What’s the primary motivation for tackling any room renovation, whether it’s a living room, bedroom or bathroom? Aesthetics, according to HomeAdvisor’s State of Home Spending Report, released in June. Especially if you’re looking to remodel your living room, improving the appearance of the space and boosting your overall enjoyment of it are almost definitely the end goals.
However, before you make plans for a new paint color, fresh furnishings or taking down a wall, be sure you’ve addressed more dire concerns both in your living room and throughout the rest of your house.
“Aesthetic improvements have to take a back seat to systems and fundamental parts of a home,” says Chip Wade, a home improvement expert and master carpenter who has appeared on HGTV shows including “Ellen’s Design Challenge” and “Curb Appeal: The Block,” as well as a consultant for Liberty Mutual Insurance.
That means if your roof or water heater are near the end of their life spans, let the living room renovation take a back seat. In the living room itself, asbestos and lead paint abatement are costly projects that require the work of professionals, but they are worth it the end. Even if the work takes up your entire budget, removing dangerous materials from your home should always take precedence over knocking down a wall or buying a new sectional.
Once you have those necessary repairs out of the way, you may find your remaining budget is much smaller for those more fun renovations. Fortunately, there are quite a few living room projects that can help your common space look new.
Here are seven living room renovation ideas to consider when you’re on a budget:
- Rearrange furniture.
- Add built-in bookshelves.
- Install or update wood floors.
- Refurnish the room.
- Take down walls.
- Freshen up the fireplace.
- Redo molding or trim.
Have you considered moving the focal point of your living room to another wall or opening up the conversation space to make the space look more inviting? Rearranging furniture doesn’t work in every room – a fireplace or your dedication to feng shui may make it difficult – but consider moving the couch, switching the table a lamp sits on or swapping out furniture from another room. With very little sweat equity, how you experience the room can be completely different.
How much will it cost? For moving bigger pieces of furniture, you may want to enlist the help of a friend or family member, which can be more enticing with an offer of lunch or dinner on you. Beyond that, be ready with a bit of spackle and some paint to cover any visible holes in your walls. Wall repair kits or a tub of spackling for drywall cost between $4 and $8 at Target, Home Depot, Lowe’s or Walmart.
Add Built-in Bookshelves
For an addition to the room that creates a new focal point, consider built-in bookshelves to change up a plain box of a room and “help a very cookie-cutter home look more custom,” says Kathleen Kuhn, president of home inspection company HouseMaster, based in Somerville, New Jersey.
Built-in bookshelves can be tricky for a DIY beginner who has no experience with carpentry work, but a handyman could take on the project pretty easily.
Alternatively, budget DIY gurus have been known to purchase multiple plain bookcases from Ikea, install them next to each other along one wall and add a bit of molding to make them look more luxurious.
How much will it cost? HomeAdvisor estimates the cost to have new built-in bookshelves installed by a professional will cost between $2,000 and $5,000. If you’re looking to go a little more DIY, Billy bookcases at Ikea are $59 each, plus the cost of wood and stain or paint to frame out the shelves for a built-in look.
Install or Update Wood Floors
Old carpeting or a dingy wood floor can make any room look dated, which is why remodeling from the ground up is often your best option to freshen up your living room. “New wood flooring is a great option and can add a lot of value and open up a room,” Kuhn says.
How much will it cost? Before you buy all new wood flooring and hire a professional to install it, see if your current wood floor – or wood floor under carpeting – can be salvaged with sanding and staining. Fixr reports the average cost to sand and finish a 200-square-foot wood floor is between $850 and $1,260. Installing a new solid or engineered prefinished wood floor is between $2,400 and $4,000 for the same size of room, according to Fixr.
Paint the Walls
Painting your living room is an obvious option to make the room look new again. Especially if you’re tired of the same neutral color that has covered every wall since you bought the place, don’t be afraid to add a splash of color that complements your wall art and furniture.
How much will it cost? Painting a single room is an easy DIY project that can be completed in a day or weekend, depending on how many coats of paint you plan to do. Dropcloths, painter’s tape, brushes and rollers start below $10 each. One gallon of paint, which runs between $15 and $30 depending on the paint brand and finish, will cover 400 square feet of wall space. For a living room, budget for two to three gallons.
Refurnish the Room
With little to no skill required, you can easily transform your living room by getting rid of any furniture that’s seen better days. You don’t have to sacrifice every chair and ottoman, but a new coffee table or floor lamp can help make the space look new again.
How much will it cost? The cost of furniture depends on your taste and brand preference. While home furnishing marketplaces like Ikea and Wayfair offer plenty of budget-friendly pieces, don’t forget about other options like Craigslist, neighborhood flea markets and local thrift shops or antique stores to find slightly used furniture that costs less.
Take Down Walls
It’s a big project, but tearing down walls in your living room for a more open floor plan is a common preference among homeowners in older houses.
But this project is not always feasible or budget-friendly, as a load-bearing wall could cost upwards of $10,000 to remove, because a support beam is needed to hold the weight the wall will no longer carry. But if the wall is merely a partition between rooms, Kuhn says it’s possible: “Opening up the space … can be done, and can even be a DIY project.”
If you’ve confirmed the wall doesn’t hold weight and have located any electrical wires, you should be able to demolish most of the wall yourself.
How much will it cost? HomeAdvisor reports removing a wall ranges in cost between $300 and $10,000, depending on whether the wall is load-bearing. Keep in mind the cost of making the now-joined rooms cohesive – you’ll have to fill in flooring and wall gaps where the wall once was.
Redo Molding or Trim
Interior design styles have gotten simpler over recent years, requiring fewer fancy details, but crown molding and trim can still be an eye-catching element that makes a room look fresh.
Installing molding along your living room ceiling may sound relatively simple, but Kuhn recommends hiring a professional who has experience with such a project. If you’re renovating your living room, she says you can offset the cost by doing the demolition work on a wall or pulling up carpeting. But for crown molding, “bring in a handyman for that,” she says.
How much will it cost? This is a project you may be able to do on your own, but any flaws will be easy to spot. Fixr reports the average cost to have crown molding professionally installed in a 16-by-20-foot living room is $900.