2010 Real Estate Guide
A brown house with white trim and the sky
real estate
Home improvement: 10 cheap upgrades

Afraid of dipping your toe into the home improvement pool? Don't be. There are many things you can do to spiff up the old place without spending a fortune.

1. Make your kitchen really cook

The kitchen is still considered the heart of the home. For a few hundred dollars, you can replace the kitchen faucet set, add new cabinet door handles and update old lighting fixtures with brighter, more energy-efficient ones. If you have a slightly larger budget, you can give the cabinets themselves a makeover. Rather than spring for a whole new cabinet system, which can be expensive, look into refacing the ones you have. Many companies will remove cabinet doors and drawers, refinish the cabinet boxes and then add brand-new doors and drawers at a price considerably less than new cabinets. Unless the cabinets are mica, a fresh coat of paint can also do the trick.

2. Give appliances a face-lift

If your kitchen appliances don't match, try ordering new doors or face panels from the manufacturer. Many dishwasher panels are white on one side and black on the other. It can be as simple as removing a couple of screws, sliding the panel out and flipping it over.

3. Buff up the bath

Next to the kitchen, bathrooms are often the most important rooms to update. They, too, can be improved without a lot of cash. Simple things like a new toilet seat and a pedestal sink are pretty easy for homeowners to install, and they make a big difference. You can replace an old, discolored bathroom floor with easy-to-apply vinyl tiles or a small piece of sheet vinyl -- often applied right over the old floor. If your tub and shower look dingy, consider regrouting the tile and replacing any chipped tiles. A more complete cover-up is a prefabricated tub and shower surround. These one-piece units may require professional installation, but still can be cheaper than paying to retile walls and refinish a worn tub.

 

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4. Paint

New paint makes everything look clean and bright again. And don't forget the ceiling. Paint the trim a contrasting color. Another option: Paint a wall three different shades of the same color. Measure equal sections and use painter's masking tape to mark off each area. Do the bottom of the wall first with the darkest shade. Once it dries, do the middle section with the next lightest shade and so on.

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