DIY Affordable Home Improvements

How to maximize remodeling dollars

These 10 projects—decorating, storage, lighting, and more—are cheap but effective. They remodel bathrooms, kitchens, living rooms, closets, entryways, laundry rooms, and more.

Bathroom mini-renovation—$430

A granite bathroom vanity top is an affordable way to add natural stone elegance to your home. Lowe’s, Home Depot, and other home centers sell granite tops. Sizes cost $150–$450. With a new faucet and mirror, this bath makeover costs under $500.

Order all your new supplies before starting the project. Check for defects (a common problem). Remove old fixtures and repair walls. Keep the good vanity. Refresh it with paint. Avoid brush marks with several cans of spray paint. To decorate, replace the pulls.

Paint the walls and hang the mirror. If your mirror had a recessed medicine cabinet, make sure the new one fits. The job often grows with the opening!

Finally, install the granite top, faucet, and plumbing. Whew! You should finish in a weekend.

31-inch granite vanity top cost. long, $200; faucet, $130; 24×36-in. paint, $40; mirror, $60. $430 total.

2–3 days.

Search for “bathroom,” “faucet,” and “towel bars” above.

Bathroom Remodel

Granite vanity tops with under-mounted sinks cost $150.

Improvement 2: One-wall wallpaper—$280

Wallpaper close-up

Fine wallpaper is affordable for one wall.

Wall-covering retailers are great. Wallpaper’s resurgence has increased store selection. Some prices may shock you.

Be encouraged. To make a big change, don’t cover every wall. Papering one wall makes fine, expensive papers and fabrics affordable. Papering an entire room will take less time, effort, and mess. This is ideal for a room with plain walls, slim baseboards and window trim, and no built-ins. Instant personality.

Start by photographing and measuring your room. Bring these to the interior design or wall-covering store. Ask a specialist to help you choose options that match your furniture. The specialist will also recommend the best wall for the new paper and estimate the amount to order.

Fabrics, uncut rolls, and designer papers can be difficult to hang. Ask the dealer about the hanging instructions and difficulty. If you’re new to paperhanging or love an expensive paper, hire a pro. One wall should cost $150–250 more.





Fill holes and smooth your wall before starting. Paper may show imperfections. Acrylic primer seals the wall. It hardens smoothly. To tighten seams, slide the paper easier.

$122 for a double roll of paper and $20–$50 for supplies.

Time: Half to one day, depending on wall condition.

For more information, search “wallpaper” above.

Wallpaper One Wall

Wallpapering one wall is cheaper and easier than wallpapering the whole room. You can also choose a bold pattern that would overwhelm four walls.

Improvement 3: Halogen track lighting—$180

Track lighting halogen

Rail track lighting is functional and attractive. Highlight images with spots.

Track lighting lets you illuminate countertops, walls, and objects in any space. The tiny halogen bulbs emit brilliant white light that illuminates colors.

Track lighting has become cheaper. Most systems use household voltage now. You don’t need a Transformer—just connect to any ceiling junction box.

We show a “rail” system that holds pendants and spotlights below the ceiling. Rails are 4 or 8 feet long. The rail can be bent and the lights placed anywhere.

Rail system kits with three to five light fixtures are available at home centers, lighting stores, and online. To see all the options, check manufacturers’ websites or lighting specialty store catalogs. If you want to build your own system or add rail lights, this is crucial. You need all the right parts.

Kits start at $150.

If the ceiling has an electrical box, one to two hours.

Type “ceiling lights” in the search box above for more information.

Improvement 4: $40–$80 kitchen rollouts

Rollout installed

Rollouts make cabinet space accessible.

Photo by Ramon Moreno

Kitchen rollouts are one of the easiest and most satisfying upgrades. They reveal everything hidden in cabinets, giving you more storage space.

If you don’t want to make the rollouts yourself, you can buy moderately priced, sturdy ones online or at Lowe’s and Home Depot. They attach to your cabinet shelves with four screws.

The biggest mistake is ordering the wrong size. When measuring the cabinet’s front opening, include the door, hinges, and other obstructions.

If you need inspiration for your kitchen, check out this blog from for kitchen brands.

Rollouts cost $40–$80.

Rollouts take 15 minutes.

For more information, search “rollouts” above.

Improvement 5: Paint and trim—$380

You can frame any attractive two-color wall with a chair rail and crown molding. This is one of the secrets of fast, easy redecorating.

Paint trim for maximum color impact. This simplifies installation. Filler and paint make joints look sharp and crisp, so you don’t have to cut them perfectly. You can also use cheaper materials.

In rooms with at least 4-1/2-inch baseboards, our trim combination looks best. Consider replacing your baseboard if it’s narrower. See “Wallpaper one wall.”

Then make the new chair rail 60–70% of the baseboard width. If you have this trim, use a two-piece stool and apron to mimic a windowsill. Otherwise, use 5/8- to 3/4-inch window trim. strip above. Chair rails should be centered at one-third wall height. Select crown molding that’s 30–40% of the baseboard width.

Finding colors that complement each other and the room’s furnishings is difficult. Take advantage of magazine pictures and paint manufacturer combinations found at every paint store. Take photos of rooms or outfits you like and work with a paint dealer to match colors. Small paint samples are available at most home centers and paint dealers. Paint a 2 x 2 ft. or try them on the wall. drywall or cardboard instead. So you can see the samples from different angles. Look at the colors in daylight and at night. Under different lighting, some colors change drastically.

TIP: Before installing trim, paint the walls and trim. Finish up.

Cost: 180 for 6 gallons of paint; 200 for 80 feet of chair rail and crown moldings.

Two-three days.

For more information, search “trim” and “paint” above.

Remodeled Dining Room

Staining and varnishing trim takes more time and money than painting it. Over a light base color, apply easy-release masking tape to create wall stripes.

Trim Size

Choose chair rail that’s two-thirds the baseboard width and crown that’s one-third. Choose crown that’s two-thirds the baseboard width for a traditional look.

Improvement 6: Backyard oasis—$450

Anchor canopy.

Strong winds are best protected by screw-in ground anchors.

Sun shade and insect protection make a great backyard retreat. Good news: You can now choose from a wide range of screened canopies (gazebos) that protect against sun and insects. They’re easy to install and maintain, can be planted in almost any flat spot, and cost $200 to $500, depending on size. Typical sizes are 10 x 10 feet. to 12 x 12 ft. In a few hours, you can make a comfortable sitting area. Screened canopies are sold at home centers and outdoor furniture stores.

An inviting grass floor will wear out quickly. We recommend building a paver patio for the floor if you don’t have a suitable deck or patio. Brick and concrete pavers are durable, attractive, and available in many styles and colors. They’re easy to install. Even a beginner can finish a weekend project well. Yes, it’s tough. You’ll need to rent and operate a heavy plate compactor. Find pavers at home centers and patio and garden centers.

Select a canopy style and size. Make your patio slightly larger to accommodate it. You could also leave part of a larger patio open.

Screened canopies cost $150 and up; $3.50 per sq. paver patio.

Time: Two hours for a canopy, a weekend for a small patio.

For more information, search “brick” above.

Canopy Screen

A screened canopy blocks the sun and bugs.

Home Depot’s screened canopy 

Improvement 7—$100 Organize Your Closet

A tidy closet doesn’t cost much. Wire shelving systems are inexpensive, practical, and easy to install. They add storage and make cleaning easier. The floor is clear for vacuuming because most things hang on the walls. Solid shelving collects dust, but wire shelving doesn’t.

A beginner can install a system with a drill, level, hacksaw, and basic hand tools. Start with closet measurements. Home centers sell $50–$75 basic kits with shelves and clothes rods. Start with a kit and add accessories or build a custom system from readily available parts for a more complex system. See a full selection of parts and get arrangement ideas at a home center. Then use masking tape on the closet wall to plan your system. Measure carefully if you draw a plan on paper. Planning guides are often on manufacturer websites.

Drill-and-tap wall anchors from most brands work well in drywall. To fit your layout, hacksaw heavy wire shelving.

Finally, look for shoe racks, tie and belt racks, and baskets to maximize storage space.

$200 for the closet system.

Remove old shelves and install new system in half a day.

For more information, search “closet” above.

Closet Organizer

Utilize closet space with wire shelving and accessories. You can outfit a closet in one morning.

Photo by ClosetMaid. 

Improvement 8: Laundry—$480

Close-up floor tile

Snap-together floor tiles are bright and resilient.

Take a step back. It probably needs more storage, lighting, and organization. It’s all here.

Home centers carry everything. Start with a stock countertop (colors not in stock cost two to three times more). Buy end caps to cover the countertop’s raw ends.

Build simple shelf units from 8-ft. lengths 23-1/4-in. shelves wide. We chose Melamine shelving, which doesn’t need painting. Size and space the shelves to fit your laundry baskets (we made ours 14-1/2 in. apart and 35 in. above the floor). Screw the parts together with 2-in screws. screws. Cover screw heads with plastic caps (sold near the shelving).

Next, hang two cheap 18-in. x 30-in. utility wall cabinets above the countertop for detergents and cleaning supplies. Use an adjustable clothing rod to hang clothes.

To spot stains and other issues, you’ll need bright lighting. Because they cast light evenly with few shadows, fluorescent tubes work well. We suggest a 4-foot, four-bulb fixture with a prismatic plastic cover for extra brightness. Buy fixtures with electronic ballasts to avoid magnetic ballast hum.

To see your clothes’ true colors, use 90-plus CRI bulbs in the fixture. Fluorescent bulbs cost $8 to $10 each, which may exceed your budget. Online purchase.

Rubbery plastic floor tile will soften and brighten your floor. This flooring is tough but comfortable, used mostly in garages and commercial buildings. The tiles snap together without glue, making it the easiest floor to install. 12″ x 12″ Tiles have many colors and patterns. Try home centers or online.

Cost: 6-ft. 3/4-inch countertop, $70. Melamine shelves and supports, $40; two 18-in. Wall cabinets, $150; adjustable clothes rod, $10; light fixture, $54, plus $45 for four high-CRI bulbs; flooring, about $3.50 per tile.

Time: 1–2 days.

Cut List for Shelving

  • Melamine supports are 3/4′ x 23-1/4′ x 34-1/2′.
  • Melamine shelves measuring 3/4 x 23 x 22
  • Two plywood backs are 1/4′ x 23-1/4′ x 34′.

Type “cabinets” and “laundry room” in the search box above for more information.

The Laundry

One weekend can give your laundry room a large folding table, more storage, better lighting, and a durable floor.

Improvement 9: New Bathroom Accessories—$470

Mirror pullout

A pullout mirror saves you from leaning over the sink.

To freshen up your bathroom, replace towel bars, light fixtures, and towels. It’s a weekend project that requires only a screwdriver and paintbrush. However, this face-lift will only work if your sink and faucet, vanity, toilet, tub, and tile are in good condition.

Keep in mind that this makeover’s cost will depend on your choices. You could spend $200 to $500.

Stick to one style and finish when buying accessories. Towel bars, shelves, soap dishes, and other accessories are sold in sets by manufacturers.

Simply painting the walls changes them dramatically. Be careful. If you choose the paint color first, you may spend days finding matching towels, rugs, and shower curtains. Using paint samples, shop for accessories first to simplify color coordination. Select a paint color.

Before installing new wall accessories, repair, clean, and repaint the walls.

We like a pullout mirror near the sink, multiple-level towel bars, a towel warmer ($40 to $200), and a self-closing toilet seat.

The above accessories cost $340. Add $30 for paint and $100 for towels, shower curtain, and rug.

Weekend only.

For more information, search “bathroom” above.

New Bath Accessories

Refresh your bathroom in a weekend with new paint and hardware.

Improvement 10: Curb appeal—$200 and up

Border of bricks

A plain concrete sidewalk or driveway gets color and charm from a brick border.

Photo by Craig McNitt and Shawn Nielsen

Tired of a drab front entrance? Be strong. With a few small accents and changes, you can completely transform it to impress guests, please neighbors, and, most importantly, make your home more enjoyable. They’re cheap and simple.

Start painting. Replace painted trim and siding and examine your front door. Paint it a bold color if it’s the main feature. It’s hard to choose a color, so look in magazines and at neighboring doors for inspiration.

Buy new house numbers, mailboxes, and light fixtures. A screwdriver is usually all you need to install them. If worn, replace door handles and latches.

Improve the front door’s approach. One of our favorite upgrades for a plain concrete walk or driveway is a brick or paver border. On a tamped base, dry set them. For lasting results, dig a 5-inch trench. deep. Insert two. Cover the gravel with an inch of sand and set the bricks.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button