12 Ways to Save on Home Improvements

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Home improvements can run you into debt in no time flat. Before you tear out that sheet rock, consider these 12 ways to save on home improvements.

We’ve purchased three houses in our time. And we’ve remodeled three houses in our time.

And we’ve lived to tell the tale.

Home improvements can run you into debt in no time flat. You’ve got things ripped up; it’s a total hassle; you just want things done and you want them done right. So, you spend money so that things can get put back together, cleaned up, and just plain done.

But, before you tear out that sheet rock, consider these 12 ways to save on home improvements.

1. Wait.

Rash decisions often result in spending a lot of money. Take time to think about what improvements you want to make.

2. Tear it out, but live with it for awhile.

I know that this sounds crazy. We did this a couple time. Demolition is cheap! Usually it’s free, in fact. When we remodeled our kitchen, we almost gutted it. We put in makeshift counters and rehung the old cupboards in the new configuration. And then we tested it out for several months.

Yes, it was a tad odd, but we got used to open studs. We only noticed when folks came over.

But, we also moved the configuration around several times before we put in fancy new cabinets and counters. If we’d done those things right away, we wouldn’t have liked it as much as what we finally did.

The same goes for the stairs that led to our back door. Dog stains had ruined the carpet, so hubs just pulled up the carpet. After walking up and down those wood stairs and mopping up melted snow, we realized we’d rather that it stayed wood instead of recarpeting it. We ended up getting marine paint (heavy duty paint with sand mixed in to keep it from being slippery). We loved the look and the practicality of waterproof steps.

3. OK, well, at least be really sure.

If you don’t want to live in a construction zone, just be really, really sure that it’s what you want. Check out model homes, friends’ houses and showrooms to try out the different things that you’re thinking of adding. Be sure you’re right, then go ahead.

4. Reuse what you have.

If you’re doing heavy remodeling, keep an eye out for things that you might be able to reuse. Even if you’re redecorating, don’t ditch it until you know you really don’t have another use for it. BooMama has a great example of repurposing a coffee table into a book cart. Think outside the box.

5. Buy mistint paint.

It’s rare that we’ve ever picked out a color from a paint chip book. We simply ask to see the mistints. For $3 to 5/gallon, you can save a ton of money by using up someone else’s mistakes. Hubs has even mixed several different colors to get our own custom colors for a fraction of the price.

6. Shop the clearance.

You’d be surprised what you can find on clearance at home improvement stores. Check their clearance section before you look at the regularly priced items. We’ve found sinks, faucets, and all kinds of other pieces marked down for cheap.

7. Ask for a discount.

If you see an item that is flawed or slightly damaged, ask for a discount. You’d be surprised at how much you can save just by asking.

8. Do it yourself.

Now, of course, I married a carpenter/plumber/electrician. FishPapa can build a house from the ground up and has had experience working in commercial building as well.

But, even if you’re not Tim the Tool Man Taylor, or not married to him, there are lots of home improvements that you can do yourself. Google it and you’re bound to find a video showing you how to do it. This picture frame was super cheap to make and didn’t take too much fancy footwork.

9. Pay cash.

Yes, really. You’ll find that you actually spend less money when it’s your money (and not the bank’s) that you’re spending.

10. Get thrifty.

I always think fondly to Meredith’s gifts at making someone’s junk into a treasure. Check out this very nifty wall hanging she made.

11. Browse eBay.

You’d be surprised what materials you can find for cheap on eBay. Hubby build this peg wall with pegs that he bought for pennies on eBay. He recently made us another peg wall in our new house, with more penny pegs.

12. Ask friends.

Chances are you’ve got a friend or two who loves to redecorate. Talk to her for ideas and see if she is interested in helping. Even just a second brain is helpful to plan out the work and anticipate expensive problems.

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  1. Hi,
    We’ve recently bought a new home…new to us but its an old farm house and I’ve got a lot of ideas but I’m just not sure where we should start. We have an upstairs that needs to be redone. The floors need sanded and restained and the walls need to be touched up and painted. We need new windows and paint almost everywhere in the house. I was just curious as to what other people thought of where to start. The upstairs has three bedrooms and the in-laws are coming to stay with us in July so I’m guessing we need to start upstairs but should I start with the walls or the floors first? Thanks for your input in advance.

    1. My husband, a contractor, suggests starting with the walls. You wouldn’t want to refinish the floors and then worry about protecting them while you patch and redo the walls. Work from the top down, like when you clean.

  2. We stumbled upon the mistinted paint by accident! They were able to retint It to closely match a color I liked. So it doesn’t hurt to ask…didn’t cost any more and we got a 5 dollar can of paint, in the color we wanted!

  3. Another way to remodel on the cheap is to buy used materials from Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore. It’s a great place to get doors, sinks, cabinetry, trim, tile, flooring, lighting, pretty much you name it, they have it!

  4. I had to laugh at point 4 as my hubby and I are currently moving all our furniture around to make better use of what we have instead of buying new furniture – for example a display cabinet is now holding DVDs and a bookcase will hold CDs. We are also using a retro dresser in the dining room to hold recyclable shopping bags etc. Thank you for your hints!

  5. Sometimes we need to hire outside help for certain parts of the project. When we renovated 2 of our upstairs bedrooms, my dh did the tearing out of the walls and insulation, plus the electric and the new insulation. We paid a friend to put the walls up and spackle. We did the painting ourselves. My dh could have done the walls, too, though it would have taken much longer, much much longer. We considered the money well spent.

  6. I recently “shopped my house” and was able to find the perfect curtains for my bedroom 2 doors away in the livingroom. Now the bedroom looks so much better and is darker at night for sleeping well and the livingroom has more light which I wanted.

  7. Tip Number 8 is great.
    I wanted shelves in a closet and my husband was really busy at the time.
    I watched you tube videos and took notes. I went to the home improvement store with a list of suggested items. I came home and put the shelves in. My husband was shocked.
    By the way, I used an app on my iPhone that is a level. It worked perfectly. I think that impressed my husband the most.

    1. Using a level would totally impress my husband. I eyeball everything which drives him nuts. LOL

  8. Love your post ! Is that your entryway ? I LOVE , LOVE , LOVE how gorgeous that is! I have 6 children also and probably the room I hate the worst is my super tiny “entryway” area. Most days you can hardly walk through there! I love the way you did the shelving and hangers in there.. Please share how your hubby did that!! 🙂

    1. That’s our peg wall from our house in Kansas. Hubby just finished doing one in our current house. He built it so that we can easily take the pegs down, since we’re renting. A post is a good idea, eh?

  9. Another source for inexpensive building stuff that we have locally (and maybe others do as well) is a Restore which sells used stuff (fixtures, tile, flooring, doors, etc) that people have donated. The money goes to help Habitat for Humanity. When we were building a church building many things (doors, sinks, etc) came from there and helped us to save a lot of money.

    1. Sounds like a great resource. I’ve never heard of that. We’ve been renting for 4 years…. so I’m out of the loop on some newer things.

  10. I really enjoyed this post. Our home is a work in progress as we have step by step been making it into what we want. I did the ripping the carpet off the stairs bit as well. I also painted/varnished them to make a similiar look to what you have. Ours aren’t as well done though so someday we will replace the risers with better ones but it works for now. We want to put wood flooring down in our upstairs which is currently a yucky carpet and imatation wood. It isn’t in our budget for this year though so we are still waiting. I have been very tempted to just pull out the carpet anyway but my husband isn’t so sure. Thanks for your tips!

    1. It is a hard thing “to live with it.” I didn’t go quite as willingly as I would now. But, hubby was itchy to do “something” and we had no money to do more. LOL

    1. We’ve saved sooooooooooo much money on paint this way. Painted our whole house exterior once for about $40.

  11. I have actually gotten some great deals for home improvement at yard sales. I only shop the big community wide sales so I am sure to find something we need in a sea of sales. I have found 3 boxes of white tile for $5 total. A large white 3 piece bathroom sink base cabinetry set for $15 (like new). Also bags of hardware (handy for our rentals) for $3, and much more.

    1. We don’t have big neighborhood sales like that down in San Diego, at least not that I’ve seen. But, they were ubiquitous in Kansas. Great point!

  12. We bought oil-rubbed bronze door hinges, kitchen/bathroom cabint door pulls, and more from an ebay store for SOOOOO much less than Lowe’s. It was awesome!

    Also, look on Craig’s list. My husband carpeted his office with industrial carpet squares that be bought on Craig’s list. They were a lot less than the chepaest ones he could find anywhere (online as well) and when he went to buy them, the guy threw in the glue for a lot less than retail, too!

    1. Craigslist is a great point. We don’t have any experience to speak of on that, so I’m glad to hear about such a great example.