That warm breeze on your skin, the smell of freshly cut grass, and the sound of birds in the trees can only mean one thing: home improvement season is here! If you’re looking to do some work around your house on a tight budget, we’ve got you covered. We’ve put together this shortlist of five inexpensive home improvements that will have the biggest impact on your home’s look and feel without breaking the bank.
1. Pressure Wash and Refinish Your Deck
If you have a wooden deck, pressure washing and refinishing should be part of your yearly spring or summer routine. Your deck is exposed to the elements year-round, and without proper cleaning and sealing it will start to look less like a luxurious place to enjoy your yard and more like the deck of a battered pirate ship. Luckily, pressure washing and refinishing your deck are inexpensive and will instantly liven up your yard. If you don’t have a pressure washer, you can rent one from most local hardware stores for relatively cheap. While you’re at the store, pick up a can of exterior stain in your preferred color. Deck stain comes in three main types:
- Solid wood stain. You can think of solid wood stains like paint. Solid stain colors the wood and hides the grain, making it a good choice only if you don’t care about letting the natural wood show through. The benefit of solid stain is that it protects the wood for longer, 3–5 years on average.
- Semi-transparent wood stain. Semi-transparent stains let the grain show through somewhat but still color the wood. Unfortunately, semi-transparent stains are not as hearty as solid stains, so you’ll need to refinish more frequently. Most homeowners can expect to get 1–3 years out of semi-transparent stains, depending on the weather where they live.
- Clear sealer. If you don’t want to color your deck but still want to protect it from the sun and weather, a clear sealer is the right choice. These protect the wood less than solid or semi-transparent stains but have the big benefit of showing off the natural wood grain in all its glory. You’ll need to reapply clear sealer annually.
2. Replace Your Gutters
Replacing your gutters is one of those jobs that sounds scary but is actually pretty easy to do. There are really only six essential steps:
- Snap the gutter line. Snap a chalk line across the area where the gutter will sit. Make sure to set the slope to decrease about ½ inch for every 10 feet of length.
- Attach the brackets.
- Cut the gutter to the proper length.
- Drill holes for the downspouts. You’ll need a hole saw attachment for your drill for this step.
- Install the gutter. Make sure to attach the end caps before installing the gutter.
- Attach the downspouts.
The gutters themselves are relatively cheap, and the only special equipment you need is a hole saw for your drill, making this one of the cheapest home improvements you can make.
3. Complete an Air Conditioning System Tune-Up
If you have an HVAC system, consider giving it a tune-up before the summer heat kicks in. Many homeowners don’t realize that their air conditioning system needs regular maintenance to continue operating efficiently. Doing the maintenance yourself is usually not an option — because it will void your warranty — but even having a professional come to service your AC unit is not that expensive. Your AC company may offer free tune-ups under warranty, and some Pennsylvania home warranty options include coverage for air conditioning systems.
A complete AC tune-up will usually include:
- Condenser coil maintenance
- A coolant check
- Thermostat calibration
- Duct inspection
- Electrical assessment
- Motor maintenance
A well-tuned AC working at maximum efficiency will keep your house cooler during the hot Pennsylvania summer and save you between 10% and 20% on your yearly air conditioning bill.
4. Update Your Windows
Drafty windows are usually thought of as a winter problem, as it’s very easy to notice drafts when icy air is blasting into your home through a poorly sealed window. The problem is equally detrimental to your summer comfort since your AC will have to work much harder to keep your house cool if some of the cool air it generates is constantly escaping. The summer is the perfect time to bite the bullet and replace old windows since the warm weather means you won’t have to deal with freezing temperatures while you’re removing the old windows and installing the new ones. Early summer is a better time for this project than midsummer if you want to avoid strenuous labor during the hottest months. Replacing your windows can get very expensive, so this home improvement might not be in the cards if you’re on an extremely tight budget. However, the improved temperature stability you’ll enjoy with new windows helps to offset the initial cost.
5. Paint Your Home’s Exterior
Painting your home’s exterior is a big job, but that doesn’t mean it has to be an expensive one. Painting services are exorbitantly expensive, but buying a few cans of paint, some brushes, and a sprayer is an inexpensive way to give your home a facelift. What money you save by painting your house yourself you’ll pay for with time. Be prepared to spend at least an entire weekend painting, and probably two weekends if you have an average or above-average sized house. Painting your exterior walls during the summer can be tricky because most paints recommend against painting when it’s hot and humid. This is another home improvement project that’s best suited for early summer. If you have to paint during the heat of the summer you should expect to experience longer dry times and may need to apply more coats.