Whole house renovations can add value to your home, but there are ways to upgrade your home without going into debt or ransacking your savings. Painting, re-grouting tile, and power washing the outside of your home won’t cost a lot of money, but these do-it-yourself home improvements can add real value to your home.

With some sweat equity, a DIY attitude, and a few dollars, you can list your home for more money if you’re ready to sell. And if you’re not quite ready to put your home on the market, you can enjoy having a more beautiful place to live. Here are some low cost, high value home improvement projects to consider.

Key Takeaways

  • Typically, kitchens are the most expensive room in a house to renovate, according to the Houzz & Home renovation trends study for 2018 and 2019. 
  • The study found that master bathrooms are the second most expensive room in a house to renovate. 
  • Experts recommend limiting do-it-yourself home renovations to cosmetic improvements, such as painting, landscaping, and changing out fixtures. 

Seven Simple Interior Updates

1. Freshen up the walls

If your walls have scratches and dirty paint, an outdated color, or fading wallpaper, a little elbow grease and a few cans of paint can make a dramatic difference. To maximize the value of your home for a sale, choose a neutral color scheme that unifies the entire house, makes space look more prominent, and appeals to a wide variety of potential buyers.

2. Install crown molding

Putting in crown molding is a surprisingly easy task that can add character to your rooms. Buy the molding from a home improvement store, cut it to the size that fits your room (or have the store cut it for you), and attach it to the top of the wall with a nail gun. These decorative strips may even come already painted. Installing crown molding does involve a bit of woodworking skill as well as the right tools, but it is very inexpensive to do yourself.

3. Update fixtures

Switch plates, outlet covers, curtain rods, light fixtures, and doorknobs are often boring or overlooked, but you can add significant pizzazz for just a few dollars. Attractive metal switch plates and outlet covers can cost as little as $5 apiece but look much more expensive. Light fixtures and decorative curtain rods can be a little pricier, but sometimes you can make an inexpensive one look elegant with a can of spray paint. Again, if you plan to sell, be sure to choose items in colors and finishes that will appeal to a broad audience.

4. Install ceiling fans

Everyone likes to save money on electricity bills, which makes ceiling fans an appealing addition to any home. Ceiling fans cut down on air conditioning costs, and they can also reduce heating costs by circulating warm air away from the ceiling. A primary fan costs about $50, and you can get a nice one for no more than a couple of hundred dollars. If you don’t already have wiring from overhead lighting, you may need to hire a professional, which can significantly escalate the cost of this project.

5. Improve window treatments

The cheap vertical plastic blinds, paper shades, or horizontal aluminum blinds that may have come with your house don’t add value to your home. Consider replacing them with plantation shutters, wooden blinds, or drapes. Again, if you are selling, choose neutral options that can help you get a better price for your home. 

6. Reveal and restore hardwood floors

Older homes, in particular, are likely to have hardwood floors lurking beneath carpet. Squeaky floors are a sign that you may have wood floors. If you’re not sure, pull up your carpet in an unnoticeable corner and check. If you do have wood floors, there’s a good chance you’ll have to refinish them to restore them to their original splendor, but it will be much less expensive than installing new flooring from scratch.

7. Clean fireplace brick

If you have a brick fireplace and burn wood in it, chances are some of the brick is stained with soot and creosote. Because a beautiful fireplace can be a significant selling point in a home, make yours look as attractive as possible. Use a damp rag to wipe away some of the soot, then follow with a fireplace cleaner designed to remove creosote. It will take some scrubbing with a stiff brush and possibly several applications, but you’ll have that brick looking spiffy when you’re finished.

Some homeowners take out a home equity line of credit (HELOC) to pay for renovations, but it's possible to spruce up a home without taking on debt.

Basic Bathroom Upgrades

1. Redo the bathroom floor

DIY installation can save you a lot of cash. If you don’t know how to install flooring, look for a class at your local home improvement store. Saving money on labor will allow you to choose more beautiful flooring than you could otherwise afford. Opt for a neutral-colored tile to add the most value.

2. Update fixtures

If you have generic, cheap, or outdated fixtures, replacing them with newer, more customized versions can make your bathroom sparkle and look more high-end. For about $40 to $100, you can substitute a shabby bathroom vanity or ceiling light fixture with something elegant. A similar cash outlay will get you a new sink faucet. A spa-style chrome shower head adds a touch of luxury for about $80. Towel bars are a cheap and easy fix at about $20 to $30. Sometimes an upgrade can be more energy efficient, increasing not only the aesthetics of your home but “greening” it up as well.

Quick Fixes to Keep the Kitchen Current

1. Paint or stain kitchen cabinets

You could buy all new cabinets and save money by purchasing prefabricated (rather than custom) cabinets and installing them yourself, but that’s more work and money than painting or staining your existing cabinets. White cabinets will brighten a kitchen, don’t usually go out of style, and are easy for a future owner to repaint if they want something different. You’ll need to remove all the hardware from your cabinets, including the doors. You’ll also need to clean the cabinets first, so dirt and greasy residues won’t ruin your work. Consider sprucing up your bathroom cabinets as well.

2. Upgrade cabinet knobs and drawer handles

It’s surprising how a seemingly innocuous element such as a cabinet doorknob can make your kitchen look cheap or dated. Updating this hardware can give your kitchen a facelift, whether you redo your cabinets or not.

Seven Ways to Save When You Refresh the Exterior

It may be easy for you to ignore your home’s exterior when you spend most of your time inside, but it’s the first and sometimes only impression that others get of your house. Here are a few simple ways to make it look its best.

1. Install a new front door

A fundamental steel front door costs about $100, but for another $100 to $200 you can get a door with a lot more character and improve your home’s curb appeal. If you can’t afford a new door, a fresh coat of paint in an attractive color may be all you need.

2. Replace the front doormat

When you’ve had the same doormat for years, it can be easy to overlook how worn out or dirty it’s become. As it’s one of the first impressions people get of your home, this is one place where $20 can make a big difference.

3. Clean the gutters

This task relates more to maintaining your home’s value than increasing it, but it’s essential. Without properly functioning gutters, which are designed to carry water away from your home, rain may seep inside or pool around the foundation, causing problems such as mold and mildew. Eventually, water damage can compromise the house’s structural integrity, leading to costly repair bills.

4. Power wash the exterior of your home

For less time and money, a good pressure washing can make your home’s exterior look almost as good as a fresh coat of paint.

5. Repaint the exterior

If washing the exterior of your home didn’t brighten it up as much as you’d hoped, consider a new paint job. With the ladders and heights involved, this may not be a DIY task for everyone, but even if you have to hire others to do this job, it’s still pretty inexpensive as far as home improvements go and can make your house look almost new from the outside.

6. Power wash the driveway, walkways, and patio

As long as you’re renting the power washer, you might as well clean your driveway, patio, and any walkways. You may be surprised by how new they’ll look afterward.

7. Upgrade landscaping or clean up existing landscaping

Flowers and other plants are a great way to brighten your home’s exterior. Use greenery in front of your house and/or along walkways to draw attention to your home. To get the most for your dollars, choose perennial plants, which come back year after year, rather than annuals, which, as their name suggests, last a year or less. Patch any bald spots in the yard with fresh sod (or plant grass seed if you have time) and trim existing trees and bushes to complete the yard’s new look.

The Bottom Line

Upgrading your home doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated, and it doesn’t have to involve contractors. A variety of projects for all price ranges and levels of skill and enthusiasm can improve your home’s value, whether for future buyers or, perhaps more important, for you. Putting a few of these home improvement ideas into action will help you get the most value out of one of your most significant assets, whether you’re planning to stay or selling.