Your first home might not be exactly what you want but you can make cosmetic changes until you decide on what you really want. Paint, new floor coverings, taps, cupboard doors and handles, regrouting, screens/room dividers and better lighting can all refresh your home. And remember that your mortgage broker can often increase your mortgage to fund some of these renovations.
Top 5 tips for a budget home renovation
1. Do the big-impact stuff first
Walls and floors occupy the greatest area so have the largest impact so they’re what you want to fix first. But before you do anything, if you’ve bought an older home, it could probably do with a good clean. So hire a pressure cleaner (or engage a company that does this) to clean the exterior including paintwork, bricks, roof and driveway.
Whatever article you read about budget renovations, you’ll see that ‘painting’ features in all of them. There’s a good reason; new paint doesn’t cost a bomb, especially if you’re prepared to do the painting yourself. Fresh paint lifts a whole house from tired to terrific. While you don’t need to be an expert to paint, you do need to tackle the job systematically. This means washing walls thoroughly before you start, making sure you have plenty of dropsheets to protect the floors if you’re keeping the existing flooring, and taping over or removing light switches and power points. Check with your hardware store as to what types of rollers and brushes you need for your wall surface type. First, start by ‘cutting in’ or painting around the edges of your wall. Then use your roller to fill in the rest. If you’re painting a light colour over a darker colour, you’ll need two coats. Otherwise, one coat done well should be enough to lift your spirits.
If your home has tatty old carpet or vinyl coverings, rip it up and replace it. Your new flooring doesn’t need to be expensive. Head to a carpet warehouse to find durable carpet that will refresh your space or consider laminate timber-look floors. Remember, this is a short-term fix until you can afford the timber flooring or the tiles with underfloor heating.
2. Focus on inexpensive cosmetic updates
You don’t need to rip out all the cabinetry to give your kitchen a facelift. Painting cupboards and swapping dated handles for more modern styles can be economical but offer a big impact. Resurface benchtops with laminate, which offers great value for money, comes in a wide range of colours and patterns, and is easy to install.
Paint cupboards in your bedroom and replace handles if they’re past their use-by date. Your local hardware store will generally offer a good range. If you’re looking for door handles that are out of the ordinary, go online to see hundreds of styles.
- Getting that painting right
Be aware that the technique for achieving a smooth surface on cupboard doors is slightly different from painting walls. You’ll get a cleaner finish if you remove cupboard doors first, clean them thoroughly to remove any grease, and lightly sand the surface. Clean off any grit. Cut in around the edges using a brush. Use your roller to cover the door then, while the paint is wet, use a brush to finely stroke over the paint to remove the air bubbles. This gives you a lovely smooth finish. If you can hire or borrow a paint sprayer, you’ll achieve an even smoother finish (but beware that it can get messy).
Your kitchen and bathroom should be the main focus. Remember that if your bathroom isn’t huge, new tiles and installation don’t need to cost bomb. However, if your budget is super tight and you’re a bit of a DIYer, the easiest way to refresh tiles is to regrout them. Yes, this is a tedious job, as you’ll need to scrape out the old grout but it will make all the difference in the world. Once you’re ready to regrout, mix the grout to directions then paste it in between the tiles. Unless you want your hands to look like a brickie’s, use latex gloves. You’ll have the sensitivity you need but you’ll save your hands. Getting a good smooth finish takes a bit of practice so start on the side or the bottom of the tiled area until you perfect your technique.
Top tip: Buy a grout scraper that takes titanium blades. The blades will last longer and the job will be easier.
Head to Bunnings or Ikea for some great modern tapware choices that will help modernise your kitchen and bathroom, or check out the hundreds of styles online.
3. Make the most of storage
It’s rare that a home has the amount of storage you think you need. However, while you’re waiting to do your major renovations, you can create storage for little cost.
- Bathroom: A nifty trick, especially in a small bathroom, is to install a shelf above the door to hold towels or items you don’t use often but need to store somewhere.
- Kitchen: Even if cupboard space is limited, often you can extend the space with cupboard organisers. Head to Kmart or Target for inexpensive racks that can almost double the available space.
- Bedroom: If hanging space is at a premium and you don’t like a crowded wardrobe, go online to find a set (or two) of space-saving ‘magic’ hangers. Head to Kmart, Ikea, Target or the like for products that help you organise your drawers and shelves. You’ll be surprised at how much space you free up simply by corralling items in containers. And remember that shoeboxes are a great budget alternative to bought organisers.
4. Consider the right lighting for your home
When you’re refreshing your new home, you don’t want to spend a fortune on expensive (and heat-creating) downlights, even if you opt for LED. Instead, check out hardware and homewares stores for budget-conscious light shades to update the look. Add mirrors to reflect available light, especially in your bathroom. Invest in a few good standing lamps that will give you a softer light, and task lights for your desk or bedside tables.
Even in an apartment, you can brighten your balcony with hardy plants like olives. Some seating, a table and good lighting and a small BBQ. If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard, simply defining spaces, mulching plants and adding some lush plants in pots can give your outdoor ‘room’ a whole new lease on life.
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