10 Ways to Renovate on a Budget

Renovating on a budget always reminds me of Trading Spaces—the show with Ty Pennington remodeling rooms on a tight budget. As fun as it would be to have Ty surprise us with a home makeover, we probably won’t have that luxury. The good news is we don’t have to win on a TV show to pull off a low-budget renovation. There are a wide variety of ways to renovate on a budget. Let’s ‌look at ten ideas that can save money.

Here at GreatBuildz, a free service that connects homeowners in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, and San Diego Counties with reliable contractors, we speak to homeowners every day about renovating on a budget – here are some ideas & tips to get you started.

1. Buy Second-Hand Goods

Shopping for used items is an easy way to renovate on a budget. There are a variety of places to browse for second-hand building materials. Start by visiting a local store specializing in vending used construction goods, like a local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Places like this can be excellent sources for light switches, fixtures, outlets, and doors. Compared to shopping for the same items from a big box store, buying used will save you money.

Local thrift stores are great places to look. Besides huge discounts on building materials, thrift stores have furniture and decorations. Shopping at thrift stores can make a small budget go a long way.

2. Shop Online Classifieds

Renovate on a Budget Construction

There are a lot of instances where people change their minds about a project after they’ve already purchased building materials. Online classifieds and social media platforms can be great places to look for stories like this. If you’re willing to buy goods that someone else couldn’t return, it usually comes with considerable savings. 

If you’re buying paint, ‌look at the clearance rack for returns from previous customers. They usually cost pennies on the dollar and can be an intelligent way to maximize a small budget.

Last but not least, take advantage of leftover building materials from contractors. Check with your local contractors to find out if they have any leftover materials from large jobs. Chances are they’ll have enough leftovers to finish a smaller project. 

3. Repair Important Exterior Issues

Roofs can be expensive. If we can repair the roof instead of replacing it, we can use the money for other upgrades. Get a few estimates from different roofers. Nowadays, roofers have various tools that make it easy to create fast and accurate estimates and get roofing leads. Get a few opinions about when to replace the roof and see how long you can wait. Of course, we’ll want to fix any leaks or significant issues right away. 

Repair siding that isn’t ready to be replaced. We can get more out of a small budget by repairing damaged siding instead of full-scale replacement. We can even paint vinyl siding to make it look new again.

We can pressure wash and seal concrete stairs, patios, and pavers to make things look new again. Sealing concrete can protect it from premature failure caused by weather erosion. In addition, we can usually improve exterior issues with roofs, siding, and patios without complete replacement.

4. DIY Demolition

Renovate on a Budget Demolition

Smashing down walls with a hammer is the best part of renovations. Knock out walls yourself instead of paying skilled labor to do beginner-level work. Instead, use the budget for more complicated tasks that require experience and education. Why pay someone more competent when we can have all the fun?

Besides hammering down walls, we can tear out carpet and flooring with little guidance. The idea is to save contractors time doing the elementary stuff to focus on skilled tasks. Tradespeople will negotiate a better price for agreements that don’t require demolition or cleanup. Make a deal where the contractor doesn’t have to haul away debris or worry about their mess. Doing this will help you get the most mileage out of your budget by only paying skilled labor to do professional tasks. 


5. Barter, Borrow, & Rent

Bartering is a creative way to negotiate a better price with contractors. It is always helpful to find out if they’re in the market for a service or product you provide. If there is an opportunity to trade work for work, we can reduce project costs to expenses for materials. A wide variety of contractors will negotiate. It never hurts to ask. 

Borrowing is another way to save on projects. Before you pay big money for new tools and gear, find out if any of your friends or family own specialized equipment needed for your job. Friends and family may throw in a helping hand when they find out about your project. You can always remind them that more hands do less work. Of course, remember to reward the help with a warm meal and a cold beverage to say thanks for saving you money on the project.

Consider renting if your friends and family don’t have tools or can’t go without them. Rentals are available for all kinds of equipment from tool rental stores. Shopping around can usually help with saving a few bucks. Schedule with the rental companies well in advance if you plan to rent. Renting might be the best option if it is a tool you’ll only use once or twice.

6. Recondition Wood

Renovate on a Budget DIY Bartering

Who knows what people thought when they covered precious wood floors with linoleum and carpet? Perhaps they were trying to save them for future generations. Whatever the motivations, consider making the switch if there are usable wood floors. Sanding, staining, and sealing wood floors can be a more challenging project to tackle on your own. However, if you can uncover them, a pro can take care of the refinishing work in several days.

The benefits of falling lumber prices have yet to be realized by consumers. Instead of replacing cabinets, windows, and molding, keep any wood worth saving. Use wood putty to fill holes. Sand any repairs well before sealing and staining. Treating wood we don’t have to replace will keep us from spending on expensive lumber, especially with old decks and wood fences. Frugal-minded renovators try to make wood features last as long as possible.

7. Refurbish Appliances & Furniture

One of the best ways to save money is to use what we already have. Instead of buying new or used items, we can clean and repair appliances. Make old appliances seem new again with a deep clean, tune-up, and a fresh coat of paint. We’ll want to clean up old fridges, stoves, washers, and dryers.

We can also breathe new life into old furniture. For example, reupholstery can make old chairs and couches look new again. Save money by refurbishing old furniture instead of buying new. Save big by spending on fabric instead of brand new furniture. 

8. Redecorate 

Renovate on a Budget Recondition Wood

Decorating can cost as little or as much as we want to spend. The enjoyable part about decorating is that we can satisfy most of our needs with a shoestring budget. Here are some affordable decorating ideas:

  • Display art from thrift stores or yard sales
  • Install a new mailbox from a second-hand store
  • Make new curtains out of fabric
  • Hang plants that match the room

We have a lot of choices for decorating. Besides the ones listed above, painting is one of the most obvious suggestions. For example, changing the front door’s color is simple and can make a big difference. Whatever we decide, we don’t have to spend much money to make things look drastically different.

9. Take Advantage of Incentives

Nowadays, there is a massive push for efficiency. Lucky for us, there are a variety of valuable incentives for renovators. Start by checking with local recycling centers to find out about incentives for old appliances. Next, explore credits for renewable energy with utility companies. Finally, discuss tax credits with your accountant to ensure you’re getting the most out of your repairs.

10. Budget for a Pro

Renovate on a Budget Saving Money

Renovators show wisdom by knowing when to hire someone with more experience. Some projects make sense to save for a professional. The last thing we want to do is begin a task beyond our skill level and have to pay someone to fix our mistake before they do it correctly. If we’re smart about using our resources, we can use our extra money to hire professionals for essential work. We don’t want to bite off more than we can chew, or it could cost us more in the long run.

Final Thoughts

While we have plenty of choices for renovating with a tight budget, there will be some options that make more sense than others. The most popular rooms to renovate include living rooms, kitchens, and bathrooms. Hammering out the most straightforward do-it-yourself repairs can free up the budget to hire pros for the most complex parts of the job. If we can take care of the demo and clean up ourselves, we’ll save some money. It is necessary to be intentional with all of our expenses during a renovation. Every little thing adds up, and we want to do better than breaking even.


Renovating on a small budget involves making strategic buying decisions and offsetting costs by doing work yourself. We can be smart about where we shop, how much we pay, and barter when it makes sense. Hauling our debris can keep us from paying someone else more than needed. Refurbishing old appliances and wood can go a long way. This article explored ten different approaches to renovating a house on a budget. Hopefully, this has inspired you to find new ways to save on your next renovation.

When it comes to remodeling on a budget, you shouldn’t have to go it alone – GreatBuildz can help simplify your renovation experience.


GreatBuildz is a free service that connects homeowners in Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura or San Diego with reliable, thoroughly screened general contractors and provides project support from start to finish. Call now (818.317.3567) to chat with a real person about your next remodel project or visit our website for more information: www.greatbuildz.com

Hi, we're Paul and Jon - Co-Founders of GreatBuildz. We believe everyone deserves to find a great contractor, have a stress-free renovation, and enjoy their beautiful new space. There are so many contractors out there and it's often hard to tell the good from the bad... until it's too late. We started our company to help simplify your contractor search and help you have a stress-free renovation experience. We're always available to help, no matter where you are in the process. Click here to learn more about our story.

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