If you’ve got marble taste on a laminate budget, I rounded up some beautiful and budget friendly renovation ideas and hacks, to show you how you can update your home, even with a small budget. Click any of the links to find the original DIY tutorial – but I’m also sharing a mini update of how each project held up in this post. Some of these projects could last for a long time, while some are intended as a temporary fix. I know some people prefer to just wait and put all of their money towards saving for a renovation, but I’m a huge believer in enjoying your home now. And sometimes setting aside just $50 to tackle one thing you dislike can make such a difference! With a small budget, I recommend tackling the worse offenders first – sometimes once that hideous old tile is neutralized, the rest of the space looks good! That’s what happened in my budget bathroom makeover. I painted the cabinets, tile, hardware, walls and even the light. I added my own DIY art and some pretty towels. All of a sudden the bland linoleum floor and awful mint counter looked good enough (okay, actually I kind of liked the mint in the end):
I hope you find this round up of budget friendly renovation ideas useful and that you feel inspired to tackle a DIY project this weekend!
Paint a Vinyl Floor (Or Paint a Concrete Floor or Sub Floor)
Did you know that you can paint a vinyl floor? The local paint store told me it couldn’t be done. I told them no one tells me what to do, haha. With proper prep, primer and paint, my kitchen/entry/laundry/powder room vinyl is now a modern (painted) charcoal grey. And even with two dogs, plus a beach in my backyard and a gravel driveway (so you know we all track in lots of sharp grit and sand), the floors look 99% new after more than three years of HARD use. A couple of teeny tiny dots of paint chipped (I think a piece of grit got trapped under the paint and then when it got loosened, the paint came with it), but I touched those spots up no problem. This was a surprisingly durable DIY for so little money, and it’s one of my favorite budget friendly renovation ideas because you can choose any color or even stencil a design, so it’s really versatile and anyone can do it.
I also painted this particle board/OSB subfloor (but this was for a retail space I wasn’t using personally, so I can’t speak to how it held up):
And I painted a concrete floor too! Painting floors is addictive it seems. This held up super well for many years (I’ve moved from this house since, but I did peep the new owner’s listing photos when they listed the house and it looked intact).
Repairing and refinishing laminate countertops is an easy budget friendly renovation idea, but you just need a little patience for dry/cure time. I tackled this project in my Mom’s kitchen, where her white laminate counters were stained, scratched and had pieces chipped off – the laminate was even separating from the MDF beneath it. I patched the chips, glued down the lifting laminate, and then covered it with a Rust-Oleum Countertop Transformations Kit. It took us a few days and my Mom had to avoid using the new counters while everything dried and cured but, in the end, chipped, peeling, and stained laminate counters looked brand new with a modern, glittering white finish.
She no longer lives in this house, but she LOVED how the project turned out and she used it heavily while she lived there and it held up so well – just avoid setting down hot pans. The Rust-Oleum kits are not just paint, they’re like resin almost and they create this super hard, super glossy finish.
This one of the most bold from my list of budget friendly renovation ideas, but you can change it up to suit your decor so easily! Plywood floors can easily be made in any width of plank and painted/stained any color. With finishing products designed for flooring, these can withstand wear and tear but don’t let them get too soaked with water. It’s been a couple of years and they look great, although we wear our boots in here and track in a lot of snow. I am going to put down a mat this year because I don’t think all that water and snow is a good idea. Here’s a look at the really cool marbled plywood floors I made:
My least favorite of these budget friendly renovation ideas, but worth mentioning. I don’t love peel and stick tile because I’ve had issues with the glue on peel and stick floor tile (twice!) – frankly, I now prefer paint when it comes to updating old floors. But peel and stick tiles are easy with no dry time, and they are an affordable way to update flooring or backsplash tile. Before we had money to replace the tile backsplash in the townhouse, I covered over a hideous “accent” tile in our townhouse kitchen with some peel and stick tiles. I should have done a pattern to make it more intentional, but I was SO broke that I could only afford the 10 or so I needed so it ended up as odd as the original design I was trying to cover up, but still way better. I’m so embarrassed by my old photography I’m not even sharing a photo here – you’ll have to click this link to see, but I am including it in this round up because peel & stick tile is a good idea for a rental where painting isn’t an option. I used peel and stick tile in my Mom’s budget-friendly kitchen makeover too:
Painting my old stone fireplace cost me a gallon of paint and a weekend (or so) of time but it just might the most dramatic of my budget friendly renovations ideas. I also painted the vents and doors with heat-resistance paint to get rid of the gold (which, I know, has come back in trend since this house was built in the 1990s – but I still wasn’t a fan). If you have a fireplace you don’t love, paint is hands down the cheapest way to modernize and update it. I didn’t even use any special paint! I just cleaned it thoroughly and used a good quality primer/paint in one (although I did prime the pine separately first). More than five years later, my painted fireplace still looks brand new (I get compliments on it, on Instagram, almost daily). An actual piece of stone chipped off thanks to the doggos (oops), but no paint ever did! The door handle (which I also spray painted) could use a touch up and around the firebox I’d love to touch up the paint again – but the stone looks new.
A lot of older homes have fireplaces (and living room layouts) designed before the advent of big flat screen TVs. We couldn’t fit a TV above our fireplace because the mantle was so high – so years after we did out initial paint makeover, we hacked it! This build took some tools, planning and time but ultimately it was really affordable – especially compared to a real fireplace renovation. I’m amazed at how this fireplace makeover totally changed the floor plan, size, and function of our space – without doing any major structural changes! It’s definitely one of my absolute favorite budget friendly renovating ideas. This bump out could even be removed, if we really needed to, and the fireplace could be restored to its former stats with just some concrete dabbed in the holes and covered again with paint. It’s been over a year since we tackled this project and we’re still LOVING the new placement of our Samsung Frame TV. The vents we built into the bump out redirect the heat perfectly and no problems popped up at all, which is always a relief when you’re trying something you haven’t seen done before!
Ultimately we ended up replacing the siding and having to remove the stone, but for awhile it sported a painted stone exterior outside. I really, really wish the whole house had been cedar clad, instead of the mix of busted vinyl siding, faux stonework, and cedar. I would have loved to have saved some bucks and just painted the whole exterior (that could have saved us thousands and thousands – would have been the best savings of me budget friendly renovation ideas). But even painting the stone (which, up close was grey and pink), transformed the house exterior. In this post I share my tips for painting – and some important safety advice for painting a stone chimney too. The company we hired ended up having to tear it all down to replace the windows (sigh), so I can’t report on how well it weathered beyond a few months. But we painted the concrete foundation at the same time with the same paint and it looks brand new – using masonry paint and paying close attention to the weather report (need that concrete to be dry and stay dry) is a major factor in the success of this project!
It’s been two years since we painted the soffit and fascia – with Rust-Oleum rattle cans, nothing special! – and it still looks perfect. I was worried because we get pretty harsh weather, but it has held up (through hot summers and arctic winters). It didn’t take long, but it did involve some grueling overhead ladder work – but it was worth it, because it really upgraded the garage exterior and helped the building match the next exterior of our house. There’s a bit of over spray doing this project, so this is best done if you’re planning to paint the siding too (although you could tape it off). And the dark colors makes spider webs and wasps nests really POP (haha), so be prepared to forever be cleaning those away.
Painting the siding on the garage helped it match the new siding we had installed on the house. We couldn’t afford to do new siding on both structures, so I faked it with the garage! Painting by hand was slow, but worked, so you don’t even need special equipment. I did the front by hand (brushing and rollers), but we used a paint sprayer (Wagner Control Pro 150) for the sides and it made the job go a LOT quicker. We shaved hours and hours off this project by using it and were done in an afternoon. I recently used it again to paint my chicken coop so if you’re going to be doing a lot of painting it can really save time and it’s a quality piece of equipment.
Sometimes one shabby thing makes everything look shabby. Our little bunkie needs a new roof, deck stain, fascia and a little landscaping but the stained door and faded trim paint made it look the shabbiest. All I did was paint those glossy aqua (using leftover primer/paint) and the whole building looked instantly cuter. With properly prepping, priming and using quality exterior paint it still looks brand new, years later. And I still haven’t done anything else to the exterior! So if painting an exterior is out of your budget, try just updating one small thing, like the trim or door – even just upgrading a really terrible light fixture.
Okay, I’m cheating with this list of budget friendly renovation ideas because this is a riff on the project above, but hear me out! Although we have since replaced the patio doors with sliding doors (which I hate, ugh), painting them a cheery aqua was such an inexpensive way to brighten up the patio. It also helped create some cohesion (that’s why I’m sharing this idea twice), because I painted the wood door on the bunkie and the brand new mid-century modern inspired front door to the house the same color – making three totally different doors (bought decades apart) feel cohesive. Painting the doors, painting only the stonework, and building a step flanked by a pair of modern black outdoor planters was really a small project in the grand scheme of things but the results was so pretty and really freshened up the house with just a little elbow grease. When a house looks shabby and neglected (guilty), even just a little goes a long way – which you can see with this makeover.
Our deck was not properly built by the former homeowners (no gaps between boards so water pools) so it gets mildew and water damage, but staining the deck black and adding new copper solar caps (to match my surprisingly affordable new copper ferry lights) made it feel new and fancy. If you have a shabby deck, a little stain and some glimmer can help detract from the wear – and the caps can always be transferred to a brand new deck down the road. Sometimes a little detail like this can elevate an entire part of a home. In terms of holding up, because the deck has so much standing water the deck stain did wear in a few places but I just touched it up with what was left in the can and it looks okay again. The one bummer with black is that it shows every speck, ever water spot, every scratch – it’s NOT as crisp as it once was. I wouldn’t choose another color (because our trim and soffit/fascia is black) but I don’t know if I’d recommend this dramatic color either… You can see the difference in the photos below:
A year of wear (it faded a bit, got a little worn – but those yellow areas between the boards aren’t the wood showing through, leaves and dirt and pine needles get stuck there):
It’s just not 100% but I’ll take it. It might have been the brand I used too, so I’ll experiment a little with a better brand of black deck stain.
I wanted to create modern deck skirting for the deck and it ended up being very inexpensive to do because we just grabbed a couple of sheets of plywood and some scrap wood! The project was surprisingly quick with hubby and I both tackling it together and the end result is very polished and modern. Our deck is pretty old and has been really beaten to heck, but a little black stain, some new copper deck caps and the new modern slatted deck skirting has made our deck look good again!
This is the most ambitious DIY in this list of budget friendly renovation ideas, but you can MAKE your own DIY wood countertops. If that’s too much, you can also take cheap butcher block counters and stain/finish it to suit, if you don’t love the natural wood look. Read about how Hubby and his Dad made our wood counters here (for less than the cost of the cheap laminate counters we bought for our old townhouse)! This is an advanced woodworking DIY, but can create a really high end looking counter for way less than what you would pay retail for the same quality. And because it’s solid wood (and thick) it can always be sanded down and stained again – or cut into a gorgeous solid wood dining table top, desk, console down the road if you renovate for real (like we plan to). You can reuse the materials, and I like that there’s an inherent value in solid wood.
Painting cabinets can be done a number of ways (I list pros/cons of paint/cabinet refinishing kits/chalk paint here) and honestly, the makeover can be so dramatic! If you don’t love the wood cabinets, repaint them and be amazed at how different your space will look, for so little money. I painted all of the original 1990s oak in our house: our old bathroom cabinetry (grey), the kitchen cabinetry twice (aqua, then teal), the powder room cabinetry (pale aqua) – I even went to my Mom’s and painted her chipped melamine cabinetry (soft grey). The bathroom (below) ended up being one of my more popular budget friendly renovation ideas because nothing was replaced!
Bloggers often say hardware is a cheap way to update a kitchen, bathroom or furniture, but hardware can add up – even if it’s only $5 a piece (which is super super cheap), if you need 15 pieces for a kitchen that’s nearly $100 with tax. I have kept hardware to save money and painted it with spray paint, used rub ‘N buff, and also stripped glossy brass to a brushed finish. For my chalk painted cabinet makeover, I left the wooden knobs on and painted them to match the cabinet (it’s still perfect, a couple years later)! Spray paint will wear off after a lot of use, but expect to get many years of use, even if it’s heavy use like in a bathroom or kitchen. The rub ‘N buff I used on our magazine files has lasted forever. And stripping the finish from the glossy brass knobs creates a beautiful brushed finish that develop a soft patina over time.
Tile can really add up so if you’re renovating a powder room or kitchen. Plus you need to rent or buy some additional equipment. If you need a quick and budget-friendly tile backsplash alternative, try installing sheet paneling. It’s even cheaper than tongue and groove or shiplap planked walls, plus it’s a LOT less work. Sheets of something like beadboard are inexpensive and SO easy to install. I’ve had sheets paneling in my kitchen (in lieu of tile) for five years and it’s held up so well. Paint it with something designed for kitchen and bath in a semi-gloss, nothing flat or matte, so it can easily be wiped down. Just be sure to invest in a little trim to finish it off.
Nothing says cozy fall nights like a fire pit, but creating a lockstone or concrete fire pit area can be expensive. Our ground also shifts a lot because of the lawn butting up to the shore – it can be quite squashy – so we knew we might have issues with lock stone or paving stones shifting. We opted for a gravel fire pit which was easy and just required some pressure treated lumber and a truckload of pretty white dolomite gravel. This is a really affordable way to create an outdoor fire pit area (we even welded the fire pit, but you can find them for a good price on Amazon or at the end of the season from big home improvement store seasonal sales). It held up super well and it’s easy to “fix” (more gravel!) but we decided to widen it after a few summers so my advice: bigger is better!
Sometimes upper cabinets cannot be saved with paint but replacing them can be expensive. Open shelving, or even DIY cubbies, like the storage cubbies we recently built, are a quick, budget-friendly and easy way to get some storage without buying new cabinetry. You can even use shelves just to add storage to a small kitchen, instead of replacing cabinets. Using pretty jars, baskets and bins to organize foods – or keep open shelving just for plates and dishes. Sand well and paint with a semi-gloss for easy cleaning. My open shelves looked brand new after five years, but I replaced them just for something different (still saving for that reno!).
Updating pot lights can be difficult, depending on the location, and no one wants to risk damaging drywall. You can actually update them without removing the can – check out this post to see how we did it and what product we used. It still looks brand new.
Not everyone likes the look of painted cabinets but the finish on wood cabinets doesn’t last forever. If you’re not enticed by painted cabinets, but want to save the cost of replacing the cabinets or doors, you can also strip and refinish them to keep the wood tone but freshen up a trashed finish. My re-varnished kitchen cabinets held up so well for the many years (was it four or five?) that we lived in the old townhouse and I’ve seen that it held up for the new owners too (I mentioned earlier that we found their listing when they sold the house) so that’s been a good 10 years now. Applying new varnish helped prevent further damage too.
This is a weird little idea but if you have a bathroom that needs a lot of work, and your decor leans a little rustic or funky, think outside the plumbing aisle and turn a stock tank into a shower! This is in our bunkie (guesthouse) so it’s not used a lot. It’s held up great but I want to use it for one more summer to provide my thoughts. But I didn’t invent the idea, I’ve seen other people use it in hotels and main houses so there are resources out there on how this holds up long run.
Final Thoughts on Budget Friendly Renovation Ideas:
Hopefully you found these budget friendly renovation ideas helpful! Maybe one of these projects inspired something totally different – that’s how my mind works sometimes. If you’re still stuck or nervous: paint is my biggest ally when it comes to transforming my home on a budget. Start with paint.
And a little goes a long way. A little paint here, some paneling there – soon a room starts looking so cute and fresh.
One last tip: sometimes things just don’t work because the decor isn’t your style. So if you tour a house or apartment, and hate the paneled walls for example, maybe wait until you get your furniture in there. I didn’t think I liked the pine paneled walls in the bunkie bedroom but I decided to hold off on painting and once I got my all white guest bed and bedding in there, I loved the look! So reserve judgement on design features you’re unsure about until you can see it with your decor that’s to your taste – you might end up liking it and save money by just living with it!