Co-author: Amanda Horswill
Embarking on a major home renovation can be a time-consuming, daunting and often expensive exercise. But, if you’ve got a handy $1000, it could still be possible to stage a mini-makeover on at least part of your abode. Here are five ideas for cheap home renovations that give a big impact for a small budget.
Cheap Home Renovation #1: Replace your front door
Nothing says welcome home like a spick-and-span entryway. Luckily, if your front door is looking a little worse for wear, updating it is possible without breaking the bank. Shop around to find the best options to suit your budget.
Costs can be broken down into a few categories:
- The door itself
- Door hardware (if not reusing old locks and hinges)
- Delivery fee
- Labour to install the door and hardware
- Painting the new door
The cheapest exterior entry doors start around $500 and can extend to prices well over $1000. Some doors come pre-primed or painted, although this is usually an added expense. If you use a carpenter for installation, expect to pay for this, too. Sometimes this will also involve a call-out fee, depending on where you live and the complexity of the job. Costs will vary from company to company.
Tins of exterior paint and primer, brushes and other painting accessories will set you back around $80-$100. Plus there is the added cost of new locks and handles, if you’re not reusing your old hardware.
There are plenty of companies that specialise in replacing doors, and many will come to your house and give you a quote to do the entire job. This could mean replacing just the door itself, or pulling out and replacing the entire frame. Some companies will even repaint the door and frame as part of the package price, or for an additional fee.
Otherwise, it could be possible (and potentially cheaper) to go the DIY route, although doors have a reputation for being tricky to hang. It’s especially true if your new door doesn’t match the exact dimensions of the one you’re replacing, and you need to make on-the-spot alterations.
Fitting locks can also be a challenging task. So if you’re struggling or pressed for time, it could be worth considering hiring a locksmith.
Regardless of whether you decide to do it yourself or contact a professional, there are some common hiccups that can lead to a blowout in your budget.
If your doorway isn’t a standard size (most door companies follow similar size patterns), getting a custom-cut door will cost extra.
Also, taking your old door off could also mean you need a new door handle and locks. These vary in price considerably, so, if you can’t reuse your old door hardware, that could be an added expense.
Cheap Home Renovation #2: Update cabinet knobs
This is another renovation trick that’s generally quick, easy and relatively cheap. There are hundreds of different types of door handles on the market, designed to be used on household cabinetry. Replacing daggy or broken handles can give a kitchen, bedroom or bathroom a new lease on life, without the price tag of a real renovation.
Before going out and buying new handles, you may want to remove one or two of the old ones from your cabinet first. Years of use will usually have left a mark in the cabinet door.
Some of that mark might just be dirt – wipe it off gently with a damp cloth – but there will usually be a permanent scar. Be sure to choose a new handle that will cover up these blemishes.
Also note how the handle has been attached to the door, and aim to buy new handles with the same set-up, if possible, so you don’t have to drill or fill in any holes in the cabinets.
Take the old handles with you, as well as photos of the door blemishes, when you’re out shopping for new ones, so you can be sure that you’re buying suitable replacements.
When choosing your new handles, consider what you are trying to achieve. Do you want to make a statement, or do you want them to blend in more with the decor?
If you have stainless-steel appliances, a popular choice is to go for brushed metal handles. A modern, industrial look can be achieved with square or rectangular handles; while rounded shapes can offer a softer effect. Traditional kitchens might accommodate clear acrylic, coloured enamel or brass knobs.
With such a huge range of handles on offer, there are gems available at a range of price points – starting from as little as a few dollars. Often all that is required to install them is a screwdriver and some muscle.
Watch for sharp edges and how a handle’s size and shape works in its setting. For example, if a handle is for use on a kitchen bench used to prepare food, ensure that you won’t be hitting up against bruise-inducing protruding metal handle edges.
And when you have made your choice, make sure that the shop’s return policy allows you to bring the handles back for a refund or exchange if they don’t work as you expected.
Cheap Home Renovation #3: Install feature lighting
If the bones of your place are good, but you’d like to inject a little more atmosphere, a new hanging light fixture or even a statement lamp could be the answer.
While you may need an electrician to install lights in many cases, particularly where wiring is involved, there are also plenty of DIY fixtures on the market that you may be able to screw into existing recessed lighting fixtures.
Batten-fix lights are a common DIY option, as they can be easily secured to an existing bare light fixture. Batten fixtures usually have a shade, much like you’d find on a lamp, sticking close to the ceiling.
For full-on drama, you could choose a pendant light, or, if the budget allows, a series of pendants strung in a row or clustered together. A pendant light is one that hangs from the ceiling, usually on a thin cord. Style choices are virtually endless and range from crystal chandeliers, to industrial-looking bare bulbs strung on simple black cords, to ornate shades suspended by chain. These lights are also available in DIY versions, but often require an electrician to install them. Pendant light prices start from as little as $20, but range widely.
An electrician will generally charge between $40 and $90 per hour (at least in cities like Auckland), and may also charge a call-out fee. Although this can vary depending on where you live and what you need done. Replacing existing downlights will cost around $50 per unit, and replacing a single light switch approx. $30. Installing a new power point in your house can set you back anywhere from $125 to $180.
For more on what you need to know about the regulations concerning installing your own lights, check out our story: Bright Ideas for Installing Your Own Lights.
Cheap Home Renovation #4: Replace your taps
Give your bathroom an instant lift by upgrading broken or daggy taps, limescale-caked spouts, and leaking shower heads. These frequently underestimated necessities often set the tone of a room. If they look all shiny and new, they can add a fresh gleam.
Some bathroom set-ups could mean that it’s necessary for you to have help from a professional handyman or plumber. NZ plumbing sites estimate the cost of replacing taps at about $180 each, and replacing a showerhead/hose at around $160. Of course, this depends on the scope of the job, where you live, and the cost of new tapware. And there could be a call-out fee, too.
However, in some situations, it’s possible for a competent DIYer to have a go at the work themselves. Either way, it’s a good idea to research what’s involved before embarking on the project.
Taps come in a wide range of styles and prices. To keep costs down, it can help to choose taps and spouts that are the same format and roughly the same size as the originals. It may then be possible to salvage parts of your existing set-up, such as the bath spout, rather than swapping out every fixture.
Cheap Home Renovation #5: Upgrade your stovetop
While the kitchen is the heart of the home and often on display, it’s also the place that tends to cop a hiding when it comes to wear and tear. While it’s expensive to replace benchtops, why not consider swapping out one of the major items on show – the cooktop?
Unfortunately, if you’re looking to replace a freestanding oven with an integrated cooktop, this may not be possible within the $1000 limit. Canstar estimates that while 50-60cm freestanding ovens generally cost less than $900, larger ovens can be as much as $5000 – delivery and installation extra.
However, if you’ve a separate stove top that is looking a little worse for wear – perhaps it’s an outdated model in an unfashionable colour, or its enamel or glass surface is chipped or scratched – it can be a relatively inexpensive exercise to replace.
Cooktops from highly rated manufacturers start around $500 (for either gas or electric models). A sleek-looking ceramic-glass electric cooktop can add a modern look to a kitchen, especially if you’re replacing an older-style, exposed electric coil variety. However, high-tech induction electric cooktops could be out if you want to keep under the $1K price limit.
When it comes to gas, cooktops can be made from stainless steel or enamelled metal, with trivets, in a range of finishes including cast iron or enamelled metal.
You may be able to keep costs down by purchasing a cooktop that fits in the existing hole left by the old stovetop, and by sticking to the same fuel format, whether it’s gas or electric. Depending on how it’s fuelled and what you buy, it’s likely that you’ll need to have your new stovetop professionally installed. The price of installation will vary, also, according to those variables.
Bonus idea: Have the house cleaned, inside and out
Are you sure that your house really needs an update? Maybe it just needs good, old-fashioned spit and polish and a little elbow grease to bring back its glam. Simply washing down exterior surfaces can sometimes give a tired-looking place a new lease on life.
You could use a high-pressure hose to remove mould from the driveway, wash the eaves and exterior paint with a suitable detergent, remove cobwebs and insect cocoons, scrub the grime from windows and rinse off screens. You could be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.
Giving interior walls and doors a good scrub with a sugar-soap solution can often be enough to make a place look almost freshly repainted.
Other options include wiping the fans and light fittings down with a microfibre cloth; washing curtains, or taking them to the drycleaners, if suitable; cleaning blinds with a soft cloth; or having carpets professionally cleaned.
When it comes to a quick face lift for your home, consider making the inside of the oven shine, steam-cleaning kitchen surfaces or using a stainless-steel polish on the sink. If all of that sounds like a little too much hard work, you could hire a professional to do it all. Cleaners in NZ cost anywhere between $20 and $50+ an hour. So $1000 could buy you a very clean house indeed!
How to finance home upgrades
There are a variety of options when it comes to financing home upgrades. You could refinance your existing home loan, or take out a new mortgage, in which case you should shop around for a competitive rate.
But if your renovating plans are relatively small and cheap, a personal loan might be a fast and convenient way of funding them. Personal loans come in two forms: secured and unsecured. Note: secured finance, in general, will always be cheaper than unsecured.
If you want to check out the best current deals on personal loans, Canstar can help. We rate and compare different providers and award the best our annual Most Satisfied Customers Award. And our free comparison tool uses up-to-date market information to allow you to compare different loans and interest rates. For more information, just click on the button below.
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