Living room corner with black antique fireplace, vintage chair, striped upholstered ottoman

14 Home Improvement Projects You Can Do on a Budget

Sometimes we do full-scale home renovations that involve a lot of demolition or building and let’s just say it…. money.  However, we have also done plenty of home improvement projects that have been low-cost but high-impact!  Here are 14 affordable house updates that make a big impact without breaking the bank!

If you tackle one small thing at a time, these little home improvement ideas really stack up! You can make a big difference with a small budget.

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bathroom with purple walls and vanity and basketweave tile

Table of Contents

No. 1: Paint

I can not say it loud enough.  Painting has the biggest impact for the smallest cost.  If you have a room that is feeling dingy or has a terrible paint color, a fresh coat of paint will work wonders.  

In our theatre room, I have planned to make it over properly someday, but it had the most horrendous 90’s yellow faux finish on it when we moved in, dating it terribly.  

I put a new coat of paint on the walls, ceiling and trim with a little color drenching and it worked magic in there.  Paint color is Valspar That eye-sore of a room became this cozy den that we are no longer embarrassed of.  

You can find all the paint colors in my home here!  

No. 2: Lighting

If you have light fixtures dating your space, start working on changing those out!  No one ever went into someone else’s house and said wow, I love that boob light.  

There is no excuse for bad light fixtures these days!  There are so many beautiful options for lighting fixtures and you can find an affordable option in places like Etsy, Amazon, and Home Depot.  A new light fixture will change your room!  

hallway with beige contrast trim and doors and white walls, accordian style hanger on wall with a broom hanging and basket on the floor, laundry closet with countertop curtain on the left

I have also upcycled, thrifted and made my own light fixtures on a small budget.  There are a lot of ways that this can be done without spending a lot of money!

Here are a few affordable light fixtures I have used in my own home!  

No. 3: Antiques and Vintage

So you may not be able to afford all new furniture (I mean, who can!) but there are ALL KINDS of treasures that can be found second-hand!  Second-hand finds give your home soul and I could not live without them.  

If you are committed to scrolling Facebook Marketplace on a daily basis or hitting up your local antique stores or thrift stores, you will find some beautiful things that are often better quality and less expensive than anything you could afford new.

In my house, I found this antique wood mantel on Facebook Marketplace and stored it for over a year until we could use it to build our dream fireplace!

Living room with black painted antique mantel, chair in corner, upholstered ottoman and white walls
My mantel I found second hand for $75 and installed in in my new home

I found this vintage Kohler pedestal sink on Facebook Marketplace for $75 and installed it when we renovated our guest bathroom.

Bathroom with green ceiling and crown moulding, floral beige and white wallpaper, brass and walnut scalloped shade sconces, vintage wood mirror, art stacked over toilet, penny tile and vintage pedestal sink
Vintage Kohler sink was found second hand

I have antique furniture pieces all over the place in my house.  Some of them I’ve fixed up and some I’ve simply dropped into place and enjoyed.  

No. 4: Paint or Refinish Furniture

Further to the above, antiques and vintage pieces are sometimes great and sometimes require a little imagination.  A coat of paint goes a long way on furniture, too!  

Bedroom with painted white nightstands, patterned bedding, blue walls and trim
The nightstands in our bedroom were an inexpensive Facebook Marketplace find that used to be a blond pinkish 80’s wood. I painted them off-white and love how they turned out.

Let’s not forget upholstery!  If you think you can’t do upholstery, you are wrong.  It is seriously one of the easiest DIY projects!  Start with reupholstering something like a chair seat for a whole new look.  You can work your way up to building your own upholstered ottoman!  

DIY striped ottoman with red piping
My DIY ottoman in my living room

No. 5: Art

Bare walls?  There is no excuse for that.  I know that art can be expensive but it can be incredibly inexpensive, too.  You can find great art secondhand or print or make your own.  

art from Juniper print shop entitled Juniper with vintage wood frame
I found an antique frame on Facebook Marketplace for a few dollars and printed some art from Juniper Print Shop for a unique, beautiful art piece without breaking the bank

Art is such a beautiful way to express yourself and fill your home with beauty and things that inspire you.  This gallery wall in my living room is a mixture of printed downloadable art, and art I found thrifting and second hand. A Home is Announced has a wonderful public domain print shop where you can download vintage art, for FREE!

No. 6: Tile a Backsplash

Chances are, if you have an older kitchen, your cabinets might be fine but your backsplash is a little dated or not to your taste.  A great way to change the look of your kitchen is to re-tile the kitchen backsplash.  I did that in my mom’s kitchen and it breathed whole new life into that space and gave the dark cabinets a fresh look!  

If you can do it yourself and save the installation costs, this is going to be very affordable and give you a huge bang for your buck!  I have a tutorial on how to tile your backsplash here!

No. 7: New Hardware

Along the same lines as above, if you are keeping your kitchen cabinets you can upgrade the way they look by swapping out the hardware!  Depending on the size of the kitchen and the hardware you choose, this can be an economical way to freshen up a dated kitchen.  

In my mom’s kitchen, we used some inexpensive hardware from Amazon and it looks so much better on her current cabinets.

Don’t forget the door hardware!  Handles and knobs can really date a house.  I changed all my hardware on my main floor to these gorgeous brass and porcelain knobs from Emtek and I love them so much.  We considered replacing all of our 90’s style doors, but with a fresh coat of paint and new knobs, they look great.  

Our new brass and ebony knobs from Emtek elevate the existing doors

In our basement, I replaced all the existing door knobs with some brass egg knobs that I scored on Facebook Marketplace for $50!   I stripped them of their shiny lacquered finish and they now have the most lovely patina. 

No. 8: Paint Cabinets

If you go the DIY route, painting your kitchen cabinets is a very affordable way to make it look like you have new kitchen cabinets.  Just make sure you have done the proper prep work and use the right paint and take your time!  Painting cabinets is a big job but it is not hard.  I wrote a blog post all about painting cabinets and about the best primer to use for a long-lasting finish.

If your cabinets are in good condition and the size and layout you like, there is no reason to get new cabinets!  You can even take boring flat stock cabinets and add a little detail to them.  I did that in my laundry room and they turned out great!

Don’t forget that you can paint that bathroom vanity too!  You can do a pretty minor bathroom remodel using only paint, some molding, and a few accessories.  

Purple vanity with vent holes in shaker style doors, flat front drawers with painted knobs, and cutsom feet as a toe kick
This vanity in my kids bathroom got some fresh paint and new doors for a huge upgrade for very little money

No. 9: Curtains and Window Coverings

Window coverings can date a house, but the correct ones can make a house look much more expensive and high-end.  Window coverings are my go-to design element when looking at a space.  They add softness, pattern, and color.  And they don’t have to be expensive, either!  You can find great off-the-rack curtain options at places like Ikea and H&M.

looking up at green velvet drapes which have been pleated
My living room curtains are from Ikea! I used three sets and pleated them for a high end look

There are many ways to hack curtains but I do think that in some areas it is worth a little bit of a splurge for really nice curtains.   I wrote a post all about affordable curtains here!

There are many affordable blind options available now too.  There are semi-custom blinds that you have made to fit your window as long as you are willing to measure and install yourself that can save you thousands.  I have these blinds with a blackout lining in my son’s room and these smart blinds (a little more of a splurge, but worth it!) in our bedroom.  

When we moved in we had shutters everywhere and we removed them from most of the house right away.  They were plastic, yellowed, and cracked and the blocked so much light.  We lived without any window coverings on our windows until we had time and the budget to install something we liked.  

No. 10: Rugs

Have floors you don’t love?  Hi, me too.  Our hardwood floors are not my first choice for flooring, but ripping it all up would have cost thousands and new flooring was not in the budget.  We decided to embrace the floors, paint colors to complement them and cover as much as possible with rugs!

entry showing a black door with sidelights, white walls and beige contrast trim, and a red and blue large sized vintage rug
I found this gorgeous vintage rug on Etsy many years ago and it’s still one of my favourite rugs

Rugs are a great way to make a room feel more designerly, define spaces, bring in some color and personality, and maybe hide some flooring you aren’t in love with!  There are great rug options out there these days that are really affordable.  

You might even get lucky and score a vintage number at the thrift store like I did!  I have also found some affordable vintage rugs on Etsy.  I love a vintage rug because they are durable, good quality, and not likely to ever go out of style.  

No. 11: Molding

We have installed a TON of molding in this house and it is a very inexpensive way to make your house look… well, expensive!  We installed tall box trim molding throughout our main living space and it really accentuates the ceiling height.

Molding it adds a ton of charm and character to what might otherwise be a boring room.  If you aren’t sure if you can do it, you can!  I wrote a whole post on how to plan and install molding, step by step.  It is a very beginner-friendly DIY.

stairwell with box trim moulding on pony wall and other walls, white paint with beige trim
We added box trim molding everywhere and it really elevates the space

No. 12: Fix up the Home’s Curb Appeal

Often, upgrading the curb appeal can be done without too much expense.  Paint the trim, upgrade the outdoor lighting, and put in a few perennial plants that will grow and beautify the outside of your home for years to come!

We renovated a house to sell a few years ago, and that house was a great example.  We painted the drab brown trim from brown to white, built some new front steps, painted the front door and upgraded the lighting.  

It looks like a different house, but yet we kept our costs way down by focusing on those things that made the biggest impact and not replacing expensive things like the siding, which would have blown our budget.  

There are lots of little outdoor projects that you can do to upgrade your space.  Last year we added a pergola to the front of of our home that has added a lot of curb appeal!  

When we moved in, our front door was a light pink and had some pretty dated and worn out hardware on it.  It did not leave a great first impression and made our front porch look drab and dreary.  I painted the door black and updated the hardware, and it looks like a whole new door!  I added a planter and a cute door mat and it’s much more inviting now.

No. 13: Repairs

Have you ever visited a house that is really dated, but it’s spotlessly clean and everything is in good working order?  What is your impression of that house?  Mine is always that this home is loved and well cared for, and despite any dated appearances it still FEELS very homey and wonderful to be in.

This is not as much fun as some of the other changes, but I can’t say enough about how much of an impact little repairs around the house can make.  Tighten up loose fixtures, deep clean your shower grout, fix up all the leftover nail holes in the wall.  Mow and edge the lawn.  Do paint touch ups.  Give everything a really good cleaning. Flip your door swing to be more functional!

Making sure that you home is in good repair often doesn’t take any money or very little money, but it goes a long way towards making it feel like someone loves it.  

No. 14: Textiles

One of my favorite ways to change up the look in a room without breaking the bank is through textiles.  Think new pillow covers or bedding.  You can change the entire look of a space just with a few new soft goods!

Recently in my bedroom I changed out the bedding and it makes it feel like a whole new room!  

blue bedroom with contrast trim, patterned bedding and layered rugs
Our bedroom is one room that fixed up with mainly paint and a few small changes!
DuvetQuiltCheckered ShamsFloral SheetsFloral Lumbar Curtains

Tip:  When replacing your pillows, buy good quality pillow inserts and buy them only once.  Then just buy the covers!  You can easily store extra covers so you can swap them out often without it taking up too much space.  

I hope that helped you come up with some low cost updates that you can do around your own house!

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  1. What a great article, Erin! I have followed along with many of these renos with you, but this article was great to read ! I’m off to IKEA…

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