Monday, July 5, 2010

How to Renovate Your House For Very Little Money

I haven't posted in a few days because we have been doing a bit of renovating around the house. Since we didn't sell our house and now plan to stay here until the market improves (this could be a few years according to our realtor!), we decided to make some improvements. As usual, I want to do this with as much of a bare-bones budget as possible. This project is also on my goal list for the year, so while the motivation to do this project is there, we don't have a lot of money to actually do everything we want to do. Here's what we have done/are doing:
  • I started by having a friend who is a flooring installer measure our entire house for carpet and linoleum in the kitchen (all of the bathrooms have new floors which were installed a few months ago). The verdict? The linoleum is a go and it will actually be installed tomorrow. The cost is $250 for the linoleum and glue and $200 for my friend to install it. Tile was way beyond our budget, and the carpet for the entire house will cost considerably more--about $2000 even with a discount on the installation--so this is a project that will wait until next year.
  • I was bored with my home office so instead of buying stuff to make it more interesting, I decided to move in to one of the guest rooms (we had already sold the bed and furniture in there in anticipation of moving). The decor had an Indian theme so all I really needed to do was move my desk and office stuff and now it looks like a totally new office with exactly zero cost.
  • The "office" I moved out of was actually the formal dining room which we never use, so it has been my office for the last few years. With this room now empty room, I went "shopping" around the house and decided to move a futon/sofa in there, add a variety of decor taken from other rooms (a book case, framed art, a big plant, etc) and now my friend calls it "the meditation room." Two rooms completed without having spent a dime.
  • Our bedroom was the next room we tackled. I bought a new comforter with bed skirt and pillow shams for $25 at Ross. I was shocked to find this set because a similar set I wanted cost $175 at Macy's (I am super picky about how the comforter feels--no polyester fabric that "sparks" when you move it, no rough fabric, etc). We also decided to find a sofa for the sitting portion of our bedroom because we literally live in this room about 75% of the time, especially in the winter when it just makes financial sense to keep our bedroom heated and turn the furnace down to 55 for the rest of the house. There were lots of choices but all of them were at the $599 price range and up. At the last store we went to, we found the perfect love seat which was big enough but not too big. It was originally priced a $599, it was then clearance priced at half off ($298) and that day, it just so happened that the store was having a 50% off clearance sale which brought the price down to about $150. Score. All of the wall decor and drapes were found/traded with other rooms in the house.
  • We wanted to focus on updating the kitchen the most because this is where people look when buying a house (we still hope to sell in the future). Since our kitchen looks "dated" (nothing has changed since the house was built 20 years ago), we decided to spend most of our money on this room. With the floor taken care of, we decided to get all new appliances. We ordered a new refrigerator, range, dishwasher, and range hood. We went bargain shopping on these purchases as well. Besides buying at the lower end (we need to fill the dishwasher space with a dishwasher yet we rarely ever use it so basically it is an expensive dish drainer), the hood was of the $150 variety which looks pretty much like the $500 model, the range/oven was a range I really liked at $399 instead of the higher priced models, and the refrigerator was a basic side by side that will work fine for us--it has the water/crushed ice, etc--that we like. We decided to go with white appliances instead of stainless which everyone told us to get for two reasons--my friend who sells appliances said you need to use special cleaner to keep the stainless looking good and he said I would have to get all of the appliances in the same brand because the color of the stainless varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Since stainless costs considerably more and because the appliances I chose were of different brands, that wouldn't have worked. Finally, I was able to buy the appliances when they were on sale at 20% off, and add my friend's employee discount (10% more off), and use my friend's credit card (another 5% off...of course I gave him the cash for the purchase). We were able to spend less than $1400 on all of the appliances not counting the money we will make by selling our old appliances on CraigsList AND the additional rebates we will get from our local electric utility which currently has rebates for the refrigerator and dishwasher.
  • The only other things we need to do is power wash the concrete (basketball court, driveway, and walk ways) with a borrowed power washer from a friend. Power wash and repaint the deck (it seriously needs it!) which I will do so the only cost will be the paint, and do some landscaping (I would love to hire this done but will probably be out of money by then so I plan to do one section of the yard at a time myself...I guess it will be good exercise but I am not much of a gardener).

The bottom line, financially speaking, is that if you want to do your own renovations, try "shopping" from what you already have. Simply moving items from room to room will give your home a whole new look for no outlay of cash. If you really must buy stuff, be sure to shop sales (preferably of the 50% off clearance type). Obviously we could have saved money by buying used items either from the local thrift store or from CraigsList but I wanted new appliances that will last for quite a while and the love seat was a semi-extravagant purchase but I figured that it would hold enough value to be able to be sold on CraigsList for half of the purchase price while the more expensive sofas would have dropped from a $600 purchase price to a "used" price of about $100-$150 immediatly.

I'll end this post now because I have to get up early tomorrow morning and get everything out of the kitchen before the flooring guys get here which includes removing the dishwasher. Since I didn't want to pay $149 to have the "professionals" do this, I Googled "how to remove a dishwasher" and plan to do it myself...this should be interesting...


  1. Thank you for the ideas! We need to update our home as well. We've pulled out all the carpet and painted the bare concrete in two of the rooms for a cheap, temporary fix.

    You may want to reconsider the installation of carpet in your home. Carpeting contributes to poor indoor air quality because it traps particulate which is released by foot traffic, air currents, and similar impacts. Thus allergies, asthma, and respiratory issues can be significantly aggravated. Even the best of the best vacuum cleaners do not thoroughly clean carpet. (This is based on my experience as an industrial hygiene consultant.)

  2. Great tips, as usual. Good luck with the dishwasher removal.