How to renovate for less: A room by room guide

Kevin McCloud is invariably appalled when the ambitious home renovators on Grand Designs quickly surpass their renovation budget and timeline. But it’s also rare for him not to be completely charmed by the outcome. 

The basic goal for any home reno is to achieve that starry-eyed Kevin result and increase the value of your property, without emptying your bank account along the way. After you’ve found the best way to fund your project, approach this task by focusing on the most cost-effective changes you can make in each area of your home. 

Some rooms are the clincher for prospective buyers or renters, so start at the top of this list and work your way down to tick off essential renovation areas. We’ve gone bargain hunting, crunched the numbers, and reckon you can pull-off a basic budget reno for around $10,500. But don’t base all your estimates on that target, as prices for materials and services vary.


The kitchen is always a major player in the home renovation game and can make the value of your property soar. Upgrades on big-ticket appliances could cut into your budget here, but you can offset some of those costs by making other simple changes yourself.

Start by assessing storage: if the cupboards are sufficient and intact, a swipe of paint and fresh door handles could easily make the kitchen shine (just remember to clean and sand down everything properly). Reckon you’ve got some DIY talent? Consider replacing outdated benchtops yourself. Hardware stores like good old Bunnings have facilities for cutting benchtops to size and will help walk you through the installation process.

Lighting is a big part of any kitchen. If you’ve got a daggy light fixture casting a dim glow to cook by, look into replacing it with LED down lights or track lighting. As with all your colour and material choices, stick with simple options, as trendy statement pieces can quickly become passing fads.

Kitchen shoestring budget: $3,500


Bathrooms are the next major investment you’ll want to investigate as a budget renovator. As with kitchens, more extensive makeovers which involve plumbing and restructuring will become costly, but there are some cheaper alternatives which produce sparkling results. 

Changing tapware, refreshing cupboards and even painting tiles (which requires a specially designed paint) is do-able as a construction novice, but you might want to bring in the pros to replace bathroom vanities and shower screens. As long as you’re not moving any plumbing around, costs shouldn’t climb too high.

Bathroom shoestring budget: $2,000

Outdoor areas

If you’ve got room to move in a grassy backyard or front garden, look at painting fences a dark green to blend in with foliage and make the area feel larger. While extensive landscaping will dig into your budget, a cost-effective way to spruce up the facade of your building or your back garden is with native plants. They’re often cheaper than their exotic counterparts and easier to grow in the Australian climate (they’re locals, after all). Simple and regular pruning will ensure they stay looking fresh.

The entry to your house is also important, particularly for upping the curb appeal of street-facing properties. Give a good firs t impression by giving the front door a lick of paint and a shiny new handle. Also look out for any scruffy walkways with errant weeds. You can refresh these with a budget path of river stones or pebbles which are cheapest when bought in bulk.

Outdoor shoestring budget: $1,000

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This oft-forgotten room can be a real renovation game changer. Especially in space-scarce city dwellings, an independent laundry room can be a luxury. Make the most of this by giving it a similar treatment to the bathroom. You could also install a door with a panel allowing light through to make these generally minimal spaces feel larger.

Laundry shoestring budget: $1,000

Bedrooms and living spaces

Apart from a neutral coat of paint and fresh flooring, there’s often not much work to be done to rejuvenate a living room or bedroom. If you’re preparing for a big DIY paint job, consider buying in bulk and using cheaper trade brands for undercoats and ceilings, so you’ll save on scale and can splurge for the fancy final layer.

You’re generally seeking maximum floor space when it comes to these rooms, so throwing a large mirror into the mix is a good styling solution to give the illusion of a larger room. It’s also worthwhile to look at new blinds or window finishings to make these rooms pop, and adding built-in wardrobes in the bedroom will be an attractive feature for anyone not keen on bulky cabinets.

If you live in an older property, you might consider combining cramped living and dining spaces into an open-plan style which feels more functional and can add extra natural light from multiple aspects. This’ll be a more costly endeavour, especially if a support beam is required, so always factor in the potential profit compared to the investment costs.

Bedroom and living room shoestring budget: $3,000

Savvy renovators keeping an eye on their home emissions and construction waste can find more ways to save using these sustainable renovation tips. And those looking to finance a smaller job beyond their savings bundle can check out the personal loan options below.

Compare renovation loans - last updated 13 August 2022

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