10 alternative ways to cut costs when you're renovating a house

renovating on a budget

Taking on the responsibility of renovating a home can be one of the most costly experiences of your life, up there with paying for a degree or a wedding. So it can be rather daunting when it comes to drawing up budgets in line with the dreams of what you want your property to look like. But if you have your wits about you, there’s plenty of practical ways to complete a renovation for less, without sacrificing what you really want and still achieving the feel of a big bucks spend. Here’s our tips for handy ways to save on any project.

1. Customise your colour

We’ve all been there. Lusting after a perfect paint shade only to spot the wince-inducing price per tub. Getting the colour you want absolutely doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Get a sample pot of the posh paint and take it to your local hardware store. Both Valspar and Dulux are able to mix custom colours on request so you’ll still be getting great quality paint but for less. Make sure you go for reputable paint brands though as budget products can often waste more than they save, needing numerous coats or having to buy whole new tubs after they start to flake.

2. Buy preloved

Some of the best finds we’ve made have come from selling sites such as Gumtree and eBay. One-of-a-kind antique furniture, briefly used design pieces and hand-painted tiles can all be found if you’re willing to take the time to search properly. Use simple key words and be realistic about how far you can travel. It’s also worth taking into consideration the size of your car’s boot or any friends who have a van you could borrow for larger items. Try setting ‘saved searches’ to monitor what comes onto the market over time but be careful not to fall into the rabbit hole of unnecessary bargain buys. I once bought 4 old school chairs that have since just sat in the greenhouse collecting dust!

1930s bathroom renovation

3. Go car boot crazy

Make the most of the great English institution; the country car boot. You don’t have to be an antiques expert to find a bargain for your home, they’re particularly good for old signage, sideboards, mirrors and chests. Before you go, make sure you take your pounds in cash have a good idea of what you need with measurements or a set budget; it’s easy to get carried away. Also be prepared for an early start to get the best bits and take your time to hunt properly rather than rushing in. Time to practice your haggling skills! Remember, use car boot sales for bargain finds like garden tools and plant pots too. It’s not just interior finds you’re on the market for, you could save a lot of money buying second hand garden pieces.

house renovation on a budget

4. Paint it

A kitchen or bathroom can easily become one of the most cost-absorbing parts of any renovation. If you simply haven’t got the budget for a flash new one, spray paint can work wonders. Changing the colour scheme of a kitchen, including kick boards and door pulls, can give the feel of a whole new space and breathe life into old cupboards for a fraction of the cost. The same goes for tiles, just be sure to use tile paint, not ordinary emulsion. Best of all, this leaves a nice big saving to be spent elsewhere in the house for something you’ve really got your heart set on.

open plan kitchen diner

5. Buy ex-display

If you’ve got a specific kitchen design or brand in your sights but it’s a little beyond the limits of the renovation purse strings, ask the company if they sell ex-display models. Being a hard-wearing piece of kit, display kitchens don’t often suffer significant damage, just a minor scratch here or there. You can potential save thousands in the kitchen alone but be careful, many are sold without a warranty and you may have to fit it yourself.

utility room 1930s house

6. Sell on what you don’t want

Nothing but rubble and dated wallpaper scraps should be making it into your tip. For anything in one piece, you should be able to get something back for it, given a little time to find the right buyer. Try listing your old bathtub, sinks, taps, tiles and even light fittings on sites such as Gumtree or eBay. Any profit is something extra towards the rest of the renovation which is a bonus. Plus, finding a new home for your unwanted goods means less is going to landfill, so it’s a win win.

demolition diy

7. Do demolition yourself

Within reason, a lot of demolition work can be done with a cup of tea and some (wo)man power. Contractors will charge a significant percentage of the total for a demo job. So long as you’re not taking out a supporting wall or tackling pipework, do the demolition yourself. Think of it as a sort of therapy. It’s amazing how many years of colour, and messages you find lurking underneath tiles and wallpaper when you’re gutting a place. We found newspapers dating back to World War 2 underneath carpet!

house renovation 1930s

8. Wait for the sales

If something in particular has caught your eye, it’s worth asking the store staff when they will be having the next sale. Interiors brands often slash prices during mid or end of season sales and, given the usually lengthy renovation time frames, you should have a good few months to work with. You might also find that if you fall out of love with something you once longed for, you’ll find something else which will be a better fit in the long run. So waiting can make for better decision making, too.

house renovation blogs

9. Work with what you’ve got

As explained in this post, we chose to buy a 1930s property that needed work over a shiny new build so we could make a home filled with character and and unique stories. Although your ultimate total for renovating an older home may be higher, there’s far more potential to make savings in making something out of what’s already there. Look for chimney breasts, wooden floors and brick walls as an opportunity to create a feature. Taking old layers of plaster off a wall and sealing bare brickwork taps into an industrial feel and adds a lot of money to a house. Wrought iron fireplaces can be freshened up with a lick of paint and updated hearth tiling. Or if you’re lucky enough to have wood lurking below the existing carpet, rip it up, sand them back and opt for bare boards or minimalist fresh white paint.

Neil DIY

10. Do it yourself

Some people are more inclined to DIY than others, but there are some jobs that there’s no excuse not to do yourself. It may take a little longer and you might have to learn from your mistakes to get it right, but the more of your renovation you do yourself, the less you’re spending out on contractors. Teaching yourself a new skill can be as easy and sitting through some YouTube videos and losing a few pounds on practice supplies. Try your hand at tasks such as painting, tiling, minor plastering, making shelving, fitting coving, skirt and architraving or even If you’re the type of person to jump to ‘no, I could never do that’, believe me, you absolutely can. And you’ll gain a skill for life! Check out our shed door DIY here that Neil is super proud of.

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What’s next?

If you’re knee deep in a renovation and looking for support, we’ve helped hundreds of renovators with our downloadable planners and the How to Renovate a House Online Course. Take a look at our shop to discover tools for first time renovators and get your home looking just how you want it, on time and on budget.

Don’t forget to join my mailing list for regular decoration letters to keep your spirits high when you’re living in the dust and rubble (scroll down to the form below).

And let me know - how do you plan on slashing renovation costs, have you got any tips?

Thanks for reading,

Fifi xoxo