Home Made

Thinking about a remodel? Tired of your circa-1985 kitchen? Want to jazz up your walls or have the house all your friends are talking about? We’ve consulted the experts, tracked down the craftspeople, crunched the numbers, and shared our own DIY stories. Ready, set, renovate.

April 2012

Renovation Redux

Denverite Kayleen McCabe hosts the DIY Network’s Rescue Renovation, which was recently renewed for its fifth season.

The premise: McCabe “saves” homeowners who have botched their renovations with a seven-day plan to patch up the problem and transform the room. She’s rescued more than 50 metro-area homes, so we picked this handywoman’s brain for ideas to pull off DIY home projects that won’t break the bank.

Prep Work

Before starting, contact your electrician and plumber to ensure that your furnace, hot water heater, and electric panel are all updated and to code (this will typically mean adding electric outlets). For example: You’re thinking about adding lighting in your basement; is there enough power in the box? Or, you want to install dueling showerheads—got enough water pressure to enjoy? “Investing in this beforehand will help with surprise costs down the road,” McCabe says.


“Have a plan before you put a sledgehammer through a wall,” McCabe says, “and don’t assume until you’ve shopped around that a project is outside your budget. It sounds like a no-brainer, but if it were, I wouldn’t have a show to host.” Try these places for deeply discounted appliances, furniture, and supplies donated by homeowners and contractors: Bud’s Warehouse (4455 E. 46th Ave., 303-296-3990, budswarehouse.org) and Habitat for Humanity ReStore (multiple locations, habitatmetrodenver.org). Plus, the “ding and dent” sections of Home Depot and Lowe’s are stocked with goods like drywall with a bent corner and “oops” paint returned by other customers (multiple locations; homedepot.com, lowes.com).


• Think Cheap ($50 to $300) Paint cabinets, add new hardware, refinish countertops, and add new lights in subtle areas such as underneath cabinets and pantries. “Well-planned lighting can truly make a space feel new,” McCabe says.

• Stretch the Budget ($300 and Up) Fully replace countertops (try concrete for an affordable, modern alternative to granite), cabinet doors, and sink and faucet (brushed nickel won’t show fingerprints). Coordinate all appliances (try the Sears Outlet on Osage Street). “The right mixer can do for a kitchen what a new couch does for a living room,” McCabe says. Don’t be afraid to spray paint the appliances you have with professional-grade appliance paint, available at any big-box store. “With light, even coats, the finish looks new,” she says.


Think Cheap Painting is a good way to add life. Try a whitewash; the wearing on the floors can distress them for rustic charm.  

• Stretch the Budget Restain or refinish your hardwood floors; or, install an engineered “click-and-lock” floor—a hardwood option you can glue down over a concrete base (check out the Lumber Liquidators at I-25 and East 51st Avenue).


• Think Cheap Consider making your own wall treatments. OSB (oriented strand particleboard) and plaster provide a cool texture. “I’ve done it in the past with a knife,” McCabe says. “Make swooping arcs in the plaster for a Venetian plaster effect, and you can hand-stain it and scratch it for a 3D effect. It’s like art.” Then, update or paint your outlet covers to match.

• Stretch the Budget Add insulation if you’re doing completely new walls and have open studs, joists, or rafters. “It’s a fantastic investment for maintaining a consistent temperature, and for sound reasons,” McCabe says.


• Think Cheap Change to LED bulbs for more natural light, and add dimmable switches for valuable ambience options.

• Stretch the Budget Update your fixtures. Add something fancier, like new pendants or visually interesting features. “Adding an unusual light fixture is a great way to do something ‘crazy’ to a room without going overboard,” McCabe says. “You can treat it like it’s a piece of art.” (McCabe suggests visiting the design and antique district along South Broadway.)