How to renovate on a budget – 21 affordable ideas to transform your home

1. Start with the cheap fixes

There are lots of cheap fixes you can make within a home without handing over wads of your hard earned cash. But always look for ways you can get the most bang for your buck. Here are four budget-friendly ideas:

  • Repaint a room with a fresh coat of paint in a modern colour. This is a low cost way to deliver maximum impact to a room or rooms.
  • Timber flooring looks great but costs a bomb to have sanded and varnished, so look at cheaper options such as durable floor paint to give floors a revamp.
  • Swap out old or outdated light fixtures for modern lighting to give rooms a lift. Places like Bunnings and IKEA have lots of affordable options.
  • Replace cheap looking thin skirtings and architraves with wider profile versions.

Pay Attention to The Pay Off

Especially when you renovate and update appliances, pay attention to the cost-saving value. Sure, an eco-friendly fridge might be more expensive initially. But by replacing it, it will save an average of $270 over the next five years.

The more you do this throughout your home, the bigger your annual savings. One of the best places to focus on eco-friendly choices is actually with your lighting.

Switching to eco-friendly bulbs or adding dimmer switches can give you a bigger pay back. Plus, the mood lighting in your home can make the environment more vibrant or cozy, depending on your design.

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9. Manage your time

Agree a workable timescale with your contractor. Have regular meetings and don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions or query things you don’t understand. Ensure all items you are responsible for sourcing arrive when they should. Your contractor won’t like waiting, and you could cost yourself time and money if you’re not properly organised.

13. Install New Light Fixtures

Lighting is one of the most important things you can update in a home, Juneja said. And it won’t set you back too much to install updated overhead fixtures and add both floor and table lamps to a room. You should budget about $100 to $200 per fixture and $10 to $20 for enough light bulbs for each room, Juneja said. Be sure to avoid fluorescent lighting, which can cast a harsh glow, he said. When showing your house for sale, switch LED bulbs for incandescent lights, which create a softer light.

18. Update Your Kitchen Tile

Your tile could be making your kitchen look outdated. Swap it out for classic subway tile or mosaic tile, which Jensen said is popular and affordable. Jensen said she bought mosaic tile for her kitchen from Costco, which cost $5 per square foot. You can also take a class at a home improvement store to learn how to install tile. “Take your time, and you will be amazed at how easy it can be,” she said. Another alternative is to clean your existing tile and grout, which will instantly refresh the look of your kitchen. It typically costs between $300 to $500 per room to have this done by a professional, according to HomeAdvisor.

14. Power the shower

(Image credit: future PLC/David Giles)

If your water pressure is low and you don’t have a combi boiler, your shower is probably less than invigorating. Installing a pump to increase the pressure and a thermostatic shower valve to maintain the temperature will improve it no end.

Cost: The supply and fit of a new pump should cost around £250, then £150–£250 to fit the shower.

4. Obtain at least three quotes

Before obtaining building quotes, you will need a set of drawings to get accurate costs. Aim to get at least three different quotes for comparison. Quotations can vary widely, so read them carefully, know exactly what is included, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. 

If your builder comes back with a quote that’s higher than you were expecting, go back to him. Ask if and where there might be potential to save money – perhaps by completing the work in stages, or changing the design or specification.

The price could simply reflect the fact that the builder is busy and doesn’t need the work, so he will aim the price high and take the most lucrative job. This is why it pays to call in several quotes for your project so that you find someone who wants the work, demonstrates relevant experience and has a good reputation. However, don’t go for the cheapest quote – if the price is too good to be true, there will usually be a reason for it.

Wherever possible, use one main contractor to carry out building work, including drainage and windows/doors. They may sub-contract some of this work, but will ultimately be responsible for ensuring all materials arrive at the right time and in the correct order.

Use our guide to comparing quotes from tradespeople to get it right.

Work with an architect who has done projects similar to the one you are planning. And make sure your design spec is as detailed as possible

19 Ways to Save on Your Home Remodel

If you’ve weighed your options, and have decided it’s better to remodel your home, here are our tips.

1. Increase Efficiency, Not Size

Anthony Tieuli

If you can reorganize and equip your kitchen for maximum utility, you may not need to blow out the walls to gain square footage. Start by replacing space-hogging shelves with cabinet-height pullout drawers 8 inches wide, containing racks for canned goods and other items.

“You’re getting three or more horizontal planes where you might otherwise get only one,” says Louis Smith Jr., an architect with Meier Group, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

You could easily shell out a few thousand to outfit cabinets with upgrades like dividers, pull-out pot trays, and lazy Susans, but you’ll save many times that amount by skipping the addition you thought you needed.

  • Cost to expand kitchen by 200 square feet: $48,000 to $95,000
  • Cost of super-efficient, custom-designed cabinets: $35,000
  • Saved: Up to $60,000

2. Bring in Natural Light Without Adding Windows

Jared Kuzia

Before cutting a big hole in the side of your house and rearranging the framing, consider less invasive—and less expensive—ways of capturing light.

To brighten up a windowless bath or hallway, for instance, you can install a “light tube,” which slips between roof rafters and funnels sunshine down into the living space.

  • Cost to add a double-pane insulated window: $1,500
  • Cost for a light tube: $500
  • Saved: $1,000

3. Hit the Recycling Center

Courtesy Habitat for Humanity

Do-it-yourselfers can reap big savings with recycled or lightly used fixtures and building materials. Habitat for Humanity operates about 400 ReStores nationwide, which offer salvaged materials at half off home-center prices.

One caveat: Many contractors won’t work with salvaged items, or homeowner-supplied materials in general, because they don’t want to assume the liability if something goes wrong.

That said, if you’re doing your own work, you can find anything from prehung doors to acrylic skylights to partial bundles of insulation. (To find a ReStore near you, visit .)

  • Price of 4-by-5-foot insulated window in a home center: $600
  • Price at ReStore: $300
  • Saved: $300

4. Donate your Trash

Before you begin a remodeling job, invite the local Habitat for Humanity chapter to remove materials and fixtures for later resale. “About 85 percent of a house is reusable,” says B.J. Perkins, Habitat’s ReUse program manager, in Austin, Texas. “We can do a total takedown, or do a cherry-pick job and take the cabinets, the tub, the sink, and so on.”

You save space in the landfill, collect a charitable tax credit for the donation, and help a good cause. Visit Habitat to find an affiliate near you.

  • Cost to trash a suite of bathroom fixtures: $50 to $75
  • Cost to donate: Nothing, plus you get a tax deduction
  • Saved: Space in the landfill (and a little bit of your soul)

5. Do Your Own Demo

Knocking down your home down may not be as costly as rebuilding, you can still shave dollars by doing some of the demolition yourself—as long as you proceed with care.

“If a homeowner wants to demo a deck, well, I am sure they can handle that,” says Michael Winn, owner of Winn Design, in Virginia. “But when it comes to interior spaces, I would dissuade them from doing it unless they have done it before.”

The reason: A reckless wrecker might unwittingly take out a load-bearing wall or, worse still, plunge a reciprocating saw into live wiring or pressurized plumbing.

  • Cost to demo a 200-square-foot deck yourself: $450 (Dumpster rental and parking permit)
  • Cost for a pro: $1,000
  • Saved: $550

6. Consider Long-Term Costs, Not Just Short-Term Gains

If your addition calls for clapboard siding, for instance, you can save more in the long run by ponying up now for the preprimed and prepainted variety. It costs an extra 10 to 20 cents per foot, but “you’ll wind up paying for half as many paint jobs down the road,” says Paul Eldrenkamp, owner of Byggmeister, a design-build remodeling firm in Newton, Massachusetts.

The reason? Factory finishes are applied on dry wood under controlled conditions—no rain, no harsh sun. “I used prefinished claps on my house about ten years ago and the only flaw in the finish is the occasional mildew spot, easily washed off,” Eldrenkamp says. “The paint looks as if it’ll be good for another ten years, easily.”

  • Cost of unfinished siding for a 10-by-40-foot addition, plus two paint jobs: $5,000
  • Cost for pre-finished claps and one coat of paint at installation: $3,750
  • Saved: $1,250

7. Tap Your Contractor’s Sources

When it comes to things like flooring, ask your subcontractor if he has odds-and-ends stock left over from other jobs. While renovating a Civil War-era bed-and-breakfast in New Jersey some years back, contractor Bill Asdal needed wood flooring.

He made a few phone calls and came up with hundreds of square feet of hardwood, in various lengths and widths, that otherwise would have gone into the trash on other job sites. Just by planing it to uniform thickness, then sanding and refinishing it, he saved his client almost $9,000 in materials costs.

  • Cost of new flooring: $19,200
  • Cost to use someone else’s discards: $10,500
  • Saved: $8,700

8. Consult an Architect

David Yellen

Depending on the scale of your project, you might not need a full-on architectural commission, which involves extensive meetings, multiple job-site visits, and several sets of construction drawings, to the tune of about 8 percent of a project’s construction budget. You might be able to tap an architect’s design savvy by having him undertake a one-time design consultation.

For example, for a $400 flat fee, Baton Rouge architect Kevin Harris will meet with a homeowner, examine the problem, and sketch out a few solutions that could be as simple as opening up a partition wall or moving a door. The homeowner can then give the sketch to a builder or take it to a drafting service, which will charge about $1 to $1.50 a square foot to crank out formal construction drawings.

  • Architect’s fee to design a 300-square-foot home office: $2,250
  • Fee for design consultation only and plans: $580
  • Saved: $1,670

9. Partner With a Contractor

Though the practice is controversial among the trades, some contractors will offer consulting and mentoring services to skilled do-it-yourselfers on an hourly basis.

Chicago-area builder Ted Welch charges $150 per hour for such coaching, with a two-hour minimum commitment. “The most satisfied clients tend to be those who have good manual dexterity, who realize that skills need to be practiced in order to be perfected, and who are willing to risk making a few mistakes and then learn from them,” he says.

  • Cost to drywall one room: $1,000
  • Cost with DIY consultation: $300 (2 hours of coaching), plus materials
  • Saved: $700

10. Make Sweat Equity Count

Unless you’ve got loads of time (and expertise) to spend on your project, the best way to add sweat equity is up front, by handling your own demolition, or at the back end, by doing some of the finish work yourself.

“If you want to save money, dig in and start helping out,” says Tom Silva. “You can insulate, you can paint, you can sand.” Or better still, he says, help with cleanup every day. “Instead of paying someone to pick up sawdust off the floor, put your money into the time it takes to trim the window properly,” he advises.

  • Cost for construction crew to handle cleanup: $200 per day
  • Cost to do it yourself: $0
  • Saved: About 3 to 5 percent of the overall job cost

11. Do Your Own Schlepping

If you’re doing your own project, slash your materials-delivery fees by picking up goods yourself. No pickup truck? For about $400, you can purchase a nearly new single-axle utility trailer online, which you can tow behind your SUV. Get one just big enough to carry 4-by-8 sheet goods flat. Use it for a half-dozen trips, and it’s paid for itself. Find trailers for sale near you via eBay Motors, or try your local classifieds.

  • Cost of 10 deliveries: $750
  • Cost to buy a used trailer: $400
  • Saved: $350, plus you get to keep (or sell) the trailer

12. Don’t Overspend on Wall Prep

If your walls are in such rough shape that it would take a painting contractor days of filling and sanding to make them ready for the roller, consider using materials such as Texturglas, from Deerfield Beach, Florida—based company Roos International.

A breathable, nontoxic wall covering made of fine glass filaments, Texturglas has a similar look and feel to the fiberglass matting used in auto-body work. It’s available in a variety of surface patterns, takes paint readily, and is designed to be installed right on top of existing surfaces, adding strength while covering up dings.

  • Cost to patch and paint a 15-by-20-foot room with heavily damaged walls: $1,525
  • Cost to install Texturglas: $1,050
  • Saved: $475

13. Consider Look-Alikes

Some imitations just make sense: Lumber giant Weyerhaeuser sells a fast-growing natural eucalyptus hybrid under the brand name Lyptus. Sustainably harvested in plantations in Brazil, the clear-grained hardwood looks and feels remarkably like mahogany. It’s sold as toungue-and-groove flooring and in planks and sheets for cabinetry and millwork.

  • Cost of 100 board feet of mohogany: $808
  • Cost of same quantity Lyptus: $395
  • Saved: $413

14. Wait Until Contractors Want Your Business

Don’t schedule your reno in the height of summer or between September, when the kids go back to school, and Christmas. “That’s premium time,” explains Lisa Stacholy, owner of LKS Architects, in Atlanta, Georgia. Suppliers tend to be busier, labor scarcer, and deliveries slower. One Virginia-based contractor offers discounts of between 4.5 and 5.5 percent (depending on the overall budget) on projects during his down time, right after the new year.

  • Cost of a major bathroom remodel in peak season: $25,000
  • Cost in January: $23,625
  • Saved: $1,375

15. Skip the Foundation

If local code allows, you may be able to support a small addition on posts and beams, as you would a deck, explains contractor Dennis Gavin, of Gavin Design-Build, in Media, Pennsylvania.

  • 220-square-foot addition with poured foundation: $40,000
  • Same-size addition on posts and beams: $35,000
  • Saved: $5,000

16. Don’t Move the Kitchen Sink

John Gruen

Or the toilet, if you can avoid it. “That often becomes the biggest part of the plumbing-price increase,” says Richard Trethewey, This Old House plumbing and heating expert. If your new layout requires that you move the toilet, use the opportunity to upgrade the pipes at the same time. “That will save you money in the long run,” says Richard.

  • Cost to move toilet more than 3 feet: $500-$1,000
  • Cost to leave in existing location: $0
  • Saved: Up to $1,000

17. Plan with Stock Sizes in Mind

“Ask yourself, ‘Why am I building something 10 feet wide if plywood comes in 4-foot-wide sheets?'” says Lisa Stacholy, of LKS Architects, in Atlanta. The same applies to stock windows and doors: Use manufacturers’ off-the-shelf dimensions from the outset and you will save the premiums of custom fabrication.

  • Cost of custom doors: $1,500-$2,500
  • Cost of standard doors: $500-$800
  • Saved: Up to $2,000

18. Buy Building Supplies at Auction

Brian Peppel, a homeowner in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, attends one building-supply auction each month in nearby Lancaster County. His recent finds include two pallets of concrete block for $10 and a solid-wood prehung exterior door for $65.

“Their inventory is everything under the sun, a lot of scratch-and-dent, misordered custom items, or new overstock supplies,” reports Peppel. He once watched the auctioneer’s gavel fall on a large, custom-made triangular window with an original retail value that he pegs at several thousand dollars. The winning bid? $1.

  • Cost of solid-cherry wall cabinet at a home center: $300
  • Cost at building-supply auction: $10
  • Saved: $290

19. Make Decisions Early

Start prowling the aisles at the hardware store or home center way before the wrecking crew shows up. Get a good feeling for what you want in fixtures and appliances and what they cost.

If you aren’t absolutely specific up front about what you want, you’ll have to rely on your contractor’s estimate, called an allowance, and his notion of what is acceptable may be quite different from yours. “Ninety-eight percent of the time, allowances are too low,” says Tom Silva. For instance, you may have had a glass-tile backsplash in mind, but your contractor’s bid was for ceramic.

  • Cost to plan ahead: $0
  • Cost of change orders midstream: The difference in the item price, but also time lost to project delays and communications glitches
  • Saved: Up to thousands

Bathroom

Bathrooms are a common priority for house remodels, and for good reason: no one wants to shower and get ready for the day in an unappealing space. Like with kitchen remodels, cheap ideas for bathroom remodels include replacing the backsplash, refacing cabinets and painting walls, but here are two additional ideas for an inexpensive renovation.

Install a Pre-Made Bathroom Vanity

Finding a pre-made vanity set couldn’t be easier: Double-sink vanities, floating vanities and even corner vanities are regularly sold in a variety of styles, materials and sizes. The cost for a pre-made bathroom vanity can range from $100 to $2,600. A basic understanding of plumbing and some good old-fashioned elbow grease is required for assembly, but if the thought of messing with your pipes alarms you, a professional installation average around $1,500 and can be as low as $300.

Replace a Shower

A prefabricated shower stall or kit comes with all the parts required to assemble a complete shower and can be found for around or less than $1,000. An even cheaper option, if you don’t need to replace the shower pan or bathtub, is to buy a wall kit only ($300 to $600).

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