3 Ways to Upcycle for Home Improvement

By Emma Castleberry

Home improvement projects can be fulfilling, exciting, fun… and expensive.

Most people have a long list of things to fix and improve around the house. But with the cost of materials and labor, these projects can get expensive quickly. For most of us, a full kitchen remodel probably isn’t in this month’s budget.

But not all projects have to be expensive or even labor-intensive. There are plenty of small, affordable ways to spruce up your home this fall by using materials you might already have around the house. If not, there are plenty of places to find the materials without breaking the bank.

You don’t even have to be crafty to give your home a little life this season. Clarissa Edelen, owner of Fabulous Finds Consignment in Longmont, says it’s amazing what you can do with your existing furniture.

You can do a lot on a budget by just reworking a space,” she says. “You can cut down on an expensive remodel. It’s amazing how much moving your furniture around in different rooms can make it feel new. Where you think you have to recreate everything, you don’t. Just relocating things is a really great way to do it with a budget.”

Re-organizing furniture and decorative pieces in your home can be a home improvement project in itself. If you find that a newly appointed room isn’t quite enough to refresh your home this fall, check out these three affordable home improvement projects that use up-cycled goods.

1. Mosaics

The yard might start looking a little drab as the summer greenery and flowers disappear with colder weather. Spruce it up with your personal design on a homemade mosaic.

Danielle Toussaint is an AmeriCorps VISTA in charge of development for the Habitat for Humanity of St. Vrain Valley ReStore, a donation-based consignment shop. She says many of the ReStore’s customers come in to find materials for mosaics.

A lot of people make mosaics for their gardens using tea cups and plates and ceramics from our houseware section,” she says. “They take the plates that are beautiful to them, break them up and make a mosaic out of it.”

For a garden mosaic, find a base piece made of a sturdy material like terracotta, concrete, or metal. This base piece could be an old bowl, plate, watering can – anything you’d like. You can sketch out a design on the base piece or let creativity guide you. Break up your old china or glass by wrapping it in a bath towel and hitting it with a hammer. Then glue the tiles to the base with a dry, thinset mortar that can be found at any craft store. Allow the mortar to set for two days, then finish with grout and sealer.

2. Wood pallet projects

Another huge seller for us is pallets,” says Toussaint. “We also sell random pieces of wood that vary in sizes. You can make so many different projects out of that by just sanding it down and polishing it.”

There are a number of stylish home uses for an old wood pallet once you’ve given it new life with a coat of polish or paint. Anchor the pallet to your wall behind your bed and you have a new, rustic headboard. Use the pallet as a canvas to make large wall art with stencils and paint. You can also make wine racks, tables, benches, or even a vertical garden. For directions and inspiration, Toussaint recommends Pinterest.

“Pinterest is a huge inspirational website,” she says. “My biggest recommendation would be to get on Pinterest, start saving things you like, then come to the store and find those items you need for the project. You’ll be able to save so much money in the long run.”

The ReStore sells all manner of home improvement materials, including used paint, tiling, flooring, wood, bricks, sinks, toilets, and doors. Not only can you find home improvement tools for cheap, but yours purchase also helps the Habitat for Humanity mission.

“The Restore is a great resource for people who are DIY-friendly and want to do a project inexpensively,” Toussaint says. “Ninety-five percent of our inventory is donated, so that helps us sell it for less expensively than it would be otherwise at a retailer.”

3. A fresh coat of paint

Marj Sater, co-owner of Front Range Mercantile, says a fresh coat of paint can do wonders.

Take an old dresser out in the garage that’s maybe been kicked aside, and put a fresh coat of paint on it,” she says. “That’s the easiest thing you can do, and it’s very effective.”

If you don’t have an old dresser sitting around, the Front Range Mercantile might be the place to find solid furniture that’s within your budget. The 21,000 square-foot space is merchandised by over 90 vendors, all with different tastes and styles.

“Vendors are charged enough rent that they have to bring nice merchandise that is priced to sell,” Sater says.”They might look on Amazon or eBay to some extent [for prices], but they really try to stay below those prices because they have to move it. They can’t afford to just sit on it.”

To properly paint a piece of wood furniture, be sure to sand down all the surfaces you want to paint. Lowe’s recommends a 22-grit sanding sponge for this purpose. After sanding, apply 1 to 3 coats of primer and allow it to dry completely.

When it’s time to paint, set up your project in a clean, dust-free area, away from direct sunlight or wind. Latex paint does best with a synthetic-bristle brush, but natural bristles are recommended for oil paint. Use a foam roller on any flat surfaces.

Remember that paint dries from the surface down, so even if your project appears finished, it might not be fully dry. Follow the directions on the paint for proper drying time.

Published in the September issue of Longmont Magazine.

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