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Top 5 Projects for DIY Home Renovation on a Budget

A professional remodeler reveals the top projects homeowners can achieve on their own without a lot of money. All you need is a bit of patience and a few basic tools.

diy home renovation on a budget

Interested in DIY home renovation projects on a budget that are also achievable? Sure, we all are.

Enter Keith Steier, who parlayed his job as a co-op handyman into a career that includes founding New York City’s Knockout Renovation design and build firm.

Just off a remodel of the studio kitchen for the “Rachael Ray Show” and the relocation of Knockout’s Manhattan showroom, Steier checked in with AAA Northeast to talk about the top five game-changing DIY home renovations that (almost) anyone can accomplish with a limited skill set and a limited budget.

Easy

Hang window treatments and take a shine to new light fixtures

One of the least expensive (and easiest) ways to knock out a little home renovation on a budget is by replacing older window curtains and blinds or updating outdated lighting fixtures. With just a low-powered drill-driver (or even a screwdriver), most DIY newbies should be able to easily hang new curtains or other window treatments as long as hardware is screwed directly into the wall studs or secured to the wall with inexpensive drywall anchors.

Typically sold with easy installation kits, new lighting fixtures can also be replaced with just a few turns of the screwdriver. Homeowners should always turn off power to the house when working with electrical outlets and elements, and have a comfort level with basic electrical work.

“Just hanging new curtains and lighting sconces can dramatically change the look and feel of a room,” Steier said. “It’s one of the easiest and least expensive DIY projects that still delivers great wow factor.”

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Paint a new color scheme and give your cabinets a face-lift  

Paint makers are coming up with more colors and finishes for both interior and exterior house paints. When it comes to top home renovation ideas on a budget, painting can be a fun, easy and inexpensive way for DIYers to flex some muscle. Paint results will be vastly improved with proper prep, including scraping and sanding off old, flaky layers of paint, puttying up nail and tack holes and caulking where necessary.

“Painting delivers the biggest bang for the buck when it comes to visual impact,” Steier said. “Pay attention to luster and finishes like flat, semi-flat, semi-gloss, gloss and eggshell, and be thorough and patient when taping off borders.”

In addition to walls and trim, Steier says painting kitchen cabinets (both inside and outside) is quickly becoming a popular project when it comes to DIY home renovation on a budget. Cabinets can get a quick and easy face-lift by upgrading drawer pulls and handles or adding a new laminate surface to the doors, drawers and cabinet faces.

Upgrade a room with durable floor laminates 

Floors can also get a quick face-lift with inexpensive laminate kits that allow DIYers to practically peel and stick on floors that mimic the look and feel of natural wood. Floor laminates are one area where Steier recommends stretching the budget to purchase the best quality available, as inexpensive floor laminates tend to not last long, particularly in high-traffic areas.

“You can get good laminates that are really durable and then there are some that will shred and indent and look horrible just nine months down the road,” Steier said. “Double check the durability of what you’re installing and consider if and when you might want to remove the laminate before using high-performance glues and adhesives. Mistakes happen and style trends come and go, so always think about how you would reverse-engineer a project if you had to.”

diy home renovation on a budget

Moderate

Refresh the kitchen with a new backsplash

For homeowners looking to try an intermediate-level DIY renovation, a new kitchen backsplash can take on the look of an entire remodel but still keep the budget in check.

“This is a project that’s possible for a DIY homeowner to pull off with a little more research and perhaps renting some tools,” Steier said. “Most home improvement stores sell tile grids that mimic the look of individual tile, but there is some skill involved to get really great results.”

To help guide the DIY home renovation on a budget, YouTube offers a seemingly endless library of how-to videos for nearly any project. Steier also says to be realistic about the time commitment you might need to learn and become proficient in renovation skills you see on the internet.  “You might end up needing a lot of time on your hands to complete even easier renovation projects, and as things get more complex, you are not going to find all the answers with just a few quick Google searches.”

Advanced

Enhance the bathroom with upgraded faucets

That’s especially true when it comes to plumbing renovations. The proverbial leaky faucet has flummoxed many a handy person and DIYer, and while installing new faucets and fixtures provides a major wow factor, working with water can also be extremely difficult.

“Water is an area where there’s just no room for error,” Steier said. “Use the wrong washer or forget an O-ring or get a dud replacement part and you could have a worse problem than you were trying to resolve. You can get repair and replacement kits for faucets, but make sure you can shut off the water that leads to the fixture and watch plenty of videos, because water is unforgiving. There’s no half-right.”

Installing new medicine cabinets or adding new shower treatments and surrounds are two budget-friendly bathroom upgrades that will keep you high and dry but still deliver on the renovation end.

Whatever DIY renovation projects you take on, Steier says the key to success is to take your time, have fun and don’t be afraid to call in the big guns if things go off the rails.

“There will be noise, there will be dust, there will always be a surprise or two, but enjoy it,” he said. “If you feel like you’re losing perspective, call a professional remodeler that can guide you through a renovation from the design phase to selected products, matching aesthetics and – of course – doing all of the hard work!”

We want to hear about your home projects! Tell us about a DIY home renovation that you were able to accomplish. Bonus points if it’s budget-friendly!  

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