As the cost of living rises, homeowners are more stretched than ever before. Visions of remodeling the kitchen may not be in the cards for reasons of budget, but also because it’s hard to find contractors who are available to do the work.
In response to this, more people have started to hone their own DIY skills, and while not everyone wants to take on large projects themselves, anyone can do some simple upgrades that will have a big impact.
There are a ton of great projects you can do to upgrade your home while staying under budget. Here are some home improvement projects you can DIY for under $1000.
Replace Ceiling Light Fixtures
Upgrading your lighting fixtures is a cost-effective way to bring new life to any room—especially if the existing ones are the typical cheap builder’s ceiling lights that lack character. This is an easy task for the DIY-er, and while you don’t have to be an electrician to change a light, you should still take caution when working with wires.
Always shut off the power before doing any electrical work. Even though basic fixtures don’t have enough current to severely injure you, a jolt can knock people off ladders. Certain fixtures like ceiling fans require more power to the box, which could cause injury. Don’t take any chances.
If your electrical box isn’t marked, finding the right breaker to shut off is easy with two people. Have one person stand in the room with the light on, while the other person switches off breakers until the light turns off. You can also shut off power to the whole house while you work.
Once that’s done, following the instructions to install your new light is straightforward, mainly consisting of removing the old light by detaching the black and white wires, unscrewing it from the electrical box, and reversing the order for putting up the new one.
Install a Backsplash
Not all homes have a kitchen backsplash, and a bare wall makes this project a lot easier than replacing an old one. While not impossible, demoing the old tiles is a lot of extra work, and replacing the drywall is usually easier than chipping off tiles.
While this will increase the budget, remember you won’t have to worry about finishing the new drywall with mud and tape, since tile will simply go over top. Once you have a blank slate, there are a lot of great-looking tiles around that are cheap.
Ceramic subway tiles are a good option, and simple squares or rectangles have also come back into fashion. There’s no need to upgrade with quartz or marble backsplashes to get a nice, clean, fresh look to your kitchen, just remember to budget for the cost of grout, as well.
You may need to buy some tiling tools if you don’t have them, but they aren’t expensive and consist of things like buckets, sponges, a grout float, and adhesive spreader. If you don’t have a tile-cutter, you can easily rent one for about $50/day.
Upgrade Your Kitchen Sink and Faucet
This is a great project for anyone who wants to try their hand at a simple plumbing job. An old sink and leaky faucet can be replaced for around $500 ($300 for the sink, $200 for the faucet), but if you’re able to find some deals, you might even be able to replace the countertop while you’re at it.
If your countertop is in good shape, it’s a much quicker and easier job to change out the sink and faucet. Unscrew the water lines that connect to the faucet – the lines should have their own shut-offs, so you don’t have to turn off water to the whole house.
The sink might also be simple as some traps can be screwed on and off for easy detachment, but it’s often glued so you may need to cut the ABS pipe with either a reciprocating saw or pipe saw. Then, cut along the silicone where the sink meets the countertop with a utility knife.
Make sure to buy a sink that will fit the same cut-out in the countertop. You can always buy bigger and make any adjustments with a jigsaw, but you won’t be able to go smaller without changing the countertop, too.
There are a few ways to update your bathroom for $1000 or less, and all of them are DIY-friendly. A fresh coat of paint can do wonders for an older bathroom, as can replacing any fixtures like the shower head and tub faucet, vanity and sink, toilet, and towel hangers.
For the best results, take off all of the wall fixtures and do any demo-ing before painting to make it easier. Bathrooms are usually the smallest room in the house, so a one-gallon can of mold or mildew-resistant paint should suffice.
This is also a great time to consider changing where towel holders or art was hung on the wall. Filling holes and wall imperfections should be done before painting. Once two coats have been applied, you can look at the walls with fresh eyes.
Installing a new toilet isn’t a difficult job for anyone that can lift that amount of weight. It’s a little messy, but can save you a couple hundred bucks to DIY.
Just like the kitchen sink, a new vanity and faucet can be one of the biggest ways to give your bathroom a makeover. Replacing the shower head and tub faucet is another simple job that only requires a little hand strength—no special plumbing certificate required.
Refinish Wood Floors
Worn out wood floors can be brought back to life rather than installing costly new flooring. This job is a little labor-intensive, but good for the DIY-er who wants a weekend project.
The main floor of a house can be done for under $500, while a larger home with multiple levels of hardwood floors will cost a bit more. Altogether this project should come in under $1000.
The main costs are renting the tools. You’ll need a floor sander and buffer, sandpaper, plastic sheets and tape, stain and polyurethane, and a heavy duty vacuum cleaner. Sanding the floors takes the most time and effort, as you may need to do it a few times.
Once you’ve sanded the floors smooth and taken off the top finish, you can stain any color you like. A couple coats are usually needed with a floor roller. Some stains have varnish included, but a topcoat of polyurethane makes them shine.
Floors need to be buffed between coats, but once it’s all finished, you’ll have brand new looking floors for a quarter of the cost of laying new flooring. Tip: get a dustless sander to reduce airborne dust particles.
Redo the Laundry Room
Laundry rooms have been getting more attention these days, since it’s a room you use regularly. If you’re your machines are stuck in a dark, dirty basement, spending a few bucks to refresh the space can make this everyday chore much more enjoyable.
Main floor laundry has also gained in popularity, so if you have a mudroom, kitchen, or entryway with the space, moving them up a level from the basement can make life even easier. While the plumbing isn’t very difficult, running lines between floors may require the skills of a plumber.
Whether they move or stay put, there are some easy and cost-effective ways to spruce up the laundry room with an accent wall, fresh paint, or tile backsplash to give your laundry machines a new look.
Add some shelves and storage to hide away detergents and dryer sheets, and place a countertop over machines that are side by side, or create a small folding area next to stackable machines.
Plant a Perennial Garden
It’s easy to get lost in winter projects that focus on the interior of your home, but once spring comes around, households spend a lot more time outdoors. A new 10x10 deck will cost around $2000, but if you put half of that amount towards upgrading your garden, you can have a gorgeous space in no time.
The best way to keep under budget for this project is to visit the garden center at different times of the year. You won’t find deals on plants that are in season; for instance, springtime bulbs won’t be on sale until the summer or fall, but certain trees or other perennials might be on sale in April.
Common annuals bloom aplenty come June, and while you might want to get a few for some quick color, remember that garden centers drastically drop their prices a couple weeks later on staples like geraniums, petunias, and daisies.
Annuals only last one season, so spend more of your budget on native perennial plants that will draw in pollinators, and comeback every year. They’ll also need less overall maintenance once established, making them a better budget choice.
Most garden center associates will be happy to help you find native perennial flowers, as well as trees, shrubs, and edible plants. $1000 can go a long way towards creating a lifelong garden that will bring color, shade, and food, each and every year.
Paint the Whole House
Is your house painted the same drab "builder's beige" that so many homes were outfitted with? If so, give your whole house a much needed refresh with a crisp, new color.
If you do this job yourself, you can save a ton of money on labor and easily paint an entire 3-bedroom home for under a grand. The larger the square footage, the more paint you’ll have to buy, which will increase costs.
Not all paint is made the same, as well, and different brands will be more expensive than others. Depending on your budget, opt for the highest quality you can. It will be worth it in the end, as cheaper paint means more coats, sometimes offsetting the original savings in the first place.
A mid-range paint works just fine, and hardware stores will often have weekly deals on paint products. Buying in bulk can make sense, especially if you are using the same color for a few rooms. For example, a good quality one-gallon costs $50, but a five-gallon of the same brand costs $200.
You may not want to paint the whole house the same color (though it’s not a terrible idea), but a monochromatic color scheme is recommended for rooms that adjoin, like the dining and living room and any hallways.
Subtle changes in different levels work well, meaning you can grab a five-gallon bucket each for the basement, main floor, and second floor that will take care of the whole home for $600. $300 for primer and other supplies keeps this project under $1000.
Make Your Own Harvest Table
A beautiful table made of real wood is a great way to upgrade your dining room while bringing friends and family together. You won’t be able to find a quality hardwood table for under two grand, so making one yourself is a great project for the DIY woodworker.
The materials for this project are simple for a six-foot table: grab four 2x10x6 boards for the table top, four 2x4x6’s to make the frame, one 2x2x6 for extra bracing underneath, and one 4x4x10 post for the legs.
Use two of the 2x4x6 boards for the long part of the frame, and cut a third one in half for the shorter end of the frame. Nail or screw those pieces together. Use the other 2x4 for bracing between the longer pieces. Set the 2x10 boards on top of the frame, nailing into the spots where it meets the 2x4's.
2x2’s can be added along the ends to help brace and draw the 2x10’s into the frame. The 4x4 post can be cut into 30-inch lengths and screwed into the corners of the frame. All fasteners can be hidden by screwing underneath the boards, and use wood glue where any lumber meets up.
There are some cool ways to get the distressed look of reclaimed wood or barn boards if you are using new lumber. Essentially you want to beat it up to make it look old and give it character.
Whip chains against the wood, roll large screws along the grain to make divets, or even ding it gently with a hammer. A wire brush can also scuff it up nicely. Once you’re happy with it, choose a stain and polyurethane that fits your décor.
Remember that any money you spend on your home is likely to get you a return on value. Upgrading regularly means your house stays in good shape, and continues to gain in resale value.
If you are new to renovation projects, try out a simple one first, and get some experience. After a while, your confidence and skills will grow, as will your toolset. Get started with any of these home improvement projects you can DIY for under $1000.