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You don’t have to spend a fortune to make updates to your home, and even an arrival of a small amount of cash from a tax refund can make many small home projects possible. According to the IRS, the average refund is expected to be more than $3,000 this year, which is plenty to paint a room, add a feature wall, or improve your home’s security.
If you’re looking to spruce up your house and boost your homeowner equity at the same time, keep reading. The following 18 projects all cost less than the average tax refund, and they can be completed quickly.
1. 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 like this option available at Amazon 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: Solved! The Best Kitchen Island Size
2. 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 house painter may charge around $3,000 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.
3. 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 to add texture and visual interest to a room. This design element is perfect for traditional, modern farmhouse, and country-contemporary homes. Shiplap is affordable and makes a good DIY project—materials cost $2 to $7 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
4. 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 achieve the look 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 $22 to $30 per linear foot for the beams, which are DIY-friendly and come with installation instructions. Professional installation will add another $2 to $5 per lineal foot.
5. 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 when you want to create the right atmosphere for forging friendship and camaraderie. For $1,400 or less, depending on the materials you choose, you can build your own fire pit and add a whole new dimension to after-dusk entertaining.
RELATED: No Money to Burn? 9 Fire Pits You Can Afford
6. 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. Among the trendy options, vertical subway tiles, shimmery opalescent glass, and soft natural stone tiles are popular right now. Expect to pay between $3,600 and $1,350, depending on the type of tile you choose and the size of your kitchen. Professional installation could add as much as $1,000 to the overall project cost.
7. Install a Raised Flower Bed
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 flower bed like this highly rated option available at Amazon—a favorite in our researched buyer’s guide. If you choose to design and build your own, depending on your choice of materials, you can construct an 80-square-foot raised bed for about $800 to $1,200. Expect to pay $1,500 to $2,000 for professional installation.
8. Dress Up Your Windows
If your home has an uninspiring front yard, consider adding color and cozy cottage appeal with shutters or window boxes. This DIY upgrade costs about $100 to $300 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.
RELATED: 20 Plants That Are Perfect for Window Boxes
9. Mount a Mini Bathroom Makeover
Total bathroom remodels can run upward of $11,000, 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 quartz-topped model (with pre-molded sink) for between $500 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, thanks to your tax refund.
10. Belly Up to a Breakfast Bar
For a quick bite or a centrally located spot for the kids to do their homework, you may love the convenience of a breakfast bar. To integrate the addition into the current floorplan, 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 may spend as much as $1,500 for a pre-built model. For building reference, standard counter height is 36 inches (for use with chairs) and bar height is 40 to 42 inches (for use with barstools).
RELATED: 15 Fresh Takes on the Eat-In Kitchen
11. Add Interest with Wainscoting
Upgrade builder-grade interior walls with wainscoting to add classic style and a touch of elegance. Wainscoting, which measures 32 inches high, is available in preformed beadboard and ornate panel designs. The materials to build your own will run $7 to $40 per square 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 $5 to $6 per square foot.
12. 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 can 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 a local lumberyard for less than $2 per 5-gallon bucket.
13. Install a New Entry Door
If you want to spiff up your curb appeal quickly, consider 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 $3,000. Professional installation will add another $300 to $500.
RELATED: 14 Eye-Catching Options for Your Front Door
14. 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 like this one from our researched guide to the best garage door openers. Openers run $150 to $500, and they come with complete installation instructions. If you prefer to have them professionally installed, plan to spend another $250 to $450 per opener.
15. Create a Compost Bin
Upgrade your gardening game and decrease your impact on the planet by adding a compost bin to your yard. While you can build a compost bin from pallets for minimal cost, there are off-the-shelf options that range from $50 to $150 or more. A favorite in our researched guide to the best compost bin options, this 37-gallon tumbling composter offers an easy way to store and rotate the compost.
16. Stage a Pantry Makeover
Take control of the pantry and customize food organization with shelves and bins that makes every day meal prep easier. Building a completely new walk-in pantry can cost from $1,000 to $3,000, but simply adding strategic DIY shelves, labels, and bins to an existing pantry costs much less. Check out some of our pantry product picks and the full Elfa pantry system from the Container Store in our article on pantry organization ideas.
17. Upgrade the Sump Pump
Consider storm prep as a wise investment for that little stash of tax refund cash. While there are many ways to secure a home from potential storms, one essential way for many is having a reliable sump pump. If you already have a sump pump, but notice there are more storms lately, consider upgrading it to a smart sump pump that provides users updates on a smartphone or a water-powered version that doesn’t need a battery change. For example, this smart sump pump in our researched guide to the best sump pumps costs less than $300. Professional installation can add $800 or more to the cost.
18. Install a Smart Security System
Home security can be a smart investment. If you don’t have a home security system in place, your tax refund could make that happen. While there are a variety of ways to secure a home, a security camera system is among the easiest to install. A typical installation can cost about $1,500, with each camera and the size of the home affecting the overall cost. For those who are new to security systems, a starter kit like this one that is the top overall pick in our researched guide to home security systems starts at about $600 and includes two door and window sensors, a flood sensor, and a motion detector.