9 Ways To Renovate/Remodel An Old House With No Money Or A Small Budget

9 Ways To Renovate/Remodel An Old House With No Money Or A Small Budget

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When I was younger my parents used to tell me stories about how they renovated their first house when they were young newlyweds who didn’t know any better than to buy themselves a small two bedroom bungalow in a new neighborhood. They told me that they had no idea what kind of materials and tools were needed to renovate a house back then, so all they did was paint the walls and replace linoleum floor tiles with hardwood ones.

Fast forward 20 years later and now we’re talking about houses that need serious renovations and repairs. But instead of having to go borrow money from your aunt like I did (she’s not really my Aunt), why not do things yourself? Here are 9 ways to make those “no-money” dreams come true without breaking the bank.

Note: Some of these DIY tips may require special skills and training, such as plumbing and electrical wiring knowledge. If you aren’t familiar with how homes are wired together inside, this could be dangerous for you if you attempt to repair them by yourself. 

In addition, there is always the possibility that something will break while you’re working and you won’t have anyone around to help you troubleshoot the problem. So proceed with caution and use your common sense before attempting to take apart anything.

When remodeling and renovating an old house, it’s best to do as much work as possible yourself. Doing the remodeling on a budget should be done by planning well in advance for cost-saving measures.

The key to remodeling on a tight budget is creativity. It’s also important to make sure that you have all of your supplies handy before you start any project so that you don’t waste time running around town trying to find what you need!

1. Clean Up The Exterior

A good way to get started with making your house look brand new again would be to start with its exterior looks. This means cleaning up bushes, trimming trees, painting fences, replacing rotted trim, etc. 

This doesn’t have to be really expensive items but they can make a big difference!

By doing this simple step at the beginning, you’ll save time and effort in more complex interior fixes later on down the road. You can also add decorative touches to your yard too, such as adding flower beds, landscaping and fencing.

2. Make It Look Brand New With Paint And Decorations

One thing you should never underestimate is the power of color and decoration when it comes to sprucing up your house. Adding colorful curtains and bed sheets, fresh flowers, candles, vases filled with roses, water plants, potted plants, and other decorations will instantly give your place a whole new feel. 

These items alone might be enough to transform your space into one you actually enjoy being in.

3.Fix Up Any Pipes That Leak Water

It turns out that fixing leaky faucets and pipes isn’t rocket science after all – just grab a few household supplies and you’ll soon see your bathroom running properly once again. 

Just make sure everything gets tightened securely using plumber’s putty, which allows leaks to be stopped before they ever happen. 

4. Replace Siding And Trim

Siding doesn’t necessarily mean only metal siding anymore. There are many different kinds available today, including wood siding, stucco siding, brick siding, and even concrete block siding. Whatever type you choose, you can easily find replacement pieces online that match exactly your existing style. 

Once you’ve found matching replacements, install them over whatever existing material you currently have installed on your house. All you need is a hammer and nails.

In case you haven’t heard yet, some siding has been banned in most cities due to health concerns. So maybe consider installing wooden siding or brick siding instead.

5. Repair Walls and Flooring

Walls tend to become damaged very quickly because they’re exposed to moisture and dust quite often. Drywall tends to crack, fall off and detach itself from the wall frame over time. When drywall becomes cracked or torn, you can simply put it back onto the wall frame with some nails or screws. 

You can also cover cracks and tears with joint compound mixed with sand and apply it with a trowel. For bigger holes, repair drywall panels with screws rather than nails.

On floors, tile damage happens pretty frequently. However, you can usually fix broken ceramic tiles fairly easily provided you have the right glue, grout, adhesive remover, and a drill. Tile chips can also be fixed relatively fast if you have a knife sharpener handy. 

For larger chunks of chipped tile, you can fill holes with grouting paste and then spread it evenly across the chip using your finger. After letting it set overnight, scrape away the excess grout with a dull blade. 

Then clean the area thoroughly to remove any residual grout residue.

6. Clean Inside Like Never Before

The best way to keep your house free of dirt and debris without spending a ton of money is to invest in a good vacuum and carpet cleaner. Just because carpet is old and dirty doesn’t mean that it has to be replaced with expensive new carpet. 

Instead invest in a great vacuum and carpet cleaner and you will be amazed at how much different your rooms will look. 

Obviously if you have old shag carpeting then cleaning it won’t solve your issues but it can help you put the new carpet on the back burner and give you a few years more use out of it. 

7. Take Advantage of Recycled Materials

Most people nowadays already recycle paper and plastic bottles, cans, cardboard boxes, newspapers and magazines. Why stop recycling when you can reuse all sorts of scrap building materials too? 

One popular technique involves creating shiplap frames out of 2x4s that are cut diagonally, nailed vertically, and attached side-by-side horizontally to create sturdy vertical support structures. 

Alternatively, you can purchase preformed PVC sections made specifically for this purpose. Another method uses 1×12 lumber sawed in half lengthwise, forming parallel strips that fit tightly against each other to form solid blocks.

Recycling old bricks is another smart option. Simply dismantle them into smaller sizes and stack them together according to size. Using mortar between each layer makes it possible to build raised garden beds, planters, footers, retaining walls, terraces, and more.

8. Use Wood as Artwork Pieces..and Everything Else

Wooden objects are timeless works of art. Not only does wood bring warmth and beauty to our everyday lives, but it can also serve as useful functional elements within our interiors. From coffee tables to shelves to desks, there’s almost nothing you can’t incorporate wood into. 

Because wood lasts virtually forever (if it’s taken care of), it’s perfect for long term projects. As long as you treat it carefully, natural wood won’t ever warp, twist or split.

Another reason why wood is ideal for crafting artistic accessories is that it absorbs light well, giving colors underneath layers of paint a translucent appearance. 

Wooden bowls, trays, plates and utensils can brighten up your mealtime table setting. Add depth to your room decor by placing sculptures, figurines, mirrors, clocks and other unique artwork on your desktops. 

On top of helping beautify your surroundings, incorporating wood into your design can also help reduce energy costs since heat rises through solid surfaces.

For extra convenience, opt for particleboard if you intend to mount framed pictures or prints directly onto your walls. You can lay them face down and attach them to the board with double sided tape. 

Doing this ensures air circulation beneath your picture or print, preventing mildew buildup and fading stains.

9. DIY Home Improvement Ideas You Can Do Yourself

There are hundreds of thousands of websites dedicated solely to providing creative ideas for home improvements. Hundreds of DIY tutorials featuring step-by-step instructions on how to perform certain tasks are posted every single day on YouTube. 

Many of them involve learning new skills, however, others focus primarily on showing you what to expect during specific parts of construction and installation processes. 

Either way, finding inspiration and information on how to improve your own home is quick and painless.

How Do I Create A Budget To Remodel An Old House?

Budgeting remodeling an old house can be a bit tricky because of the unpredictable nature of what needs to be done. The best advice is to plan for any remodeling project and estimate how much money you’ll need by creating a budget!

Then once you have a great budget set add at least 20% to it for contingencies. When remodeling an older house it will always come with more things that need repaired once you start tearing things apart.

When creating your budget you will want to write out each project by as much detail as possible. The idea is to get the ‘best estimate’ of what a project will cost, what you can save on by doing it yourself and where you need to adjust your needs vs wants.

For example: Kitchen = ceiling, lighting, cabinets/fixtures, countertops, sink, faucet, appliances (dishwasher, stove, oven, microwave, refrigerator), flooring, baseboards, wall repair, paint/wallpaper, etc.

Build a spreadsheet that includes each portion of the project and the estimated cost for labor and materials. To develop cost estimates:

  • Use resources like HomeAdvisor to estimate labor costs for engineers, architects, plumbers and handymen. Labor usually accounts for 20 to 35 percent of a project’s budget.
  • Choose fixtures and finishes and calculate what you will spend on them. Include paint, knobs, faucets, tile, flooring and anything else you’ll need. Don’t forget to include taxes and shipping costs in the estimates for your materials.
  • Include the appliances you want and what you expect to spend on them. Include costs for installation, delivery and how you plan to dispose of appliances.
  • Consider what living expenses you will incur during your project. Consider the costs for living without a functioning kitchen, boarding pets or staying outside the home during your project and include these costs in your spreadsheet.

How Do I Estimate Renovation Costs For An Old House ?

Here’s a list of the most expensive renovation projects for an old house (in order): 

  • Plumbing
  • Kitchen
  • Roof
  • Heating and cooling system.

Not surprising, these are key life-safety projects that need to be done quickly before water damage or other things get worse.

Once you get estimates for any of these that need to be done you can then move on to the smaller items. The easiest way to estimate all of your needed renovation costs is to call around and start getting bids. 

If you will be doing the work yourself you can easily get the prices of the needed materials on your local home improvement store’s website (such as Lowes.com, HomeDepot.com, etc.)

What Should Be Renovated First In Old House Remodel On A Budget 

The bottom line is that bathrooms and kitchens are typically one of the first things to get renovated in any remodeling endeavor because they’re often in a really bad state due to their use. Plus once you have a nice bathroom to get ready in the morning and a nice place to cook/eat you can feel better about your house and getting the remaining parts renovated and repaired. 

So, while remodeling an old house on a budget can be done if you plan carefully and know what to do and what not to do (we’ve heard the horror stories), it may also make sense for some people just to buy one that’s been remodeled already. After all, there are plenty of beautiful homes that you can find with no remodeling required.

How To Immediately Save A Lot Of Money Remodeling An Old House

When you are ready to start remodeling there are some important things that you can do to help save some serious money. A few of them are:

Assess All The Work You Can Do Yourself, Especially Demo Work 

I would not recommend any of the following tasks for a new homebuyer to take on themselves:

  • Plumbing
  • Electrical
  • Heating & Cooling
  • Major Roofing Issues

However, virtually anything else can be learned over time and without too much danger to your health if you mess it up. 

There’s lots of information online about how to fix your roof, do plumbing or electrical work, etc, but the inexperienced are unlikely to be successful and could end up ruining their homes doing a DIY job that should really be left up to professionals. 

It’s important to note that any demo or repair work that you can do yourself will likely save you many thousands of dollars that a contractor would charge. So rather than paying someone to paint your house, find a paint sprayer (like this one here) and do it yourself instead. 

Repurpose, Recycle, Reuse, Materials Already In Your Old House

One of the easiest ways to remodel your old house is by using items you already have. Doing this is not only environmentally friendly, it helps with budgeting as well. If you are taking apart walls, ceilings, or buildings on the property you will have extra materials. 

You can use those materials to create new walls, fill in holes in walls, or simply to replace rotten wood (that you are bound to find). 

If you have a garage or other buildings with your old house you will likely find tons of materials that can be used for your remodel in them too. So just get digging and you never know what you will find. 


You know you wanted to do this, right? Finding clever and innovative ways to renovate your old house with no money or little budget is a process.  

By putting a little of your own “elbow” grease and ingenuity into the project, you can save thousands of dollars and have a beautifully renovated old house.

Matt R

Hi, my name is Matt and I'm the founder of Barefoot Budgeting. This site is dedicated to one thing... helping you budget and save money.

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