10 DIY Home Renovations for the Thrifty Homeowner


Whether you’re preparing to sell your home or staying put and craving a refresh, you may be concerned about how renovations can impact your budget. If you’re willing to put in some time and get a little dirty, these DIY projects will help you update your home without taking out a second mortgage.

1. Clean Your Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding can keep your house looking new for years, but it can start to look dingy after a while. Home renovation pros Vicki and Steph Kubiak, from Mother Daughter Projects, say that despite what you may think, you don’t need to hire a pro or rent a power washer to clean your home’s exterior.

“Sometimes the solution to a problem is the simplest and least expensive,” they say. “Cleaning vinyl house siding can be accomplished with nothing more than a long-handled scrub brush, good-quality cleaner, a garden hose, and a little elbow grease.” They recommend this handwashing approach over using a power washer, which can damage the siding.

2. Repaint the Front Door and Update Exterior Accents

Whether your exterior has siding, paint, shingles, or stone, updating your front door can boost the curb appeal of your home. Marty Basher, home design expert for Modular Closets, suggests that you “choose a bold accent color that works well with the rest of the exterior, but also stands out from it, to give the door a bit of a spotlight.” For an even easier project, “change out your house numbers and possibly your mailbox,” he says, “and voila, you have a whole new look and feel when you’re entering your house.”

3. Apply Removable Wallpaper

Updated walls can easily improve your space, but the very word “wallpaper” might make you cringe, especially if you’ve attempted installing wallpaper yourself in the past. Elizabeth Rees, the founder of removable wallpaper company Chasing, states, “Removable wallpaper is a stylish and affordable way to update your space with minimal investment. Moreover, it’s a really easy way to add color or pattern to your space with little commitment.”

Rees also recommends sprucing up the front of your stair steps with removable wallpaper. Just cut strips to size and apply, and your stairs will look good as new.

4. Paint Your Walls

If you prefer a painted surface to wallpaper, you may be surprised by how easy it is to paint a room yourself. The caveat is that you do have to take your time for quality results, especially with project setup. Skip Bedell, home improvement expert from Home Depot, says that preparation is everything and will make the job and cleanup much easier.

“I love CoverGrip drop cloths because they are reusable,” he says. “They also have PVC dots on the back, so they don’t slip or slide as you are painting.” If you don’t feel like doing the whole primer and paint approach, try an all-in-one paint to drastically reduce your paint time.

5. Refresh Your Cabinets

Old-looking cabinets can make for a dreary kitchen. Rather than replacing them, Anthony Navarro, author and co-creator of the online talk show The Wedding Planners, recommends painting them and switching out the hardware for a dramatic update. “If you are not adventurous enough to paint your cabinets, consider changing out one cabinet door in the kitchen to glass, so you can highlight your entertaining glassware, serving pieces, and china,” he recommends.

6. Apply a New Backsplash

A fresh backsplash can give the impression of a much bigger renovation, and the Kubiaks suggest peel-and-stick tile, rather than the real thing. “A new kitchen backsplash is surprisingly affordable and DIY-able for homeowners,” they say. “Peel-and-stick tile makes it a DIY project that can be completed without complicated or expensive tools. These tiles can be cut to size with ordinary tin snips and stick to the wall without added adhesives.”

7. Rejuvenate Your Bathroom

If you’re not in a position to pay for a bathroom renovation, Jamie Gold, a kitchen designer and the author of the New Bathroom Idea Book, suggests upgrading hardware and fixtures, but keeping it easy. “When replacing cabinet pulls, choose new ones that can fit into the same holes so you don’t have to patch old ones,” she says.

Gold also suggests replacing your shower door and fixtures to update the room: “For hundreds of dollars, instead of thousands, you can replace a shower door with a modern frosted style that will hide a builder basic interior, replace a basic showerhead with a handheld model offering massage settings, install a designer-friendly grab bar that doesn’t need to be blocked, or add handsome storage shelves if there’s no niche.”

8. Hang Wall Art

You can change the look of a room by simply hanging artwork. Judy and Jess, the mother-daughter duo behind interior design studio Verandah House, say, “Before you place holes in the walls, measure your wall and mark out the same space on the floor. Lay out your artwork on the floor.”

Alternatively, they suggest cutting out cardboard to the size of the artwork and temporarily affixing them to the wall with a removable adhesive. If you don’t have framed pieces on hand, Judy and Jess suggest heading to flea markets, antique stores, and secondhand shops for vintage artwork.

9. Put Up Window Coverings

New window treatments can dramatically enhance a room without requiring a ton of effort. You can find reasonably priced and easy-to-install shades, curtains, and rods at stores like Target and Home Goods. Basher suggests IKEA’s no-sew curtains that are easy to trim and finish to size.

10. Update Old Floors

Worn out, old floors can set the tone for an entire room, but re-sanding and finishing your floors could be beyond your capabilities. Basher has a fix: “Whether you have old carpet or beat up hardwood floors, a little measuring and a few hours of work over a weekend can spruce up your floors and change the complete look of a room. A couple coats of durable floor paint or peel-and-stick tiles from your local home store can go a long way.”

Fixing up your home doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult—just consider these suggestions for your next home improvement project. If you do decide to take your renovations a step further and need a loan, look up your credit score to get an idea of what you’ll qualify for. Get a free credit report at Credit.com and see where you stand.

Image: istock 

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The 3 Most Important Things to Lookout For in Your Home Inspection

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When my husband and I were forced to miss the home inspection of the first house we’d ever purchased because of an unforeseen and unavoidable family emergency out of state, a couple fairly important things fell to the wayside or went undetected.

For starters, missing the home inspection meant my husband didn’t actually get to see the home we were buying until we showed up to sign the papers on closing day, at which point it was far too late to back out (oops). Additionally, although the home was listed as having central air, it in fact did not, something our inspector had picked up on and included in his report, but that in all the hubbub we failed to notice ourselves.

Of course our particular circumstances were unavoidable, and at the end of the day, we knew missing the inspection meant potentially letting go of some of the rights we would have had had we been able to show up and actually pay attention. For other homebuyers, however, participating a home inspection — where the sole purpose is to identity and call out any unknown or undisclosed defects with the home — could potentially mean saving thousands.

“I always advise my clients to attend the end of the inspection — since being there the entire time may slow the inspector down or distract him from focusing on his job — so that the inspector can review their findings with them,” says Morgan Franklin, MBA, realtor. “Also, if the client is unfamiliar with home systems, like HVAC and plumbing, they can review the maintenance points with the inspector for clarification.”

Of course it stands to reason that missing out on certain findings of your home inspection (like missing air conditioning, for example) will be a costlier mistake than others (like a chip in the banister), so it’s a good idea to keep in mind some of the higher-cost things you’ll want to verify with your inspector while you have the chance. If you can catch these problems before closing, it’s usually possible to try to negotiate the repair cost or the overall price of the house with the seller. For example, as it turned out, the roof on our new house had some hail damage, but luckily this was caught in our home inspection report, and our relator was able to negotiate with the sellers to have them cover the cost of the repairs.

According to Morgan, here are three of the more expensive things you should pay attention to when it comes to your home inspection, if you don’t want to get stuck with a massive bill after the fact.

1. The Roof

What to look for: When it comes to your roof, particularly if you’re in an area frequented by rough weather like wind and hail, Morgan suggests looking out for aging and/or deteriorating shingles and/or flashing (or the metal corner pieces where the roof has a joint, like for a chimney or roof vent) that isn’t in proper order.

What it could cost you: The average reported cost of replacing an entire roof was approximately $6,794, with most homeowners spending somewhere between $4,663 and $8,951, according to HomeAdvisor.com.

2. HVAC (a.k.a. heating and cooling systems)

What to look for: While your home inspector will test the air temperature of your place, if they find issues with it you can always have an HVAC technician inspect your home, as well, to get further information. Morgan recommends looking at the serial number on your HVAC unit and running a quick Google search to find the manufacturer year — don’t just blindly believe the age on the disclosures (or, in our case, that one even exists!). “Once an HVAC unit reaches 15 years old, it’s likely close to the end of its useful life,” he said.

What it could cost you: If your HVAC is just in need of some simple repairs, most homeowners spent between $165 and $492 to fix them, according to HomeAdvisor.com. However, installing a new air conditioning unit is an entirely different story. Again according to HomeAdvisor.com, most homeowners spent between $3,693 and $7,146 to do so, with the national average being about $5,234.

3. Structural damage

What to look for: Your inspector will be looking for cracks and settling in the foundation of your home, to start. Of course the older your home is, the more likely these issues are to appear. “However, another contributing factor is water,” says Morgan. “For example, if the crawlspace is wet, look out for structural issues.” Any structural items noted by your inspector should thoroughly inspected by a professional — like a structural engineer or contractor — to assess exactly what damage is there and what the repairs will entail and cost.

What it could cost you: Foundation repair issues will vary widely based on what they are and where you live, but costs range from about $3,822 on average, with most homeowners spending between $1,763 and $5,880, according to HomeAdvisor.com.

The truth is that by the time you get to your home inspection, your head might be spinning from everything else you’ve already gone through (you know – finding a realtor, looking at houses, saving for a down payment, putting in an offer, etc.), but this is a super important step in the home buying process, so it’s important to not lose steam now. The good news? Your home inspection will be one of your final steps before closing day, so take heart in that fact, at least!

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