Tips for Remodeling on a Budget

Overdue for a change? You’re not alone. Remote work trends coupled with a red-hot housing market have many looking to update and upgrade their homes.

On a budget? Again, you’re not alone. And the good news is that an affordable remodel is within easy reach with some planning and guidance from an honest general contractor. 

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 tips for remodeling on a budget – here are some ideas & tips to get you started.

How to Calculate Your Remodel Budget

Remodeling on a Budget Numbers

If you’re working with a small budget, you’re likely not planning a whole-house remodel, which can cost between $100 and $300 per square foot. So how to get the most bang for your buck?

One way to decide how to prioritize projects is to study Zillow listings for comparable properties and see which features and amenities show up as major selling points, then compare these findings to what you already have in your home. 

It also helps to consider the types of projects that bring the biggest returns on investment. In hot housing markets like Los Angeles, kitchen and bath remodels can more than recoup what you put into them. 

Once you’ve decided which project or projects to take on, it’s time to take a closer look at associated costs. To help you get started, we’ve created a renovation budget checklist. However, we also find it helps to bring in a licensed general contractor early in the planning process. They’ll have ideas and tips to help you cut costs on your home remodel.

Your contractor also will advise you on your project’s timeline and process. This guide will help you budget for often-overlooked costs like eating out, hotel stays, and pet boarding over the duration of your renovation.

Finding an Honest and Affordable Remodel Contractor

Remodeling on a Budget Contractor

At GreatBuildz, we make it easy to find the best home improvement experts in Los Angeles. Give us a call and tell us about your project, then our concierge service will match you with three licensed general contractors specializing in the type of work you described. We’ve spent years building a robust network of top-tier professionals.

Whether you’re in Orange County, Los Angeles, or elsewhere in Southern California, we’ll be able to match you with the best local contractors for your project and budget.

To that end, we highly recommend reaching out to all three contractors for bids. Go through these carefully to examine not just the total costs they estimate but also the scope and specification of the services they offer. If you have any questions or concerns at any point in your remodel process, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Our service team is always here to help.

How to Get Big Results from a Small Budget

Here are some money-saving ideas for an affordable renovation. These are small to medium projects that can have a huge impact on your home’s aesthetic and functionality.

Kick up your curb appeal with simple exterior projects

Remodeling on a Budget Eye Catching

  • A warm welcome. Replacing the front door will give your home an instant facelift. Bonus: Some new exterior doors can improve your home’s energy efficiency. No detail is too small here. In addition to the door itself, hardware considerations like hinges, knobs, and knockers all are opportunities to reflect your personality to passersby.
  • Adding architectural interest. Multi-dimensional elements — whether you’re going small with flower boxes along the windows or bigger with a new or updated front porch — will bring visual depth to the front of your house. 
  • Easy and eye-catching plantings. Perennials like bougainvillea and Bird of paradise are popular for a reason, but if you’re looking for the ultimate in low-maintenance — read: inexpensive to maintain — you can’t go wrong with native species. Giant wild rye, Shaw’s agave, and California poppy are just a few beautiful options that will thrive in Southern California’s climate without the need for constant watering and fertilizing. 

Feel smitten with your kitchen without spending a fortune

Remodeling on a Budget Kitchen

  • Get that “new” cabinet look. If your cabinets are in good shape, a quick update is easy and inexpensive. Your contractor can refinish and repaint them, then install new hardware. If they need to be replaced, ready-to-assemble (RTA) or semi-custom cabinets, which are manufactured in factories and assembled onsite by your contractor, are a cost-effective substitute for custom units.
  • Make a (back)splash. Not only does the backsplash protect walls from water damage and stains, it also offers an opportunity to showcase your personal style. If you’ve got your heart set on a colorful mosaic or high-end designer tile, consider installing these only behind the range and/or sink and using classic subway tile throughout the rest of the kitchen. This will allow you to save money on materials while creating a stunning focal point.  
  • Sell what you’re not using. If you’re having new appliances installed and your old ones are still in good condition, you can sell them via Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace to recover some of your remodeling costs. If haggling with strangers is more hassle than you’re up for, you can also donate them to an organization like Habitat for Humanity. Be sure to ask for a receipt if you plan to claim a tax deduction. 

Beautiful bathrooms don’t have to be a heavy lift

Remodeling on a Budget Bathroom

  • A fresh coat of paint. Because of their small footprint, bathrooms are the perfect opportunity to go big with a bold color. Tip: Want to make your bathroom seem bigger? Have your contractor extend the wall color to the ceiling. This visual trick will draw the eye upward, creating the illusion of height and depth.  
  • A sink you’ve got to see. Depending on the model you choose, replacing the vanity can be relatively inexpensive. You can also save money, however, by having your contractor refinish the cabinet and update the faucet and hardware. 
  • Planning for the future. Whether you anticipate visits from older relatives or you plan to age in place, universal design updates provide an extra layer of safety — and they don’t have to look clinical. These days you’ll find ADA-compliant towel bars, toilet paper holders, and other accessories that look almost like modern sculptures. Grab bars can be disguised to look like wainscoting. And adding a rain shower head and built-in bench to the shower is a simple yet luxurious upgrade everyone will enjoy.

Don’t overlook flooring and walls

Remodeling on a Budget Textured Walls

  • Bid your carpet adieu. Like kitchen and bathroom renovations, replacing carpet with hardwood flooring often will increase your home’s value. To cut costs, durable hardwood alternatives like laminate and vinyl plank will give you a high-end look at a fraction of the price. Renewable hardwoods like bamboo and eucalyptus, which grow quickly, also are beautiful and cost-effective options. 
  • Upgrade those walls: Textured walls are one of the biggest trends of 2022, and the design possibilities are endless. New materials make it possible to achieve realistic effects ranging from brick to wood to marble to Venetian plaster. Wallpaper also is having a major moment, with embossed patterns and natural textures like grasscloth offering additional options for a tactile effect.  

What’s the Timing and Process for an Affordable Remodel?

Even low-budget home renovations can take a considerable chunk of time. After you’ve selected a general contractor and solidified your plans, there will likely be some downtime as your contractor sources materials and acquires the necessary permit to begin work. 

But if your remodel doesn’t include major structural changes or new plumbing and electricity, the remodel itself should take just a few weeks.

When it comes to keeping home renovation on 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:

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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