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Budget Friendly Home Improvement for Beginners

Updated on February 23, 2020
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Stephanie loves home improvement projects and can always find some simple, inexpensive way to upgrade her house

Inexpensive Home Improvement Projects Make a House Your Home

If you have recently purchased residential property, you might find that there are many changes you want to make to your new home. Even new construction houses could use some personalization to make it truly your own.

But you are probably feeling overextended with your budget. After all, buying a home, preparing to move and getting all the utilities set up is expensive.

Don't worry! There are a number of budget-friendly home improvement projects you can consider, however. Even if you don't know the difference between a Phillips and a slotted screwdriver, these five beginner-level projects are easy for anyone to complete in a single day, or over a weekend.

Home improvement projects for beginners
Home improvement projects for beginners | Source

Install New Cupboard and Drawer Hardware

Whether you want to replace old knobs and pulls, or install them for the first time, cupboards and drawers get a brand new look with hardware. There are so many options to choose from, both online and in retail home improvement stores.

Installing new cupboard and drawer hardware is a quick and inexpensive way to give your kitchen or bath a face lift. All you need for this project is:

  • Power drill (power tool)
  • Power Screwdriver with multiple tips
  • Handheld screwdrivers
  • Measuring tape or handheld template tool
  • Pencil
  • New knobs or pulls

First, determine how many knobs or pulls you will need. I usually purchase 1 or 2 extra in case I need to replace on in the future (that way, I don't have to re-do all of the cabinets or drawers). Second, remove any existing hardware. Make sure that the area is clean and dry before you start working. Determine where you want to position the hardware and use a tape measure or template tool to lightly mark the location with a pencil. Use a drill to make the holes, position the new knob or pull, then screw into place. Be careful to complete the project firmly, but not so tight that the wood splits or cracks!

If you will be replacing existing handles and the new handles will not fit in the exact same location, you may have to fill old drill holes with wood putty, sand down and refinish the surface before starting your project. Obviously, this complicates things. While ordinary installation of hardware can be accomplished in a day, replacement of handles could take all weekend, or longer. Yet, as a whole, it is still easy enough to be classified as a beginner home improvement project.

How to Install New Hardware on Cupboards and Drawers

Update Electrical Outlet and Light Switch Plate Covers

New electrical outlet and light switch plate covers are one of the least expensive home improvement projects a homeowner can undertake. Even the most novice beginner can handle this undertaking! You can personalize a room with decorative, painted covers, or give it a sleek new feeling with metal designs. Perhaps the existing plate covers are yellowed or dingy. New electrical outlet and light switch plate covers may be just the update you desire.

First, determine the size of the existing covers (I found this website very helpful, showing older, narrow plates and hundreds of other designs), and in the case of lights, the type and number of switches. Next, count the number of existing outlets and light switches in your house or the room(s) that you are updating. Purchase that many, plus 1-2 (for replacement or repair in case of damage, so that you don't have to re-do everything in the future).

Before you start work in each room, make sure that power is turned off via the breaker box to prevent electrical shock. Remove the existing switch plate covers with a screwdriver and save the screws. Place the new plate covers into position.

Before replacing the plate covers, you may need to adjust the location of screws and/or touch up paint around the plate if the size of the new installation is different. Simply screw the new plate covers into place. Turn the power back onto the room, and you are done!

Replace old light switch plate covers for an instant update
Replace old light switch plate covers for an instant update | Source

How to Install a Towel Rack

Change Out or Add Towel Racks

There are many decorative towel racks and bars you can install to personalize your bathroom, from ornate scrolled wrought iron, to clear, modern-looking Lucite (acrylic-based).

If stainless steel isn't your style, you are in luck. New towel racks and towel rings are inexpensive, and can be installed by just about any homeowner as a beginner DIY project.

The tools you will need are:

  • power drill
  • screwdriver (power tool is best)
  • level
  • tape measure or template
  • pencil

Most towel bar kits will come with a template, screws and wall anchors. If there is no template, you can make your own with paper and a pencil, placing the towel bar on the paper and marking the location of the screws.

Place the template/paper on the wall and ensure that it is level, using a level tool. Use the tip of a screw, or a pencil to mark the locations on the wall where the towel rack will be installed. Place wall anchors in position first, then install the towel bar or rack with a power screwdriver in the place marked with your template. Done!

What a great, budget-friendly home improvement project that even a beginner can complete in just a few hours.

Apply a Fresh Coat of Paint or Stain

Painting a wall, ceiling or entire room is a terrific, inexpensive project for any homeowner, beginner or otherwise. The items required for a paint project are budget-friendly, and if you don't like the end result, just paint over it with a new color!

Interior paint can dramatically change the mood of a room. Think deep red in a kitchen, soothing sage green in a bathroom, or a delightful, sunny yellow in a children's playroom. You can also add texture or design to paint when it is applied, or make your walls functional by painting a chalkboard for reminders in your mudroom!

Before you start this project, bring home paint chips in a variety of shades of the basic color you are considering. Warm undertones will have a different feel than cool undertones, even with whites and other neutrals.

Prepare your walls, if necessary, with a base coat (several coats may be necessary to cover a dark paint color below). Make sure the surface is clean and dry, and tape off crown molding or floor molding, door frames, windows and define areas at which you wish the paint color to stop (i.e. ceilings) with a firm application of painters tape. Position a generously-sized drop cloth on the floor and over any furniture nearby - but be sure to move furniture out of the way! Remove any switch plate covers or electrical outlet plates.

Purchase paint, paint roller, paint pan, paint thinner and paint brushes. Use a roller and brushes appropriate for the finish (flat, semi-gloss, satin) and the surface you are painting. Ask a hardware store salesperson if you have questions in this regard.

Most interior paint projects require at least 2-3 coats of paint for even, consistent results. Be sure to completely wash out your roller and paint brushes and allow to dry between applications.

Use a roller brush for large areas.

Painting a room is a quick and inexpensive home improvement project even a beginner can do
Painting a room is a quick and inexpensive home improvement project even a beginner can do | Source

How to Paint a Room

New light fixtures can change the look of a room
New light fixtures can change the look of a room | Source

Replace Outdated Light Fixtures

At first, I thought that this last home improvement project would be classified as "intermediate" rather than beginner. But, my husband has successfully replaced outdated light fixtures in our home without having to call an electrician (or end up electrocuted). And, once again, you can enjoy a significant upgrade to a living space without having to spend much money with this project.

After talking to him and finding a few helpful "how to" videos (see below), I realized that replacing a light fixture on the ceiling or wall is a very easy home improvement project any beginner can complete. Once you have your replacement fixture, it should take you no more than 10-15 minutes to finish the job!

First, go to the breaker box and switch off power to the room in which you will be working. You can ensure the power is off by flipping the light switch, or using a pen-type AC tester next to the wires to see if any current is running through them. Next, using your hands and/or a screwdriver, depending on the existing fixture, remove the cover and set aside. Once you get to the mounting bracket, you will see the exposed wires. Plastic UL connectors, aka wire nuts, will be join white wires together and black wires together. Remove the connectors, set aside, and then complete the removal of the original fixture by unscrewing the mounting bracket.

Next, position the new mounting bracket in place. Attach the ground - the uninsulated wire to the green screw on the mounting bracket. Then connect white wires of the new fixture to the exposed white wires, and black wires to black wires with the UL connectors/wire nuts. Then simply screw the new light fixture into place. Add the light bulbs and cover, then turn the power back on at the breaker box.

Enjoy your new light fixture!

How to Replace a Light Fixture

Which Home Improvement Project Sounds Best to You?

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More Ideas of Budget Friendly Home Improvement Projects

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Stephanie Marshall

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