How to Renovate a House on a Budget: Affordable High Value Upgrades

If you’re wondering how to renovate a house on a budget, this post is for you. Home remodels can be expensive – but they don’t have to be. Instead, choose high value, affordable home improvements, prioritize, and combine them with simple makeovers. Not only will you have upgraded the value of your home, but you’ve created a better living environment for yourself at a fraction of the cost. Consider this guidance below before you make any big investments.

Home Improvement Remodel Renovation

CONTENTS: In this article, you will learn the alternatives to taking on a major renovation that will result in a fresh, new feel at home.

Little Things That Make a Big Difference

When it comes to home improvements and renovations, many people tend to run before they learn how to walk. They start thinking about massive long-term renovations and projects that could take several weeks or even months. 

Even if they do get these changes done, it’s going to cost a serious amount of money. Worse, it’s going to be a long and arduous process. Sadly, sometimes the result isn’t always worth it.

You see, when you perform a long-lasting or even permanent renovation, there’s a chance that you’ll feel that the grass was greener before. You might regret some choices you made (especially if you did it on a whim). Perhaps it might have failed to address your reasons for renovating in the first place.

Long before you hire a quality contractor, like A+ Construction & Remodeling, the step-by-step process below will help you avoid being disappointed and save you some money.

Carefully Consider Investing in An Expensive Renovation

Rustic Bathroom

One of the biggest issues with a big renovation is that you usually can’t go back without spending an equal amount of money. 

For example, if you convert your batub a whirlpool bath without ever trying one, and then end up regretting it in the future–for whatever reason–you’ve got a new problem. And, it’s going to cost a lot of money to remove it and get a new bath or shower fitted in. In fact, you might even need to replace some of the piping depending on the fixtures.

So, avoid being impulsive, even if you’ve got the cash to spare. You want to stop yourself before you make any kind of big renovation. 

Then, make sure to ask yourself why you want to perform the renovation. Can you articulate what you think this remodel will achieve, and how it will make you feel? Do you know what problem you expect it to solve (and how)? If not, go back and do some more thinking. 

Do Some Preliminary Research on What’s Involved

Online research

Then, don’t make the mistake of skipping the important research. There are a few resources for research you should consider when you’re learning how to renovate a house on a budget:

  • Reputable online sources – The internet is such a helpful resource.
  • Trusted friends and relatives, especially if any are contractors or have done a similar remodel.
  • Remodeling experts & contractors –  Ask for some initial input, but remember it is in their best interest to move your project ahead.

Once you start looking into all that is involved in a particular remodel, the costs, and what can go wrong, you’ll be better prepared to move ahead.

In fact, many people find that just waiting a few days or a week after having the idea might help you change your mind.

Prioritize Your Home Renovations

Budget home renovation

One of the better approaches to improving your home is to focus on the smaller things at first. 

You’d be surprised at what you can discover about your home if you just step back and take a better look at your home.

For example, you might want to replace your entire bathroom because you’re convinced that your bath or shower is old and they have issues. 

It could be the hot water randomly cutting out or it could even be a lack of pressure. These are both valid reasons to be annoyed, but you might not need to perform a complete renovation.

Instead, you could just contact a hot water repairs service and they can diagnose the problem first. If they tell you that it’s a plumbing issue that can be fixed, then you just saved yourself a lot of time, money and frustration. You’ll get the problem fixed and you can keep your bathroom as it is.

Make a list of the renovations you’d like in as much detail as you can. Then, estimate how much it will cost to makeover, including materials and labor. 

Next, you’ll need to prioritize your projects on that list. You can do this in a couple of ways. 

Work from Lowest to Highest Cost

affordable kitchen updates

If you’re not sure how to renovate a house on a budget, one surefire way is to order the improvements from lowest to highest cost. This is a great budget-friendly approach to home improvement that allows you to feel like you’re making progress quickly. I like to think of it like a “snowball effect” because you are gaining momentum with each improvement. It feels good to tick items off your to-do list almost right away!

Plus, when you manage your home improvement this way, you’ll be working your way up to bigger budget projects. That way it’s unlikely you’ll have runaway costs, and if you do, it’s easier and safer to learn to manage your budget when the projects are bite-sized.

Group Like Tasks and Services

Or, when you’re considering how to renovate a house on a budget, you might opt to group “like” services. For instance, if you have several projects and each requires the electrician’s help (or plumber’s, or carpenter’s, etc.), try to combine those related tasks into one visit.

This way, you can save yourself multiple trip fees when you replace the toilet, the kitchen faucet, and fix the leaky pipe in the basement together.

Fix Broken Things First, Wishlist Last

Another way to prioritize your remodeling projects is to address anything that’s broken or needs routine maintenance first. By doing that, you’re immediately improving your home value, because anything broken or in need of attention reduces the value of your home. Plus, it will free up your worries.

Here’s a good rule of thumb when you’re identifying and prioritizing remodeling projects from broken things to wishlist items. Address them in the following order: 

  1. Broken
  2. Needs routine maintenance
  3. Looks worn out or shabby from use
  4. Just plain ugly
  5. Looks and works fine, but I’m dreaming of [insert your wishlist item here]

Prioritizing home repairs and improvements this way helps you stay focused on what you “need” vs. what you “want.” Sometimes you can have both; sometimes you have to pick and choose depending on your budget.

Invest in Highest Return Renovations First

Hard wood floors renovation

Finally, another way you can prioritize projects is to put those with a better return on your investment (ROI) at the top of the list.

What is an ROI?

The ROI is how much money you can expect to get back when you sell the house, or if you’re not selling, adds value to your property.

While you’ll still be spending some bucks, it’s a smart way to spend because you’ll eventually get your money back. And enjoy a better living environment and quality of life in the mean time.

That’s not to say they are the most affordable home improvement projects. Some renovations or remodels in this list cost several thousands, even tens of thousands to complete.

But, they will pay for themselves in resale value and can be easier to justify the money spent.

20 Home Improvements That Increase Your Home’s Value

wooden deck addition

Take a look to see if any of these home improvements ideas are on your wishlist.

If so, the good news is you can expect to recoup a percentage (noted) of what you spend on the renovation at some point. These home improvements also increases the value of your home when it comes to home equity.

  1. Install New Wood Floors (106% ROI)
  2. Refinish Hardwood Floors (100%)
  3. Landscape Maintenance (100%)
  4. Install Exterior Stone Veneer Entry (95.6%)
  5. Replace Garage Doors (94.5%)
  6. Attic Bedroom Conversion (93.5%)
  7. Replace HVAC (85%)
  8. Addition of Wood Deck (82.8%)
  9. Family Room Addition (78%)
  10. Minor Kitchen Remodel (77.6%)
  11. Replace Entry Door with Steel Door (74.9%)
  12. Replace Windows (72.3%)
  13. Finish Your Basement (70.0%)
  14. Midrange Bathroom Remodel (64.0%)
  15. Living Room Lighting Updates (66%)
  16. Replace Exterior Siding (63-77.6%, depending on materials)
  17. Major, Upscale Kitchen Remodel (58.6%)
  18. Upscale Bathroom Remodel (58.6%)
  19. Home Office (54%)
  20. Minor Bedroom Updates (52%)

Data Sources: bankrate.com, HomeAdvisor, HGTV, Homelight, Moving.com, National Association of Realtors, Remodeling Magazine, This Old House, Zillow

So, the trick here is to spend as little as possible and get the most return for your money. Now that you know the ROIs, you can figure out if your home improvement is worth the investment.

We’ve added our two cents below on how we interpret the data in this list. Keep reading to find out what we think are relatively inexpensive home improvements that will pay off.

Most Affordable, High Value Home Improvement Investments

budget bathroom remodel

Based on the data above, here are our best suggestions when you’re figuring out how to renovate a house on a budget:

  1. Interestingly enough, one of the best home improvements you can make for resale isn’t even about your home. It’s about your landscape. A well-manicured yard trimmed shrubs and a display of beautiful perennials has an incredible impact on your resale – and your home enjoyment. Especially if you’ve been making the best of staycations at home, we feel this is money well spent. (We won’t lie, that’s great news for us gardeners!)
  1. Another affordable, high value home improvement is replacing your front door. A new steel door might cost about $1,800, but you’ll get a good portion back (about 75%) if you sell the house. And if you plan on staying, you’ll enjoy lower heating and cooling costs as a better curb appeal.
  1. A new garage door, one that’s insulated and a bit upscale, might run you about $3,600. But, with a 94.5% ROI, you’ll get almost all of that investment back. Like the replacement front door, you’ll enjoy addition cost savings on your heating, as well as a better look.
  1. If the old clawfoot tub is the only thing that lacks luster in your bathroom, forgo the major bathroom remodel. Instead, you could simply reglaze the tub for a whole new look. You might even change the color from white to a color that’s trending for a few hundred bucks. Refresh the bath mats, towels, and window treatments to match and it will feel like a new room. Give the tiles a thorough scrub or repaint the grout, paint the door and window trim white…In the end, you may have saved yourself thousands of dollars. And, you’re bathroom looks like a million bucks!
  1. Instead of a kitchen renovation that costs tens of thousands of dollars, opt for a minor renovation. That can mean replacing your appliances (or simply putting new trim kits on them so they match), swapping out your cabinet pulls, refacing your cabinets, and modernizing your sink fixtures. for your kitchen. You can plan on getting close to 77% of that investment back when you sell. And, voila – you have a like-new kitchen.
  2. Swap out the old dated lighting in your bedroom and replace it with a chandelier something more modern. With a new bed ensemble, 1000-thread count sheets, and a fresh coat of paint, you might just feel like you’ve gone away on a long vacation. And, you didn’t spend half as much.
  1. Re-outfit your living room accents to breathe new life into it. With new light switches, outlet covers, floor registers, crown molding, chair rails and drapes, and lighting, you’ll probably drop about $1,500. Add a few swanky accessories, a neutral paint, and a fresh vase full of flowers and the whole space will be revitalized. Plus, you can look forward to about a 66% ROI and endless enjoyment from a room you probably spend a lot of time – living in.
living room remodel

Final Thoughts on How to Renovate Your House on A Budget

As you can see, when you consider the payoff on a huge renovation, it just may not be worth it.

And, it may not be necessary.

Instead, decluttering, re-painting, and paying attention to the details can go a long way toward a better living space – without breaking the bank.

Once your house is in tip-top shape, you might even consider renting your home while you travel, or even selling it and starting over in a new country. Or, you might just decide it’s perfect now to be your forever home.

Photo credits: Rustic bathroom – Aaron Huber (Unsplash), all others courtesy of Canva Pro.

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Jackie Gately

Jackie Gately is a seasoned travel writer, photographer, and marketing consultant who is passionate about travel. She loves casual-luxury experiences, coastal getaways, cultural attractions, and local, wholesome food and wine pairings. A perfect day ends with her toes in the sand or by chasing the sunset with her camera--ideally both.

8 thoughts on “How to Renovate a House on a Budget: Affordable High Value Upgrades

  • November 17, 2022 at 4:52 am
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    Thank you!! You gave valuable advice about lighting! Lighting is a wonderful thing that can be used to highlight the best parts of the house. Accent lighting does this job well.

    Reply
  • August 29, 2022 at 10:56 am
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    Even though renovating a house on a budget is a great idea, there are some things you shouldn’t skimp on. And the first thing you should be focused on is quality. Actually, I’m talking about plumbing and electric jobs. They require professional hands. Being inexperienced, you may overlook some important things that can lead to a big disaster in the future. Faulty wiring often leads to fires. Faulty plumbing leads to home floods.
    So, a licensed professional is something you should really be willing to spend money on.

    Reply
    • August 30, 2022 at 6:01 am
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      Totally agree with this! I always leave my renovations to the professionals. 🙂

      Reply
  • June 15, 2022 at 2:28 am
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    If you’re going to implement some home renovation in order to boost its value, check the plumbing fixtures first and do some repairs if needed. It really needs to be done before any home remodelings, since it may require opening walls and ceilings, and lifting carpets and floorboards to access pipes.
    Even though replacing pipes and plumbing fixtures may seem pretty troublesome, it’s worth your time. I heard and read million times that it’s not advised to buy houses with old plumbing. The old and faulty plumbing poses a great threat to your property but plumbing repairs are not cheap and need much effort what can scare a potential buyer.

    Reply
    • June 15, 2022 at 11:36 am
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      That certainly sounds worth looking into. Thanks for adding your tip!

      Reply
  • June 6, 2022 at 5:56 am
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    Thank you for sharing such an interesting & informative article! I see you’re suggesting doing some kitchen and bathroom remodeling before putting your house up for sale. That’s a good suggestion. I would also recommend installing eco-friendly plumbing fixtures such as low-flow toilets and faucets to make your house “greener”. These days people are more concerned about the environment and such things could attract them. Also, it can reduce the amount of water used by up to 30%, which also matters. After all, everything today, including water and electricity, is getting more expensive.

    Reply

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