Q: We've just purchased an older home that's truthfully pretty ugly. We don't have a lot of cash to upgrade or beautify, but we know some improvements must be made. Any ideas to help out our budget? - Linda and Louie Lackluster
A: Dear Mr. and Mrs. L: I'm certainly no decorator or contractor yet I don't want the new neighbors throwing mudpies when you exit your home.
I've checked with a couple of friends who do answer to those professional names, and they came up with some pretty good advice.
Obviously, exterior and interior paint cover a multitude of sins, plus it's the cheapest and easiest way to give your house a makeover. When the newly painted outside looks pretty and clean, then bye-bye mudpies.
If necessary, ceilings come next on the agenda. After repainting, they're the most inexpensive major improvement you can make to any room. Replace dated popcorn/pebbly ceilings
or those "drop" ones made of panels. They can be demolished and replaced at reasonable cost in only two or three days.
Don't forget to shop around.
In addition, cracked plaster ceilings are easily fixed and - guess what? - more new paint hides the repair.
Not much is worse than an old, dingy kitchen, often the most used space for families to gather. Brighten up the eyesore for well under $5,000 if the appliances still work OK.
For example, instead of tearing down cabinets, once again use new paint to cover the flaws and dirt once you've cleaned the latter as best you can.
Another quick-fix-me-up is to replace the cabinet doors, such as by removing the panels and adding glass fronts.
Even countertops are easy to change by refinishing and sealing.
And if you like backsplashes, they're an attractive alternative to cover smaller areas of wall space. Don't forget your local home improvement store can also offer some great suggestions.
If your house contains a small kitchen and a separate dining room, knock down the wall between the two to offer lots more space for the kitchen and dining area. And by the way, while it's usually not a structural wall between the two, check to be sure before heaving the sledge hammers.
Good luck on these simple renovations that will help to turn an ugly house into a lovely home.
Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at www.timesfreepress.com under Local Business. E-mail her at email@example.com.