Home Improvement on a Budget: 20 Tips from the Pros
With so much information out there on how to do home improvement on a budget, it can be difficult to know which tips to follow and what to completely ignore. That’s why we’ve searched for hints and hacks by experts involved in décor, home improvement, and home renovations so you are well equipped before you get started. Take a look at what the pros have to say about everything from paint to paying for big renovations and feel confident about your next home improvement project.
1. Assess the project before you start
Honestly assess your own level of expertise, permit requirements and local regulations, your budget, your timeline and ultimate goals before deciding whether to DIY or hire an expert.
- Justina Blakeney, home blogger and author
2. Prioritize projects that increase home value
If you’re not sure where to start with home improvements, it can be helpful to prioritize projects that increase your home’s value. Updated kitchens and bathrooms are pretty much always a safe bet.
- Melanie Pinola, Lifehacker
3. Figure out if you need an upgrade or a full remodel
I always ask customers about how long they plan to stay in their home because that can help them decide between a facelift or a full-blown remodeling project.
- Chuck Khiel, vice president of Fred, the home improvement division of Case Design
4. A little can do a lot
You don’t have to do much to elevate the look of your entire home. How so? By swapping out your basic, boring doorknobs and pulls with ones that add more character, color, and dimension.
- Lauren Gregory, interior designer and owner of DACHA Interiors
5. Add curb appeal on the cheap
Try updating the front door light fixture, replacing dated house numbers, and painting the front door a bright, contrasting color to boost value and curb appeal without breaking the bank.
- Jenna Fulk, broker associate with PorchLight Real Estate Group in Denver
6. Add curb appeal on the cheap
If you can’t afford brick or cobblestone pavers, just have your asphalt or concrete driveway cleaned and sealed. It will only set you back about $400 to $600, but it makes a big visual impact.
- Karli Younger, realtor at Virginia Properties
7. Check salvage shops for exterior lighting fixtures
Look for fixtures that have the same mounting system as your current ones to save yourself some time. Exterior light fixtures can be found anywhere from $20 and up. Check salvage shops, you might be able to find vintage lighting to match the age and look of your home.
- Brian Patrick Flynn, Flynnside Out Productions
8. Check salvage shops for exterior lighting fixtures
Larger house plants can be expensive, so to create the illusion of your room being filled with lots of greenery, arrange groups of small plants at different heights.
- Hebe Hatton, RealHomes.com
9. Invest in a kitchen makeover
The average cost of a kitchen remodel ranges from $13,000 - $38,000 according to Home Advisor. This is no small renovation cost, but when you consider that updated and modern kitchens are a main selling point, the cost of remodeling can significantly boost your resale value.
- Dan DiClerico, Smart Home Strategist and Home Expert
10. Or give a quick facelift and paint cabinets white
White paint does wonders for outdated cabinets and can save you money.
- Justin Riordan, HGTV Designer
11. Make sure to degrease cabinets before you paint
No matter how clean you think your kitchen is, you need to wipe everything down with a grease remover. Otherwise, when you add a water-based paint to an oil-covered door, the paint won't stick.
- Don Fahrbach, president of professional painting company PNP Craftsmen in New York City
12. Save on backsplash tile
Rather than turning the corners with your backsplash and carrying it all along the kitchen wall, just finish the tile where the walls meet.
- Mary Elizabeth Hulsey founder of Mission Stone & Tile in Nashville
13. Do your research before painting
Where the room is located, how it will be used, how large or small the room is, and the overall look you're trying to achieve are top factors to consider. These factors can all subtly influence things like the sheen of your paint or the saturation, so you need to closely consider them.
- Paint expert Sarabeth Asaff South of Fixr
14. Go bold with peel-and-stick wallpaper
Peel-and-stick wallpaper is a temporary way to add a burst of vibrant color or pattern to a room without tearing up the walls. To keep this project affordable and doable, start with papering a feature wall or a small space like a closet or powder room.
- Kendall Simmons Interiors
15. Paint your knobs instead of replacing them
If you're looking for a cheap, long-lasting alternative, consider painting the knobs in your house for the cost of a can of spray paint and a weekend's worth of work.
- John & Sherry, bloggers @YoungHouseLove
16. Instead of re-tiling the whole bathroom, just do the shower
Lay a simple subway tile in a staggered pattern up to the ceiling, and instead of edging it with a border tile, substitute polished aluminum trim to hide unglazed tile edges.
- Pamela Dailey, interior designer in Beacon, New York
17. Try tub and tile reglazing
So many people reglaze a tub to bring it back to its glistening glory, but you can also reglaze an entire tiled bathroom. The bathroom went from gritty and grubby to clean and pristine for $800 and was completed in one day!
- Sarah Elliot, lifestyle blogger at EyeSwoon
18. Don’t forget to budget extra
It's always good to anticipate the unplanned costs that typically come up during the renovation process. Set aside funds for all the unexpected expenses that can occur along with what you have budgeted for the cost of building materials and labor.
- Barb Pietrangelo, a financial advisor at Prudential
19. See if you can take out a home equity line of credit
A home equity line of credit is one of the most affordable ways to borrow a significant amount of money. The interest rate is based on the variable prime rate, which is currently around 5 percent. By comparison, credit cards typically carry interest rates around 17 percent.
- Jon Giles, head of home equity lending at TD Bank
20. Finance through a personal loan and build your credit too
If you consistently make on-time payments toward the outstanding balance, it [a personal loan] can be good for your credit. Lenders typically report your payment record to the three major credit bureaus, and payment history accounts for 35% of your FICO credit score.
- Kiah Treece and Jordan Tarver, contributors at Forbes Advisor