Americans spent more on remodeling last year than ever before and the increase, compared with 2003, was the biggest in a decade, but the pace will be "less torrid" this year, according to an industry trade group.

The National Association of Home Builders' Remodelors Council this week forecast that remodeling spending in 2005 will jump 6.3 percent, to $209 billion. In 2004, Americans spent $198.6 billion, 12.3 percent more than in 2003.The spending totals were released earlier this year by the Census Bureau, but the forecast is new. The council says the record growth in 2004 in remodeling expenditures got little attention when the Census data came out. The amount spent was "by far the most that has ever been spent on remodeling," said Jim Lapides, a spokesman for the council.

Council Chairman Don Novak, a remodeler from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, said in a statement that "a combination of increased home sales, more owner equity and low refinance rates all contributed to the tremendous growth last year." Rising home prices also affected homeowners, with "sticker shock" convincing some to stay where they are and improve and making others feel comfortable about tapping home equity for such projects.

-- Sandra Fleishman