If you enjoy doing things yourself, you’re already saving money. However, you can completely transform the look and feel of a room with careful planning for only a few hundred dollars.
Choose from our list of cost-effective upgrades, all under $500—some even less. They will not only be gentle on your wallet now, but some will also save you money in the future. Below are some simple home improvement ideas.
- Refresh Your Rooms With Paint
By selecting a paint that can and have them painted, you can provide your drab, washed-out walls a blast of brilliant depth (or wash away your decorating sins with virgin white). Painting has the power to rearrange your reality, which is why it’s the most commonly tackled DIY home improvement project.
You do not have to be a skilled artist to understand how to paint like one, and a satisfactory paint job requires more than just slathering color on the wall. Follow our how-to instructions to coat your partitions in one weekend from the first scratch with the pole sander to the last brush feather.
- Add Crown Molding the Easy Way
Most remodeling checklists include crown molding because it adds charm and value to a home, not because it’s entertaining to spend a Saturday trying to perfect the corners.
Canamould Extrusions’ Trimroc molding is a lightweight polystyrene foam coated in hard plaster. With a joint compound, it goes up quickly and cuts smoothly with a handsaw. There’s no copying, no tricky angles, and ragged joints with mud. So you can turn a plain room into an elegant space in just a weekend while still finishing the rest of your to-do list.
- Install a Low-Cost Stair Runner
Want to keep your footing on slick stairwells? Make your runner. Jaime Shackford, a TOH reader, took the project into her own hands after receiving a quote for $2,500 to carpet her dangerously slick oak staircase. She made her stairs non-slip using two off-the-shelf woven runners ($125 each) and supplies from a home center.
- Install a Dishwasher to Conserve Water
That old dishwasher could impact your electric and water bills. It’s time to upgrade to an Energy Star-qualified dishwasher, saving you over $30 per year in energy costs and nearly 500 gallons of water. If you don’t have a dishwasher, you’re wasting 40% more water by washing dishes by hand!
The biggest cost saver of all? You can install a dishwasher yourself in the afternoon. There’s no need for a plumber or an electrician, and you won’t have to worry about wasting your retirement funds on a load of clean dishes.
- Rewire a Vintage Entry Lantern
Many early 20th-century floating lanterns had simple designs and appeared to be handcrafted rather than machine-made.
At the time, the back-to-basics building design philosophy favored by tastemakers like Gustav Stickley and the Roycroft craftspeople were embodied by these rustic lanterns. If you bought an antique lantern at a yard sale or have one stowed in the attic, you can use it to urge guests to “come on in.” The job is simple and inexpensive once you have the parts.
- Renew Old Flooring With Paint
Sara and Andrew’s Massachusetts farmhouse main bedroom’s burgundy red floor didn’t match their fresh and energetic personalities. On a tight budget, however, refinishing was not an option. They painted the floor in a light checkered pattern to freshen up the area and used beige and white to warm up the cold blue walls.
Here we are, showing how a little measuring and a couple of coats of long-lasting floor paint can give a room a lot of personality for a low cost.
- Make Hue and Add Privacy With Interior Shutters
The sun streaming in through the windows can be a nuisance. Not to mention the neighbors who may be able to see into your brightly lit living room in the evening. You could use shades to keep prying eyes out, but swinging wood shutters would be far more attractive.
Interior shutters were the first “window treatments,” They’re still a great way to add architectural and historical detail to Southern and urban homes. They also help keep out the chilly winds of winter and the oppressive heat of summer. They are simple to install on any window attached to a thin frame.
- Give Your Kitchen Cabinets a Fresh, New Look.
The dark cabinets have stunk all the light out of the room, and your kitchen feels like a cave. On the other hand, a brighter makeover does not always mean completely replacing the dingy boxes. As long as the edges and doors are structurally sound, you can clean and re-paint them on the weekend to transform that drab kitchen into something bright and cheery. Only a strong cleaner, sandpaper, a paintbrush, and a little elbow grease are required. You don’t need much money, as the transformation will cost you a fraction of even the cheapest new cabinets.
- Simple Home Improvements Obtain More Flowers Without Investing Any Money
Divide perennials every three to six years to thin clump-forming varieties like the daylily (shown here), which blooms from late spring to summer. We can use this method to reduce plant size, stimulate growth, and increase the number of specimens in a garden. Splitting spring- and summer-blooming perennials in late summer or before the first frost is a good rule of thumb.
- Simple Home Improvements Ditch the Expensive Bottles and Install a Water Filter
Because of concerns about the purity and taste of their tap water, millions of households have switched to bottled water. Whether the water comes from municipal pipelines or the ground, such issues exist. However, installing an under-sink water filtration system is an easier, less expensive way to obtain clean drinking water.
- Lay an Eco-Friendly Layer of Insulation
Waking up in the morning is challenging enough without dealing with the icy shock of a cold floor. It would be most helpful to have a little pillow underfoot as you walk around the house. Here comes cork. A natural cork floor can change any cool room into a cozy haven by being resilient yet durable, stylish yet earthy.
Cork flooring is also much easier to put down than traditional wood flooring. Engineered panels that snap together without glue or nails are now available from manufacturers. These floating-floor systems are suitable for installation over plywood, concrete, or even existing flooring. You can transform a floor into a comfortable mat in just one afternoon where your toes can roam freely without fear of the big chill—or expensive area rugs.
- Refinish Your Home’s Handsome Wood Door
The years and the elements had taken their toll on the 94-year-old, thick cypress door’s exterior. Flows of varnish still clung to the wood in spots, while the rest of the surface was rough and dried out from water and sun. Wood entry doors are subject to the same attacks worldwide, and there are a lot of them discarded in favor of low-maintenance, mass-produced metal and fiberglass substitutes. You can give your old door new life with a few inexpensive supplies.
- Put Down a Fresh Bead of Bathroom Caulk
You’ve seen the warning signs of deteriorated caulk. The brown tinge along the edges was the first sign. Its once smooth and supple skin has cracked and become brittle, letting stubborn mildew colonies take hold or water bleed through and mush up the wallboard and framing. Whether it’s near your sink, between a tub and its tile surround, or covering the joints in your shower stall, it has to go.
Fortunately, caulk is both inexpensive and simple to use. You’ll need an hour, a few standard tools, and materials readily available at any hardware store. But, as simple as it is, you must do it correctly, or you’ll be caulking again next year, says Tom Silva of This Old House.
- Revive Your Old Deck
This pine deck was in bad shape when the contractor arrived on the scene. Its once-bright boards had turned a weatherbeaten gray, flecked with slimy algae and black leaf stains, after twenty years of harsh upstate New York weather with no care.
Even wood can go back to its former glory. He power-washed and hand-scrubbed the deck back to newness for over a week, then brushed on a protective coat of semitransparent stain to keep it safe from the elements.
- Add Architectural Interest With Stair Brackets for Simple Home Improvements
The exposed side of most staircases got ignored, while the newel post and balusters received all of the attention. A light stringer can transform into an elegant eye-catcher by adding decorative stair brackets. We used low-cost, easy-to-install wood brackets attached with adhesive and nails.