10 smart, low-cost home improvements

Wooden toolbox filled with tools

You can spiff up your home without spending tens of thousands of dollars renovating a kitchen or adding a family room.

We have home improvements that will make your home more comfortable and appealing for less than $2,000 -- a lot less in most cases.

Improvement 1. Paint a room. This is the simplest, least expensive way to update and bring new life to any part of your home. To see what almost any shade might look like in different types of rooms, use the Sherwin-Williams Color Visualizer.

Improvement 2. Replace your most worn-out carpeting. Loop carpeting is great for high-use areas such as family rooms, because it's so durable. Twist carpet is softer to walk on and a better choice for bedrooms. But whatever style and color you choose, getting rid of stained and dated flooring can make a world of difference. Expect to pay about $20 per square yard installed.

Improvement 3. Fix a cracked walkway or patio. Instead of pouring fresh concrete, use pretty pavers. The possibilities are endless -- bricks, stone, patio tiles -- and will have a major impact on your home's curb appeal.

Improvement 4. Add more insulation. Helping your home battle the elements will make it cheaper to heat and cool, and easier to maintain a comfortable temperature in every room. Most attics can be upgraded for less than $2,000. To figure out how much insulation you need based on where you live, check out guidelines from the U.S. Energy Department.

Improvement 5. Stop drafts around doors and windows. Caulking and weather stripping can cut utility bills and keep that cold shiver from running down your neck. If you're not sure where to start, get a home energy audit to point out the gaps and help you stop leaks before they start.

Improvement 6. Do a mini-makeover of your kitchen. Complete renovations are expensive, but small changes can still give the room a totally new feel. Susan Serra of The Kitchen Designer suggests a few easy and cheap DIY projects: Change the hardware on kitchen cabinets ($100); paint the cabinets ($150); add new mosaic tile backsplash ($200); install new lighting ($100).

Improvement 7. Plant a tree. It will enhance the look of your yard and grow into a natural insulator. Plant it on the south side of your home, if you can. That way, the tree shades your house in the summer but allows sunlight to stream through in the winter when you need it most.

Improvement 8. Replace light fixtures. Taking out that brassy chandelier and replacing it with a sleek, modern fixture can instantly update a room. How much you spend is up to you; options are endless at prices that go from $50 to the thousands. You'll find lots of ideas at Lighting Universe. Just remember to be careful and make sure the circuits are shut off before you get going.

Improvement 9. Redecorate a bathroom. Paint the walls. Replace the lights. Install new faucets. Hang a new shower curtain. Put down new rugs. Amazing things can happen to your dull, dingy bathroom without spending a fortune.

Improvement 10. Organize your garage. Getting rid of all the clutter will make tools and paint cans easier to find. And who knows, maybe your car can finally fit inside. The cost depends on what you're adding. Cabinets? Free standing shelves? Plastic bins? Customized system? For a list of options, go to doityourself.com.

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