When someone told me April is National Home Improvement Month, I thought they were joking. A month for home improvement? Really?
I figured the idea must have been concocted by Home Depot or Lowe’s. But it’s a real holiday, started by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI).
Back during the real estate boom, everyone was renovating their homes. Homeowners could go to the bank and get a loan based on their enthusiasm. Improving our homes meant higher property values and more equity, and this translated into more loans.
It has taken me 10 years to remodel my home, a 1955 ranch style house I bought from a little old lady. It was pink and had all kinds of frilly window treatments and peach colored carpet. It needed a lot of work.
My biggest projects were the remodel of the master suite, the TV room and the kitchen. I did all the work myself, with some help from a friend. And no matter what I did, it was always expensive. I suppose it could have cost five times as much if I’d had hired someone do the work, but still, materials are expensive.
Home improvement on a tight budget is not easy and it takes patience. Here are a six ways to plan your home improvements on a budget.
1. Have a vision
By this I mean have a good idea about what you would like the whole house to look like once you are finished. Many times we go room by room, and end up with a mix of styles and materials. If you stick to a unified vision, you will end up with a great home.
2. Buy recycled or used materials
Most cities have stores that sell recycled building materials. Sometimes these materials are cheap and have more character than what you get at a big box store. There are also the Habitat For Humanity Stores and Craigslist where you can buy materials. I bought three matching windows for the price of one, but it took a lot of patience and visiting these stores over the course of a year before I found the right deal.
3. Tackle one project at a time
Remodeling a home can be a daunting task and one can easily get overwhelmed. Take it one step at a time. Finish the bathroom before you demo the kitchen. Having just one part of the house in disarray will make life feel less chaotic, and help you keep things manageable and within budget.
4. Don’t believe the hype of home improvement shows
It’s so easy to get carried away watching shows like This Old House, or anything on HGTV. They make everything look easy and cheap. It’s not. Trust me. Watch the shows for ideas and inspiration, but remember it’s television. They don’t even get dirty in those shows!
5. Take classes
At Home Depot and Lowe’s, and probably at your local home improvement stores, they have clinics or workshops for specific projects. Check their schedules and learn how to do the tasks you’d like to do. Even if you’re hiring someone to do the work for you, it’s a good idea to know how it’s done so you can supervise and make sure you’re not getting ripped off.
6. Do it right the first time
I had a neighbor who used to do everything on the cheap, from the material she bought to the people she hired to work for her. And almost every project had to be redone or fixed within a short period of time. This is where patience comes in. If you can’t afford to do it right, wait until you have the money. In the long run, doing it once (even if it’s expensive) is cheaper than doing it twice on the cheap.
Even if your Home Improvement Month turns into Home Improvement Year because you’re doing the work yourself and on a budget, you’ll take immense pride when you finish a project, knowing that you did it yourself, you did it right, and you did it on budget.