Home improvement or remodelling is one of the best ways of adding value to your home as well as improving its functionality. If you cannot move home because of tough economic conditions then it is worth remembering the adage “Don’t Move, Improve”.
That said, you need to be prudent with your budget, and in the current economic climate perhaps doubly so. Therefore, before you splash out on the latest gee-whizz gadgetry for your home let us steer you in the right direction.
Decide your budget – and stick to it
Before you even contemplate improvement work decide your budget limit – remember you need day to day things like food, clothing, heating etc. And don’t take on extra debt that you cannot realistically service from your income.
Make a list of practical tasks that could reduce the cost of running your home, such as energy efficient light bulbs, repair dripping taps, reducing heat loss and draughts, putting timers or motion activated sensors on outdoor lighting. If you can change to a cheaper supplier for electricity or change to a cheaper source of heating then add this to your list.
Are there rooms that you rarely use? Make sure the radiators or other heating have zoned thermostats so you can drop the temperature in these areas in winter to around 12 degrees rather than 22 centigrade. If you do this for guest rooms you can turn the heat up before guests arrive.
Low cost improvements
There are three routes to working on a budget.
1) look for bargains or big sale discounts when you shop around for materials, price compare on the internet (but always factor in carriage costs).
2) seek out second hand items and repair/refurbish. This gives new life to old and can be particularly effective with furniture. Take advantage of other people who are not as prudent with their money as you are.
3) undertake labour yourself rather than paying a tradesman. Unless you are undertaking structural, plumbing, plastering or electrical work most work in the home can be undertaken by the moderately competent home owner. If you have doubts or if the job is too big why not team up with friends to undertake a project – then have a party to celebrate the completion! Don’t forget to reciprocate when your friends need help.
Practical value-for-money improvements
Painting: perhaps the easiest way to rapidly and cheaply make-over a home. The tools are cheap. Most of the work can be undertaken by anyone with free time. It is worth noting that shopping for “budget” paint is often a false economy. If you hire a professional decorator most of the cost will be labour, not materials, so if you do it yourself the job becomes very cost effective.
Exterior painting should not be skimped even in the credit crunch since the paint is there not just to look nice; rather it should be protecting wood from the weather.
Wall decor: pictures, prints, clocks etc can be picked up cheaply and can look good without breaking the bank. Second hand pictures can be refreshed by re-framing; this is best done by a professional if you want the best result but because it is a quick job it will not be too costly.
Lighting: look for table and wall lamps in the sales from the big superstores (Home Depot, Walmart, B&Q etc) but if you are careful you do not have to sacrifice style for economy. You can even re-use and revamp existing lamps by purchasing new shades and brighter bulbs (energy efficient of course!).
Wooden furniture: if you have natural wood you can easily refresh it at low cost. Sanding, then waxing or polishing the wood will give it a new life. You can even stain/dye the wood to a new shade. All this can be done at low cost without the cost of hiring a contractor.
Floors: wooden floors are easy to revamp and often you can then give them a completely new look with a new feature rug. Carpets are trickier to do economically. New carpets are not cheap and if you are fitting awkward shapes or up staircases you will need a professional. We would suggest that you keep your existing carpet but hire a high quality carpet cleaning machine to remove ground in dirt and smell. If the carpet is damaged or thread-bare or badly stained your best credit-crunch option is to invest in a rug to disguise the problem.
Windows: once you have repainted your window frames and the walls invest in new window dressings. You can achieve great results for curtains by using lower cost fabrics made up with more exotic headings combined with lining and interlining to give a more sumptuous feel. At same time the thicker curtains will reduce draughts and heat loss. If you are able to make your own curtains so much the better. You might something good amongst ready made curtains but rarely will they be the right dimensions and rarely will they be interlined. One other option would a curtain exchange, where you could pick up a bargain that at most would require dry-cleaning and maybe hemming up to fit.
These are just a few practical tips that will help you revamp your home on a tight budget. If in doubt look at design magazines for style inspiration, then make a shopping list, watch for sales, collect discount coupons and get on first name terms with your local thrift store!
You will be amazed at what you can achieve.