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6 Modest DIY Home Improvements For A 1-Year House stay

Moving. It’s such a fun activity, especially with a baby on the way. Not that it’s impossible. We are now well into our fourth week of slowly moving things out of our tiny 40m² apartment and into my late grandmother’s house.

Besides looking into what to get for our little girl, we are also improving my grandmother’s house, fitting it to our taste when we finally settle in. We won’t be putting in a new kitchen or completely redo wallpaper, but we make 6 modest home improvements to make this old house (build in the ‘60s) somewhat modern.

Mind you, modest compared to complete remodeling or renovation. Since it’s not our house we couldn’t break open floors or put new piping. We did still spend some money to make it safe and good to stay in for at least a year. These changes are thus specific to our situation and can’t always be used for your situation. Nevertheless, I hope you can get some inspiration or at the very least see how we improved our living conditions moving into an old house.

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Our 6 simple and inexpensive home improvements

My grandmother’s house was build in the 1960s and thus on the older side already -over 60 years, can you imagine-. This also means quite some elements in the house itself are outdated and sometimes downright dangerous, especially for a family with a newborn.

Baby + Old house = bad combo

To prevent serious accidents from happening we decided to not only move our furniture and paraphernalia but also do some home improvements. A big house does mean more expenses, especially for improvements, however small they may be. This is a big change from the 40m² rental apartment we came from. Though for us, the benefits outweigh the extra costs we have to make.

Improvement 1

Changing wall sockets and light switches

Wall sockets can be very dangerous for a baby. Especially older ones don’t have the proper safety features to prevent electrocution. This was the case at my grandmother’s house. All of the sockets didn’t have an earthing nor build-in protection against putting objects in the openings. The first we did was replace all the old sockets with the latest ones and add earthing.

The switches were less important safety-wise but replacing them with newer ones gives the house just that little touch of modernity.

Prices fluctuate depending on which sockets and switches you get but some basics ones don’t have to be expensive to make a difference.
We got basic Niko white switches costing 8.05 EUR/switch. The cover plates for the switches are 1.25 EUR/plate.

Switches: 15 x 8.05 EUR = 131.85 EUR
cover plates: 15 x 1.25 EUR = 30 EUR
Total: 139.50 EUR (incl. VAT)

Improvement 2

Replacing incandescent lights with led lights

My grandmother was a big fan of saving money. She would not only wash her cloths by hand using water from her own well, she would let it air dry winter or summer. So it was very surprising to me that she never bothered with using energy saving lights and just stick to incandescent lights.

I can only guess for the reason but most likely she didn’t think the cost of LED lights outweight the energy saving. She barely turned on her lights after all. She’d rather use a flash light to walk around her house in the dark -I wish I was joking!- than to use the lights.

We are clearly different. One of the first things we did was order LED ligths for all of the fixtures in the house. Because most of them hold at least 4 lights it was overkill to put them all. We decided to save a bit and not get as many lights as there are holders for the lights. We ended up buying these LED-lights at Amazon:

Next to those we also got some rechargable LED bars for our walk-in closests and a darker spot at the kitchen counter:

All together it cost 157.31 EUR to replace the older lights with new LEDs.

Improvement 3

Moving around or repurpose the furniture in each room

Free. Is what it costs to move the existing furniture around and replan the existing rooms. There isn’t anything complicated about it but it can really make the room feel new.

We did this for the living room, the bed room and the kitchen. Of course, on top of that we did some extra stuff to spruse things up, but the biggest change was a free one.

Improvement 4

Getting simple decoration such as picture frames and plants

This is a cheap way to make any room look fresher. While we aren’t changing the wallpaper or repainting the walls, we did get some simple wall decoration and simple ornaments from IKEA. Together with real plants that help clean the air the rooms instantly turn more modern yet with a classic touch thanks to the original wallpaper.

On top of that, we went to Action to buy simple wooden picture frames that we can hang in all the rooms to put posters or personal pictures in. We already got a lovely poster to hang above the crib framed in a simple wood frame. To help organize the cupboards and open shelves we got Curver plastic woven boxes that keep small bits and pieces together.

It’s a bit difficult putting a number on this as we also got some general stuff that we didn’t get specifically for the house but I’ll give it a shot anyway:

  • TORKIS – 12.99 EUR
  • SANDVIVA x 2 – 6.00 EUR
  • BLASKA – 1.00 EUR
  • STOPP x 2 – 5.00 EUR
  • PJÄTTERYD – 12.99 EUR
  • TROMMA – 2.00 EUR
  • TACKAN – 0.69 EUR
  • HIMLEÅN – 3.00 EUR
  • TEKLA – 0.50 EUR
  • TRAMPA – 4.99 EUR
  • VARIERA – 7.98 EUR
  • GURLI – 3.00 EUR
  • LEIKNY – 5.99 EUR
  • RYET LED – 6.00 EUR
  • HÅLLBAR – 4.00 EUR

TOTAL: 80.63 EUR

Improvement 5

Install WiFi (and pull some extra ethernet cables)

A given for a 2021 home. While the internet wasn’t really a thing in 1960, it very much is in 2021. My grandmother had a TV subscription, but she never bothered getting internet. Luckily thanks to the TV, the cables are all there and it’s just a matter of activating it. By the way, this will also be the date that we officially move. As we all know, once your internet moves, so do you.

I think we all know that WiFi is a must. Thanks to the pandemic I have been working from home since March 2020 and it’s clear that this will become the standard moving forward. Moving freely around the house with my laptop will become a must once the baby is born, but WiFi is included in the installation since the model has it. I already have a router so extending wifi throughout the house will be easy.

The move from the apartment to the house will cost us 59 EUR (Proximus).

Improvement 6

Modernize older rooms

I left this last improvement vague on purpose. Depending on the home you have different rooms or in best case none at all where you need to provide specific modernizations.

In the case of my grandmother’s house, we specifically had to improve the bathroom. While it had all the necessary basics. There were some key points that were severely lacking that could even be a potential safety hazard.

While I already mentioned the electricity as a point that needs specific attention, the boiler is another big point that can be dangerous. The old boiler worked on gas, and while this is fine in theory, it needed good airflow and this was an issue in the old house. If the airflow somehow becomes suboptimal it could result in CO poisoning and thus death!

We obviously had to replace it as it was just too dangerous. Instead of a gas boiler, we opted for an electric one that has a 200L reservoir. A new gas boiler could be an option if we knew we would stay in the house longer and we would buy it ourselves, but as this is not the case we opted for a cheaper solution that would still give us warm water on demand.

Even this new electric boiler wasn’t “cheap” of course. We opted for a Bulex electrical 200 L boiler costing 399 EUR. Including some piping this comes at 420 EUR:

Luckily, this big expense was covered by my father as a quick way to renovate the house for a future sale and to prevent possible CO-poisoning.

Summary

And there you have it, 6 simple and cheap ways we changed an old house and made it our own. Some are clearly more expensive than others but overall we were able to keep the expenses to a minimum, especially compared to a more extreme makeover. So what is the total?

  1. 139.50 EUR
  2. 157.31 EUR
  3. 0.00 EUR
  4. 80.63 EUR
  5. 59 EUR
  6. 420 EUR

Total = 856,44 EUR. Deducting the boiler covered by my father we get 436.44 EUR in modest and DIY renovations for our temporary house.

I'm a developer for a major financial institution in Belgium that is present in over 40 countries. I have over 8 years of working experience in the development of customer applications focussing on all aspects of banking. This helped me gain a deep understanding of the inner workings of a commercial bank. All of this experience in both banking and life culminates in this blog about personal finance and my fight towards FIRE.

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