How To Renovate A House On A Budget

how to renovate a house on a budget

It’s not always practical to buy an old house to wait out a home renovation after years of saving. From my own experience, I was keen to live in a neat and nice house almost immediately after buying the property, especially if it was old. I also wanted to renovate our house on a budget keeping finances in mind for each section of the house, without blowing costs. It’s about a year now and while we are taking our own sweet time renovating our 120 year old house, I’m moulding it based on my style preference.

I’m sharing all my tips on how we renovated a house on a budget in Australia without the help of tradies or professionals. We are not carpenters or builders and have not renovated before so we learnt all the technicalities along the way. We’ve worked on our house over the weekends with working on our full time jobs.

So if you want to renovate a house yourself, read on. I have also included some cool house renovations before and after photos.

Paint Walls White

It’s surprising to see how many people don’t prefer the color white for their walls, thinking they’d get dirty. But white is timeless. A splash of white paint will instantly freshen a room. It’s one of the first things anyone looking to renovate a house on a budget must do, before investing in anything else. Trust me, this will instantly modernise a house on a budget.

There are a million shades in white itself and while it’s hard to settle on the right tone, it’s a good alternate. There are cool and warm whites – some have greys and yellows as undertone. Grab a few sample pots from your nearest hardware/paint shop, paint a strip on your wall and leave it there for 2 days to see how the shade changes at different times of the day in terms of lighting.

We used a Lexicon Half (grey undertone) from Dulux for our walls and vivid white also from Dulux for the ceiling, cornice and door trims. You always want your ceiling to have lighter color than your walls.

For a curb appeal, you could change the entire look and feel of the house by painting the exteriors with a fresh coat of paint, even if its a brick house renovation. There are some great ideas about renovating a brick house with before and after shots on Pinterest. A light grey such as the Tranquil Retreat is currently very popular which is what we used in our exterior timber cladding.

Read More: Top Nursery Wall Decor Ideas

Don’t Look Away From Houses With Wallpapers

I just mentioned about painting the walls white. Wallpapers were trending back in the 70s and it’s probably in almost all old houses owned by the elderly. Mine were too.

We could see the drywall once we removed the wallpapers. I did fear the things we were going to see once the wallpapers were ripped off but to our surprise, they were clean walls thats probably never seen paint since it was built. Below are some before and after photos of the house renovations.

home renovation DIY Melbourne
Before Photo of our home. That wallpaper though
how to renovate a house on a budget
After renovation

If your house has wallpaper, just use a wallpaper steamer and steam away. You probably have to keep the steam plates on the wallpaper twice to peel them off but worth it. A recommended brand is the Wagner Wallpaper steamer or you can even just DIY homemade wallpaper remover by mixing dishwashing liquid or vinegar with warm water and spray or apply with sponge. Let it soak on the wall and scrape off with knife. This option wasn’t convenient for me as ours were really thick wallpapers and required really hot water for it to actually peel off.

Pro Tip: Create a gallery wall with a mix of your favorite photographs and minimalist wall art prints. 

Also Read: Download Free Minimalist Wall Art Printables

Interested in some wall art prints so you can hang them after your renovation? Find our collection here. We now offer International shipping!Prices mentioned are in AUD

Find more of The Trippie Store Print collection here.

Adding Feature Wall For An Instant Lift

With experience, I’m now a big believer of adding a feature wall to cover up damaged walls or for an instant modern lift to even brand new houses that don’t always stand out just because its new. I We tried different feature walls in our new DIY laundry room and my sons new playroom.

For my sons playroom we did some wood wall panelling and painted a nice soft mix of blue and green to give a calming effect. The walls here were a bit uneven that we sanded a few times to even it up a bit.

nursery and playroom wall art prints
After shot of playroom


Laundry Room Renovation
Before Shot of playroom

For the laundry room, we used VJ panels as we already had similar walls in the kitchen. Plus this seem to be a trend in Australia at the moment. These walls were brand new that we built as part of adding a new 2nd bathroom + seperate laundry.

Read More: Small Laundry Reveal 

Laundry Room Renovation
After shot of laundry room
small laundry room renovation
Before shot of laundry room renovation

Fix Uneven Walls With Gap Fillers

Even big cracks on the walls can be repaired with compound powder, or gap fillers. Just apply these to the broken area and sand them with either a sander or sandpaper with about 120 grit and scrape away the excess filler until levelled and as smooth as the rest of the wall and paint over it.

Working On The Existing Plan Is Key To Having A Cheap Renovation

It’s very common to keep away renovation plans as often the question arises on how much does a renovation actually costs. The maximum budget is an amount that you set that comes down to how much type of material, labor costs and more.

Everyone has an idea where they want the kitchen or the living area to be. But one of the main thing to remember while doing a budget friendly renovation is to maintain the existing house plan and work around it. I love open plan but I also love section houses with its own hallway.

Also by leaving the existing plumbing, electricity (unless not in safe areas) and not moving them around, you’ll be saving a lot of money right there.

You can even make a space open and spacious by taking off a wall instead of moving an entire kitchen or living elsewhere. However, it is not always easy to just remove a wall, like in my case.

The kitchen in my new old house was closed away from the living room so I wanted to remove a wall to make it an open plan but when I checked with a carpenter I found on High Pages, he said the wall was load bearing and would require a council permit. This plus additional costs plus the wait plus the confusion that it would have made the entire area extra open as soon as one enters the house detracted the idea. So instead we did a servery window on that wall. Now it’s not fully open, yet open enough to still be a part of the living room entertainment.

Also Read: About The House We Bought In Melbourne

Make More Room By Creating Sections

If you’re not a fan of walking into a living room with a couch and TV, create a barrier by building a DIY slate wall, instead of worrying about building a wall. This barrier looks great anywhere and can be easily DIY’d with a bunch of wood and technical sense.

Photo by Dorsey Designs – before and after home renovation photos

How To Renovate A House on a Budget With Kitchen Updates

First have a look at the kitchen cabinet doors. Could you just get away with a lick of paint? Some renovators in Australia are using the Dulux Renovation Range for painting the benchtop and cabinet doors. The results are mind blowing! If you’re happy with the layout of your kitchen, painting your benchtop and cabinet doors would be a great option f0r keeping your renovation on the cheap. Some old kitchens have shaker style cabinet doors in brown but by just painting them white, you’ve got a 10K saving. This is also a DIY project so no labor costs here.

Before Photo by third bird renovations using the Dulux Renovation Range
After Photo by third bird renovations

If painting is not an option and you just want to absolutely gut and renovate your kitchen, try not to go with too many overhead cabinets. Instead go with floating shelfs which is trending right now. Decorate them with some nice plants and fancy bowls.

Also read: How to Build A Large Floating Shelf For Less Than $150

Bathroom Renovation On A Budget

With the bathroom updates, you don’t always need ceiling to floor tiles. Instead consider using a waterproof paint on walls other than the shower side.

We got a feature wall done on our walk in shower and subway tiles on the other small part of the wall as they are closer to the shower and has constant water splashes but painted the rest of the walls with waterproof paint and it works great.

Photo by Poshhome

Some of the things you can DIY and save up on labor cost is creating a niche for shampoos and soaps, putting up your vanity, painting, tiling and applying grout. We got the tiling and grouts done by a professional to save up on time since we have full time jobs.

If a full renovation is not within your budget, you could even just change the tapware, towel rails and showers, hang pendant lights, and update mirrors.

Be The Project Manager And Interior Designer

By being the project manager and the interior designer of your sweet home, you can save up on the profits that a building manager would charge. If you’re doing extensive renovation such as creating a door or adding a new bathroom, hire a carpenter once you’ve got your plans on paper. This means you’ll be saying exactly what you want the carpenter to do. You’ll also be hiring different trades person to do different tasks- such as plumber, electrician or tiler.

This isn’t easy as they would be working on a number of other client jobs simultaneously so chasing them to actually finish your job might take some time and energy off you. But once the job is offer and you’ve a nice end result, you might forget the hardships you went through. Just like going through a 29 hour of labor and seeing a baby in your arms and then forgetting the pain :).

In terms of raw materials, consider buying them yourself instead of getting them through a carpenter or any third party as they always add a margin to this.

Plan And Shop Around For Materials

Once you’ve decided on the tapware you want, shop around to see if you can find those exact or similar ones for a cheaper price. Maybe as second hand on Facebook marketplace or at non-brand shops away from the city. You can even grab doors for free and update them with some paint. Especially corinthian doors will give character to any old houses.

moodboard home renovation
Photo by homestolove

Sometimes you can even try DIY by putting up some mdf panels on your existing door to make it a shaker style door.

Flooring Updates

Carpets get dirty really quick so constant cleaning takes up a toll and cost. If going for non carpet flooring, consider laminates. Some people have a personal preference towards hardwood flooring while some don’t mind the laminate flooring, that are so much more cheaper than hardwood. We went around so many shops to get laminate that had a similar texture as of hardwood and I finally found it in the 5th store we went to. Keep in mind the delivery costs of these to your home. The store we got them from had a high delivery cost so we just did 2 trips on our Jeep and brought them home ourselves. It wasn’t that easy carrying them inside the house though but we managed.

Dinner time we ordered takeaway that almost compensated for the delivery charge. So worth it! #Pun intended.

Add A Curb Appeal To Your Front Yard

If the exterior of your home is outdated, just painting them would increase the value of your home, whether it’s weatherboard or brick house. Laying some concrete, putting up plants/lawn and updating your fences would make a grand impact too.

You see how renovation doesn’t always have to be an expensive affair. Consider these tips on budget-friendly renovation before investing further.

Have you ever considered buying a house to renovate? Share your thoughts below.


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  1. Hey thanks for posting this useful information about how to renovate a house on a budget here, I really hope it will be helpful to many. It will help a lot; these types of content should get appreciated.

  2. says: Rachel


    My husband & I are considering buying a fixer upper this autumn. Thanks so much for this; will be bookmarking your website for reference!!

    1. says: Shilpa Balakrishnan

      Sounds so exciting Rachel! Do you know the decor you would be going for? Im working on an ebook to give u all more information about renovations so do stay tuned ♥️

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