Low-buck home improvements

With the economy in decline, people are saving money for essential items. As a result, home improvement projects have been put to the back on people’s priority lists.

Yet, there are things that greatly improve the appearance of a home that are cheap and require little effort and skill. Here are a few simple solutions to spruce up a home.

Start with a good cleaning

The easiest thing a person can do is to clean their home. Clearing clutter not only makes the place look better, but also makes you feel better about where you live.

Michael Simons, sales manager at the paint and supply store Savitt Brothers, Inc. at 1515 Nicollet Ave., said there are a number of floor polishers and carpet cleaners that improve a floor’s appearance. He added there are also grout pens that essentially paint over the grout between tiles.

Fix those cracks

From cleaning, a person can see if they have cracks anywhere in the house. Caulk can be used to fix these cracks, whether they are on woodwork, tile or a wall, Simons said.

A tube of caulk costs around $9 and is easy to use. All a person has to do is dabble some caulk on the crack and use a finger to smooth it out. Any excess can be wiped off onto a rag or used on other cracks.

What’s more, caulking a window can save money on heating bills by preventing drafts from entering a room.

Landscape

The inside of a home is not the only place that can use improvements. Even simple gardening can improve a home’s appearance.

Brian Tate, a manager at Klier’s Nursery & Garden Center Inc. on 5901 Nicollet Avenue, said buying plants is an inexpensive way to beautify a lawn. Tate said a 3- to 4-inch pot costs around $7.99 and perennials, plants that live longer than two years, work well.

Tate said the best way to get the most from one of these pots is to split the plant at the root and make several smaller plants. It will take about a year for the plants grow to their full size.   

Ask a pro

For those who don’t want to do the work or can’t themselves, professional remodelers are an option, and they aren’t as expensive as they once were.

David Amundson, owner of TreHus Builders, Inc. on 3017 S. 4th Ave., said material and labor costs have gone down since the previous year and most remodelers are discounting prices. His company alone discounted labor costs by 20 percent and design costs by half from what they were a year ago.

According to Don Schultz, owner of D.R. Schultz & Associates Inc. on 4824 West Lake Harriet Parkway, there are two ways to look at a remodeling project: Functionality and beauty.

Schultz said the difference between the two can cost up to a couple thousand dollars. To save money he said look at the changes a house needs for functional purposes because these items need to be attended to. Schultz added not everything in a room needs to be replaced or altered and a person must know this when they start a home improvement project.

A dose of paint

A drastic and cheap way to change a home is with a new paint job. You can paint the whole house, a room or even a couple of walls. Paint is easy to put on and painting a room can take only a day to do.

Jim Woelm said he felt great after he and his wife, Diane, improved a home in Lake of the Isles.

"There were a lot of inexpensive things that helped us," Woelm said "Just to paint your house, I find it’s amazing."

Woelm said when it comes to paint, quality trumps price and the difference between the two in square feet is pennies. In general, a quality paint usually requires only one coat due to its dense, thick composition, while you may need to apply two coats to achieve complete coverage with a low-cost paint.