Tuesday, October 21, 2014
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10 low-cost home improvements

You can spiff up your home without spending tens of thousands of dollars.

10 low-cost home improvements

Adding a new coat of paint is the simplest, least expensive way to update and bring new life to any part of your home.
Adding a new coat of paint is the simplest, least expensive way to update and bring new life to any part of your home. iStockphoto

You can spiff up your home without spending tens of thousands of dollars.

Sure, there's a place for major home improvement projects like renovating a kitchen or adding a family room.

But if your budget just doesn't allow for spending $15,000 to redo a bathroom – that's the average cost for this project, according to Remodeling Magazine – we've got some more economical options for improving your home's style.

In fact, you might be surprised just how little you'll have to spend to see a difference.

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Our 10 smart, low-cost home improvements will make your house more comfortable and appealing for less than $2,000 – a lot less in most cases.

1. Grab a paint can

Adding a new coat of paint is the simplest, least expensive way to update and bring new life to any part of your home. To see what almost any shade might look like in different rooms, use the Sherwin-Williams Color Visualizer at Sherwin-Williams.com.

If you have a smart phone, download the Benjamin Moore Color Caption app, which lets you snap pictures of colors you like and pair it with its paint mate, even if you're not using the Benjamin Moore brand.

Not in the mood to do a whole room? How about an accent wall? Changing the color of a wall you look at often can give the entire room a new feel.

Paint overhauls don't need to stay on walls, either. You can refresh your kitchen by painting or staining the cabinets, or create what feels like a new entry into your home with a new color for your front door.

2. Replace carpeting, buff floors

Loop carpeting is great for high-use areas such as family rooms because it's so durable. Twist carpet is softer to walk on and a better choice for bedrooms. But whatever style and color you choose, getting rid of stained and dated flooring can make a world of difference. Expect to pay about $20 per square yard installed.

Or you could get rid of that carpet completely if you have hardwood underneath.

We know that floor refinishing can be expensive. That's why we recommend having the floors rebuffed and coated only -- no sanding. This won't take out all of the dings and gouges, but if your floors are already in decent shape, re-sanding isn't needed.

Only looking to do a room or two? Focus on the bedrooms of family members with allergies. Hardwood floors won't trap dust like carpets do.

3. Redo a walkway or patio

Instead of pouring fresh concrete, use pretty pavers. The possibilities are endless -- bricks, stone, patio tiles -- and will have a major impact on your home's curb appeal.

You can also add a low-maintenance and interchangeable splash of color by lining a walkway or patio with potted plants. This is a good option for those who aren't the best gardeners, if you aren't attached to a specific type of plant, or like to see something different outside of your window every year.

You don't need to stick to just flowers, either. If you time your buy right, you can also mix in plants like tomatoes and peppers, which are easy to grow, or add in a few herb plants. And don't be shy about putting those plants along a walkway into the house. Front-lawn gardens are becoming more popular, especially if you don't have a lot of space.

4. Add more insulation

Helping your home battle the elements will make it cheaper to heat and cool, and easier to maintain a comfortable temperature in every room. Most attics can be upgraded for less than $2,000.

If you're leaking heat and cool air through the sides of your home, look into blow-in insulation, which will add an extra layer of protection directly into the walls. You'll spend about $35 per eight pounds of insulation.

To figure out how much insulation you need based on where you live, check out guidelines from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Caulking and weather stripping can cut utility bills and keep that cold shiver from running down your neck. If you're not sure where to start, get a home energy audit point out the gaps and help you stop leaks before they start.

5. Refresh your kitchen

Complete renovations are expensive, but small changes can still give the room a totally new feel. Susan Serra of TheKitchenDesigner.org suggests a few easy and cheap DIY projects: Change the hardware on kitchen cabinets ($100); paint the cabinets ($150); add new mosaic tile backsplash ($200); install new lighting ($100).

You can also make a big difference by replacing one appliance -- especially if that one appliance is an old refrigerator, which can be the biggest energy drain in the house since it runs day and night. Not only will you give your kitchen a new look, but you'll save on your energy bills at the same time. Just look for that Energy Star label, which means the appliance uses about 15% less energy than a non-certified appliance.

6. Re-dress your windows

Complete renovations are expensive, but small changes can still give the room a totally new feel. Susan Serra of TheKitchenDesigner.org suggests a few easy and cheap DIY projects: Change the hardware on kitchen cabinets ($100); paint the cabinets ($150); add new mosaic tile backsplash ($200); install new lighting ($100).

You can also make a big difference by replacing one appliance -- especially if that one appliance is an old refrigerator, which can be the biggest energy drain in the house since it runs day and night. Not only will you give your kitchen a new look, but you'll save on your energy bills at the same time. Just look for that Energy Star label, which means the appliance uses about 15% less energy than a non-certified appliance.

7. Plant a tree

It will enhance the look of your yard and grow into a natural insulator. Plant it on the south side of your home, if you can. That way, the tree shades your house in the summer but allows sunlight to stream through in the winter when you need it most.

You can also use your tree as a way to solve other yard problems. Is your yard in a constant state of saturation? Look at willows, which will suck up that extra water. Tired of mowing and tending to so much lawn? Look at shade trees. They come in dozens of varieties.

If you're willing to wait for your shaded bliss -- and you have a green thumb -- you can get a sapling from the Arbor Day Foundation for less than $10. Even if you don't order from the foundation, its tree guide is still top notch.

8. Replace light fixtures

It will enhance the look of your yard and grow into a natural insulator. Plant it on the south side of your home, if you can. That way, the tree shades your house in the summer but allows sunlight to stream through in the winter when you need it most.

You can also use your tree as a way to solve other yard problems. Is your yard in a constant state of saturation? Look at willows, which will suck up that extra water. Tired of mowing and tending to so much lawn? Look at shade trees. They come in dozens of varieties.

If you're willing to wait for your shaded bliss -- and you have a green thumb -- you can get a sapling from the Arbor Day Foundation for less than $10. Even if you don't order from the foundation, its tree guide is still top notch.

9. Redecorate a bathroom

Paint the walls. Replace the lights. Install new faucets. Hang a new shower curtain. Put down new rugs and get new, matching fluffy towels. Amazing things can happen to your dull, dingy bathroom without spending a fortune.

You can also give your bathroom a hotel feel by replacing a straight-across shower bar with one that's curved, which is all the rage in hospitality.

This kind of set up can be a double bonus if you're hiding a tub that might have come with the house in a less than desirable color. It doesn't require a contractor, and it's a much cheaper option than re-glazing the tub or replacing it entirely. Just make sure your shower curtain nearly reaches the floor.

10. Organize your garage

Getting rid of all the clutter will make tools and paint cans easier to find. And who knows, maybe your car and all the kids' bikes can finally fit inside with room to spare. The cost depends on what you're adding. Cabinets? Free standing shelves? Plastic bins? Customized system? For a list of options, go to doityourself.com.

While you've got all your stuff out on the lawn, consider coating that concrete floor with epoxy to protect it from wear and tear. It's easy to clean too, like wiping a stain off a kitchen counter, according to This Old House, which estimates a cost of about $120 to $160 per bay. You'll also be less likely to trash the space if it looks like an actual room.

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This article originally appeared on Interest.com.

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