These 12 Easy, Budget-Friendly Upgrades Can Add Serious Value to Your Home
Transform your home with any or all of these do-it-yourself projects. From lighting to storage to gardening, these high-impact, low-budget projects will help give your home that wow factor.
Install a Tongue and Groove Ceiling
Whether you’re covering up an ugly textured ceiling or simply interested in adding character, a tongue and groove ceiling is a relatively easy, budget-friendly home upgrade. Spruce tongue and groove is the most common type found at home centers, typically sold in widths of 4, 6, or 8 inches. No matter the type of wood or size, you’ll want to finish the boards before installation, since tongue and groove boards tend to expand and contract with temperature and humidity changes, which could reveal potentially unfinished parts of wood. For best results, screw battens directly into the framing first, over the existing ceiling drywall, so you have a solid surface to nail the tongue and groove boards to. Read the whole step-by-step here. Here are some other suggestions for a luxurious ceiling.
DIY a Mudroom
If you would love to have a mudroom but just don't have the space, this compact bench and shoe shelf may be exactly what you need. Mount it near the garage service door and you'll have a convenient spot to remove and store your shoes or boots before going inside. This home upgrade doesn't even require you to haul massive sheets of plywood—all of the parts are cut from standard pine boards. Check out our step-by-step guide here. Here's how you can clean every shoe in your closet.
Enhance Decks with Lighting
Landscape lighting may seem like a complicated DIY project, but low-voltage lighting systems are actually a job any beginner can tackle. And if you make your deck the focus, the extra visibility will even add a certain level of safety. Low-voltage systems are much less dangerous that standard household wiring because the system relies on a transformer, which is plugged into a standard GFCI receptacle, to convert power from 120 volts down to 12 volts. The current travels through outdoor cables to supply power to the fixtures. There’s several methods to approaching a deck lighting system—we’ll show you how here. Here are some other home safety tips.
Add Garage Cabinets
The garage is so frequently used as a catch-all for home improvement projects and off-season gear, these easy cabinets will be well worth your time and dollar. We’ve come up with plans for an easy storage system that can be modified to suit any garage. The best part? An 8-foot tall unit clocks in at only about $27 per linear foot–less than what pre-assembled shelving at the home center would run you. The materials include melamine, selected for its reasonable cost and the fact that is needs no finish, plus pine 1x4s. Plan out your configuration with masking tape on the wall and floors, ensuring that each cabinet has at least on stud behind it so it can be securely fastened. We show you the full how-to here. Got clutter in the rest of your house? Here are 12 more storage hacks.
Refinish the Deck
There’s no greater impact for your money than to refinish the deck. Decks take a huge beating by the elements, so maintaining them is essential to protect your biggest investment–your home. Prep is always the first step in any major makeover project, so make sure to give the surfaces a good pressure washing or cleaning and remove any flaking deck stain if necessary–we’ll show you how here–and let it dry out thoroughly for several days. When your deck is ready for a new coat, select either a clear, solid or penetrating stain. Penetrating stains require more frequent coats in the future to stay looking new, but don’t need to be stripped off again unlike solid stains. Just make sure to check the forecast and wait for a period of a few sunny days before you begin. Learn more about refinishing your deck.
Create a Porch Trellis
Aside from the privacy it offers, a latticework porch trellis is a perfect way to add major curb appeal to your home for $100 or less. The trellis shown here is made of cedar, but any decay-resistant wood like redwood, cypress or treated pine would also be a good option. Constructed with lap joints for a flat surface and an oval cutout for elegance, it’s a far upgrade from traditional premade garden lattice. As long as you have experience working a router, this project’s complexity lies mostly in the time it takes to cut and assemble. Get the instructions complete with detailed illustrations here.
Install a Kitchen Backsplash
The kitchen is full of big-ticket items, but the backsplash doesn’t have to be one. Installing a backsplash yourself will save about $20 per square foot on a professional installation job, leaving more wiggle room to play with your materials cost. Mosaic tile, like the type shown above, comes in a wide variety of colors and materials to suit every kitchen and commonly starts at about $10 per square foot. They’re mounted on 12x12-inch sheets, which makes the job a simple weekend project. They’re also able to be cut along the mesh backing, saving you from having to make too many cuts with a wet saw. Plan on installing the tile on Saturday and grouting and sealing them Sunday. See how we DIYed this backsplash. Looking for even cheaper ways to update your kitchen? Check out these budget-friendly kitchen design ideas that look expensive.
Plant a Tree
Plant a young tree now, and before long your investment will add valuable curb appeal to your property. Before planting, make sure to consider how large the tree’s root systems will be when it’s fully grown, and choose a species that is recommended for your area—your local extension service will be able to provide a list of the best trees for your region. And as always, before you dig, make sure to call 811 and someone from the utilities company will come out and mark the underground utility lines. Read more tips for trouble-free tree planting here. Interested in having some indoor plants too? Here are some tips for growing indoor plants.
Revamp Kitchen Cabinets
There are so many ways to make the best of your existing kitchen cabinets, it’s possible to get the look of a whole new set of cabinetry without tearing out a single unit. For the most dramatic effect, try a fresh coat of paint. Use a paint formulated for kitchen cabinets—water-based paints like acrylic alkyds and acrylic urethanes are good choices for a pro look—and be ready to prep, prep, prep —more on that here. If you’re ready to take the plunge, check out our six other ways to give your cabinet a facelift. Here's how you can declutter you kitchen pantry and cabinets quickly.
Build Out Custom Closets
It’s the little luxuries of a home that set it apart from builder’s-grade models. Think bigger than white wire shelving and consider customizing a closet system using ready-made storage components. Since there’s so many options to choose from these days, consider the process as a choose-your-own-adventure; the system you create in the end should work for your specific needs, whether that means more drawers, shelves or hanging space, baskets or hooks for accessories and jewelry, and cubbies or shelves for shoes. Check out or complete guide on creating a low-cost custom closet. Here are some genius rules for organizing your closet.
Install Easy Window Trim
Outfitting windows with this classic profile, a look found in many turn-of-the-century homes, is deceptively simple. Early craftsman constructed these with mitered returns and crown moldings, but with a few modifications this project can be completed using simple 90-degree butt joints, saving hours or even days depending on the number of windows in your home. Opting for MDF over wood for the job spares your budget and paints just as nicely; a 4x8-foot sheet typically will be enough for 4-5 windows. We'll show you the full guide to creating this elegant, custom touch.
Upgrade Kitchen Lighting
Kitchens are the new multi-purpose room. Not only do they need to accommodate the cook, they also serve as a workstation for kids and adults, gathering space for family meals and dinner parties—the list goes on. The good news is that while lighting plays a big role in setting the mood for these tasks, it’s easy to come up with a custom solution to suit both your family’s needs and the restraints of the existing wiring. We’ll show you five upgrades here—from dimmers to undercabinet lighting—that will help brighten your space.