Budget DIY Home Repairs and Improvements

peel and stick backsplash
  • 1-10 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-500

Often, the budget is the sticking point in achieving home improvement goals, and rightfully so as we’re faced with ongoing economic challenges. However, there are countless DIY home repairs and improvements you can make that won’t break the bank.

Make your wish list, but then set a realistic budget. While you may need a new roof, maybe a patch will do until you can get a loan or save up. If you’re dreaming of a kitchen overhaul, maybe painting a few surfaces will suffice.

Similarly, when the desire for a fresh look in the bathroom hits, make small updates instead of investing in a total renovation.

1. Stick on Backsplash

In the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room, the counter backsplash often hits near eye level. It’s a space that captures your gaze when you enter the room.

Whether you have an existing backsplash or feel the need to add one, an inexpensive option is stick-on tiles or vinyl wall panels.

These products are made to be affordable, functional, and easy to install. They are available in a range of colors, sizes, and designs so they’ll match any decor and interior design preference.

Installing a stick-on backsplash basically only requires peeling back the layer and pressing the piece into place. You’ll need to make a few cuts around outlets, light switches, cabinets, and windows, but the thin materials are easy to work with.

If your budget is a little higher, go with real stone or tile instead. The materials cost more, but will also add long-lasting value to the space.

2. Paint the Porch

If you want to add curb appeal, start at the front door. Budget for paint to enhance the space. Talk with your paint professional to ask about whether you’ll need a primer for your color selections.

Be sure to properly prep the surfaces by hitting them with a pressure washer and a thorough dry time. Follow that up by filling holes and cracks and sanding down any rough spots where paint will clump. Also replace any damaged siding.

With the area prepped, roll or brush your paint on, applying a second or third coat as needed. When shopping for paint, the costlier brands may be worth the price if they adhere in one coat and provide good protection for the surface.

To take the curb appeal one step further, paint the front door too. It could be the same, similar, or contrasting color to the surrounding porch area.

Hint: If you’re unsure of a color, check the "mistint" section in the paint department. They’re deeply discounted and you just might find the perfect color for your door.

Also ask around to neighbors or community members. It seems everyone has some extra paint cans in their garage. Since the door only requires a small amount of paint, you can save a bundle by using up someone else’s leftover paint.

painting outdoor patio

3. Build a Screen Door

The kids, pets, and you will all enjoy being able to leave the door open on hot summer days without the bugs coming in or the littles escaping.

Build a screen door with a few supplies and a low budget. All you really need are some flat boards for the frame, and screening materials. Cut matching boards for the top and bottom as well as matching boards for the sides. Then cut a piece that fits the gap across the middle.

Add screen by stretching it into the space. Hold it into place with trim around the edges of the frame.

4. Add DIY Shutters

Shutters add a pop of color and visual interest to the facade of your home, even if they are for appeal rather than function.

A solid board with a bit of embellishment is a great option here. You can likely find some viable options around your community without buying new shutters.

However, if you do order prefabricated shutters, they are easy to paint and install for a fresh new look.

hand changing furnace filter

5. Change the Furnace Filter

This falls into the maintenance category and it’s an important one. Keeping up with regular filter changes in your furnace not only ensures healthier air for you and your family, but it may also extend the efficiency and lifespan of your expensive furnace.

The furnace filter is easy to replace. Look for an opening at the top or bottom of your furnace. It will have a knob or a latch. Open the hatch and you’ll see the filter inside. Pull it out and read the size on the side.

Buy a matching size and put it into place. Then close the hatch and make a note of the date. Replace your furnace filter every three months, or more often if needed.

6. Swap Out Porch Lights

Building on your recent paint improvements, you might as well update the porch lights too. Whether the goal is to create better light, get rid of a dated look, or to add smart devices for safety and convenience, changing a light fixture is not an expensive or difficult task.

The single most important step is to ensure the power is turned off to the fixture. Make sure to use a tester so you know for sure.

Unscrew any bolts holding the fixture in place and pull it away from the wall or ceiling. Take a picture of the wiring before you disconnect them. Put the new fixture in place, matching the wires as before, and secure it into place. Refer to the picture if needed.

Since the new fixture will likely be a different size than the old one, it’s best to paint before installation. However, touch-ups will do just as well.

If you’ve installed a smart device that includes a motion-sensored alert to your phone, you’ll have one more step to take. Ensure the device is connected to your wifi and add the associated app to your phone.

porch light

7. Upgrade the Ceiling Fan

Replacing a broken or dated ceiling fan is no more difficult than swapping out a light fixture. Just make sure you buy a replacement fan with the same type of mounting hardware as the existing one.

You can also swap out a central light fixture for a ceiling fan if you’re looking to add some airflow to the space.

8. Install a Programmable Thermostat

A programmable thermostat allows you to have better control of your heating and cooling costs. By programming the heat at a lower temperature when the house is empty or while everyone is asleep, you’ll use significantly less heat.

Similarly, you can set the thermostat to kick on shortly before you return home to cool or warm the space. Even better than a programmable thermostat is a smart thermostat. This device serves the same function, but allows you to control it from your phone even when you’re away from home.

To replace your thermostat, make sure the power is off to the unit. Remove it from the wall, disconnect the wiring, and reverse the steps to install the new device.

9. Stick on Wallpaper

Even if you rent, you can change the look of a room with removable wallpaper. This product is made to adhere just enough to stay in place, yet is removable when you’re ready to make another change.

Self-adhesive removable wallpaper comes in numerous patterns and colors. It’s available in rolls or squares, so it’s easy to find a product that will work for your space.

Stick-on wallpaper works just like you would imagine. Simply peel off the backing, line it up, and press it into your wall surface.

10. Paint Tile

Did you know you can paint tile? Grabbing the paint roller instead of the sledgehammer means changing the look without the tiresome tile removal.

You’ll want to use an epoxy, or tile, paint to ensure a good finish. Clean and dry your tiles, whether you’re working on a backsplash, shower, or floor.

Make repairs to the tile and grout before painting. Then sand the surface to remove the glossy finish. This glaze will keep the paint from sticking. With it removed, wipe the surface with a tack cloth or soft rag to clear away any dust particles.

Roll on a coat of primer. This is essential for making the connection between paint and tile. Apply a second coat if needed and allow it to dry thoroughly. Then roll on your paint.

You can choose to only paint select tiles with the same process. Just be sure to protect tiles you don’t plan to change. This allows you to turn a plain white wall into a black and white pattern, or to add some color to an otherwise neutral backdrop. Have fun with the plan.

cabinets with knobs and handles

11. Switch Cabinet Hardware

Anywhere you have cabinetry, you probably have handles and knobs. If you’re not in the market for a room overhaul, try changing the look of the hardware instead. You’ll be surprised how big of an impact it can make.

Remove the old brass, white/oak, or hammered copper if that’s not your jam. Hardware is very easy to remove by loosening the screws on the inside of the cabinetry. Just ensure your replacement hardware has the same mounting pattern.

An even more budget-friendly option is to paint the hardware you already have. If you like the size and shape, but not the color, grab a can of Rustoleum spray paint and change the look.

It’s easier than you think and the paint adheres well. When spraying, set the hardware up as it would sit if it was mounted to hardware. This way you can paint the entire unit at the same time rather than flipping it over during the process.

You can use scrap wood to make the appropriate holes and mount the hardware for easy spraying. Once dry, remove it and put a new one in place.

With a scrap board, you can mount several pieces of hardware at the same time. Just be sure to leave access to all sides of the handles and knobs for even coverage.

12. Add a Flower Bed

Outdoors, adding a flower bed is a quick home improvement that adds to that curb appeal in the front yard and your own enjoyment in the backyard.

You can make a flower bed out of anything you have available. Old pallet wood, lumber from another project, or even a metal basin will do the job.

13. Get a Bench

While benches can be costly to buy, there are many ways to source one without a big expense. However, adding a bench to your outdoor environment presents the opportunity to sit and enjoy your outdoor space.

Similarly, you can add a bench to your entryway as a spot to take shoes off. Benches are also nice on the deck. You could even build one into the design.

A basic wood bench simply requires some boards and hardware. You can even find used wood for this purpose and then paint it any color you want. Also look around the community pages to see if anyone is giving one away or selling a bench you like.

Remember you can always clean up, repair, strip, stain, or paint a piece to make it your own.

man in kitchen painting cabinets with roller

14. Paint Cabinets

If your kitchen, bathroom, or laundry cabinets are suffering from being stuck in a time warp, bring them up to date with a coat of paint.

It’s not quite that simple. In fact, it’s a time consuming chore. However, the effort is worth it for your budget and the overall enjoyment of your space.

15. Coordinate Decor

Even if you don’t touch the foundational components of your home, giving the surface layer a bit of love and attention will reward you in spades. Add some curtains to a cold-looking window.

Buy an area rug that brings a soft, inviting vibe to the space. Redesign the artwork with a theme or color palette. Add throw pillows to pull the look together.

16. Get Organized

Finally, get organized. An organized closet makes it easier to find clothing you want to wear. An organized kitchen makes cooking more pleasurable.

An organized home saves you money by not having to replace items you can’t find. It also creates a more relaxing space. Make your house a home with time and effort rather than dollars and cents.

If you’re planning to extend your living space, consider Budgeting for an ADU. While you’re at it, get your tool chest started with some Budget DIY Power Tools.

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