How to Do a Home Makeover on a Budget

Cut the cost of a remodel with these tips

Man using cordless screwdriver nail into floorboard
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 Getty Images/Maskot

No matter how much you loved your home when you bought it, there will surely come a time when you’re ready for a change. You might be tired of the paint color and outdated fixtures, or you might want to make the house trendier or more marketable to sell. 

Remodeling doesn’t come cheap, though. According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2019 Cost vs. Value Report, a mid-range bathroom remodel will set you back an average of $20,000, and a kitchen refresh could cost more than $22,000. If you live in a pricey area or want higher-end fixtures, the costs may be even higher.

How to Reduce Your Home Makeover Costs

Use the following tips to reduce expenses on some of the most common renovation tasks.

DIY the Demo

Contractors generally charge for removal of the old fixtures and plaster. If you don’t mind some heavy hauling and lifting—not to mention dealing with tons of dust—you can save about $600 on the demo and $200 per day for daily cleaning. If your remodel involves plumbing or electric, however, you’re likely better off leaving the demo work to a pro.

Reface Instead of Replacing Cabinets

If you’re happy with the location and size of your existing cabinets, you may not need to spend a bundle. Refacing cabinet doors, and adding new hinges, knobs, and pulls will give your cabinets an entirely new look—and may also take a fraction of the time and hassle of installing entirely new ones from scratch.

Savings: About $50 per door or drawer

Avoid Moving Plumbing

Even if you don’t love the location of your sink, toilet, or shower, keep in mind that plumbing changes come with high costs. Water-based fixtures need to connect to pipes and drain lines behind the walls, so they inevitably come with complications—and a larger bill.

Savings: $1,000 - $2000 or more

Buy the Fixtures Yourself

Your contractor will be happy to shop for you, but that will likely cost you more in the end, according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association. Most contractors mark up the price of materials, and you’ll likely have to pay for their time to research and travel to stores. Not only will your save on those costs if you go to stores yourself, but you’ll also have the opportunity to negotiate prices, or skip brick and mortar stores and look online for deals.

Savings: $1,000 or more

Keep the Tile Simple

Complicated designs, layouts, and inlay details are charming, but add a great deal to the bottom line. Choose clean, simple subway tile or other solid-color options. If you really want a certain pattern, consider using it as an accent next to a base of simpler tile. Another option: Limit the amount of tile you use by not tiling every wall.

Savings: $1,000 or more

Avoid Recessed Lighting

You can add sufficient wall-mounted and ceiling-hung lights to a room for about $400, including labor, whereas recessed lighting will generally run you $800 or more. Not only does recessed lighting require additional time and labor to cut holes in the ceiling and add insulation, but the fixtures tend to be more expensive than wall-mounted options.

Savings: $400

Consider Salvaged or Reclaimed Materials

You can often find wood, doors, windows, fixtures, and even appliances at salvage yards or second-hand shops for a reduced price. Just make sure to carefully measure before you shop, so you can be certain that the items will fit.

Savings: Unlimited

Tap Your Social Network for Experts

Instead of hiring a contractor right off the bat, look to your network of friends, family members, and colleagues. Do you have an electrician, carpenter, or plumber in your midst? See if they are willing to help out for free, or a reduced cost. 

Savings: $25 to $85 (or more) per hour

Keep Borrowing Costs Low

Need to borrow to cover your remodeling costs? Your credit score will be a key factor in determining the interest rate on any loan, so make sure to pay your bills on time in the months leading up to your remodel. This will help you secure the lowest interest rates possible. And if you don’t have the money to do repairs, consider government sponsored home improvement grants. You may be eligible for financial assistance based on your location, income, and the projects you plan to complete.

Article Sources

  1. IC: Remodeling. "2019 Cost vs. Value Report," Accessed Oct. 24, 2019. 

  2. Angie's list: "8 Ways to Cut Remodeling Costs," Accessed Oct.30, 2019

  3. National Kitchen and Bath Association, "Real-World Budgeting for Bathroom Remodeling," Accessed Oct. 30, 2019

  4. Angie's List. "How Much do General Contractors Charge for Hourly Rates?" Accessed Oct. 25, 2019. 

  5. My FICO: "Get the Score Lenders Use to Evaluate Your Home Mortgage Loan," Accessed Oct 29, 2019