Renovate Your Home for Less
In the Kitchen
Granite countertops in the kitchen. A tub for the master bathroom. A family-room addition off the living room. Whatever home improvement you're dreaming of, it probably feels like a fantasy right now. Let's face it, you're not going to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a renovation in this crazy economy. Still, that doesn't mean you have to live with an outdated or uncomfortable house, either. Believe it or not, you can get granite countertops or other normally pricey upgrades for a couple of thousand dollars. You just have to throw out the old rule book and use some innovative approaches. Start with these ideas to save a whopping 50 to 75 percent on eight popular home improvement projects.
In the Kitchen
What You Want: New cabinets ($10,000 to $20,000)
Save By: Refacing the old ones ($3,000 to $6,000).
How It Works: You keep your cabinets but update them with the fresh look of your choice, from Shaker to Mission to contemporary. The installer applies wood veneer to the existing cabinets, replaces the doors and hardware and installs new drawer glides. After you have chosen the color of your dreams the transformation is so complete that everyone will think you got new cabinets.
What to Think About: You can't alter the kitchen layout or footprint without making a significant investment, so refacing makes sense only if you're happy with the current configuration and the cabinets are in relatively good shape.
Who Does the Job: Most kitchen renovation contractors and home centers offer refacing, or they can refer you to a specialist.
An Even-Lower-Cost Option: Paint your old cabinets yourself and install new knobs and pulls ($100 to $300 in supplies).
What You Want: Granite countertops ($6,000 to $8,000)
Save By: Having granite tiles laid over the existing countertops ($2,000 to $3,000).
How It Works: Your existing countertops become the foundation for standard 12-by-12-inch granite tiles laid edge to edge. The tiler applies narrow color-matched grout lines so it looks like a solid slab of stone.
What to Think About: To make your stone tiles look like a single piece of granite, choose a stone with a uniform color pattern and use tiles rather than wood for the counter edges.
Who Does the Job: A tile setter.
An Even-Lower-Cost Option: Hire a local woodworker to make you simple maple countertops, which look upscale and wear well, despite their affordability ($600 to $1,000).
What You Want: A new kitchen floor ($2,000 to $3,000 for ceramic tile)
Save By: Exposing the wood floor that's already there if your home is prewar ($700 to $1,000).
How It Works: Until the 1950s homebuilders often laid wooden floors throughout the entire house and then added linoleum just in the kitchen. If you have an older home you might already "own" a new kitchen floor. You can check by removing a corner tile or two.
What to Think About: Old flooring may contain asbestos, so the contractor should quarantine the work area and properly discard the old material.
Who Does the Job: A contractor who specializes in floor refinishing.
An Even-Lower-Cost Option: If you don't have a hidden wood floor you can still get a similar look from laminate, a manufactured product that looks identical to real wood, stone, or tile. It snaps in place over any existing floor without nails or glue, an easy do-it-yourself job ($500 to $700).