It's Time to Update

13 Little Home Improvement Projects That Make a Big Impact

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It's Time to Update
Spruce Up The Kitchen
Thiago Santos/istockphotos

Spruce Up the Kitchen

Who doesn't want a kitchen straight out of a magazine? Unfortunately, kitchen upgrades are often costly affairs, especially if you change out the appliances or countertops. Instead, try inexpensive do-it-yourself projects like updating cabinet and drawer handles, changing light fixtures, or installing a new backsplash. You can also give cabinets a facelift by re-staining or painting the door and drawer fronts.

Modernize The Bathrooms

Modernize the Bathrooms

Spruce up a bathroom by replacing the toilet seat; switching out the sink and bathtub fixtures; and deep-cleaning, bleaching, or re-grouting bathtub tile. If you're feeling adventurous, a pedestal sink doesn't cost a fortune and can instantly take a powder room from bleak to chic. In a small bathroom, add delicate detail by painting an accent wall and going over it in a lighter color with a stenciled pattern.

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Freshen Up the Flooring

Floors take a beating and carpets are dirt magnets. You can rent a carpet cleaner at a home improvement store (and some grocery stores) for about $30 a day or buy one for about $150 or less. All it takes is 24 hours to give carpets in an average-size home a good scrub and allow them time to dry. If your floors are worn or damaged and you don't have the money or skill to replace them, a few carefully coordinated area rugs will add color and hide blemishes. You can find a room-size flat-weave cotton rug for $200 or less.

Paint the Walls

Paint the Walls

One of the simplest and most affordable home-improvement projects is painting a room (or several). All you need is a can of paint, brushes and rollers, painter's tape, and drop cloths, plus a few hours of manual labor. (If your walls are particularly grimy, old, or pockmarked with nail holes or cracks, you may need to patch and prime them first.)  

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Replace the Outlet Covers

The wall plates on electrical switches and plugs grow dingy with repeated use. And cheap plastic rarely ages well; it tends to turn yellow. Replacing the wall plates in every room of your house will give the rooms a unified look, and you can find options in plastic, metal, wood, and other materials to match the room decor.

Brighten Up The Light Fixtures

Brighten Up the Light Fixtures

Begin by removing glass covers on ceiling lights and fans and giving them a good cleaning with soap and water. If you can't remove them, wipe them down with a damp rag. Use a microfiber cloth to remove dust and cobwebs from fixtures and ceiling fans, too. And remember to have someone help you, especially when standing on a ladder or step stool. If there's room in the budget, replacing mismatched light fixtures is a good investment.

Attend To The Windows

Attend to the Windows

Make the most out of available natural light with windows that are sparkling clean inside and out. Dust and wipe down blinds with a damp rag; use an iron or a garment steamer to freshen drapes. If the existing window treatments are beyond saving, look for inexpensive blinds or curtains to give the room a quick update. (Ikea is just one place to look for inexpensive textiles and whimsical prints.) If you're good with a sewing machine, making a set or two will save a few dollars and give your home a personal touch.

Make The Doors Stand Out

Make the Doors Stand Out

Doors accumulate handprints and smudges quickly, particularly around handles and lock hardware. Clean or paint interior room and closet doors, and oil any squeaky hinges or sticky locks. Pay special attention to the main entrance, which makes a big first impression on potential buyers and guests. A fresh coat of paint in a bright, eye-grabbing color is an easy upgrade, as is installing a new handle and lock hardware. You can find matching sets in a variety or styles and finishes at Home Depot and other hardware stores for $75 to $150.

Rearrange and Declutter

Rearrange and Declutter

An organized home means that everything has a place and nothing goes unused. Begin by clearing out the clutter and getting rid of unwanted items in storage spaces and spare rooms. You may be able to sell some items; otherwise, donate clean, gently used items to the charity of your choice. Once you've made room, try rearranging furniture to change traffic patterns or swapping accent pieces like lamps or wall hangings between rooms.

Add Accents

Add Accents

A neutral color scheme on the walls is a no-fail way to market a house, but pops of color give it life. Small things such as throw pillows, wall hangings, and table decorations add flair and can be easily changed out seasonally for a new look. If you or a loved one is crafty or artistic, consider displaying a treasured work in a place of prominence. Search eBay, Craigslist, and local thrift stores and estate sales for unique finds. Remember: The searching is half the fun!

Chalkboard wall

Paint a Chalkboard Wall

Walls of Post-it notes stuck onto every surface may help you stay organized, but it's not a good look. Consider painting a wall with chalkboard paint so that you can scrap the notes. If you have little ones in the house, consider setting aside a section for them to express their creativity without creating clutter. 

Get a Luxury Shower Head

Get a Luxury Shower Head

While guests might not notice the upgrade, putting a deluxe shower head in your bathroom can be a luxury that will make getting clean feel like a trip to a spa. Plus, if your shower head is old and outdated, a new one that has the EPA's Water Sense label can save water and money. 

Fix Floor Scratches
Roman Budnyi/istockphoto

Fix Floor Scratches

Wood floors may look great initially, but a little bit of living leaves scratches and knicks. Try wood markers to take care of the superficial damage, and wood putty to fill in deeper gouges. Apply a high-gloss finish to keep your floor looking great, too.