September 24, 2017

Home Renovations: Where Do I Start When I’m On a Budget?


When the Budget is Tight, Where Do I Even Begin? Home Renovations on a Budget. Is it possible?

For the first time in our married life, I have a home renovations checklist; a real honest to goodness checklist with more than “Fix toilet, replace air filters and unclog drains.”

You all, this is a milestone, but for those that have been reading here awhile, you know it’s come with patience (often disguised as my frustration) and perseverance.

Determining what to do first with a home renovation

For years, the thought of any home renovations seemed like a distant dream. We were trying to re-establish an emergency fund after our year of unemployment depleted our savings and so many necessary fixer uppers were kicked to the curb.

If you want to feel better about any “to do” list items that haven’t been tackled yet, just look at the picture above. Out of the desire to keep some semblance of my dignity intact, I will not share how long that golf ball has been lodged in our window, but months doesn’t even come close.

When I began my home renovations checklist, the last thing I wanted to spend money on was the broken window. They don’t even carry those windows anymore and it’s hidden behind a corner. But guess what’s first on my list? It’s finally getting replaced, along with a lot of other broken, over looked items. It’s a constant reminder of just how long we’ve waited to get to the check list.  (Que the marching band!!)

At the end of May, I shared about my “Big Dream.”

Well, nothing dynamic happens until it becomes specific, so I took the first step. Part of that “Dreaming BIG” step was having our house appraised.There’s nothing that brings the reality of home repairs more into play than walking through ones home with the appraiser holding a clipboard noticing all the “broken” window types of issues.

But it was good. It got me moving, since I’m always so indecisive with these things and changes needed to be made.

Over the last few months, I’ve had the privilege to work with Allstate and their Information Team Members. They really want consumers to be informed and they have been a wonderful resource, especially when it came to questions about value with home renovations.

Since we added on our large wrap around front porch (The Porch that Took 17 Years to Build), I knew that value was added to the home, but when our appraisal came back, it wasn’t as much as what a realtor’s value would have been. I wanted to know the difference.

A realtor and appraiser considers different aspects of a home when it comes to placing value. An appraiser looks at the construction and integrity of the home along with additional features that add value (such as stain-grade trim). A realtor will look at how to sell the home based on the layout, additional features, outside area, location and resale value.

Considering Allstate continually works with homeowners and understands home value and worth, I knew they’d be the perfect team to give suggestions on prioritizing my “Home Renovations Checklist.”  Since there are so many things we need to tackle, I decided to start with a minimal budget and go from there. There are suggestions for everyone.

Home Renovations on a $1K Budget


For me, paint is in a separate category all by itself. It’s a MUST DO!!! You all know that I believe paint is the miracle worker of Before and After Reveals. I still marvel at the difference paint (and flooring) made in our dining room. It’s such a dramatic difference and we love it.

Mohawk laminate flooring in dining room

 The Before and Almost After of Our Dining Room

When I asked the Allstate Information Team Members, they agreed. “Paint is a very inexpensive way to update a home, and if done properly, can indeed add value. Updating the color of the walls will add warmth and freshness which increases perceived value to potential home buyers. If you are planning on selling the home and the walls are white, paint them a warmer color such as a light tan or gray and keep the trim white.

Create a focal point

 The fireplace’s focal point makes a stunning statement. Love the warm colors.

If the room is small, make sure it is a light warm color as not to make the room look smaller. Very large rooms can handle a bit darker color to make the room feel cozy. Outdated colors can make the home look old and deter potential home buyers from falling in love.”

Beautiful Delta Faucet

When it comes to resale value, kitchens are the most important home in the house. You know how I feel about our kitchen. It’s the heartbeat of our home. It’s where life is shared and everyone gathers, so that is one of the best places to maximize ones budget. Besides our floors, our kitchen hasn’t been updated since we built the house – 17 years ago.  Fortunately for us, the kitchen opens to the “living/family room” so any of these updates will help the overall value.


  • Lighting –  On a very limited budget, you can update an existing light fixture, add drop lighting over an island or add under cabinet lights. All of these add instant value and appeal.
  • Paint – update the color and freshen the room
  • Cabinet handles or pulls – On older homes, the hardware on the cabinets date a home tremendously. Updated cabinet pulls help define a kitchen’s style and you can swap them all out for $100-200. I spray painted my cabinet knobs and that made a huge improvement.
  • New cabinet doors – if the home is older, the style of the cabinet doors can age the home. You can purchase new doors from a cabinet maker or a local home improvement store and install these yourself, make sure you paint or stain them to match the existing cabinets. If you don’t want to install new cabinet doors, updating the paint on the whole cabinets is not expensive and can give your kitchen a whole new look
  • Backsplash  and Fixtures – updating the backsplash and fixtures will really help towards achieving a higher end look on a budget.

Beautiful Dining Room Inspiration

Living Room

    • Lighting – Update existing fixtures and add a ceiling medallion above the fixture. Medallions are very inexpensive and add an architectural feature when describing a house. Don’t forget to paint the medallion the same color as the trim in the room or the ceiling color. My dining room inspiration picture above shows just what a huge difference a dramatic lighting fixture can make.
    • Flooring – Depending on the size of the room, you can replace flooring on a budget. Carpet is relatively inexpensive and can be completed in a day. Now you wouldn’t be able to install wood floors for $1k, but there are vinyl substitutes that look very similar. You know how much we love our hand scraped laminate. It was a bit more of an investment, but updated our home and increased the value dramatically.
    • Feature Wall – If you have a fireplace then update the mantel, if there is no fireplace, create a focal point to the room. There are many faux finishes or paint techniques you could complete on one wall of the room. Local paint distributors can show you different techniques and options to choose from.
    • Built-in’s – instead of a feature wall, build some cabinetry that is permanently installed. Paint the new cabinets the same color as the trim for a cohesive look. This may be a bit over the $1K mark, but built-in cabinets are considered a selling feature of a home from a realtors point-of-view. Not only do they add value to the home, they are also great for storage and displaying home décor.

Built ins for our family room is on the home reno checklist. See my thinking here. 

Dining Room

  • Lighting – again, update the fixture or add a medallion. See mine below.
  • Feature Wall and update paint – the dining room can usually use a more dramatic color such as a red (if the room is not too small); don’t be scared to go bold!
  • Crown Molding or Chair Rail – A simple piece of trim around the room at ceiling level or chair level adds an architectural detail and makes the room looks more like a craftsman built the house. Paint the rail the same color as the trim and for an added feature, install wallpaper or incorporate unique paint feature on the bottom half of the wall (under the rail)

Highlighting the recommendation to add a medallion, I did so in my laundry room. One of the things that makes me most happy is walking into that dreaded work place and seeing my thrifted crystal chandelier and medallion. (Yes, even the medallion was found yard saling. It was a steal.) Check out the before and after of my laundry room. It blends many of these budget friendly points.

If you are similar to me and just need a nudge in the right direction, hopefully these budget friendly home renovation ideas will get your creative juices flowing. I’m excited to make small changes in our home this year, which in the long run, will make a HUGE impact.

What is your favorite home renovation that you’ve done? I’d love to hear about it.

Thanks to the Allstate Influencer Program for sponsoring this post. As the nation’s largest publicly held insurance company, Allstate is dedicated not only to protecting what matters most—but to guiding people to live the Good Life, every day. While this post was sponsored by Allstate, all opinions are mine.


  1. I’m excited for you. You’ve waited a long time. It’s so hard to try and pick just a few things to get done around our house. There are so many!


    Jen Reply:

    Thanks, Kim. 🙂


  2. I would love to do built ins. Can’t wait to see what you end up doing.


    Jen Reply:

    Thanks Mary. I think building those built ins will add so much. It’s hard to figure out how to design them though since our ceilings are so high. I’m not good at visualizing the different spacing, so will definitely ask for help.


  3. Knowing where to start is always my biggest hurdle. Can’t wait to see your built-ins Jen!


    Jen Reply:

    Thanks sweet friend. 🙂


  4. Looks like you’ve got a good list going! 🙂 Can’t wait to see updates!


    Jen Reply:

    @Amanda @ Serenity Now, I wish I could do all of these things on this list, but I will slowly work through it….over the year (s). 🙂


  5. Great ideas as always! Can you share outdated paint colors? I know neutrals (grey, tan, and white) are popular for most rooms, but it is boring for the whole house. In the 1980’s red was the accent color for our living room. with gold for the dining room. We live in an 100 year old house and it is time to update!
    Thanks and have a great weekend!


    Jen Reply:

    I’m with you nancy. I had a burgundy wall and loved it…in the early 90’s. Painting it a beautiful blue was my favorite move. 🙂 That’s a good question about the outdated paint colors. Colors come around again, just when they think they are out. I’ll need to brainstorm that. 🙂


  6. I also had a burgundy wall, it was one of my favorite colors. Paint is such an affordable way to refresh your home and give it a new look.


  7. What about kitchen countertops? We have laminate and are considering changing them. Do you have any advice?


  8. These seem like really great home renovations. My house looks like it could use some sprucing up to make it look like I live in it rather than the previous owner is still living in my new home. I really liked your idea to change the lighting fixtures in my house. There are a lot of really old looking fixtures around the house that use incandescent lights. It would be nice to put new fixtures that will use energy efficient light bulbs.


  9. These are all really great suggestions for the small budget fixer up. I couldn’t agree more with the paint. There is not much less expensive option you can do that freshen up a room so quickly.


  10. Balancing your remodeling wants with your budget can certainly be tough. These are all really great suggestions for those confused on where to start. I like to tell my clients to pick what is super important to them, for instance maybe in the kitchen the countertops are where they want to spend the most and then just refinish the cabinets. A little elbow grease can save you big bucks everytime!


  11. This is all really solid remodeling advice. Picking and choosing what is most important to you, makes the biggest bang in resale value and stays within budge can be tough. Patience and time will work in your favor.


  12. Where can I find the rug in the photo featuring the fireplace and warm colors? It’s cream and tan with beautiful design.


    Jen Reply:

    Since this was a few years ago, I don’t think they have the exact design in stock anymore, but you can check Mohawk carpets.


  13. Do you mind posting your source for lighting? I am particularly interested in the dining room fixture. Thank you.


  14. My husband and I invested in an air compressor, nail gun, and brad nailer when we had our 3rd house built (1st 2 were pre-owned and came with hardwood floors throughout). The builder wanted 12k for the main floor (not including the office). We did the entire main floor and the master for 4k (plus 500 in tools). We kept those tools and used them to do our 4th house in all Hickory!!! Two best projects ever!
    Painting, light fixtures, and door knobs are super easy and quickly change everything.


  15. Exactly, I repainted my house every year to make it fresh! Great article!


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