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Renovate - the right way

Twins Jonathan and Drew Scott, hosts of Property Brothers and Buying and Selling on HGTV, give 10 tips for tackling the tough job of home improvement.

Oct. 11, 2012   |  
Property Brothers
Twins Jonathan and Drew Scott, hosts of Property Brothers and Buying and Selling on HGTV. / David Yellen / USA Weekend

Bonus tip: Declutter!

Getting rid of excess stuff is one of the best ways to give your home a brand-new feel.

A few tips:

Check reality. Everyone is biased about his or her home, so have a brutally honest friend or a Realtor tell you what furniture and knickknacks must go.

Open up. If you ever have to shimmy sideways to get through a room, it’s too cramped. (You don’t have to have a huge dresser!)

Store everything. Keep shelves clean and organized. Use movable storage (wheeled) in multi-purpose space, like an office/playroom.


Do-it-yourselfers always ask us how they can make their homes more beautiful. The first thing we say: Figure out what you can’t do yourself. Smart DIYers know which tasks to delegate to a professional.

Whether you do some of it, all of it or none of it yourself, when the space is transformed, you may find yourself saying, “You mean we could’ve been living in this place all along?”

Paint. This simple thing makes a huge difference — and it’s something you can do yourself. A good paint job completely changes the mood of a room. Use a bold contrasting feature wall to really create impact. To start, go to a website such as and upload a photo of your room. Then you can “try on” different paint colors using a virtual version of your own walls.

Research. Too many times we’ve seen people work hard on DIY renovations that, frankly, don’t look great. It’s usually because they didn’t choose the right materials — they wound up with basic-grade products because they rushed. Our advice is to really study the options for each feature — faucets, drawer pulls, cabinets, colors, tiles, everything — and how they will interact with one another. If you don’t know where to start, Google “dream kitchen” (or bathroom or bedroom) for ideas. Use your favorites as a blueprint, and the room will look as if you used a designer.

Prioritize. Think about where to spend money. The kitchen is a great space to add value to your home. People often think the cost will be more than $10,000 to replace cabinets, but it can be $4,500 if you install them yourself. In fact, some cabinets come with online tutorials, which makes them as easy to assemble as IKEA furniture. (We don’t recommend installing your own stone countertop: If it cracks, you’re in trouble.)

Pad your budget. Research costs then add 15% just in case. With most renovations, an unhappy surprise or two will come up. The older the home, the more surprises, so count on 20% for older homes.

Use lighting. Most people don’t understand all that can be accomplished with lighting. It can accent a target (like a painting) or illuminate the whole room. Think about lighting design as much as you would about overall design — darkness does not create a happy space. There are a slew of modern lighting choices for next to nothing in big-box stores. And installing them can be an easy DIY project. (Just be sure to turn off the electricity.)

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Think about layout. If a kitchen is dated in color and style, that’s easily remedied with a fresh coat of paint and new hardware. But if you’re refinishing a room that’s plagued with a bad layout, you’re just wasting your money. It’s better to put that cash toward a renovation that includes a reconfiguration.

Freshen tiles. Bathroom floors can look dated with dirty grout. Use a floor steamer (rent one) to saturate the grout. Then soak up the water with a clean white towel. If you have ugly lime-green bathroom tile from a few decades ago but you don’t have the budget to replace it, we recommend finding a professional to recoat the surface with specialized finishes (search online for “ceramic tile refinishing”). If tiles are in good shape, they’ll look beautiful.

Reupholster. When we do a makeover on TV, we can often reuse at least 50% of a homeowner’s furniture, reupholstered or refurbished. And these sorts of projects are definitely within the DIY realm.

Look outside. A great way to expand space is with sliding glass walls, making the patio or deck feel like an extension of the indoor living area. Furnish with weather-resistant fabrics and materials in styles you’d want indoors. They look nicer and are way more comfortable than blocky outdoor furniture. (Buy outdoor pieces in winter and you can save up to 20%.)

Get free advice. Before doing anything, call on the pros. Most big-box stores have designers on-site for consultation. Get their advice, even if you’re doing it DIY. Same is true at paint stores. You can even get free advice from us on Facebook and Twitter, @_DrewScott or @MrSilverScott.

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