In today's challenging economic environment, homeowners across the country are tightening their belts on expenses. But investing in your home is often necessary. Whether you're looking to give your house a fresh look before putting it on the market or to update worn out elements for your own comfort, you can get the look you want without blowing your budget.
Here are just five ways you can save money by refurbishing rather than completely replacing items in your home.
1. Clean or Dye Your Carpet
Carpet doesn't last forever. Over time, stains pile up and the fabric itself wears out. At some point in time, all homeowners face the expense of replacing a carpet that's worn thin. Often, however, a carpet still looks lush; it just isn't the right shade that the homeowner wants or it sports an unsightly stain. In those cases, you have a number of options to freshen the look without emptying your savings account.
Whether you want a different color or to remove a stain, the first step is to give your carpets a good cleaning. Vacuuming helps, yes. But it doesn't give the same deep cleaning that carpet shampooing offers. So hire a professional carpet cleaner or rent or borrow a carpet shampooer. If the carpet cleaning solves your problem, congratulations! You just saved a bundle. If not, proceed to the next step.
Sometimes there's a stubborn stain from, say, red juice or even bleach. If that's the case, don't worry. There are two ways to solve your problem. First, you can purchase small carpet dying kits – often with easy-to-use dye sticks that you can blend to achieve the shade you want. This type of kit may be the perfect solution for covering up the occasional stain. A second option may be to simply replace part of the carpet. This option, obviously, depends on the type of carpet you have and how much it's worn. But if your carpet is relatively new, a professional carpet installer may be able to remove a small square of stained carpet and replace it with a new patch of carpet. Done right, the new patch is seamless and hard (if not impossible) to spot. Contact a professional for advice on whether this option will work for your situation.
Of course, there are times when a carpet is simply the wrong color or has faded over time. In those cases, a cost-effective way to solve your problem is to dye the entire carpet. There are some stipulations, however. For instance, nylon and wool carpets are best suited for dying, while polyester or acrylic carpets typically cannot be dyed successfully. If you're not sure, you can consult a professional to discuss your options. Or, if you plan on dying the carpet yourself, you can test a small (preferably hidden) spot of carpet to see if it is capable of absorbing and retaining the dye.
When it comes to choosing a dye color, you'll also want to explore your options carefully. If you have a lighter color carpet (such as a cream carpet), you'll probably be able to choose from a number of different color options that will take. Other shades won't have as many options, since you typically need to choose a darker dye color than the current shade.
One final word of wisdom: Dying a carpet can be a do-it-yourself project, but it's not really recommended. There are different types of dyes and different methods for applying the dye. In addition, matching the color you want can be tough. So you should consider consulting and hiring a professional with experience (if not a specialty) in dying carpets.
2. Revive Ceiling Fans and Light Fixtures
Light fixtures – especially good quality, decorative ones – can be expensive. Ceiling fans come in at even higher price points. But that doesn't mean that you have to live with dated light fixtures or ceiling fans. With just a few simple steps, you can give them the look you want…at a price you can afford.
Most light fixtures are made up of three basic parts: electric wiring, metal or plastic housing, and a glass light shade or cover. If the light works just fine, there's no need to worry about the electrical components. That leaves the housing and light cover. Believe it or not, these are often easy and inexpensive to update.
In many cases, you can simply paint the metal or plastic housing. Obviously, you'll want to follow safety practices by turning off the power to that fixture and then removing it by unscrewing the housing and unhooking the wiring. Remember…you must turn the power off before even attempting to remove the fixture.
Once you remove the fixture, simply purchase the appropriate color and type of spray paint that will work best for your décor and the type of material you are painting. Then, give the housing plenty of time to dry before replacing it.
Finally, for just a few dollars, you can purchase new light shades or covers that will give the fixture the type of look and feel that not only matches the new color, but also matches the feel of your home as a whole.
The same steps for light fixtures can be used to update a ceiling fan, with a few considerations. First, in most cases you won't need to remove the entire fan from the ceiling if it's working properly. That's because most fans should not be painted. Instead, remove the fan blades and light shades or covers. Then, simply polish the housing to clean it up and give it a fresh shine. To be safe, you should still turn off the power supply to the light – and don't use water-heavy cleaners. A simple dusting or polishing is all most people should do. If you need a deeper cleaning, you can refer to your fan's manual on how to clean inside the housing or even replace worn out parts. But, most people should consult a professional for this level of cleaning and repair.
After the ceiling fan's housing is polished and cleaned, simply follow the same steps above by gently sanding and painting the blades as well as purchasing new light covers to match your room décor.
The entire project is easy to do and extremely inexpensive. In fact, in many cases you can give a ceiling fan or light fixture such an upgrade that your friends will think it's new.
3. Give Your Kitchen a Facelift
The kitchen is one of the most used and most important areas of the household. It's where families come together to prepare meals. And it's where many potential buyers focus their attention. If your kitchen's décor isn't quite working for your family or for potential buyers, it may be time to give your kitchen an inexpensive update. Obviously, replacing the appliances and completely overhauling your cabinets would be expensive. But that doesn't mean you can't take a few simple, cost-effective steps that will have a huge impact.
When it comes to your kitchen cabinets, you actually have a few inexpensive options. First, you can give your cabinets a facelift. That means replacing or re-facing the doors, drawer fronts, and hardware. Although this is much cheaper than replacing the cabinets completely, it can still cost up to a few thousand dollars, depending on the materials you choose and if you do the work yourself or hire a professional.
A less costly option would be to refinish your cabinet doors. That would mean stripping the doors and drawer faces, and then re-staining them. It would also mean either replacing or re-polishing the hardware. As you might imagine, this option still requires planning and patience. But the end result can be superb – especially considering how little the expense is compared to replacing your entire cabinet.
The third option is the least expensive and easiest to accomplish in a short period of time. This option involves giving your cabinets a new coat of paint. One of the nice things about this option is that it allows you to re-think your color scheme. Cabinets can certainly be brown or dark brown, but they can also be white, light green or blue. That means over the course of a weekend, you can completely change the look and feel of your kitchen. As with the other options, you can either polish your old hardware or purchase new hardware with a style that fits your new look.
Finally, in addition to your cabinets there are three more easy fixes that can make a big difference. First, you can re-polish or even replace the kitchen faucet. Second, you can take it a step further and replace the sink as well. You'd be surprised at the wide variety of sink colors and designs you can choose from. Finally, updating the fan/hood above your stove can make a big impact with little time and expense.
4. Resurface Your Bathtub
Bathtubs seem pretty durable, but eventually scratches and nicks begin to add up – and everyday wear starts to become visible. Before you know it, your tub and shower area can look dingy or downright unsightly.
But, contrary to common opinion, you don't have to replace your bathtub. Instead, you can simply refinish or resurface it.
Essentially, this process consists of cleaning the tub surface, filling nicks and scratches, priming and sealing the area to be resurfaced, and then resurfacing it with a durable coating. In many cases this process can result in a bathtub that looks new – but at a fraction of the cost!
Although the process sounds simple, it can be difficult and messy. In fact, producing a smooth-looking end product can be extremely hard and frustrating for do-it-yourselfers. So if you're interested in this type of update, you'll be better off hiring a professional. Not only will the end product look the way you want, but the process will be much cleaner than you'd expect. Most professionals can travel to you and resurface the tub in place, using special equipment and drop cloths to keep your house just as clean as when they arrived.
If you are looking for something you can do easily and cost-effectively after the resurfacing, consider re-polishing or replacing the bathtub faucet and adding a new shower curtain to liven up the room. That will help put the finishing touch on your inexpensive bathtub makeover.
5. Renew Your Windows and Screens
Foggy windows can be an eyesore from the outside of the house and a major impediment to your view from inside the house.
Typically, homeowners either live with the frustration of foggy windows or spend thousands replacing the windows in their house. Fortunately, those aren't the only options.
Believe it or not, you can hire a professional to fix the problem using a defogger and then inserting a special valve that eliminates fog buildup in the future.
Some windows require a more aggressive solution, but that doesn't mean you have to replace the entire window. Instead, you can simply have the glass removed and replaced with fresh new glass. The result is a window that looks brand new, but at a fraction of the cost!
While foggy windows often require a professional to fix the problem, you can take a few steps to improve the view yourself.
Whether you have small tears in your screen or need a new one, you can easily fix the problem. To repair small tears, try dabbing a little bit of model cement on the tear to cover it. Once it dries, that small tear will be a thing of the past.
If the tear is larger, simply purchase a patch or small bit of screen from your local hardware store, cut it slightly bigger than the tear (enough for about a 1/2-inch overlap on all sides), and then use model cement to adhere the edges of the patch to your screen.
Finally, if your entire screen needs replacing, don't throw it out. Instead of buying a new one, you can easily replace the screen in the frame for a modest cost. Just remove the screen from the window, use a screwdriver to remove the material holding the old screen in place (known as a spline), and then remove and dispose of the old screen. (Or, if large parts of the screen are still good, you can use those sections as patches for other windows!)
Once the old screen is out, cover the entire frame with a new screen purchased from a hardware store. Then, cut the screen to fit, making sure that one inch still overlaps on all sides of the frame. Use a new spline (which can also be purchased from most hardware stores) to secure the new screen, by placing the spline over the new screen and then pushing it (along with the screen that is underneath it) into the frame. Remember to go slow and be patient as you work your way around the frame and keep the screen tight. Finally, trim any excess screen and place the screen back in the window.
By taking these steps, you can give your house the fresh look and feel you want…at a fraction of the cost! And at a time when many families are tightening their belts, the money you save can help boost the family savings or be put towards other household expenses.