Small but Mighty Home Remodels That Are Cheap to Do

homeowner and demolition contractor shaking hands

Updated April 5, 2023

Updating your home doesn’t have to mean a total renovation. Oftentimes, you can make your home more beautiful and more valuable without intrusive construction or expensive changes. Sometimes, all it takes is a few minor updates to completely transform a space, whether it be the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, home office, basement, or all of the above.

Even when it comes to small updates, it's important to plan out your remodeling project(s) before jumping in and getting started. This will give you a chance to budget the work properly and make important decisions about your project, saving you time, stress, and money in the long run.

What to think about as you plan your remodel:

  • What is the purpose of your remodel—for looks, function, or both?
  • What rooms or aspects of your home do you want to change?
  • How much are you able and willing to spend?
  • Will you need any interior demolition work done to accomplish your goals?
  • What materials will you need to make your remodel happen?
  • What do local remodeling contractors charge for this type of work?
  • What aspects of the project can you handle yourself?
  • Are permits needed for the type of work you want done?
  • Will you need to arrange alternate sleeping arrangements during remodel?
  • Will you need to protect other areas of the home during any aspect of the remodel?

Interior demolition is the first step to a wide range of remodel jobs. Sometimes interior demolition involves taking a room down to the studs and floors. Other times, it may involve simply tearing out an interior wall that is non-load bearing, removing a bathtub, tearing out upper kitchen cabinets to install open shelving, or floor removal and replacement. If interior demolition exposes any issues that were hiding under the floors or behind the walls, any necessary plumbing work, flooring or structural repair, etc. will be done before moving forward with the rest of the remodel. Some remodel projects don't require demolition work at all.

In this guide, we'll list the most popular remodels—broken down by room—that may not seem like "major renovations" but have major payoff.

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small but impactful home remodels infographic

Bathroom Remodel

Did you know that the average person spends 30 minutes or more of each day in the bathroom? That adds up to more than two years and one month of a person's life spent in a room that rarely gets the full attention it deserves. The design and functionality of your bathroom should make your bathroom enjoyable to be in. For example, if your bathroom is poorly lit, messy, or otherwise not pleasing to the eye or enjoyable to spend time in, it may be time for a renovation.

A modest bathroom remodel can achieve a 50-60% ROI. The average cost of a professional bathroom remodel is $10,000-$15,000 but can be as low as $1,000-$3,000 or less if you go to great lengths to choose quality products when they're on sale, choose big impact and low cost updates (see list below), or hire contractors when they are less busy and charging more competitive labor rates. The exact cost of your project will depend on the size of your bathroom, how involved your updates are, the materials you use, the cost of services in your area, what you choose to do yourself, etc. The best way to know how much your bathroom renovation will cost is to reach out to bathroom remodel companies near you.

If you want to spend as little money as possible, here are some of the lowest cost bathroom remodel options:

  • Replace the rug(s) and shower curtain to look more polished and cohesive.
  • Upgrade your hand towels to match your rug and shower curtain, as well as your washcloths and towels (especially if they're folded and on display anywhere in the bathroom).
  • Paint the walls. (Light colors make a small bathroom appear larger, cleaner, and brighter, while dark colors make a bathroom feel more cozy and unique.)
  • Add decor that you enjoy, like plants, sink trays, candles, reed diffusers, and ceramic soap dispensers.
  • Upgrade fixtures, like the sink faucet or shower head to add a luxurious or trendy touch.
  • Replace the toilet with a newer version that offers a more modern look, increased accessibility, and better water efficiency.
  • Replace the floors or paint them to give them a fresh look.
  • Add a fitted tub/shower over your existing version to save money on a total replacement.

Kitchen Remodel

The average person also spends a lot of time in their kitchen—an average of 67 minutes per day and 400 hours per year—so making small upgrades to make it more enjoyable (and valuable) can have a dramatic impact on your mood and overall quality of life. The more you enjoy your kitchen, the higher the likelihood of you cooking from home, which, according to studies done by the American Institute for Cancer Research, saves you money and promotes healthy eating habits

A small kitchen renovation has a 60-80% ROI on average. The cost of a professional kitchen remodel is $10,000-$30,000 on average but can be as low as $1,000 if you opt for inexpensive materials or low-cost projects that have a big effect on how much you like spending time in your kitchen as well as your home's overall value. The size of your kitchen, how involved the remodel is, the materials you use, the cost of services in your area, etc. will all affect the cost of your kitchen remodel. The best way to know how much your kitchen remodel will cost is to reach out to kitchen renovation companies near you.

Here are some of the lowest cost kitchen remodel options that have the biggest impact:

  • Replace the rug(s) with a washable, durable option that ties the room together and fits the space.
  • Add window treatments that make the room look bright and timeless.
  • Upgrade your kitchen towels to match your rug, giving it a cohesive look.
  • Paint the walls or cabinets. (Light colors make a small kitchen look bigger, cleaner, and brighter, while dark colors make a kitchen feel more vibrant and moody.)
  • Add decor that makes the space feel more homey, like plants, sink trays and matching hand soap dispensers, candles, even a small TV can make a kitchen feel warm and inviting.
  • Upgrade fixtures, like the sink faucet or overhead lighting to add a luxurious or trendy touch.
  • Replace the floors or paint them to make give them a fresh look.

Bedroom Remodel

By far, the room we spend the most time in is our bedroom—over a third of our lifetime in fact. If your bedroom is messy and disorganized, it can lead to increased anxiety and poor sleep quality. In addition, people report sleeping better when their bedroom is properly optimized for comfort, light, temperature, noise, organization, and overall relaxation. Updating your primary bedroom, kid's bedroom, or guest bedroom can create a personal oasis for you and others in your home to enjoy, and it can also add value to your home.

A modest primary bedroom remodel can give you a return on your investment of 40-80% on average. The cost of a professional bedroom remodel is $4,000-$8,000 on average but can cost less than that if you choose inexpensive materials or low-cost, high-impact projects (see list below), or it can also be much more expensive than that. The size of the bedroom, how involved the remodel is, the materials you use, the cost of services in your area, etc. will all affect the cost of your bedroom remodel. The best way to know how much your bedroom remodel will cost is to reach out to bedroom renovation companies near you.

Inexpensive bedroom updates that make a big difference: 

  • Paint or install wallpaper to make the room more relaxing.
  • Add new carpeting or area rugs to add warmth and texture to the space.
  • New window treatments can bring in more light, added privacy, and big style impact.
  • Rearrange or purchase new bedroom furniture.
  • Get a new bed frame and/or bedspread to make your bed look and feel like hotel quality.
  • Hang wall art that makes you feel relaxed and at ease.

These are great options for creating a completely different look and feel in a primary bedroom for much less money than a total remodel. However, if you decide that small changes are not enough for what you envision for the room, a total remodel may be the best solution. Bedroom remodels don't always involve structural changes, though many certainly do. If you want to add space to your primary bedroom, there are a number of options (though your specific options will depend on your property and budget), including: removing interior walls, increasing the home's footprint, or adding another story to your home.

Which option works for you and your home will depend on your specific budget, as well as various other factors. For example, if you have the existing space and your local zoning laws allow it, you could knock down an exterior wall and expand your home to add square footage to your bedroom and home. If expanding your home outward is not an option for you, removing interior walls to create one large room may be an option, or repurposing another space to be your new primary bedroom.

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Home Office Remodel

In the U.S., statistics show that more than 4.7 million people work remotely at least part time. Having a designated home office space is an important way of setting healthy boundaries between work life and home life. This not only increases your efficiency when doing work but it also reduces stress and anxiety in your personal life. This equates to more relaxation and less burnout. Updating an existing home office, or converting an extra bedroom into a home office, is a small investment that can make a big difference in your day-to-day life.

The average cost of a home office remodel is $4,000-$8,000 on average but can be much less or much more depending on how extensive the remodel is, the materials you choose, where you live, etc. The average ROI of a home office remodel is roughly 50-70%. The best way to know how much your home office remodel will cost is to reach out to renovation companies near you.

Some of the lowest cost home office remodel options available include:

  • Paint the room a color that you enjoy or one that boosts focus, like light blues and greens.
  • Add window treatments that reduce screen glare but still allow natural light into the room.
  • Add a rug to add dimension and depth to the space.
  • Replace your office furniture. Opt for an adjustable-height desk, an ergonomic chair, and multiple lighting sources.
  • Add wall decor that inspires you or brings you peace.
  • Utilize organization bins and different containers to wrangle all your equipment, files, and other items.

Basement Remodel

Basements are versatile and can be used as a playroom, a storage solution, a laundry room, a gym, a guest bedroom, and all of the above in some cases. Remodeling your basement can increase your home's value as well as the amount of usable and enjoyable space in your home. Basement remodels recoup 50-60% of your investment on average. However, sometimes just cleaning out your basement and giving it a minor makeover is all it takes to make a big impact.

The average cost for a basement remodel is $5,000-$10,000 on average but can be much lower than that or as much as $80,000 or more. Your exact basement renovation cost will depend on the size of your basement, how involved the renovation is, the materials you choose, the cost of services where you live, and more. The easiest way to know how much your basement renovation would cost is to contact basement remodel companies near you.

Inexpensive basement updates that have a big impact: 

  • Paint or install drywall to make the basement appear brighter and more homey.
  • Paint the floor and add area rugs to make the space clean and warm.
  • Replace the basement window treatments with an option that brings in more light, maintains privacy, and looks good
  • Rearrange or purchase new basement furniture and/or appliances (washer/dryer).
  • Organize all of your storage items in a way that is easy to access and keep up with over time.
  • Hang wall art that makes the basement feel more cohesive with the rest of the home.

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