Do-it-yourself home remodeling on the cheap

Old and Outdated? Get a New Face

by Elaine Snyder

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Is your kitchen outdated, but you don't have money to remodel? Maybe your pantry is a closet full of boxes or shelves that don't fit, or you need new furniture and don't have the budget. Here are a few tips to help if you're willing to be a do-it-yourselfer.

Build It Yourself

I am a big believer in building to suit my needs. One thing stands in my way: money. I cannot call a contractor to come build me fabulous shelves in my pantry or to fill in the hole left by replacing my hulking ancient stove. I do not have power tools, and this is a problem if one wants to build. And yet, I find hope of making my pantry myself by discovering that most local and chain lumber stores will cut lumber for a small fee. All I need is to bring my measurements. They don't guarantee perfect cuts, but theirs will be better than mine, and I can afford to buy a hand saw for little fixes. If you don't think you can build shelves without help, log onto and look up shelf building. Information there can help you, or you can always get a book at the library.

A Little Dab of Paint

Old cupboards and furniture covered with marks and dings can be a terrible eyesore. They are also expensive to replace. Paint is a very inexpensive fix for old cupboards, and is cheap to redo in case you don't like the color. Another cupboard update is to replace old hardware. I'm not even going to paint my cupboards, but plan to replace the handles, which I know will freshen the cupboard faces. This same idea can apply to old dressers or free-standing cabinets that have seen better days. I repainted my son's old dresser while painting his room so it would match. Changing the knobs on the drawers really spiffed up the look. An even easier fix for wood furniture with scrapes or dings is to buy furniture polish mixed with stain. Just rub it on with a cloth and it restains the marks so they aren't as noticeable. Usually you can find it at your local grocery store.

Ask for Leftovers

One last tip for home repairs is to check out your local decorating centers for leftovers. I'm not talking about food, but kitchen or bath materials. For instance, if you have an old hutch in your kitchen and you can't afford a new one, you can paint the visible surfaces, then shop at a local decorating center for leftover counter top that is much less expensive because it's too small for another project. You might have to go back every day for a month before you find what you want to match your kitchen, but it's worth the savings if you can be patient. The same rule can apply for an old bathroom vanity or breakfast bar. Before you purchase the counter, make sure the store is willing to cut it for you.

Another handy leftover is paint. Some paint stores and home centers sell paint that is returned by another customer. This happens when people don't like the color or look of the paint and exchange it for something else. Rather than throw the paint away, it's sold at a much lower price. If you carry a color pallet with you that matches colors in the room you want to paint, it's easy to see if the reduced price paint will work for you. I purchased paint for every room in my house this way, and it cost me less than $30. Bargains don't get much better than that.

Think outside the box a little and you can find ways to save on almost any home repair. Ask for leftovers before you buy full price if your project is small enough. Floor tiles, carpet remnants, linoleum, wall coverings, material, almost anything can be found in clearance racks at the back of the store, or if you just ask a clerk.

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