quality of stone or brick, expect to pay between $10 and $30 per square foot. Higher-end stones can fetch a significantly heftier price tag.

Permeable Pavement

Recent advances in engineering have made permeable paved surfaces an affordable reality for parking lots, roadways, and driveways.

Permeable pavement can come in several forms, including porous asphalt and pervious concrete. The pores drain water to the stone bed below, helping the water filtrate toxins naturally instead of running off to pollute waterways via storm drains.

The majority of benefits of asphalt and concrete apply, but permeable pavement can be slightly more expensive to install and needs to be vacuumed with professional-grade equipment every one or two years to remove debris and sediment from the pores. Often, permeable-pavement companies offer vacuuming and inspection services after installation.

In addition to the environmental benefits, homeowners may be eligible for tax rebates and other financial incentives from their local government for pursuing the greener option.

For instance, Palo Alto, California, has a rebate of $1.50 per square foot of permeable pavement installed.

Recommended: 7 Important Factors That Affect Property Value

2. Landscaping

Whether updating a driveway or building a new one, driveway ideas extend beyond the surface itself. Landscaping can be tied in with the project to beautify the space and reduce runoff.

Depending on how ambitious the project is, you may be able to handle part or all of the landscaping yourself. While this is an opportunity to have fun and be creative, maintenance is another important consideration.

For example, choosing perennial plants that regenerate each year and shrubs that will not quickly outgrow the space could add color and greenery without putting hedge trimming and spring planting on your to-do list.

Planting perennial species that develop deep root systems, such as black-eyed Susan and bee balm, can increase the garden’s ability to hold water and prevent flooding. This could also mitigate one of the most common home repair costs — foundation repair. In some cases, those repairs could cost up to $40,000.

3. Adding Lighting

Changing up the lighting in and around the driveway area can create a more stylized setting, as well as enhance safety and functionality for entering and leaving the home.

When choosing the type of lighting, you may want to consider the upfront cost of the unit and operational expenses of electricity and replacement. LED lights are a sustainable and cost-effective driveway idea for the long run, thanks to greater efficiency and a longer lifespan than incandescent and CFL bulbs.

Installing a combination of accent and overhead lighting allows the option to adjust the setting with the flip of a switch. Syncing the lighting with either motion sensors or timers can lower the electric bill and reduce light pollution to keep the neighbors happy.

4. Building a Gate

Topping off a driveway improvement with a gate is another way to highlight a home’s curb appeal and improve safety.

Gates may provide peace of mind by giving control of who enters the home. They can also help ensure that children and pets have a safe area to play in without worry of them venturing into the street.

Convenience and safety can also be added by prominently featuring the house number on the gate or pillar structure, which may help visitors and emergency services find the home more easily.

Spatial considerations, such as distance to the road, driveway width, and landscaping, will influence whether a sliding or swinging gate or vertical lift gate makes the most sense.

5. Maintaining the Driveway

A driveway is an investment, and taking proper care can help retain its value and reduce maintenance costs over time.

Depending on the type of driveway, here are some general measures to stay on top of upkeep:

•   Seal the driveway as recommended to prevent cracks.

•   Remove weeds from cracks in the surface.

•   Clean and fill cracks.

•   Fill in pothole depressions caused by heavy vehicles.

For colder climates, taking care of ice is important for personal safety and driveway maintenance alike. Removing snow promptly and spreading sand, salt, or a de-icing agent helps with traction and prevents ice from forming in driveway cracks.

Checking Local Permitting and Zoning

Local governments and homeowner associations (HOA) may have zoning and permitting guidelines that dictate where a driveway can be placed and what it can look like.

A zoning requirement could specify that a driveway must be at least 5 feet from the property line or that an expansion of an existing driveway requires zoning board approval.

HOA rules can be stricter and more specific. They might govern the type of surface material, adjacent landscaping, and ability to install a gate.

Checking that your desired improvements comply with such regulation could save time, money, and frustration.

Paying for Driveway Improvements

Deciding how to pay for driveway improvements is another important step. Like most home repairs, fixing the driveway could become more expensive as the problem gets worse.

Unexpected repair costs can do a number on a monthly budget. In fact, only 4 in 10 Americans would pay a $1,000 surprise expense from their savings, borrowing that money instead.

If you fall into this category, you still have options. Instead of depleting your savings account or pushing it off for future credit card payments, personal loans could spare you the high interest rates.

For revamping or building a driveway, a home improvement loan is another option to consider.

SoFi offers home improvement loans that don’t require home equity as collateral. Additionally, fixed-rate payments can help keep you on track and align with your budget.

Need to give your driveway a facelift? Learn how a home improvement loan from SoFi could make it happen.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see Equal Housing Lender.


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When Should You Replace Home Appliances?

Home appliances can be expensive, so you definitely want to get the entire life out of them before you replace them. At a certain point, however, it can make more financial sense to replace a broken appliance than to pay to have it repaired. Where do you draw the line? Read on to learn how long your major home appliances should last, plus signs that it may be time to replace them.

Before Replacing Anything

Before you replace any appliance you believe is beyond repair, you’ll want to make certain the appliance is no longer under warranty. Calling the manufacturer before shelling out cash for something new when the old one might still be under warranty is a good place to start.

Beyond the manufacturer’s warranty, there may be other options for appliance replacement. Some homeowners may have a home warranty, which acts as a sort of supplemental insurance on appliances in the home that homeowner’s insurance doesn’t typically cover.

It’s important to understand the details of the home warranty to make sure all the rules are followed to have the repair or replacement covered. Another option may be to have a small amount of money saved to cover any potential repairs or replacement that will certainly come up sooner or later.

Recommended: What Are the Most Common Home Repair Costs?

Replacing Common Home Appliances


Typical lifespan: The average lifespan of a dishwasher should be about 10 years. However, that doesn’t mean everyone will get a decade of bliss with their appliance. About 30% of all newly purchased dishwashers are likely to develop problems or break within the first five years.

Cost to replace: The average cost, with installation, of a new dishwasher is $970. Low-end models can run as little as $250, however, while high-end dishwashers can run over $2,000.

Signs of wear and tear: Typical signs a dishwasher is in need of a little care include leaking, door-latching problems, dishes coming out spotty, or the machine making unusual noises, among other things.

How to make it last longer: Reading the instruction manual and heeding the advice on cleaning the appliance and replacing the appropriate filters is the recommended best practice to get the most years of use out of the unit.


Typical lifespan: The average lifespan of a refrigerator is about 10 to 15 years. However, like dishwashers, fridges also tend to come with some issues at the five-year mark.

Cost to replace: The average cost to purchase a refrigerator is $600 to $2,300, not including installation cost (which can run $75 to $200).

Signs of wear and tear: Signs of typical wear and tear include a fridge that is hot to the touch in the back, visible condensation (inside or outside of the unit), excessive frost in the freezer, and unusual noises.

How to make it last longer: Refrigerators should be cleaned regularly to keep them in tip-top shape. This means going deep by keeping door gaskets and condenser coils clean. Since a refrigerator needs space around it to operate efficiently, keeping the top of the unit clear of clutter is important. If the fridge has an ice maker or water filter, cleaning them regularly will keep them in good working order.

Recommended: The Ultimate House Maintenance Checklist


Typical lifespan: The typical lifespan of a kitchen stove and oven — sometimes simply referred to as a range — are dependent on whether it is electric or gas. Electric ranges typically last 13 years, while gas ranges should last 15 years.

Cost to replace: The price of a new oven and stove combo can range from $600 to $1,300, without installation (which can run $100 to $300).

Signs of wear and tear: Usual signs of wear and tear on a range can include visible cracks in the top, lack of heat on either the cooktop or in the oven, and control panel issues.

How to make it last longer: Making a range last longer through regular cleanings is a consumer’s best bet (are you seeing a theme yet?). Beyond the exterior, also make sure to clean the fans, filters, and oven interior.

Recommended: What Is the Average Cost to Remodel a Kitchen?

Washing Machine

Typical lifespan: The average lifespan of a washing machine is 10 to 13 years, though some brands claim their machines have an even longer lifespan than that. Still, about 30% of all newly purchased washers are likely to develop problems or completely break within the first five years.

Cost to replace: The cost to replace a washing machine can run between $700 and $1,300. Like the other appliances listed, the cost to install a new washer will likely cost extra.

Signs of wear and tear: Typical signs a washing machine is on its way out include leaks on the floor, unusual sounds, and water no longer filling the internal drum.

How to make it last longer: Beyond the normal cleanings, it’s also important to ensure a washing machine stays balanced, meaning make sure it stays level. After years of loads, it might toss and turn a bit, so leveling it every now and then can pay off. And, of course, regular maintenance like checking hoses and connections, checking for clogs, and ensuring filters are clear are recommended maintenance tasks.

Recommended: How to Pay for Emergency Home Repairs, So You Can Move on ASAP


Typical lifespan: Like the washer, the dryer, too, should last about 10 years. However, as with other appliances, about 20% of all newly purchased dryers are likely to develop problems or break within the first five years.

Cost to replace: A new dryer can cost between $500 and $2,100, depending on the energy source (without installation). Like everything else on this list, dryer prices can vary greatly depending on size and features. On average, gas dryers tend to cost about $100 less than electric dryers.

Signs of wear and tear: Some signs it may be time to look into either fixing an existing dryer or buying a new one include excessive or unusual noises while in use, clothing coming out damp or not drying at all, or any burning smells coming from the machine.

How to make it last longer: Some helpful tips on making a dryer last longer include dividing laundry by fabric weight, keeping a dryer clean and free of debris, regularly cleaning the lint trap, and reducing heat whenever possible. Not every load needs to be dried on high heat — the fabric type should determine the setting used. Air drying is better for some fabrics and will give both the dryer and the electric bill a break.

Garbage Disposal

Typical lifespan: The average garbage disposal should last about 12 years with normal use. If a household uses their disposal more often than average, their disposal may not last quite as long.

Cost to replace: The cost to replace a garbage disposal, on average, is $225, including labor. However, you can spend up to $1,000 for a commercial model with higher horsepower, or as little as $50 for a lower-end, less powerful model that you install yourself.

Signs of wear and tear: Signs of wear and tear on a garbage disposal include excessive noise while in use, abnormal clogging, bad odors, and power failure.

How to make it last longer: To ensure a garbage disposal lives a long and useful life, homeowners are advised to be careful about what they put down the drain. Things like coffee grinds, pasta, or other starchy foods in large quantities shouldn’t go in the garbage disposal as they can clump together causing clogs and other issues with the blade. Using cold water when running a garbage disposal can make it easier for the disposal to break up solids, especially if there is some fat on them, and can reduce the chance of a clog. Non-food items should never be put in a garbage disposal. Reading the owner’s manual that comes with the unit is recommended.

Recommended: Cost to Repair a Plumbing Leak

The Takeaway

Things break. It’s just a part of life. But when they do it’s important to know all your financial options so you can easily repair or replace them and move on with your day.

If replacement is your best option but the cost is beyond your budget, you might consider using a home improvement loan to finance the purchase of a new appliance.

A home improvement loan is essentially an unsecured personal loan that is used for home repairs or upgrades. You receive a lump sum up front which you can use to purchase and install a new appliance (or multiple new appliances); you then repay the loan over a set term, often five to seven years, with regular monthly payments. Interest rates are typically fixed.

If you’re interested in exploring your appliance financing options, SoFi could help. SoFi’s home improvement loans offer competitive, fixed rates and a variety of terms. Checking your rate won’t affect your credit score, and it takes just one minute.

Need new appliances? Check your rate on a SoFi home improvement loan in one minute.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see Equal Housing Lender.

​​Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.


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Cost of Countertops & Installation

One of the biggest choices you’ll make when renovating your kitchen is what material to use for your countertops. Whether you go for a contemporary look with solid surface areas or opt for a French country feel with marble, the material you choose will depend largely on your kitchen style, needs, and budget.

Before you settle on a certain product for your kitchen, though, let’s examine the cost of countertops and installation by material.

Countertop Materials and What They Cost

Depending on your kitchen style, the countertop materials you choose will set the tone for the overall look of the space. There are variables in pricing based on where you live, market prices, and the materials you choose. Here’s a look at some pros and cons of commonly used materials and estimates of what kitchen countertops cost.


Granite countertops have long been a go-to material in kitchens due to style, quality, and durability. But it’s also pricey, so if it’s your material of choice, you’ll need to budget accordingly. That said, there are a number of benefits to using granite that may warrant paying the price.

Granite is a hard stone and extremely durable. It’s both difficult to scratch and heat-resistant, so you can move hot pans directly from the stove to the counter.

And while it can stain, granite is less porous than other materials. This means errant marks and spills are less likely to permanently mar your countertops. In fact, the polish that the installer puts onto the granite burnishes the stone against all but the most extreme abuse.

Estimated cost of granite countertops: $40 to $60 per square foot

Recommended: How to Find a Contractor for Home Renovations & Remodeling


Contrary to how it may sound, quartz countertops are not a natural stone. Rather, they’re man-made from quartz particles that are held together with resin. Quartz is one of the hardest minerals on earth, so the resulting material is also extremely durable.

Because quartz countertops are engineered, they can come in many different designs, from bright solid colors to patterns that mimic natural stone. They also come in an array of textures, from glassy smooth to matte to stone finishes.

Quartz countertops are not porous due to the resin that binds them together, so they are also stain-resistant and never need to be sealed.

Estimated cost of quartz countertops: $50 to $200 per square foot


Laminate is one of the cheaper countertop materials, making it a common kitchen choice, especially for homeowners on a budget. Laminate is made from layers of plastic that are glued to a base such as a particleboard. These countertops come in a variety of colors, patterns, and surface textures.

Laminate is much lighter than stone countertops, and it tends to be easier to cut, shape and install. This makes it a popular material for DIYers who plan on installing countertops on their own.

However, it’s worth noting that laminate countertops do not stand up to heat as well as stone, and they tend to scratch more easily. And since they’re not as durable as other materials like granite or marble, they’ll likely need to be replaced more frequently.

Estimated cost of laminate countertops: $35 to $80 per square foot

Solid Surface

Solid surface countertops are made in a similar manner to quartz counters. However, these countertops use acrylic particles bound with resin instead of stone. As another engineered product, they come in a variety of colors and patterns, including those that mimic stone.

Solid surface is non-porous, so it tends to be stain-resistant, and scratches can usually be sanded and polished off the surface. As an acrylic, it doesn’t hold up well to heat. It can withstand boiling water, but it might begin to warp at temperatures as low as 250°F.

Estimated cost of solid surface counters: $50 to $100 per square foot


The price of wood countertops can vary widely by the type and thickness of wood. Exotic woods can cost a pretty penny, but counters made from cheaper types such as birch tend to cost only a bit more than budget options like laminate. Wood countertops are often made of butcher block, which comprises pieces of wood with their edge grain-up, glued together to form a hard, continuous surface.

As a material, wood is relatively soft, so it may get banged up a bit. However, scratches can be sanded out and the surface restored. Wood or varnish may also burn when hot pans are placed atop it. Skilled DIY home renovators can install wood counters themselves, which can help control costs.

Estimated cost of wood countertops: $50 to $150 per square foot


Tile countertop is another material whose cost can vary dramatically. On the cheaper end, ceramic tiles can cost as little as a couple dollars per square foot, while a marble tile might cost more up to $25 per square foot. Depending on the tile you choose, where it’s from, and how it’s made, the price per square foot can rise considerably.

Tile materials, which can range from ceramic to glass to stone, tend to be durable and both heat- and scratch-resistant. That said, tile countertops could chip if something heavy is dropped on them.

Tiles can be easy to install yourself; however, if you don’t have a lot of experience setting tiles, mixing grout and finishing the seams, you could end up with an uneven surface.

Estimated cost of tile countertops: $1 to $50 per square foot


Marble has a long history as an important art material and is commonly used as a design statement in upscale or trendy restaurants and bars. With a price similar to granite, marble is an elegant choice for home countertops.

The material is heat-resistant, meaning you can put hot pots and pans right on it. And if you’re a baker, you may be drawn to marble for its use as a surface to make pastries on, as it is prone to staying cool in the summer months.

Marble is relatively durable, though it’s softer and more porous than granite. This makes marble countertops more susceptible to scratches and stains, particularly from acidic foods like lemons, which can interact with the stone’s chemical makeup. You can seal the stone to help prevent some of these issues, but you’ll need to repeat the process regularly. Also, marble is heavy, so it may be difficult for a homeowner to install on their own.

Estimated cost of marble countertops: $40 to $100 per square foot

Stainless Steel

Long used as a countertop of choice in commercial kitchens, stainless steel is popular for counters in residential homes, too.

Metal countertops made have a lot of advantages. They are easy to clean, and they don’t burn, rust, or stain. They are usually recyclable should you ever change your mind and remodel your kitchen again.

There are some disadvantages to the materials, though. Metal countertops can be loud (think pots and pans clattering against metal). And though durable, the material does have a tendency to scratch or dent. The thicker the stainless steel, the less likely it is to be damaged. The gauge (or thickness) will also affect the material price.

Estimated cost of stainless steel countertops: $80 to $215 per square foot

Cost of Countertop Installation

The cost of new countertop materials isn’t the only expense associated with upgrading your kitchen counters. There’s also the cost to install the countertops, which will typically vary by material and square footage.

For example, having stainless steel professionally installed can add about $10 per square foot to the price of the countertops, whereas professional installation of quartz countertops can add $60 per square foot.

Installing countertops yourself is a great way to reduce costs, but it can be challenging depending on the material. You’ll also need to consider what types of modifications to the materials are needed. Cutting a hole in a granite countertop for a sink, for example, can add to the overall cost and in many cases requires the use of specialized tools with diamond-tipped bits.

One way to control the costs of kitchen countertops is to mix materials. If you have your heart set on a granite countertop, for instance, consider using granite for a small portion of the kitchen — such as a prominent feature like the island — and a cheaper material like tile for the larger counter spaces.

Recommended: How Much Does It Cost to Remodel or Renovate a House?

Financing Your Kitchen Countertops

As soon as you decide what kind of countertop material to use — and you consider the average cost of a kitchen remodel — then you’ll likely want to think about how to pay for the work.

If you need to finance the project, it can make sense to explore an unsecured home improvement loan to help you get the work done. Because this is a kind of personal loan, you don’t need to have home equity nor do you need to use your home as collateral.

That said, there are pros and cons to personal loans. Be sure you understand all your options so you can find what best suits your financial and personal needs.

The Takeaway

To estimate the overall cost of countertops, you’ll want to consider a few different factors: the materials you plan to use, whether they’ll require professional installation or you can install them yourselves, and the area in which you live.

Choosing materials like laminate countertops or wood can be a smart way to save money for those remodeling a kitchen on a tight budget, while granite, marble, or quartz countertops may be preferable for those wanting a more high-end look. For homeowners looking for something unique, tile countertops might be a route to take in order to further customize your kitchen remodel.

If you’re ready to install new kitchen countertops, see what a SoFi personal loan can offer. With a SoFi Home Improvement Loan, you can borrow between $5,000 to $100,000 as an unsecured personal loan, meaning you don’t use your home as collateral and no appraisal is required. Our rates are competitive, and the whole process is easy and speedy.

Turn your home into your dream house with a SoFi Home Improvement Loan.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see Equal Housing Lender.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


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Three House Siding Ideas

Siding helps protects your home from weather and pests, and plays a major role in the look of your home. If yours has seen better days, or you’ve never liked the look of your siding, it may be time to consider replacing it. Yes, it’s a big (i.e., expensive) job. But you will likely get a significant portion of what you spend back when you sell your home, since this home renovation generally has a high return on investment (ROI). Read on for a look at different siding ideas at a variety of price points and their expected ROI.

Eco-Friendly Options

Interest in sustainable living is growing in the U.S. One way to live this type of lifestyle is by choosing eco-friendly siding options that reduce the carbon footprint of the project. For example, using recyclable siding materials is one way to be more environmentally friendly, as is selecting material known to be more energy efficient.

Wood can be a good choice because it’s a renewable and sustainable material that can be sourced locally. Manufacturing processes of wood siding can be more environmentally friendly as well.

Aluminum or steel siding can be a green choice when made from recycled materials. It’s also considered to be an energy-efficient option because of how metal reflects the sun’s rays, unlike some materials that absorb them. Low maintenance associated with metal siding is a plus.

Fiber cement siding is eco-friendly, crafted from natural materials. Although vinyl siding isn’t formed from the most environmentally friendly materials, there is little waste with this type of siding, with insulated options being energy efficient.

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Colors with Curb Appeal

Siding color plays a big part in a home’s curb appeal. Combinations of colors and textures can evoke certain feelings, such as using green siding with wood accents to create a natural feel to a home.

In addition, darker colors draw attention to parts of a home while lighter ones can help to de-emphasize areas.
When selecting a color scheme, personal taste enters in, but an overall goal might be a compromise between that and looking good in the home’s broader neighborhood.

Some communities may have homes with more subdued hues while others boast more color.

Colonial homes may look best in a single classic color, while cottage-style homes may provide a homeowner with more freedom of expression.

Recommended: Four Ways to Upgrade Your Home

Realistic Textures

In the past, siding materials could look “plastic,” rather than mimicking natural grains and textures. Today, though, siding materials often look more attractive and realistic.

When on a budget, today’s vinyl siding can masterfully imitate wood siding at a lower cost with a greater ease of installation. If on a mid-range budget, an option might be fiber cement siding, which combines sand, cellulose and cement, comes in a variety of colors and can be imprinted with designs.

Plus, shingles come in a variety of sizes to help create a personalized appearance. With a bigger budget, stone and brick veneers are an option, as are stucco and new materials that mimic stucco. These choices can give a home a distinctive appearance.

Mixed textures can be eye-catching, whether that includes mixing materials or the width of the siding boards themselves. Metal touches can also be attractive.

Costs of Home Siding

The cost of new siding will depend on the size of your house, the type of siding you choose, and even your local weather. Generally, new siding runs between $2 and $9 per square foot. However, solid materials like brick, stone, and a range of veneers can run closer to $50 per square foot.

A full replacement job, on average, can run $11,428, according to Angi (formerly Angie’s List). Keep in mind, though, that each project is unique and older homes may have additional issues that will need to be addressed during a home renovation process. Plus, if a home is old enough to be designated as historic, there will likely be guidelines that need to be followed, which can add to the price tag of improvements.

Beside the materials used and the size of the home, other factors that impact cost include the shape of the house, with those having multiple stories or with eaves and turrets typically being more expensive than a home with a more streamlined structure.

Another factor can be the time of year when the siding is installed, with peak seasons usually more expensive than off-season projects.

Costs of a square foot of siding, including installation, vary by material, with these as averages:

•   Vinyl: $2 to $12

•   Wood: $2 to $35

•   Aluminum: $3 to $6

•   Fiber cement: $5 to $13.50

•   Brick: $10 to $35

•   Stucco: $6 to $18

•   Steel: $5 to $9

•   Stone: $27 to $50

It can make sense to get a customized quote for a siding project because there are so many factors that can affect the price.

It may be helpful, too, to compare quotes received to what it costs to paint the exterior of a home.

The cost to paint a home’s exterior ranges from $1,800 to $13,000, with an average coming in around $3,000. Although painting is typically less expensive, siding can last for decades, while the exterior of homes often need to be painted every five to ten years.

Siding ROI

Replacing your old siding can significantly increase the value of your home. Exactly how much it will add to the value will largely depend on the type of material you choose.

Going with fiber cement siding, for example, could add about $15,000 to the value of your home, which translates into about a 68% return on investment.

Vinyl siding, on the other hand, could ratchet up the value of your home by roughly $12,500, giving you a potential 67% return on investment.

If you replace just a portion of your siding with manufactured stone veneer, you could possibly add around $10,000 to your home’s value, which can add up to a more than 90% ROI.

You may want to use an online ​​home improvement ROI estimator to get a sense of how much your choice of siding will impact the resale value of your home.

Paying for House Siding

If you run the numbers and the cost of your home siding project is more than you can comfortably cover in cash, you may want to consider some type of financing.

One option is to take out a home equity loan or line of credit. These loans are based on the equity you have built up in your home and use your home as collateral for the loan.

Another option is a home improvement loan. This is essentially an unsecured personal loan that is used for home repairs or upgrades. You receive a lump sum up front which you can use to pay for new siding; you then repay the loan over a set term, often five to seven years, with regular monthly payments. Interest rates are typically fixed.

The Takeaway

Siding is your home’s first line of defense against weather and pests. It’s also one of the most visible parts of your house, so when it starts to look old and worn out, so does your home.

Replacing your siding can seem like a big undertaking, but fortunately you typically only have to do it once. Plus, you can often make up much of the out-of-pocket cost when you resell your home, thanks to the relatively high ROI on this type of remodel.

If you’re interested in replacing your siding but not sure how to cover the costs, SoFi can help. SoFi’s home improvement loans range from $5K to $100K and offer competitive, fixed rates and a variety of terms. Checking your rate won’t affect your credit score, and it takes just one minute.

See if a home improvement loan from SoFi is right for you.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see Equal Housing Lender.

Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.


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What to Know About Getting Preapproved for a Home Loan

Getting mortgage preapproval can give you an edge in the home-buying process, especially when the housing market is tight. A mortgage preapproval from a lender lets sellers know that you have tentatively been approved for a specific loan type and amount. Not only does this show that you’re a serious home shopper, it also helps give you a good sense of your budget as you go house-hunting.

Here, you’ll learn the ins and outs of how to get preapproved for a home loan, including:

•   What is mortgage preapproval?

•   How do mortgage preapproval and prequalification compare?

•   What are the pros and cons of mortgage preapproval?

•   How can you improve your chances of getting preapproved for a mortgage loan?

•   What can you do if you aren’t preapproved for a mortgage?

What Is Mortgage Preapproval?

Mortgage preapproval involves a thorough review of your credit and financial history. If you look like a good candidate for a mortgage, a lender will issue a letter stating that you qualify for a loan of a certain loan amount and at a certain interest rate. The letter is an offer, but not a commitment, to lend you a specific amount. It’s good for up to 90 days, depending on the lender.

You’ll want to shop for homes within the price range of your preapproved mortgage. Armed with your preapproval for a home loan, you can show sellers that you are a serious buyer with the means to purchase a property. In the eyes of the seller, preapproval can often push you ahead of other potential buyers who have not yet been approved for a mortgage and make it easier to compete when there are multiple offers on a house.

Once you find a house that you want to buy, you can make an offer immediately based on the loan amount for which you are preapproved. And if the seller accepts, it will be time to finalize your mortgage application. At this point, a loan underwriter will review your application and conduct other due diligence measures, such as having the house appraised to make sure it is valued at the price it’s selling for. If all goes well, the lender will issue another letter called a commitment letter, which officially seals the deal on your loan, and you can schedule a closing date.

When Should I Get Preapproved for a Home Loan?

Preapproval typically lasts for 90 days, at most, so you want to seek it when you are actively in the market for a new home. Maybe you’ve done some initial online research into available properties. Hopefully, you’ve also had a good look at your finances and thought about how much you have available to spend on a down payment as well as what amount of monthly mortgage payments you can afford long-term. It takes around 10 days after you submit a request to be preapproved, so factor that timing into your house search as well.

Mortgage Preapproval vs. Prequalification

If you are house hunting, you will likely hear two different terms regarding early mortgage moves: prequalification vs. preapproval. Prequalification is a simple, less involved view of your financial qualifications for a mortgage. Preapproval for a home loan is a more in-depth review of your finances and an indicator that your loan application will likely move forward smoothly. Each has its advantages, and its moment.

Mortgage Prequalification

Getting prequalified for a home loan involves a review of a few financial details — usually self-reported — such as income, assets, and debt. The lender will then estimate how much of a mortgage you can afford.

Pros of Mortgage Prequalification

•   It’s fast. The process can often be done in minutes, by phone or online.

•   You’ll zero in on house prices. Prequalifying for a home loan quickly gives you an idea of what your monthly payment might be and how much house you can afford.

•   You can shop around. You can prequalify with multiple lenders to see what types of terms and interest rates they offer.

•   It’s easy on your credit score. Prequalification will not affect your credit score because it only requires a “soft inquiry” into your credit record.

Cons of Mortgage Prequalification

•   It’s no guarantee. Because it is an unverified, high-level look at your finances, prequalification doesn’t ensure that you will actually qualify for a mortgage.

•   It won’t help you bargain. Being prequalified won’t help you negotiate a lower price with a seller or compete against other bidders in a competitive market.

Mortgage Preapproval

Requesting a mortgage preapproval is a more complicated process than getting prequalified. You’ll have to fill out an application with your chosen lender and agree to a credit check. The credit check will be a “hard pull” which will ding your credit score by a few points. You’ll also provide information about your income and assets. The evaluation process can take 10 days or more. Again, preapproval doesn’t mean it’s a done deal that you’ll get the loan, but it is a solid indication of your financial situation and ability to purchase a home.

There are a number of advantages to getting preapproval for a home loan, especially if you’re shopping in a fast-moving market.

Pros of Mortgage Preapproval:

•   It gives you an edge. Sellers will see that you are a serious buyer and have assurance that your financing won’t fall through and sink the deal.

•   It helps you get loan shopping done. When you’ve found your dream house, you don’t want to delay putting in an offer because you have to spend time getting your documents together and pursuing a loan. Going through the preapproval process helps you take care of these details before you’re in a fast-moving market.

Cons of Mortgage Preapproval:

•   A mortgage preapproval expires. How long does a mortgage preapproval last? As noted above, the letter is only good for a certain period of time, usually 90 days, so you’ll want to make sure you’re seriously ready to start shopping once you have your mortgage preapproval in hand.

•   The application is time-consuming. You’ll need to provide a lot of documentation to get a mortgage preapproval and agree to a hard credit inquiry, which can drag down your credit score, though usually only by a bit.

•   Nothing is guaranteed. Even though your home loan preapproval letter likely has details on your loan amount and type, it is only tentative approval — you still can’t be 100% sure that you will get the loan.

Here are the basic comparison points of prequalification vs. preapproval:

The Difference Between Prequalification and Preapproval

Prequalification Preapproval

•   Simple process that takes only a few minutes online or by phone.

•   You’ll fill out a thorough application and provide documents. The process can take 10 days or more.

Required materials

•   High-level financial details you provide; sometimes a “soft” credit check which won’t impact your rating.

•   Full application and supporting financial documents, as well as a “hard pull” credit check that will ding your rating.


•   Can give you an idea of what you can afford as you start the process.

•   Lets you compare lenders and rates.

•   Tentatively approves you for a loan amount and type.

•   Can provide leverage when you’re ready to get serious about buying.


•   Won’t give you an advantage in negotiations or a bidding war.

•   It’s no guarantee you’ll get a mortgage.

•   Preapproval is good for 90 days so your home-finding timeline may be affected.

•   Does not guarantee you’ll get the loan.

First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.

Steps to Get Preapproved for a Home Loan

Getting preapproved for a home loan will take some time, so it’s good to get the process started before you are ready to make an offer on a home. Here are some important steps along the way.

Check Your Credit Score

If you’ve established a credit history, a first step before applying for a mortgage is to check your credit reports, which are a history of your credit compiled from sources like banks, credit card companies, collection agencies, and the government.

The information is collected by the three main credit reporting bureaus: TransUnion®, Equifax®, and Experian®. You’ll want to make sure that the information on your credit reports is correct. Ordering the reports is free once a year through .

If you find any mistakes in your credit report, contact the credit reporting agencies immediately to let them know. You don’t want any incorrect information weighing down your credit score, putting your chances for preapproval at risk.

The free credit reports provided by the nationwide credit reporting agencies do not include your credit score, a number typically between 300 and 850. You can purchase your score directly from the credit reporting agencies, or from FICO®. Your credit card company also may provide your credit score for free, or you could try a money tracker app that updates your credit score weekly and tracks your spending at no cost.

Calculate Your Potential Mortgage

To help with the prequalification and preapproval process, use the mortgage calculator below to see what your estimated monthly mortgage would be based on down payment, interest rate, and loan terms.

Gather Documentation

Your credit score is only one of many factors a potential lender will consider when deciding on your mortgage qualification. So collect the many other documents you will need to paint a full picture of your financial life. Ask the lender what is needed, specifically. The list will likely include:

•   Recent pay stubs

•   Recent bank and investment account statements

•   Two years of tax returns and/or W2s, possibly more if you are self-employed

•   Verification of alimony or child support payments received and the court documents spelling out the terms of the payments

•   Social Security award letter, if you derive income from Social Security

•   Certificate of Eligibility from the VA, if you are applying for a VA loan

•   Gift letter documenting any money you are receiving from family or other sources toward a down payment

Receive Your Mortgage Preapproval Letter

Your first instinct when you receive preapproval will likely be to jump for joy. Next, take a moment to ask the lender if they made any assumptions about your finances in order to issue the letter, or if they flagged anything that could lead to you being denied a mortgage later on, or that could increase your costs. Doing this could help you head off future problems that might scuttle a deal.

Upping Your Odds of Mortgage Preapproval

There are a number of steps you can take to increase your chances of preapproval or to increase the amount your lender may approve you for.

Build Your Credit

When you apply for any type of loan, lenders want to see that you have a history of properly managing your debt before offering you credit themselves.

You can build your credit history by opening and using a credit card and paying your bills on time. Or you could consider having regular payments, such as your rent, tracked and added to your credit score.

Recommended: What Credit Score Is Needed to Buy a House?

Stay on Top of Debt

Your ability to pay your bills on time has a big impact on your credit score. If your budget allows, you should aim to make payments in full.

If you have any debts that are dragging down your credit score — for example, debts that are in collection — it’s smart to work on paying them off first, as this could help build your score.

Recommended: Fixed-Rate vs. Adjustable-Rate Mortgages

Watch Your Debt-to-Income Ratio

Your debt-to-income ratio is your monthly debt payments divided by your monthly gross income. If you have $1,000 a month in debt payments and make $5,000 a month, your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is $1,000 divided by $5,000, or 20%.

Mortgage lenders typically like to see a DTI ratio of 36% or less. Some may qualify borrowers with a higher DTI, up to 43%. Lenders may assume that borrowers with a high DTI ratio will have a harder time making their mortgage payments.

If you’re seeking preapproval for a mortgage, it may be beneficial to keep the ratio in check by avoiding large purchases. For example, you may want to hold off on buying a new car until you’ve been preapproved.

Prove Consistent Income

Your lender will want to know that you have enough money coming in each month to cover a potential mortgage payment, so the lender will likely want proof of consistent income for at least two years (that means pay stubs, W-2s, etc.).

For some potential borrowers, such as freelancers, this may be a tricky process since they may have income from various sources. Keep all pay stubs, tax returns, and other proof of income, and be prepared to show those to your lender.

What Happens If Your Mortgage Preapproval is Rejected?

Rejection hurts. But if you aren’t preapproved or you aren’t approved for a large enough mortgage to buy the house you want, you also aren’t powerless. You can ask the lender why it said “no.” This will give you an idea about what you might need to work on in order to secure the mortgage you want.

Then you may want to work on the factors that your lender saw as a sticking point to preapproval. You can continue to work to build your credit score, lower your DTI ratio, or save for a higher down payment.

If you’re able to pay more upfront, you will typically lower your monthly mortgage payments. Once you’ve worked to make yourself a better candidate for a mortgage, you can apply for preapproval again.

The Takeaway

In a competitive market, having a mortgage preapproval letter in hand may give a house hunter an edge. After all, the letter states that the would-be buyer tentatively qualifies for a home loan of a certain amount.

Looking for an affordable option for a home mortgage loan? SoFi can help: We offer low down payments (as little as 3% - 5%*) with our competitive and flexible home mortgage loans. Plus, applying is extra convenient: It's online, with access to one-on-one help.

SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.


What happens during the preapproval process?

During the mortgage preapproval process you’ll provide lots of background information on your finances. A potential lender will also check your credit score. If the lender feels you’re a suitable candidate for a loan, you’ll receive a letter that you can show a seller to better your chances when making an offer on a home.

Do preapprovals hurt your credit score?

The lender will do a “hard pull” to obtain your credit score prior to a preapproval. This may cause your rating to drop by a few points, but it should rebound quickly if you pay your bills on time.

How far in advance should I get preapproved for a mortgage?

Get preapproved for a mortgage when you have a sense of the housing costs where you are shopping for a home, and you are ready to start looking in earnest.

Which is better preapproval or prequalification?

Prequalification and preapproval each have a place in the homebuying process. Prequalification is helpful when you are trying to get a sense of what you can afford and which lender might offer the best terms. It’s time for preapproval when you are serious about searching for a home and have researched possible lenders.

Is it OK to get multiple preapprovals?

You only need one preapproval, but it is fine to get a few if you want to see what loan amounts and rates you might qualify for. Make all applications within a 45-day window — the time frame during which multiple lenders can check your credit without each check having an additional impact on your score.

*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see Equal Housing Lender.

SoFi Mortgages
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are available in all states. See for more information.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.


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