5 Low Cost Ways to Improve Your Home

October 9, 2020

Upgrading your home doesn’t require investing a small fortune or having a room out of commission for weeks. If you’re ready, willing, and able to do the work, here are some great ways to brighten up your home without blowing a hole in your budget:

1. Paint — A little dab’ll do ya.

To renew and refresh a room, try a faux finish by applying a colored base coat, then decorating with another lighter- or darker-colored coating. Such painting techniques are easy and can hide the imperfections of any surface. If you’re not satisfied with the results, simply paint over and start again. One popular technique is taking a good-sized (six inches in diameter) natural sea sponge and dipping it in paint, blotting off any excess on a piece of cardboard. Press the sponge lightly against the wall to create your texture. Rotate the sponge to vary the pattern. Work in approximately one-square-yard sections at a time and cut a smaller section from the sponge for dabbing in corners. This brand-new look should ring in below $100 for an average room.

2. Fixtures —Easy bathroom overhaul.

You can dramatically alter a dull bathroom by swapping out the fixtures. Your local home center or hardware store should offer dozens of options. Look for matching sets of towel bars, toilet paper hangers, light fixtures, and robe hooks. Complement the fixtures with a new sink faucet. To improve further, remove a plain rectangular mirror and hang a framed mirror in its place. You can replace a plain medicine cabinet with a framed one as well. To enhance your new look, throw in matching towels and a rug. Keeping an eye out for bargains, you should have a new bathroom look for less than $350 without the mirror and medicine cabinet upgrades, or $750 to $1,000 with them.

3. Wallpaper wainscoting — Panache without the price.

Wainscoting — paneling that covers the lower three or four feet of interior walls — automatically adds warmth and elegance to any room, while protecting the lower part of the wall from scuffs and scrapes. But hardwood wainscoting, even lower-cost simulated paneling, can get pricey. To replicate that flair at a fraction of the price, apply decorative wallpaper to the lower three feet of your wall, and top with molding, a chair rail, or a plate ledge that reflects the rest of the room’s design. With 56-square-foot rolls of wallpaper ranging from $50 to $300 and wood chair rail costing averaging between $5 and $20 per linear foot, you’ll gain elegance that’s easy on your budget.

4. Baseboards — Style from the ground up.

Baseboards can redefine a room. While they form the border between wall and floor, they reach up and catch the eye. Most homes come with inexpensive and simple (aka boring) baseboards, so replacing them instantly adds elegance to any room. Pick a style that suits your room, and order enough to cover the linear feet of the wall lengths, plus 10% for waste. Bring the baseboards into the home a week before installation to acclimatize them to your home’s heat and humidity, to prevent warping or cracking after installation. Finish the pieces with stain or paint before installation. Pre-drill nail holes with a slightly smaller drill bit to prevent splitting. Baseboards that run 5-1/4-inches wide and 94 inches long cost about $25 each.

To form nice, clean 90-degree corners, you will need the use of a miter box, cutting the two joining ends at 45-degree angles. This is one of the easier joints to cut, but practice first on scraps of wood to perfect the miter cut technique. A clamping miter box with a 14-inch saw at the Home Depot costs about $15.

5. Molding — The crowning touch.

It may carry a royal name, but crown molding needn’t cost a king’s ransom — if you do it yourself. Crown molding is the trim installed where the walls meet the ceiling, and it comes in a wide variety of styles to match any décor. Besides giving a room a whole new personality, installing crown molding can help hide unseemly drywall joints and cracks that form between the wall and ceiling as a house settles. The molding’s height, ranging from three inches to 15 inches depends on the height of the wall — the higher the wall, the taller the molding. The trickiest of these five makeover tips, installing crown molding involves bevel and miter cuts. Like the baseboards, crown molding must be acclimatized and you should stain or paint it before installation. Depending on height and style, a 10-foot section of crown molding runs from $15 to $50. Again, to form your joints, you will need the use of an inexpensive miter box and saw.

Planning Ahead

If you bundle some of your home improvement purchases, such as buying baseboards and crown molding at the same time, you might get a break on pricing. Then again, you might be willing to take on the paint and wallpapering tasks yourself to save money, but rather leave the sawing and mitering tasks to professional contractors. If so, pencil in higher installation costs. You may also find that once you’ve completed one room, you’ve made an adjoining room drab by comparison.

If your remodeling becomes more ambitious, or you simply don’t see yourself climbing ladders the way you once did, consider financing your home improvement projects. One financing option available to you if you’re 62 or older is a reverse mortgage – a reverse mortgage line of credit, in particular. With a reverse mortgage line of credit, you will pay interest only the amount of the line you use. A reverse mortgage also gives you the flexibility of not repaying your loan until you actually leave your home. Besides meeting the age requirement, you must have substantial equity in the home you own and live in as your primary residence. Although there are no monthly mortgage payments to make with a reverse mortgage, you are still responsible for maintaining your home and paying your property taxes and homeowners insurance. For more information about using a reverse mortgage to improve your home, speak to a reverse mortgage loan professional.

Your home is more than bricks and beams. It’s a place where you sleep, dream, work, and play. So, why not keep improving it with special touches that truly express your unique personality and lifestyle? Start small and expand as you experience the comfort and joy of your improvements. As they say: once begun, half done!


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