Tips for Home Remodels on a Budget

Interior designer Carol Huso's remodel features budget-friendly tips.
Carol Huso in her newly transformed kitchen.

Carol Huso’s Mahtomedi home, built in 1995, has been through a lot. Huso, an interior designer, and her husband raised three sons, now 27, 24 and 21, in the home and didn’t have much time, or the money, to make updates. “This house looked like it was straight out of 1995, and it was,” Huso says.

Huso’s friend, a Realtor, told her that so many people wait until they are ready to put their house on the market to make changes so they can sell it, and how little sense it makes. You should be able to enjoy the changes you make to your home. So Huso took that to heart, and with one son still in college, made a plan to make big changes to her home on a reasonable budget.

The home has 2,300 square feet on the main and second levels, but for this remodel, she and her family focused on the main level. She started by removing the wallpaper and painting to give the walls a fresh look. The flooring was a mix of wood in the dining room, vinyl in the kitchen, and carpet in the living room. “[The carpet] had so many stains on it from the boys growing up, it was crazy,” says Huso. “It was just horrendous.” So the carpet came up and new wood went down, the same kind of durable maple that was in the dining room, and it was sanded and refinished.

The kitchen floor was covered in vinyl, and though it was functional, it was dated, so Huso replaced it with a luxury vinyl tile. “It’s relatively new to the market, [but] Consumer Reports rates it one of the top hard-surface floors,” Huso says. Plus, the tile is placed with grout lines, “so if anything happens to any of the tiles, you can pop it up and replace it.” Easy fixes are a great selling point.

The kitchen itself was quite dark and not entirely functional. As the house aged, some of the appliances started working only part-time. “For a while, you couldn’t boil water, turn on the burner, and have the oven on at the same time,” Huso says. That, and the dark green Formica countertop that was peeling in the corners, is what started the remodel conversation. Now Huso has durable granite countertops, and new appliances that she bought from a local department store’s scratch-and-dent sale. Her new stainless steel kitchen sink would have been a big cost, but she found it online for half the price of buying locally.

As for the furniture in her home, she kept most of it as-is, or relocated it throughout the house. Some new items she found inexpensively online and then refurbished, but she bought a brand-new sofa. “I always think it’s good to spend on a good sofa,” Huso says. “Spend a little more and it will last much longer.”

Without the furniture, the Huso family remodel cost about $20,000 and added even more value to their home. “We’re not going anywhere immediately,” Huso says, but when they are ready to move out, their home will be ready for another young family to move into the neighborhood.

Tips for remodeling on a budget:

“Do it in stages,”
Huso says. With her project, they took off the wall coverings nearly a year before they tackled the full project, “because it really was daunting.”
Go for the obvious, permanent things first. “Think about if somebody were coming to your home and they were thinking of buying it. What items would it look like would be a complete pain to remove?”
Shop ruthlessly for appliances. Manufacturers switch over model years, which leaves stores with the old models, and they want to get rid of them. “I started shopping for appliances about four months before I actually bought anything.”

Standard size works! If you can use standard-size components like sinks and toilets, you can save a lot. Retailers buy these in bulk, which lowers prices.
(Before Photo courtesy of Carol Huso)