Contractors Say These Easy Home Upgrades Make A Huge Impact & Are Under $35

Advice straight from the experts.

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When contemplating ways to either spruce up your place or cut down on monthly costs (or both), Bustle went straight to the experts and spoke to contractors who say these easy home upgrades make a huge impact — and as a bonus, these improvements are all under $35. Solutions range from spray foam sealant to prevent drafts to fillable paint pens to fix up wall flaws to outlet concealers that eliminate unsightly cords. Not to mention all manner of smart products to make your life simpler (plugs, bulbs, and even doorbells) and stylish decor such as donut vases or corduroy throw pillow covers that can seriously jazz up your space. Read on to learn of many more simple upgrades, all from the mouths of professionals.


These Outdoor String Lights That Cast A Warm White Glow

If you love your patio during the daytime but find it lacking in ambiance come evening, Ryan Farley, CEO of LawnStarter, has an easy and budget-friendly solution. “I have found that when it comes to your outdoor spaces like patios and porches, you can really overhaul the atmosphere simply by adding some warm LED lighting,” Farley tells Bustle. “The simple addition of this type of lighting can really pull together a cozy, comfortable space to spend time outside.”

These outdoor string lights are the perfect way to add that magical touch while ringing up at under $20. They emit a warm white glow and are completely weather-resistant and waterproof. The Edison-style exposed LED filament adds a vintage touch yet promises to last thanks to durable shatterproof plastic.


An Outdoor Smart Plug To Easily Create Lighting Schedules

Once you have your brilliant lighting set up, make it easy to set schedules or timers using this outdoor smart plug and effortlessly dial in that cozy atmosphere, as Farley recommends. The plug connects to your Wi-Fi and can be controlled remotely via the included app or through voice control from Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home Assistant. It comes with a high 4.7-star rating over 12,000-plus reviews and features a Wi-Fi range of up to 300 feet as well as weather resistance against splashes of water.


These Throw Pillow Inserts To Make Patio Furniture That Much More Cozy

Lounge in cozy comfort when you complement patio chairs and sofas with these fluffy throw pillow inserts. They come in a set of four for under $30 and contain soft micro-polyester filling within a waterproof exterior. Pair them with your favorite colorful or textural throw pillow cover to not only add comfort but also create an eye-catching style. They’re available in seven sizes.


A Door Draft Stopper For Comfortable Interior Temps

Andre Kazimierski, CEO of Improovy, tells Bustle, “Especially as we head into the cooler winter months, one of the most impactful home upgrades I would recommend is a door draft stopper (or several) for your drafty doors.”

This draft stopper from Holikme is made of silicone, can be cut to size, and does a great job of adhering to the bottom of your door without leaving a sticky residue. It moves smoothly across all kinds of flooring from hardwood to tile to vinyl and even carpet. Plus, as Kazimierski notes, this budget-friendly upgrade can also help lower your energy bills.


These Blackout Curtains That Provide Insulation

Another great way to make sure you’re getting the most out of your heating or cooling is to add these blackout curtains into the mix. With over 109,000 reviews and a high 4.7-star rating, these curtains are clearly a popular choice for blocking out nearly all UV light while coming in a range of sizes and color choices. The thermally regulating triple-weave polyester fabric is easy to keep clean since it’s conveniently machine-washable in cold water.


A Window Privacy Film That Blocks Heat & Harsh Light

This window privacy film installs easily using only water and is designed to not only keep out prying eyes but also to prevent harsh rays from heating up your space. Made of vinyl, it comes in a plethora of sizes and is a cinch to cut to your desired dimensions. It blocks up to 96% of UV rays and, because it uses static cling to mount, can be removed without causing any damage to your glass.


This Water Detector That Prevents Costly Damage

There’s truly nothing as upsetting as stumbling upon some serious water damage that’s been going on unbeknownst to you. Mike Grijalva, journeyman plumber and owner of Sacramento Plumbing Solutions, recommends opting for a water detector that will sound an alarm whenever it senses a leak or drip. “These can save you thousands in water damage,” says Grijalva. Place the battery-operated detector underneath pipes or appliances and adjust the alarm volume to sound anywhere from zero to 100 decibels.


A Shower Door Bottom Seal To Keep Bathroom Floors Dry

Take Grijalva’s advice to prevent expensive water damage by installing a shower door bottom seal for dry, safe, and mildew-free bathroom floors. The seal comes in various sizes to fit the width of your shower door and is made of vinyl to keep water from leaking during your shower. Trim it to suit your dimensions and easily push up the seal to securely clip onto the glass door.


This Bidet Attachment For Everyday Luxury

For a home upgrade that makes a difference every single day, look no further than a budget-conscious bidet. As Grijalva tells Bustle, “My customers love these and they also save money on TP while reducing environmental impact.” This non-electric bidet attachment offers both water pressure and nozzle angle adjustability and installs easily to any standard toilet. On top of costing less than $25, it also features a slim profile that won’t take up too much precious bathroom real estate.


A Set Of Floating Shelves To Add Meaningful & Stylish Decor

A floating shelf creates the perfect place to upgrade your home’s aesthetics with framed photos, collectibles, and personal items, says Jono Thornely, director of Correct Caulking. With that in mind, this set of U-shaped floating wall shelves comes in a grouping of three different sizes for even more style. Choose between either a black or white finish with the ability to mount securely thanks to the included screws and anchors.


These Matching Picture Frames For An Updated Look

Update walls, mantels, or sideboards with this set of picture frames that come in multiple finishes such as rustic brown, purple, or gold. They’re available in sizes ranging from 4-by-6 inches to 24-by-36 inches and can be mounted either horizontally or vertically as well as placed on surfaces using the built-in easel. Mix and match as you please to create a stunning and meaningful gallery wall.


A Sleek Paper Towel Holder To Save Kitchen Space

To preserve crucial countertop space, Thornely recommends, “This paper towel holder allows you to have a more clean and organized bathroom or kitchen. It has multiple installation options — vertically or horizontally, which can also save you space for other kitchen or bathroom essentials.” Made of strong stainless steel, the holder comes in three finishes (silver, gold, and black) to perfectly match your existing hardware and uses self-adhesive to mount.


This Under-Sink Organizer To Keep Supplies Tidy

Following Thornley’s suggestion to organize the kitchen or bathroom, this under-sink organizer keeps your supplies neat. It features two tiers with removable baskets and adjustable dividers so you can quickly find and grab what you need. There’s even a dry-erase space on the front of each basket so you can easily label the contents.


A Set Of Apothecary Jars For Vintage-Looking Storage

These beautiful apothecary jars with their vintage-inspired design show you that practical storage can still be extremely stylish. Available in a set of four and all made of glass, use them to store supplies such as Q-tips, cotton balls, or bath salts. The accompanying stainless steel lids come in six finishes such as black, bronze, or gray, and there are even waterproof chalkboard labels provided as well.


These LED Puck Lights To Add Warm Ambiance While Saving Energy

As a further home upgrade that won’t break your budget, Thornely suggests something like these LED puck lights to mount under your cabinets, in your kitchen, or even in your bathroom. “It does not only make your home look more aesthetic, but it also saves your energy consumption,” he says. The puck lights come in a set of three and require no wiring thanks to being battery-operated. They use either the included self-adhesive or screws to mount and can be tapped to turn on or set to automatic timers with the help of a remote.


A Motion-Activated Night-Light That Plugs Into Any Outlet

Another energy-saving light option comes in the form of this motion-sensing night-light that turns on automatically when there’s movement and off again after 60 seconds of stillness. It features two brightness levels and comes in a variety of soft colors such as warm white, amber, or blue. Plug it into any standard socket with the efficient LED light costing you little in energy bills.


The Outlet Concealer That Hides Unsightly Cords From View

Kimberly Greenwell, home education expert and host of My Southern Home, says, “One of my biggest pet peeves is seeing cords,” and she recommends this sleek outlet concealer. With over 56,000 Amazon ratings and 4.7 stars overall, it has earned some well-deserved popularity and conveniently plugs into any standard duplex outlet. It also comes with a cord concealer kit, complete with adhesive strips and cord clips.


A Cable Management Box That Cleans Up Cluttered-Looking Power Strips

To go one step further and hide bulky power strips from view, turn to this cable management box. It features a sleek, minimalist design and comes in a small and large size with cord outlets along the side. The lid helps to prevent dust accumulation yet also features vents to promote airflow and prevent overheating.


This Smart Switch To Control Your Lights Using Only Your Voice

Streamline your daily life with the simple addition of this smart switch recommended by Greenwell. Once installed, it connects to your Wi-Fi network and Amazon’s Alexa to give you full voice control over your lighting. “One of my favorite parts about this technology is it allows you to go room by room,” says Greenwell. “You can upgrade your entire home or the rooms you use the most.” Additionally, use Alexa to create routines or schedules for an effortless and energy-saving experience.


A Fillable Paint Pen For Detailed Touch-Ups

When it comes to detail-oriented cosmetic fixes such as paint imperfections and scratches, Matt DiBara, CEO of The Contractor Consultants, recommends a budget-friendly touch-up paint kit. This fillable paint pen is designed for just such jobs. Simply fill the pen with your paint of choice then paint away scuffs or scratches using the precision brush tip. The pen’s reservoir is airtight, meaning the paint will last for up to seven years for long-term touch-up use.


This Small Hole Repair Kit That Quickly Addresses Wall Damage

Those holes in your walls born of an accident or artwork that has since been moved can do a lot to detract from your home’s look. DiBara addresses this kind of cosmetic issue as well, telling Bustle, “Drywall repair kits are also a great option for fixing holes or other damage to your walls.” This small hole repair kit comes with everything you need, including an angled drywall sanding sponge, a 4-inch self-adhesive patch, a primer-enhanced spackling compound, and a putty knife. Simply paint over the fully repaired wall for a seamless result.


A Decorator Light Switch That Subtly Refreshes Each Room

Lest you think the smaller the problem area the less impact it has, DiBara suggests upgrading “outdated or dirty switch plates and outlet covers,” adding, “These small fixtures are often overlooked but can make a big difference in the overall appearance of a room.” This budget-conscious decorator light switch costs less than $10 and will lend a sparkling clean look to your outlets. It comes available in a midsize, oversize, or standard size, as well as in a variety of finishes from classic white to sleek gray to an almond shade.


This Wood Repair Kit That Comes With 18 Shades For A Perfect Match

Though subtle, small scuffs in your hardwood flooring can add up to an overall untidy look, and DiBara suggests a floor repair kit as an affordable fix. This one comes with wood fillers in 18 shades ranging from black to white maple as well as eight furniture markers, seven brushes, plastic scrapers, a wood putty, sandpaper, and a color chart. Use the wood fillers for deeper scratches while the markers are perfect for more superficial scuffs and a “now you see it, now you don’t” result.


A Smart Light Bulb With Customizability Via Remote Control

New advances in lighting allow for so much more customization among other perks, as Jeremy Lesher, co-owner and product manager at Bluegrass Foundation Repair, outlines. “Smart lighting can transform your home's ambiance and energy efficiency,” he says, also noting that they “allow you to control your lights remotely using a smartphone or voice commands with a device like Amazon Echo or Google Home.”

These LED smart light bulbs come in a pack of four for less than $15 and can do all of the above, complete with a huge reduction in energy usage. They cast a warm white glow with brightness adjustability and can conveniently be set to timers or schedules.


These Smart Plugs To Easily Control Appliances

For another way to dial in a perfectly curated home ambiance, these smart plugs are popular with over 50,000 ratings on Amazon. They come in a budget-friendly pack of four and allow you to plug in appliances such as fans, humidifiers, air conditioners, espresso machines, lighting fixtures, and more, so as to control them easily via the included app or voice control via your smart device. Set schedules, lighting scenes, and away modes, for example, to enjoy a consistently comfortable home environment.


A Set Of Modern Cabinet Pulls That Provide An Updated Look

Changing up the fixtures you interact with daily can not only add better functionality but can contribute to a reinvigorated feel. “Updating the knobs and handles on your cabinets and drawers can give your kitchen or bathroom a fresh look,” Lesher recommends.

These sleek cabinet pulls fit the bill perfectly as they come in a set of 30 for less than $30 and work to immediately update your cabinetry. Made of strong stainless steel, they feature a comfortable 5-inch handle and provide a contemporary look that fits in seamlessly with a range of existing aesthetics. Choose from three finishes: matte black, brushed brass, or satin nickel.


This Chalk-Style Paint With A Built-In Primer

Take Lesher’s recommendation of refreshing cabinetry to the next level with this chalk-style paint that will give old cabinets or furniture a second life. The paint features a built-in primer and top coat for ease of application and is made with an eco-friendly, low-odor formula. Once applied, it dries within 30 minutes and can be used on a range of materials from wood to laminate to metal.


A Peel-And-Stick Wallpaper That Looks Like Real Distressed Wood

If walls made of beachy wood planks or covered in chic vintage wallpaper aren’t exactly in the budget, Lesher advises, “Give your walls a makeover with peel-and-stick wall decals or wallpaper.” He adds, “These are easy to apply and remove, making them a cost-effective way to change the look of any room without a major renovation.”

This peel-and-stick wallpaper made of waterproof vinyl installs using self-adhesive and removes without leaving a trace of damage. It features a distressed wood pattern in a washed-out shade of white that’ll take you straight to a cozy Cape Cod cottage without having to leave your neighborhood.


This Small Area Rug To Add Texture & Warmth

This small area rug looks far more expensive than its $26 price tag and works to “instantly add warmth and style to a room,” as Lesher says. It’s available in seven different patterns and colors, such as a combination of white and royal blue or a multicolor mixed with cream. There’s a faded tone which adds a bit of vintage style and there’s even a nonslip backing to keep it securely in place. Plus, it’s easy to maintain due to machine washability.


A Pack Of Corner Grippers To Help Rugs Lay Flat

To keep those area rugs or runners in place, utilize these rug corner grippers that help them stay safely and stylishly flat. It comes in a pack of four with each gripper designed in a V-shape. The grippers stick to the rug using self-adhesive and keep the corners down without clinging to the floor. They’re safe to use on hardwood floors as well as on indoor or outdoor rugs alike.


This Smart Video Doorbell That Doubles As Home Security

For improvements that start on the front doorstep, Lesher advises, “Replace your traditional doorbell with a wireless doorbell that comes with various chimes and volume settings.” If you’re worried about this costing a fortune, fear not, as Lesher asserts, “Many affordable options on Amazon are easy to install and often include video features, allowing you to see and communicate with visitors at your door from your smartphone.” This smart video doorbell only costs $30, is a cinch to set up, and comes with amazing features such as two-way audio, human detection, night vision, weather resistance, cloud storage, and video calling.


A Set Of Solar Garden Lights That Magically Sway In The Breeze

When it comes to addressing garden upgrades, Ivo Iv, founder of Decor Home Ideas, offers Bustle a recommendation that’s both cost-friendly and eco-friendly. “Solar-powered LED garden stakes,” Iv suggests. “They're magical. They light up at night, making your garden look a bit whimsical.” These solar garden lights come in a set of two and each features flexible metal wires with LED bulbs attached at the end. Plant them amongst your foliage and let the solar panel that’s mounted on the stake charge during to day to provide a dancing warm white light at night.


These Peel-And-Stick Subway Tiles To Update Your Backsplash

If you thought your kitchen backsplash served as functional but negligible space, Iv tells Bustle, “A stylish backsplash can be the star of your kitchen.” He recommends a peel-and-stick option such as these faux subway tiles that are made of vinyl yet designed with 3-D texture that lends them a realistic look. They adhere easily to the wall and are both water and heat-resistant, making them perfect for the kitchen. Plus, they come in several finishes such as white, teal, or marble. As Iv says, “When friends or family drop by, it might just be the thing they can't stop talking about.”


A Minimalist Donut Vase That Acts As Stunning Decor

Jason Farr, CEO of Aviara Pavers, offers his advice for a simple yet effective upgrade. “I love a minimal yet chic hollow donut ceramic vase on the center coffee table,” he says. “One can decorate it with fresh flowers to add a pop of color to the space.” This extremely stylish white donut vase is made of ceramic with a slightly spackled, textured look. It comes in a small, medium, or large size, and is perfect for displaying minimalist flower arrangements or greenery. It’s available in black as well.


This Faux Baby’s Breath That Adds Elegance To Any Arrangement

When trying to decide what kind of flowers to display around the home, Farr recommends his personal favorite. “I personally love decorating vases with baby’s breath,” he says, noting that it adds “a style statement to a home with its minimal yet classy look.” For the same bit of elegance but with none of the maintenance, opt for this bunch of faux baby’s breath. Each bundle comes with 12 stems which are made of realistic-looking wrapped wire with silica gel flower heads.


A Throw Pillow Cover That Comes In Beautiful Shades

To add stylish pops of color around the house, per Farr’s suggestion, swap in this throw pillow cover that comes in a range of gorgeous tones. Choose from muted shades like sage green, burnt orange, and mustard yellow or rich colors like teal or burgundy. The cover, which is available in multiple sizes, comes in a set of two and is made of soft corduroy in a textured pattern for even more visual interest.


A Set Of Wall Mirror Tiles To Create A Statement Piece

Farr recommends a long wall mirror to open up smaller spaces with on-trend decor. He explains, “The mirror adds a minimalistic appeal to the home while making it bigger and spacious.” These wall mirror tiles come in a set of four 14-by-12-inch pieces and allow you to mount them wherever and in whatever configuration you like. They securely mount with double-sided stickers, and the mirror can be as large or as small as you want depending on how many tiles you choose.


These Furniture Grippers That Protect Floors

Prevent costly damage to precious floors by taking the advice of Todd Saunders, CEO of FlooringStores, who tells Bustle, “If you have hardwood floors or laminate floors, then adding felt covers to your chairs and furniture is a must.” These furniture gripper pads are made with a felt core and feature nonslip rubber on top and below. They’re pre-scored for easy cutting and can be used on hardwood in addition to tile, marble, laminate, linoleum, and concrete.


A Spray Foam Sealant That Prevents Leaky Drafts

There’s no doubt that watching your heating or cooling leak out of small cracks in windows is like watching hard-earned cash simply float away. Kent Boll, CEO of Service Today!, offers his solution, saying, “Seal gaps around windows with caulking to enhance energy efficiency and reduce drafts.” He recommends using something like this foam sealant with minimal expansion that’s designed to fill the spaces around windows and doors, forming an airtight seal. Use it on vinyl, wood, and metal frames.


This High-Pressure Shower Head That Conserves Water

As Boll points out, water is another resource that can be conserved to the benefit of your monthly budget. “By replacing your old shower head with one that uses less water, you can significantly decrease your overall water consumption and save money on utility bills,” he says. The high-pressure flow of this shower head requires less water yet still provides a relaxing, rainfall-like bathing experience. It installs within five minutes on any standard shower and comes in a gleaming chrome finish on top of lots of other choices like Egyptian gold or vintage oil-rubbed bronze.