More homeowners are undertaking remodeling projects than they were one year ago, while home equity lending has been on the rise as well.

Building permits issued for residential remodeling projects in December were up 9 percent over their level of 12 months earlier, according to new figures from BuildFax, a national database of construction permits. Residential remodeling permits were issued at an annual rate of 2,937,000 in December, up from the December 2012 rate of 2,704,000.

Remodeling activity was up in all major regions except the Northeast, with the biggest increases seen in the West and South, according to BuildFax chief technology officer Joe Emison.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported earlier this month that Americans spent $130 billion on home remodeling projects in 2013, a 3.1 percent increase over 2012 and the highest since 2007.

Rising home values boost equity

That increase appears to have been supported by a rise in home equity lending last year. Moody's Analytics reports that home equity lending rose 18 percent in 2013, to a total of $123.4 billion for the year. That increase was driven mostly by a rise in property values, which gave homeowners more equity to work with.

The real estate data firm CoreLogic estimates that two-thirds of all U.S. homeowners had at least 20 percent equity in their homes as of late last year, compared to just over half in 2011.

The recent boom in remodeling activity is expected to continue well into this year, according to projections by both the National Association of Home Builders and the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.

Published on February 19, 2014