Sometimes home improvements are out of reach for the moment. A kitchen upgrade can cost thousands of dollars you might not have to spend right now.
Other improvements are unavoidable, but also expensive and unsatisfying at the same time — take a roof replacement for one example.
But if you’re in the mood to spruce up your home, there are plenty of doable projects that make a real difference and won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
The following improvements should run you less than $100 but will help make your home look and feel like a million bucks.
1. Paint the front door
Painting your whole house? That’s an expensive project that takes time. On the other hand, painting the front door gives the front of your house a fresh, new look in an afternoon.
It can also increase your home value, as we explain in “Painting With This Color Can Boost Your Home’s Sale Price by $6,000.” Be sure to use an exterior paint that’s right for this job.
In total, the materials — including painter’s tape, paint brushes, primer and paint — should run well under $100.
The DIY Network offers tips for getting the best results.
2. Add a bird feeder
Add a bird feeder for your feathered friends to visit near a kitchen or living room window, and you’ll draw a bit of natural beauty and song to your yard. A feeder needn’t be fancy — you will find a range of options and price points.
The one pictured above, by Perky-Pet, promises anti-squirrel features — and that is key. After all, if left to their own devices, squirrels will consume all your bird feed.
3. Add path lighting
Add a little romance to your sidewalk or garden path with solar-powered lights, and you’ll also add curb appeal and safe stepping for guests in the evenings.
4. Paint the porch floor
Painting the front porch floor is an easy, cheap way to improve curb appeal.
Depending on the size of your porch, it should only take a gallon or two of paint plus the cost of a roller and pan. You can use a pressure washer to prep the surface.
Choose a paint or stain that’s tough enough for use underfoot and that’s meant to be used outdoors.
5. Paint the garage door
As with the front door and the porch floor, the garage door is a good place to make a difference with a fresh coat of paint or stain.
Once again, make certain to ask your paint store professional to sell you a product made for the purpose and material you have in mind.
6. Add mulch
Laying down mulch on your garden beds or around the base of trees can quickly make your yard look tidier. It can also spare you a lot of weeding, prevent erosion, save water and, depending on what material you use, improve the soil.
Unless your yard is massive, you can get plenty of mulch to go around for less than $100.
7. Update a light fixture
You can run up a big bill with fancy track lighting and other expensive fixtures, but there are plenty of less costly pendant lights and lanterns available to hang over a kitchen table or spruce up a hallway.
A great place to search for fun household items like fixtures is Cost Plus World Market, which sells the pendant lamp pictured here for well under $100.
For hundreds of styles and ideas, check out the offerings on a home renovation site like Houzz.com.
8. Replace the porch light
Has your affection dimmed for the porch light that came with the house? Or, maybe you think it’s wise to install an additional exterior light out by the back door or garage.
The sconce shown above is listed for less than $50 on Houzz. If you are handy and install it yourself, you could add two for just under $100!
9. Make a chalkboard wall
Chalkboard paint can transform a kitchen wall into a place to keep a grocery or chores list, and an art spot where family and guests can doodle.
In a child’s room, a chalkboard wall is a pallet for art that changes as the occupant grows up. In a home office … well, it just looks hipper than a whiteboard.
Chalkboard paint is usually available at home improvement stores like Home Depot.
If you want to get really crafty, make your own chalkboard paint using latex paint and grout. Doing so is certainly cheaper, and allows you to choose any color you like.
10. Add a fire pit
You can make a fire pit in your backyard with simple pavers or bricks, buy a modest and tasteful one from Amazon or spend thousands of dollars on a gas-fed designer fire pit for your elegant poolside patio. Whatever your budget, it’s nice to gather around a fire in the backyard and chat.
11. Seal or stain your wood deck
Wood decks don’t last forever. But they will last a lot longer and look better if you stain or seal them every couple of years.
The cost of stains or sealant will vary depending on the size and surface of your deck. Ask a paint store expert for help choosing the right product.
Whatever you spend, it will be far less than the deck replacement that will be required if you neglect the original deck for too long. But it may require some serious elbow grease. Take a look at this Lowe’s guide to preparing your deck and apply stain or sealant.
12. Insulate water pipes
Admittedly, this upgrade is boring. But it’s easy, and it will save you money.
You can insulate pipes carrying hot water through a cold basement or crawl space with foam pipe insulation, pre-slit, hollow-core, flexible “sleeves” made of polyethylene or neoprene foam.
Before shopping, make sure you know the diameter of the pipes you are insulating.
13. Paint anything
There’s no quicker fix than a can of fresh paint.
Use it to give new life to dingy wood furniture. Try a new color in your bedroom or bathroom. Or paint the ceiling a soft sky blue.
HGTV has 50 ideas for projects requiring a single can of paint.
14. Update a bathroom faucet
The This Old House website says replacing an old faucet with a shiny new one is an easy project that takes about two hours, and the site gives step-by-step instructions.
Tip: Find a new faucet with the same finish as your other bathroom fixtures. Although prices range widely, you’ll find plenty of choices under $100.
15. Dress up an old sofa
Give the couch new life by pulling a slipcover over its tired old self.
With any remaining cash, jazz up your “new” couch with some new throw pillows.
16. Update cabinet hardware
If your kitchen and bathroom look dated but you can’t replace the cabinets, replacing the cabinet hardware gives rooms a new look.
- Remove one handle or drawer pull to see the number of screws and spacing required. Your new hardware will need to have the same configuration.
- Before shopping, take stock of your room’s style and browse home decorating magazines to identify the look of the hardware you want. For example, do you want pulls or handles? Sleek and modern? Old world? Recycled and eclectic?
There is a huge selection of pulls and knobs on Amazon — including the ceramic pulls pictured above — and also on Houzz. If you are looking for a vintage look or trying to match the hardware on an older house, check out building salvage stores in your area.
17. Create order with pegboard storage
The old-fashioned workshop staple of pegboard storage is still a great system for bringing order to any room.
You can purchase and assemble the components individually.
18. Tackle carpet stains
Take a Saturday morning and give your carpets some TLC at virtually no cost, using a solution of white vinegar and water to tackle stains. Or read consumers’ reviews to find carpet cleaning products you want to try.
For carpets stained beyond your powers of restoration, consider using a professional carpet cleaning service. Have only the most heavily trafficked room done if you need to keep costs low.
When looking for a professional service, make sure you’re comparing apples with apples: Some services charge by the room, others by the square foot.
19. Reupholster an ottoman
Grab a staple gun, a little fabric and a simple piece of furniture — like an ottoman — and give it new life.
Brooke Ulrich, DIY blogger at All Things Thrifty, explains how to tackle reupholstering. Here’s a quick video with a genius trick for removing old fabric from furniture, which she says is one of the hardest parts of the job.
Shop for fabric and a piece of furniture with simple lines at a Habitat for Humanity ReStore, a thrift shop or Craigslist. Or search online for “fabric outlet” and “discount upholstery fabric.”
Another source: JoAnn fabrics and craft stores’ frequent sales, discounts and coupons allow for big savings.
20. String fairy lights
Having trouble letting go of your holiday lights? No worries. String up some lights indoors to cheer you up when the nights are long. Here’s an example, at Amazon, of copper wire string lights that you can shape as desired.
Caution: Safety first! Read all instructions carefully and make certain that, if they’re going outdoors, you’ve chosen waterproof products designed for outside use.
21. Make a faux tile backsplash
This is more than a simple painting job with amazing results. A painted kitchen backsplash mimics the contemporary look of stone and glass tiles, minus the costly tile. The project requires a lot of preparatory taping.
For instructions and photos, check out those of the blog Reality Daydream.
22. Make a Mason jar lamp
Mason jar lamps are trendy.
A YouTube video by TheSorryGirls takes you step by step through the process of making one.
If a single-jar lamp isn’t enough of a challenge, and you have plenty of Mason canning jars, look for instructions online for making a Mason jar chandelier. Stick to using found materials to keep your costs down.
23. Swap out your shower curtain, bath mat and towels
With this inexpensive upgrade, you might also consider replacing those threadbare towels with new bath towels. These few changes will improve the look of your bathroom.
24. Install a front door kick plate
A kick plate is a broad strip of polished metal used horizontally along the bottom edge of a front door to protect it from scratches, kicks and dog paws. Kick plates are decorative as well as functional.
Change your old kick plate for a new one, or install a kick plate if you haven’t used one before. Choose one with a finish that meshes with the finish on your existing exterior hardware.
25. Paint exterior shutters and trim
A fresh coat of paint or two on shutters and trim provides a quick, easy shot in the arm for your home’s exterior.
Paint all of the trim or just the window trim. If you are short on time or materials, repaint only the front-facing trim.
It’s safest to use an exterior paint color that’s already part of your home’s exterior color scheme.
26. Install new door handles
Put attractive new knobs or handles on interior doors and closets.
For family members who are aging, arthritic or disabled, make life easier by replacing knobs with easier-to-grasp door levers like these at Home Depot.
27. Make a new headboard
Craft a new headboard or refurbish your old one. If you scrounge for free and cheap materials, you can do it for less than $50.
28. Rearrange bookshelves
“Style” the contents of your bookshelves with artistic flare. Better Home & Gardens has inspiration and tips. This is a fun, creative project, so spend some time and enjoy it.
Among BHG’s tips:
- Treat each shelf as a display, and then stand back and make sure all the shelves work well together.
- Position some items off-center on a shelf.
- Place some books in horizontal stacks and use the stacks as bookends for books shelved vertically.
- For a designer look, cover the inside of a bookcase with fabric or wallpaper.
- Don’t pack treasures and collections on every shelf.
- Pieces of pottery make nice, solid bookends.
- Stack a pyramid of books and put one of your favorite objects atop the stack.
- Use bookshelves as a gallery for framed photos or art.
29. Rearrange furniture
Ask someone whose home styling skills you admire to help you see your home and possessions in a new light.
Stay open to change and new ideas.
30. Add container plants
New plants dress up your home’s porch and garden and create great curb appeal. You can start plants from seed or relocate existing plans into pots to save money.
If you want to buy plants, your local garden store or nursery may have a half-price area from which it sells cast-offs. Often, watering and care is all they need.
31. Install new house numbers
Change out your old house numbers. Find new ones with an online search or at hardware stores. Or, shop for handmade house numbers at Etsy.
32. Give light-switch covers new life
Give those grimy old light-switch covers new life: Toss them out and treat yourself to new ones.
Or, for a fun project that will save money, cover your existing plates with decoupage.
33. Give your home a deep cleaning
If you’re stuck in a rut, try using Oprah.com’s checklist, timeline and instructions for deeply, thoroughly cleaning your home in eight hours.
Oprah.com calls it “spring cleaning,” but don’t let that stop you from doing it in any season. You’ll feel wonderfully virtuous for doing it.
What cheap, satisfying home upgrades have you done? Tell us in the comments below or on Money Talks News’ Facebook page.
Kari Huus and Marilyn Lewis contributed to this post.
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