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Budget Friendly Home Improvement for Beginners

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

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

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:

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  • 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

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

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

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


MelbourneTrades from Melbourne on April 20, 2012:

This is a great article enjoyed browsing over it.

Smart insulation on April 19, 2012:

Thanks for this it's Great How long have you been writing DIY article's for ?

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on April 09, 2012:

Thank you Shelia! Writing this hub actually inspired me a little bit too. We are considering new paint and I would love the change the lighting fixture in main bathroom. Best, Steph

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on April 09, 2012:

Great information! A fresh coat of paint and a new light fixture can make such a difference. You information and ideas are wonderful and the videos are so helpful. You make me want to get busy here! Thanks for sharing your suggestions. Voted up and useful. Have a great day! :)

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on February 13, 2012:

Hi Mary, DIY projects are very satisfying, in my opinion! Its great to be able to upgrade a room in a few hours and for less than $500 (in most cases). Best, Steph

Mary Hyatt from Florida on February 13, 2012:

Great informative Hub. I'm a big "do it yourselfer" having restored my old house. Read my Hubs when you have time on that. I wore out two belt sanders on the pine panelling. I voted this UP, etc.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on January 24, 2012:

Thank you Derdriu - I really looked for videos that I thought would illustrate these home improvement projects and reaffirm how easy and inexpensive they are! I so appreciate your thoughtful, helpful comments. Hope your plate cover project goes well. :) Best to you, Steph

Derdriu on January 24, 2012:

Steph, What a helpful, practical, useful summary of home improvement the easy way! In particular, you do a great job of identifying the prep work (such as clean fixtures and walls), the equipment, and the procedure. My most immediate project most likely is updating cover plates.

It's most proactive and thoughtful of you to include the helpful videos as well as the thoughtful poll, the latter of which really makes readers feel important and involved.

Thank you for sharing, and "bestest" 2012 wishes to you, your family and your friends,


Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on January 22, 2012:

Thanks Danareva!

Veronica= thanks for the vote! All of the above is my answer too. The small home improvement projects have the biggest bang for the buck and plus, they are so quick its almost like instant gratification! :) Best to you both, Steph

Veronica Roberts from Ohio, USA on January 22, 2012:

Bingo! All of the above! I've taken on some large projects in the last year, but have seemed to procrastinate most on the small ones.

I actually have wanted to change door and drawer knobs for some time now. I needed a reminder that it's easy to do! Thanks!

Voted up & useful!

Dana De Greff from Miami on January 21, 2012:

Informative and inspiring! My apartment definitely needs some updates...

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on January 21, 2012:

Thank you! Just like you, we enjoy changing things up at home every so often, whether with a new coat of paint or different light fixtures. Its nice that there are affordable options to make a change at home. :)

Tammy on January 21, 2012:

Great tips and information! It seems we are always working on some kind of home improvement project. I like to pawn most of it off to my hubby, but easy things, such as changing the handles on drawers and cupboards, I don't mind doing. I love to change my rooms a bit every year to keep it feeling refreshed. Thanks for sharing these tips. Very helpful!

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on January 20, 2012:

Hi RC,

I love that these projects are easy, fast and inexpensive. Such great ways to make your new house feel like your own place. Thank you for the comment! Cheers, Steph

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on January 20, 2012:

Hi Suzie,

I really loved the video on replacing light fixtures. It is such a straight-foward home improvement project, and you wouldn't expect that it would be so easy. Best to you, Steph

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on January 20, 2012:

Thanks Melovy,

Our last home did not have any knobs/pulls on our kitchen cabinets or drawers. After about a year, we finally got some brushed stainless hardware and it looked so great when we finished! Made us wonder why we waited so long. Cheers, Steph

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on January 20, 2012:

Thanks Simone - its amazing what a little elbow grease and a few hours can do. Home improvement projects don't have to be expensive!

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on January 20, 2012:

My husband and I completed all of these projects in some form except for the cabinet hardware when we moved during the first few months of living in our current house. Each project can easily be completed in a weekend if not much more quickly and does make a big difference.

Suzie ONeill from Lost in La La Land on January 20, 2012:

Thanks for posting the videos. I'm been planning on replacing some light fixtures. Now I have all the info I need to get it done! :)

Yvonne Spence from UK on January 20, 2012:

These are great tips. My favourite is changing the drawer and cupboard handles. We did that in our house when we moved in, and it made such a difference. Actually, so did painting now I think of it, so that’s my favourite too. :-) It’s so easy to think we need a major overhaul, when little things can make a huge difference. A great hub!

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on January 20, 2012:

Great tips! Replacing light switches and paintings were some of the first "improvement projects" I embarked on with my first apartment. They're excellent starting points.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on January 20, 2012:

Thanks dipless! This topic has been a little less onerous than I first thought. :)

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on January 20, 2012:

LOL Marie! Your towel rack secret is safe with me. Admittedly, I feign ineptitude with respect to many home improvement projects because they are my "husband's jobs," just like he pretends not to know how to load the dishwasher or fold towels. hahhaha! Hope you get that rack up on the wall soon. :)

dipless from Manchester on January 20, 2012:

Great second WTI Hub :D thanks for sharing this some great tips.

Marie Gail Stratford from Kansas City, MO on January 19, 2012:

Darn it! Now I don't have an excuse to get on my spouse for not hanging the towel rack because I could do that so easily with these instructions. (Will you promise not to rat me out if I still insist on getting help with it?)

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