Amazing Home Upgrades for Every Budget
From tiny fixes to major changes, these home upgrades will fit budgets of any size.
Designing a beautiful house or apartment—one that perfectly captures your sense of style, has a place for all your essentials, and feels like home—is no easy task. The only thing more difficult? Doing so on a budget. Fortunately, whether you've got $50 to spend or $500, there's an upgrade that can help you completely transform your space. With the help of top designers, we've rounded up the best home upgrades for every budget.
Paint your baseboards.
For under $50, you can easily change the look and feel of a whole room—just paint your baseboards.
While painting unfinished baseboards or adding some fresh paint to dinged-up ones can take under an hour per room, "you'd be surprised at how this small thing can make such a big impact," says Ashley Peeling, regional marketing manager with CLV Group, a Montreal-based property management company. In doing so, you'll "remove all the little scuffs and general wear and tear that your home has taken," making it look like a brand-new space, no matter its age.
Install an inexpensive chandelier.
You can instantly improve your home's ambiance by "upgrading those 'builder's special' light fixtures to a more customized look," explains Stephanie Plymale, CEO and executive director of Heritage School of Interior Design. Plymale recommends swapping out all of your domed ceiling lights for more elegant pieces, like giving your kitchen a refresh by adding "some drop pendant lights above your kitchen island to bring in a unique style."
And while chandeliers and stylish pendant lights can make any space look more chic, you don't have to shell out a huge amount on an ornate piece to liven up your space. At stores like Home Depot, IKEA, and Target, you can easily find great ones for under $100.
Store your kitchen essentials in glass containers.
One of the easiest ways to make your home look like a million bucks? "[Fill] shelves with a collection of glass canisters to store flour, sugar, noodles, etc.," says Plymale. While you can easily pick up a set of glass canisters for around $20 each—or just under $100 for a set of five—replacing those boxes and bags—especially if they're kept on open shelves, the counter, or in glass-front cabinets—will make your space look more cohesive in no time.
Install new outlet and light switch plates.
If you're eager to make any room look more put-together without spending a fortune, start by installing a few new outlet and light switch covers.
"They're inexpensive to replace and to install," says Peeling. Replacing a few loose or scuffed-up switch plates can turn what would otherwise be an eyesore into a subtle accent feature—and doing so with brushed metal or ceramic versions should set you back between $10 and $20 per outlet, or around $100 for a room with two light switches and four outlets.
Replace your drawer pulls and cabinet knobs.
Got $150 to spare? Then you can have a beautifully upgraded kitchen in no time, simply by adding some new pulls and knobs to your existing cabinetry.
"The finish and design of the new hardware brings new life to your pieces," says Nisha MacNeil, design manager of Kerr Construction & Design in Vancouver, British Columbia. If you want to reinvigorate the space, opt for painted ceramic knobs or elegant silver ones.
Repaint your kitchen island and add decorative elements.
While an island can provide an exciting focal point for your kitchen, if yours is looking worse for wear, there's an easy solution: paint.
"Start by painting your island a rich color that differs from the other cabinetry," suggests Plymale. Between sanding materials, drop cloths, paint brushes, paint, and sealant, this project should cost just over $100 to complete. If you have another $100 or so to spend on top of that, "you can break the cookie-cutter mold by adding architectural extensions between the countertop and the base of the island," like carved brackets, she says.
Or paint your cabinets.
The best way to get a renovated kitchen on a budget? Pick up a paintbrush and add some new color to your cabinetry, a project that will run you about $150 including sanding materials, rollers, drop cloths, and cabinet-friendly paint.
"If the cabinets in your kitchen are in good shape, painting them can make a world of a difference for a fraction of the cost of new cabinets," says house flipper Cate Griffing, founder of design blog West Magnolia Charm.
Stencil your floors.
Using a stencil to create a patterned floor in a smaller space, like a mudroom or laundry room, is a simple and budget-friendly option for updating your floor. This project will cost you around $150, including the cost of a sander, stencil, paint, brushes, and drop cloths.
"Stenciling your floors is a great way to avoid the expensive costs of replacing floors completely," says Griffing. "With a bit of time and hard work, you will have floors that will look brand new."
Or paint them completely.
With $200—including the cost of renting a sander, rollers, primer, paint, and sealant—and a little elbow grease, you can turn those worn-out floors into works of art.
"Don't rule out painting a floor to get a big change," says MacNeil. Her suggestions? "Do a pattern, like a check, or simply paint a floor white to brighten a space." Just know that it's not a permanent solution, as it will require upkeep.
Upgrade to luxury vinyl tile.
Think you don't have the cash to upgrade those worse-for-wear laminate floors or dingy carpets? Think again. "Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) has come a long way," says Plymale. "Its durability, variety of finishes, and … price point make LVT a great option when replacing your existing floor." Plymale cites its water-, dirt-, and scratch-resistance as particular selling points for families with pets and children. With prices starting around $50 per box for tiles, if you're a DIYer, you can complete this project in a medium-size room for $350 or less.
Install some crown molding.
A little accent piece near the ceiling is all it takes to instantly upgrade a room for under $350. "Add crown molding in a crisp fresh white to frame any room" while creating a luxurious feel, suggests Plymale. And though this detail may look pricey, you can easily get pieces of wood molding cut at your local hardware store for about $1/foot and install them yourself with a nail gun, some caulk, and paint.
Install a smart home system.
Have $500 you've been saving? A smart home system is an easy upgrade.
"Go all out Jetsons—put your light dimmers, keyless entry, alarms, thermostats, and blinds under the control of your phone," suggests Plymale, who notes that using a voice-controlled system, like an Amazon Echo or Google Home is "like having your own butler without all the gossip behind your back."
Install a barn door.
Want a big change to your space that doesn't require knocking down walls or reframing rooms? A barn door could be just the upgrade you're looking for.
"If a room feels small or claustrophobic, consider adding a sliding barn door or French doors to create more visual space," says Plymale. According to Fixr, this project sets homeowners back $600, on average.
Replace your cabinet doors with glass fronts.
While replacing your kitchen cabinetry can be a hugely pricey proposition, there's an easy way to make that space look like a completely new room for around $1,000: adding glass panels to your existing cabinets.
To make sure those glass fronts aren't revealing a disorganized mess of mugs and plates, Plymale recommends that those who undertake this project "display crisp white dishes," saving the multicolored mugs and bowls for the cabinets that remain covered.
Or upgrade to open shelving.
If you're eager for an even bolder transformation in your kitchen, open shelving is a great way to reinvent your space while keeping your budget around $1,000. "Replace standard cabinets with live-edge open shelving that you can pick up at your local reclaimed wood store," says Plymale.
Add faux wood beams to your ceiling.
There's an easy way to make any room look taller—and more elegant—without taking out a second mortgage: a beamed ceiling.
"Try adding faux beams or a box beam to your ceiling," suggests Plymale. For around $1,000, not including installation, "you can add a variety of warm wood tones, or stick with traditional white box beams for an upscale look."
Install some unique wallpaper.
That outdated wallpaper your home came with isn't doing it any favors, but upgrading to a more modern print can quickly reinvigorate your space.
"Nothing says luxury in a space more than adding a textural wallpaper such as grasscloth or linen," says Plymale. Even if you don't want to add wallpaper to a bedroom or living room, she notes that wallpapering a bathroom is a budget-friendly project that can instantly transform the space. Rolls of high-quality linen wallpaper start at around $150 per roll, which means you'll be spending close to $1,000 for a medium-size room.
And if you aren't ready for the commitment traditional wallpaper requires, Plymale recommends adding removable wallpaper, which can easily be found for under $40 a roll, instead.
Replace your outdated backsplash.
If your kitchen has no backsplash, or the one it came with was terribly dated—think mirrors or terra cotta tile—replacing it can instantly upgrade the room.
If you want to completely change the feel of your space without splurging on new appliances, Plymale recommends handmade tile for a standout look. In doing so, you can expect to spend up to $1,350, according to Home Advisor.
Install a new garage door.
If you've got around $4,000 to invest in your home's curb appeal, upgrade your garage door. "On the exterior of your home, the biggest focal points are your garage and front doors," says MacNeil. "Changing these out will have a huge impact on your façade." And while Remodeling magazine's 2019 "Cost vs. Value" report places the average cost of an upscale garage door replacement at $3,611, you're likely to recoup 97.5 percent of what you shelled out for it.
Replace your counters.
Those linoleum countertops can make an otherwise elegant kitchen look shabby. However, if you have around $4,000 in your upgrade budget, "replace dated tile or formica countertops with quartz in kitchens and bathrooms," says Plymale.
In doing so, you'll not only make your home look more attractive, you'll add to its resale value, too—according to Remodeling, a minor mid-range kitchen remodel, like one that includes replacing laminate countertops, typically recoups 80.5 percent of what a homeowner spends on the upgrade.
Install a new fireplace surround and mantle.
If you have up to $5,000 in your budget, MacNeil suggests adding "a new fireplace with a rock wall and reclaimed wood mantle" to your living space. This will not only add character to your room—incorporating a floor-to-ceiling design element can also make your ceilings look higher.
Upgrade your outdated hardwood flooring.
Investing in new hardwood floors will cost you approximately $5,500, according to Remodeling magazine, but the 91 percent ROI is well worth it for most homes. If you're not sure what look would work best in your home, try "updating the flooring throughout your living space to a beautiful light white oak," says MacNeil.
Install a stone veneer entryway.
With a budget of around $9,000, you can completely transform your home's exterior. By installing faux stone veneer—a project that costs $8,907 on average, according to Remodeling—your home will look like an entirely new place. And you'll recoup 94.9 percent of what you paid for that upgrade when it's time to sell.
Install a new range hood.
If you have between $5,000 and $10,000, you can create a new focal point in your kitchen with a new range hood. But it's not just upgrading to a nicer model that will transform the space. Instead, "consider changing the style of your range hood to get a whole new look," says MacNeil.
Upgrade your bathroom tiles and fixtures.
With a budget of $15,000, you can get a brand-new bathroom.
"Update the plumbing fixtures and possibly even the tile floor or tiled shower surround," suggests MacNeil. Luckily, this is one project you can count on some good ROI for—Remodeling reports that a midrange bathroom remodel can score you 67.2 percent of what you paid for it when you sell.
Upgrade your siding.
Replacing that worn out siding costs an average of $16,000, but it will net you a 75.6 percent ROI when your home is sold later down the line.
The one thing to keep in mind to get the maximum return? "If your roof is a warm color, then your façade color should tie in with it, so stick with warm undertone colors," says MacNeil. "If your roof is black, a white façade is a dramatic and trendy look."
Turn unused space into an extra bedroom.
Have a king-size budget for your renovation? If you have $30,000 or more to spend, MacNeil recommends revamping those unused spaces, like an unfinished attic or "a new in-law suite in the basement with a grand walk out to the backyard."