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19 spring home improvements on a shoestring

Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | April 8, 2016

Common home improvement toolsTo paraphrase a famous English Romantic poet, in spring a homeowner's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of home improvements. Lightly, because you may want to show your home some renovation love, but you know you have to find budget-friendly ways to do it for now.

Here are 19 DIY spring renovation hacks to satisfy those home improvement yearnings:

  1. Paint your laminate countertops. Paint them a solid color or use one of the kits that create faux stone finishes that look like granite, marble or soapstone. If you go this route, always prepare food on cutting boards. Certain paint coatings are not safe for contact with food.
  2. Overlay concrete on tile counters. If you want to get rid of your hard-to-keep-clean tile and grout countertops but can't afford to replace them, apply concrete over the tile. A concrete overlay creates a contemporary or industrial look. Concrete kits are available. Like paint, however, concrete surfaces should not come into contact with food. Use a special concrete sealant approved for food safety on your overlay.
  3. Cover up with cutting boards. Easiest of all, skip the paint and concrete and get some oversized cutting boards to keep the unsightly counters under wraps until you are ready to replace your countertops.
  4. Wrap counters with contact paper. If you don't do serious prepping and cooking in your kitchen, this can be a decorative fix for ugly counters. Contact paper comes in colors, designs and faux stone prints. You can find the largest selection online.
  5. Paint your appliances. If you still want stainless steel but can't afford it, paint the old appliances with stainless steel paint, which is also available in kits that include supplies for application. You'll need a different formulation of paint for your stove because of the heat, and another that will adhere to your microwave's plastic casing.
  6. Paint your cabinets. The latest trend in kitchens is black. For those who want to go over to the dark side, paint just a few cabinets -- for example, the bottom ones only. Convert some upper cabinets to open shelving against white walls because you may not want your kitchen plunged into total darkness when winter comes around again.
  7. Change the handles on your cabinets. Modestly priced drawer pulls and cabinet handles cost between $2 and $5 each. New hardware with or without refinishing or painting the cabinets can give your kitchen a lift.
  8. Apply wall tile decals. For a quick backsplash minus the messy thin set and grout, stick up self-adhesive mirror, metal, or even vinyl mosaic tile sheets.
  9. Make shelving from baskets and crates. Nail or hook them to the wall, facing them outward to create practical shelving. A coat of paint can unify random thrift store finds into a grouping.
  10. Roll your towels in a wine rack. Depending on the style, some wine racks work amazingly well as attractive storage for extra bathroom or poolside towels.
  11. Create more shower storage. Hang over-the-door hooks on the outside of the shower curtain rod or install an extra shower curtain rod inside the shower close to the wall for hanging shower caps and bath puffs from clips.
  12. Tile in stone. If it's a new tiled shower look you're after, follow the lead of one couple who DIYed theirs with $53 worth of stones from a dollar store. This one takes lots of work and patience -- and more demo and prep than they did if you want to prevent the falling rocks and water damage.
  13. Turn family photos into an art gallery. Simple frames in all one color unify the look, as do mats in either white or ivory. You can fill an entire wall depending on how many photos and frames you have. Displaying your personal memories this way allows visitors to view and appreciate them from a more impersonal perspective, as they would in a museum or gallery.
  14. Panel your walls. Unlike your parents' and grandparents' '70s and '80s paneled dens, this is about creating dimension -- and not the textured kind, either. Update your home by adding wainscoting, bead board and grids DIYed from thin strips of plywood. You can also add interest to flat interior doors by adding raised panels. A coat of primer and paint gives your room a high-end look.
  15. Paint your front door. For the cost of a can of exterior paint and a brush, you can say "Welcome home," in a whole new color.
  16. Design your own one-of-a-kind area rugs. Buy inexpensive woven or felt rugs in a single color from a discount store like Big Lots and stencil or use painter's tape to create unique designs with fabric paint. You can also cover a large expanse of wall with your "artwork."
  17. Tile your ceiling in Styrofoam. Not the packaging that came with your flat screen, these are Styrofoam tiles embossed with designs like those you'd find on a tin ceiling. These are a great fix for covering popcorn ceilings, and from the ground they look every bit like a tin ceiling once painted.
  18. Hang your heels on a crown. A crown molding nailed on an angle against a closet wall creates a rack for hanging high-heeled shoes. It's a custom closet touch for a fraction of the cost.
  19. Light up and liven up your garden. Painting your terracotta planters with glow-in-the-dark spray paint gives every evening a festive feel as you begin to enjoy your evenings outdoors again.

For greater renovation savings, look for re-purposing items at flea markets, thrift stores, garage sales, on Craigslist and at Habitat for Humanity Re-stores.

About the Author

Iris Price is a single Baby Boomer whose antidote to a lack of retirement funds was to launch a long-delayed career as a writer. While others her age concoct bucket lists and travel the world, she bought a new-construction home and obsessively creates lists of must-have home improvements and personal realization goals. She specializes in writing about home services and self-motivation.

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