Install a Kitchen Island
If you need more workspace in the kitchen, installing an island is a perfect solution. You can pick up a ready-to-assemble kitchen island with a butcher block top for around $400. A custom-made island, designed to match your existing kitchen style will run a bit higher, up to $2,500, but for that price, you can have a granite or quartz countertop.
Related: The Best Kitchen Islands Under $500
Paint Your House
Nothing boosts curb appeal quite like a fresh coat of exterior paint. If your siding is in need of a little TLC, consider spending that tax refund on a new paint job. A professional housepainter will charge around $2,500 to paint a standard single-story, 1,500 square foot home, but you can do the job yourself for around $600, using a high-quality acrylic exterior paint.
Shape Up with Shiplap
If you want a wall treatment that’s a step-up from paint, consider installing shiplap on one or more interior walls. This design element is perfect for traditional and country-contemporary homes. The wall covering adds texture and visual interest to any room. Shiplap is affordable and makes a good DIY project—materials cost $1 to $2 per square foot. If you prefer professional installation, plan on spending an additional $2 to $3 per square foot.
Related: 17 Times Shiplap Made the Room
Add Old World Charm with Faux Ceiling Beams
If your home was built using standard construction methods but you long for the allure of post-and-beam construction, you can have it with today’s incredibly realistic faux ceiling beams. Designed from lightweight, high-density polyurethane, they're hard to tell apart from the real thing. Expect to pay $18 to $25 per lineal foot for the beams, which are DIY-friendly and come with installation instructions. Professional installation will add another $2 to $5 per lineal foot.
Construct Your Own Fire Pit
Enjoy the outdoors long after the sun sets by adding a fire pit to your backyard. Fire pits deliver the rustic ambience of a campfire in a safely contained unit, making them suitable for residential neighborhoods. Nothing beats gathering around a crackling fire for creating the right atmosphere for forging friendship and comradery. For $1,400 dollars or less, depending the materials you choose, you can build your own fire pit and add a whole new dimension to after-dusk entertaining.
Add a Trendy Tile Backsplash
You can upgrade the look of your kitchen without breaking the bank. Tile backsplashes are all the rage, and installing one is a fairly simple DIY project for a handy homeowner. Shimmery opalescent glass and soft natural stone tiles are wildly popular right now. Expect to pay between $300 and $1,100, depending on the type of tile you choose and the size of your kitchen. Professional installation could add as much as $800 to the overall project cost.
Install a Raised Flowerbed
Landscaping doesn’t have to be an all-encompassing task. You can boost your curb appeal and add a colorful focal point to your yard with a single raised flowerbed. Flowers, both perennials and annuals, grow better in raised beds because the soil drains well. Depending on your choice of materials, you can construct an 80 square foot raised bed for $400 to $1,200. Expect to pay $1,500 to $2,000 for professional installation.
Dress up Your Windows
If your home has an uninspiring front yard, add color and cozy cottage appeal with shutters or window boxes. This DIY upgrade will cost about $80 per window for plantation-style vinyl shutters, which come in a handful of pre-painted colors. Or, you can splurge and pay up to $400 per set for redwood shutters and achieve an upscale natural look. Top off the charm with window boxes that run $50 to $125 apiece.
Mount a Mini Bathroom Makeover
Total bathroom remodels can run upward of $10,000, but a mini bathroom makeover costs much less and can change the entire look and feel of the room. Replace an outdated vanity with a trendy granite-topped model (with pre-molded sink) for between $600 and $1,800, depending on size. Then, paint the bathroom a fresh new color and switch out towel bars and the toilet seat for an additional $200. You’ll have a whole new bathroom, complements of your tax refund.
Belly-Up to a Breakfast Bar
For a quick bite or a centrally located spot for the kids to do their homework, you’ll love the convenience of a breakfast bar. For the best results, consider installing the bar along the backside of a kitchen island or along an adjacent wall. The materials for a build-your-own bar start around $250, but you’ll spend as much as $1,500 for a pre-built model. For building reference, standard counter height is 36” (for use with chairs) and bar height is 40” (for use with barstools).
Related: 15 Fresh Takes on the Eat-In Kitchen
Add Interest with Wainscoting
Upgrade builder-grade interior walls with wainscoting to add classic style and a touch of elegance. Wainscoting, which measures 32” high, is available in preformed beadboard and ornate panel designs. The materials to build your own will run $5 to $12 per lineal foot, including the top chair board trim. While an enthusiastic DIYer can install wainscoting, less confident homeowners can have it professionally installed for an additional $3 to $5 per lineal foot.
Dress Up Sidewalks with Brick Edging
Enhancing the look of your landscape can be as simple as adding brick edging along the sides of your existing sidewalks. Brick adds a classic touch and visually widens the sidewalk, making it look more inviting. No professional installation is required, and you’ll pay anywhere from 60¢ up to $5 per brick paver, depending on quality and color. The sand you’ll need to stabilize the bricks can be bought in bulk from your local lumberyard for less than $2 per 5-gallon bucket.
Install a New Entry Door
Nothing will spiff up your curb appeal more quickly than replacing a drab entry door with a trendy new model. Steel security doors start around $1,000 and are available in a variety of colors and wood-look surface textures, while a real mahogany entry door, complete with matching sidelights, starts around $2,500. Professional installation will add another $300 to $500.
Add Convenience with a Garage Door Opener
If you’re tired of manually opening and closing your garage doors every time you leave or return home, make life easier by installing a garage door opener on each door. Openers run $200 to $350, and they come with complete installation instructions. If you prefer to have them professionally installed, plan to spend another $250 to $300 per opener.
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