Three Projects on a Budget

By Patricia Mertz Esswein | November 2nd, 2014

Kiplinger’s remodeling tips to save you money

Kiplinger’s Personal Finance © 2014

These projects will enhance the interior of your home – and they won’t cost you a bundle.


Cost: $1,580 (pro), $960 (do-it-yourself)

If your cabinets are sound but ugly, paint can work wonders. Sand and prime the surfaces, then brush or spray on a cabinet paint, such as Benjamin Moore’s Advance, which is as durable as an oil-based paint but cleans up with soap and water. Rust-Oleum makes two kits for DIYers: Cabinet Transformations eliminates the need for sanding and priming; Countertop Transformations gives new color and a stonelike appearance to laminate countertops.

To guide you through the many faucet options, see “Kitchen Faucets 101” at A model with a ceramic disk valve and a solid brass base will be the most durable (look for discounted prices at For the finishing touch, choose new cabinet knobs and handles; check out the offerings at

Vinyl that mimics ceramic tile, wood or stone is an economical choice for new flooring, and it can be installed over the old floor.


Cost: $1,590 (pro), $1,080 (DIY)

Replace the vanity cabinet (this project includes one for about $400), vanity top, sink and faucet. Or, to reduce your costs, paint the existing cabinet and replace the hardware. Choose an efficient WaterSense-certified faucet (from $25 at

Replace an outdated toilet with a WaterSense-certified model that will save water without sacrificing performance. Check out American Standard’s Clean ($239 in white at Lowe’s) and Kohler’s Cimarron ($232 at Home Depot).

Enjoy a long, hot shower with a new, WaterSense-certified showerhead. American Standard’s FloWise model ($34 to $59 at gets great user reviews for its spray options.

If you have the vanity painted or you’re doing the job yourself, you can afford to replace the vanity lighting, too (about $200).


Cost: $900 (pro), $340 (DIY)

An “Energy Seal” attic ladder with an insulated door and weather stripping, by Werner ($199 at Home Depot), earns a rating that makes it adequate for all but the most northern areas of the U.S. Measure the size of the current opening to your attic, the floor-to-ceiling height below the attic opening, and the space available for the ladder to swing and fully extend. Installing a ladder is best left to the pros unless you’re really handy.

If there’s no floor, you can install a 10-by-10-foot plywood floor by cutting the wood and hauling it to the attic. Or make it easier with either Attic Decking Board or interlocking Attic Dek Flooring Panels. Both screw to the attic floor joists. (Think about beefing up insulation between the floor joists before you install the floor.)

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