Renting and Renovation: Economical remodeling for a home you don’t own

With home prices and mortgage rates soaring, it’s no surprise many Americans are renting rather than buying (or continuing to rent for the time being). Unfortunately, rental properties aren’t always in the best condition, and as a renter, you can expect to get stuck with what you get.

Fortunately, this is often wrong. It’s entirely possible to upgrade a rental home to feel like a home—without investing too much money or jeopardizing your security deposit.

Here are five tenant-friendly remodeling ideas. From freshening up your walls to replacing your window treatments, each of these repairs are simple enough to do yourself, yet meaningful enough to make a noticeable difference in your daily life.

1. Refresh the walls

Contrary to popular belief, many landlords will allow you to paint your walls—as long as you get prior permission. Some may require you to paint them back to their original color before moving out, while others may not. According to HomeAdvisor, painting a room yourself (without hiring a professional) should cost between $200 and $300.

If painting isn’t an option, consider using peel and stick wallpaper instead. Not only is it easy to install and available in a myriad of colors and patterns, but it can also be removed when your lease ends. Plus, it’s inexpensive, starting at around $25 per roll, which covers around 30 square feet.

If you like the exposed brick look, imitation brick panels are another option – plywood-like sheets of plastic, or sometimes even thin layers of real material that are attached to a wall with screws.

2. Update buttons and hardware

Replacing the old hardware on your cabinets, drawers, and doors is another quick and easy rental repair. Whether it’s in your kitchen, bedroom, or bathroom, replacing outdated doorknobs, cabinet pulls, and drawer pulls can instantly modernize your space.

Even better, as long as you keep the old hardware, you can put it back on before you move out—and your landlord won’t be any the wiser (unless you drill new holes). New knobs, handles, and grips vary quite a bit in price, starting at around $1 to $2 each (according to Angi) and going up to $100 and up.

3. Change the shower heads

If your rental comes with old showerheads, it can cause more than a cosmetic problem. After years of heavy use, water fittings can deteriorate, leading to leaks, mold growth and poor water pressure. Fortunately, you may be able to solve some of these problems by replacing your outdated showerheads.

The process is simple and generally takes less than an hour. You’ll need a few basic tools and supplies, including electrical tape, pliers, a wrench, thread seal tape, and a new shower head. The total cost will depend on the type of shower head you choose, but you should be able to get this upgrade for less than $100. And if you keep your old shower head, you can swap it out before you move out and take your new one with you.

4. Add temporary curtains

The right window treatments can make or break a room. However, many landlords in this department prioritize function over style, leaving renters with unsightly blinds that don’t quite look right. Unfortunately, you often cannot remove them. “It may surprise you that changing window treatments isn’t allowed in most leases,” said Aaron Lebowski, a certified interior designer at Juliei Salone, a home design website.

But there are a few workaround options. Instead of removing the blinds, you can cover them up with temporary curtains—as long as you don’t poke holes in the wall or window frame.

There are several ways to do this, including the use of self-adhesive command hooks or pull rods. Cost varies depending on the curtain and hanging method you choose, but you can get this upgrade for $50-$100. In any case, it’s a good idea to let your landlord know so they won’t be surprised when they come by, Lebowski says.

5. Attach the floors

Not crazy about the floors in your rental property? There are many temporary options that can transform a floor, and therefore the entire space. For example, you can arrange carpet tiles (precut squares of carpet that fit together to cover your floor) in a way that makes any room feel warm and cozy. Or you can use peel and stick vinyl flooring to add a stylish touch to your space. Similar to peel-off wallpaper, this type of flooring has an adhesive backing and comes in a roll that can be cut to the dimensions of your space. Although vinyl, it looks like wood, ceramic tile and other traditional flooring.

“Glue-down floor tiles are easy to find and come in an amazing array of colors and patterns,” said Volodymyr Barabakh, co-founder and project manager at Structural Beam, a Chicago-based steel fabrication and general contractor. “Not only does it give you the opportunity to add your own personal touch to your rental accommodation, but it also allows you to really step out of your comfort zone without having to commit long-term to any of the furnishing changes made.”

As you might expect, the cost of renovating your floors depends on the type of material and the size of your space. However, you can find carpet tile and peel-and-stick flooring for around $1 to $2 per square foot.

Closing word on the renovation of a rental apartment

There are countless ways to renovate a rental home and improve your living experience—without breaking the bank. Before embarking on any remodeling projects, however, it’s always a good idea to review any ideas from the owner of your rental property. “Talk to your landlord about the updates you want to make and see if they’re willing to work with you. If so, try to come up with a plan that makes you both happy,” says Chloe Hughes, editor-in-chief of Foter, a design and interiors magazine. That way you don’t run the risk of voiding your lease or losing your security deposit.

And she recommends that if your landlord agrees, make sure you get their approval in writing.

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