Freshening Up

Inexpensive renovations that update any home

Cutline: This barn door kit retails at Lowe’s for as little as $300 and can be installed in one to two hours by a homeowner with basic tools.

By Sam Holcomb

A few months ago, I got a call from a regular client. I had already done several larger projects in his 1940s craftsman-style home, but in this case, he was calling to ask me to help update a few rooms without breaking the bank.

Walking through the house, we looked at a spare room that lacked privacy, a bathroom that hadn’t been updated in a few decades, and an entryway that lacked storage. And in each case we were able to come up with ideas that wouldn’t cost too much but would spruce up each of the spaces.

Each of these improvements cost less than $500, and though, in this case, they were done by a professional, each one could easily be completed by an intrepid DIYer:

Hang a barn door

Barn doors are hot right now. Not only are they functional, as a way of separating spaces such as pantries, hallways, and closets, but they look great and add a nice accent of wood or color to a room. In addition, according to a recent study done by Zillow, they can help a home sell up to 57 days faster.

Available in a myriad of styles, colors, woods, and finishes, these doors install quickly and easily on nearly any wall. Big box stores, such as Menards and Lowe’s, as well as local suppliers, such as 41 Lumber, sell these doors with included hardware for as little as $200 and can be installed by a homeowner in only a few hours by following the enclosed instructions.

In the case of my client, we installed a pair of barn doors as a way of creating a guest bedroom with a little more privacy.

Install a wood accent wall

Another exciting trend is the use of reclaimed wood to create a distinctive accent wall—and at $2-$12 per square foot, a homeowner has a lot of price options to choose from. On my projects, I have used reclaimed boards to create colorful ceilings, accent walls, decorative storage areas, and even custom headboards.

In a few hours, a DIYer can create any of these features with minimal tools. The first option, using only a stud finder, hammer, and finish nails, involves finding the studs and nailing each board in place. This works great for areas where gravity wants to fight you, such as ceilings and walls, but will work for any installation scenario. And if you own a nail gun, this method goes even faster.

The second option is to glue the boards in place. Using a caulking gun and construction adhesive (not wood glue), the adhesive is applied to the back of the board and then taped in place using painter’s tape. Once the first board’s glue dries, the process goes more quickly, as additional boards can be glued and taped in place on top of the first board that is now securely fastened. This option works well for places where nails are unwelcome, such as cabinetry or non-wood surfaces.

For my client’s craftsman-style home, we applied the boards to the back of a kitchen peninsula as a way of dressing up a breakfast bar.

Build open, floating shelves

Everyone has seen a shelf. Many have probably put one up in a closet. But to really up the ante, try building a floating shelf with no visible shelf brackets.

It’s easier than you think.

Most big box stores carry kits with all the parts and hardware required for installation, but you can also do it yourself using whatever lumber you have at your disposal.

First, mark-out on the wall where you want to put the shelf. Then find and mark the studs. Pre-drill holes into the wall along a level line and then screw six-inch lag bolts into the wall until only four inches are protruding from the drywall. Hold your shelf material up to the wall and mark where the lag bolts fall on the shelf. Then using an auger bit that is only slightly larger than the lag bolts, drill a four-inch deep hole straight into the back of the shelf. Next, try to slip the shelf over the lag bolts to make sure you have measured correctly. As a final step, squeeze a small amount of construction adhesive into the drilled holes in the shelf, slip it back onto the lag bolts, and then allow it to dry. Voila, you now have a beautiful floating shelf.

My client got a floating shelf on which to place keys and mail in their home’s entryway.

Lay new vinyl flooring

For many, hearing the words “vinyl flooring” conjures images of peeling rolls of outdated flooring in old kitchens and bathrooms. But todays vinyl flooring is a wholly different product. Modern vinyl flooring is installed as tongue-and-groove planks, much like hardwood flooring and comes in hundreds of colors and styles, from the real-wood looks of oak and maple to tile colors and patterns such as slate and marble.

In addition to looking amazing, this flooring is incredibly durable. If you want to put it in a bathroom or basement, it is 100 percent waterproof. If you have rowdy kids and pets, it is incredibly durable. And if mud and dirt are frequent guests at your house, it cleans easily.

Describing the installation process would take up more space than I have in this column, but suffice to say anyone can do it. I recommend searching the internet for how-to videos, and after 20 minutes of tutorials you’ll be ready to install a new floor in any room of your house.


Editor’s note: Holcomb is owner of Cherry Creek Construction in Marquette, which can be found online at

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