6 Home Upgrades You Can Do for $10,000 or Less

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Older homeowner painting a gazebo or pergola in the backyard garden
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Home renovations can be tricky when you’re committed to staying on a firm budget. This is where dreams meet real world costs, and it’s not always pretty.

After a project is underway, it’s tougher to cut costs. The time for that is in the planning stage, well ahead of the job. Start by interviewing professionals and getting their bids or estimates in advance. If you’re considering going DIY, look carefully into whether your skills are up to the job.

In 2023, U.S. households spent $9,542 on average for home improvements, home services referral company Angi says. For a satisfying outcome, choose a project that makes a real difference in your life, advises Angi co-founder Angie Hicks.

Here’s the test: Will you get a great feeling when you drive up to or enter your home?

In the following, Hicks and other remodeling and real estate experts share their favorite improvement projects to do for under $10,000, with ideas for upgrades or trimming costs. Of course, this size of budget goes further in some markets than in others. Your cost will depend on your home, its size and age, and on local rates for materials and labor.

1. Backyard renovation

Laying sod or artificial grass turf in the dirty to make a backyard lawn patio area
barmalini / Shutterstock.com

Typical cost for this kind of remodel project: $6,010

Landscaping upgrades can substantially increase the curb appeal of your home, Hicks says. About 20% of households surveyed in Angi’s recent report on home spending had completed a landscaping project in 2023.

“An entire backyard remodel could set you back $6,010 or more, but you can increase or decrease this amount depending on the features and things that you’d like to add,” Hicks tells Money Talks News.

Plan carefully to stay on budget. “Landscaping projects can quickly creep up in cost,” she cautions. Costs can include:

  • Yard size: Landscaping can run from $4.50 and $12 per square foot. Extensive remodels can run as high as $40 per square foot.
  • Labor: With a smaller project, a landscaper may charge $50 to $100 per hour. With a major renovation, there’s typically a single per-project price.
  • Materials: Budget carefully to include supplies like sod, turf, rocks, mulch, pavers and other materials that will bring your idea to life.
  • Landscape design and architects: If your ambitions outstrip your expertise, get a bid from a landscape architect. That could cost roughly $70 to $150 per hour, Hicks says.

Splurge: With a $10,000 budget “you could probably add a patio, install some flower beds around it and add trees to your yard,” Hicks says. At the high end, you might be able to add a deck or gazebo.

Budget version: You can scale a landscaping project up or down. Start small: Remove a tree and put in a few shrubs. If you can’t afford to do it all in one season, phase your project over several years.

2. Small bathroom remodel

Woman washing her hands
theshots.co / Shutterstock.com

Typical cost for this kind of remodel project: $6,500

A bathroom remodel is a chance to create a spot where you can unwind and pamper. The average small bathroom remodel runs around $6,500, Angi’s research finds.

Labor and materials are big factors:

  • Labor: A contractor’s fee is roughly 40% to 60% of the total project cost. Count on paying a professional contractor $300 to $500 per day. Many contractors give a flat rate or estimate. Some work by the hour, but that can make it hard to predict costs.
  • Materials: Materials range widely in price. Luxury and custom products can quickly run up a budget.
  • Size: Remodeling a 15-square-foot half-bath or powder room might cost around $2,250 to $3,000; a primary bathroom remodel of roughly 40 square feet can run $6,000 to $8,000.

Scaling back a bathroom remodel takes discipline. And even when you can splurge, beware. Costs can quickly escalate.

Splurge: Consider a fun, high-end tile of stone or textured marble. A custom-made vanity is a real treat, as are higher-end light fixtures.

Budget version: Materials selection is where you can best lower costs. Look at vinyl flooring or a more-affordable porcelain tile. Use a prefabricated vanity and leave your toilet and tub in place.

3. New wood flooring

Clean hardwood floors
Jo Ann Snover / Shutterstock.com

Typical cost for this kind of remodel project: $5,500

New wood flooring earns back about $6,500 of the project’s cost when you sell the home — that’s a 118% return on the $5,500 typical investment, says Brandi Snowden, director of member and consumer survey research at the National Association of Realtors.

Her data is from the 2022 Remodeling Impact Report by the National Association of Realtors and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

The species of wood you use will be a big part of the total cost. According to Home Advisor (a part of Angi), which connects consumers with home services professionals: “About 50% to 75% of your budget will go toward materials, with the rest spent on labor.”

When shopping for wood flooring, you may also wish to consider the environmental cost of your choices.

Splurge: Walnut flooring, at $11 to $20 per square foot, makes people say, “Wow.” Also, it resists insects and mold.

Budget version: Bamboo is great-looking and less costly. It’s durable and renewable (it grows faster than trees) and comes pre-finished — a good DIY project if you’ve got the skills. Bamboo runs $5 to $11 per square foot, according to Home Advisor.

4. Closet renovation

A woman picks clothes out of her closet
New Africa / Shutterstock.com

Typical cost for this kind of remodel project: $6,000

An upgraded closet is a dream for many who want to improve their home’s livability, organization and storage.

For the typical $6,000 cost, a homeowner stands to recover $5,000 — or 83% of the project’s cost — at resale, the 2022 Remodeling Impact study found.

“You’ll pay between $140 and $240 per linear foot for wall-mounted closet organizers,” Home Advisor finds.

Splurge: Even if you hire a building contractor for structural adjustments and installation, it makes sense to use a custom closet company for designing and furnishing the closet interior. They have the experts, products and many ways to make this dream organizing job come true. They are good for measuring, planning, advice and help during installation.

Budget version: The Spruce suggests 32 DIY-able budget closet makeover projects, including a kids reading nook closet conversion and (of course) a couple of IKEA hacks.

5. Outdoor deck resurfacing

Person staining a wooden deck.
Dagmara_K / Shutterstock.com

Typical cost for this kind of remodel project: $3,000

Averaging around $3,000 on Thumbtack, deck resurfacing can enhance the appearance and extend the lifespan of your deck.

Resurfacing involves hiring a deck builder or other professional to renew an old deck without replacing the frame and foundation. Instead, they’ll replace existing current deck boards, railings, and/or stairs with new materials.

The cost is less than a full-scale replacement. “Averaging around $3,000 on Thumbtack, deck maintenance can not only enhance appearance, but it can also improve your deck’s lifespan as a whole,” says Morgan Olsen, design expert at Thumbtack.

Thumbtack’s data shows that:

  • Resurfacing a typical deck of 200 square feet might run from $775 to $1,600 in materials and $350 to $650 in labor.
  • Costs run, on average, $2.20 to $3.82 per square foot and up. The bigger the deck, the higher the cost.

Splurge: Consider using composite decking, made of wood fibers, polymers and plastic. Trex, a leading brand, offers a limited 50-year warranty against rot, warping, cracking, or splintering. The downside: premium prices and the possibility that composite decking can be somewhat slippery when wet. Look for products with anti-slip properties.

Budget version: Instead of resurfacing the entire deck, do a partial resurfacing using the existing type of material. Focus on renewing high-traffic areas or on sections showing wear, damage or rot. “Targeted resurfacing can help save you money while still improving your deck’s appearance and functionality,” Olsen says.

6. Garden pergola or gazebo

A backyard patio with pergola and potted plants for container gardening
MargJohnsonVA / Shutterstock.com

Typical cost for this kind of remodel project: $4,000

Outdoor features like a gazebo or pergola (an outdoor arch or garden framework) lend shade, stylishness and a place to gather or entertain in your backyard, making a patio or lawn an inviting outdoor room, Olsen, of Thumbtack, tells Money Talks News.

Costs vary but typically run around $4,000. The materials and labor to construct and install a 10-foot by 10-foot pergola cost roughly $3,600, says Olsen.

Splurge: At the higher end, you could spend $9,000 for a pergola’s design and installation, using an expensive wood like teak and topping it with a custom patio cover. Redwood or cedar also are beautiful but costly.

Budget version: Use a prefab kit of vinyl or PVC structure for a smaller, square, free-standing pergola that’s open on all sides for as little as $1,000. Other budget-conscious options: pressure-treated pine or Alumawood, an aluminum product with a wood look. Or consider building in fall when contractors may be willing to negotiate rates and perhaps even material costs.

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