How To Increase Curb Appeal On A Shoestring Budget

We purchased our home just about 4 years ago.  We were not really “looking” for a home, but our cute little cottage was less than 1000 square feet and with two little boys and a dog we were feeling cramped.  We were dreaming about a little land, not to far town…we were dreaming for a quiet street, and a place where our boys could run.  The problem with this dream is that everyone seems to have the same dream, and homes that we had looked at in our price range were either too small, had major issues (foundation falling in), or the “updates” that they had done were not our style.  That all changed when we our current home, and it was still out of our price range.  But it was the first place that we looked at that we felt had potential.  It was ugly.  It was a wallpaper museum.  But it had ample space, on a quiet street, a nice plot of land, in the area of town we wanted, and was about 10 minutes from Nathan’s job.  After much negotiating, we were able to move from our tiny bungalow in the heart of the city to our quiet country abode.  Get ready, these photos are gonna knock your socks off (JOKING).

Our Home Then

It wasn’t looking really great by the time we got our hands on it.  The previous owner had moved out a year prior, so it had been sitting empty and lonely, with overgrown bushes and weeds growing up in-between all of the landscaping.  The home felt like it had a sad face and needed a family to fill it up again and breath life back into it’s lonely walls.  But even in it’s sorry, lonely state, we could see potential.


We’ve worked a lot on the exterior in the past 4 years.  It’s not as a dramatic of a change as some of the interior (which I will show you another day), but there has been improvement, nonetheless, and we have not invested a lot of money on the exterior.

Now home 1 exterior sarahandtheboysblog

Bushes are trimmed.  The flower beds lost all of their weeds and were re-mulched.  Shutters are no longer a rusty red, but a soothing gray (that was the most tedious painting job of my life!).  We added a natural rock edging along all of the landscaping.

4 exterior sarahandtheboysblog

There are still major changes to come for this exterior, but every time we drive home it feels a little more like “home”.

3 exterior sarahandtheboysblog

Is there anything better than a photobombing toddler?

5 exterior sarahandtheboysblog

The yard is deep and the backyard is even deeper.

2 exterior sarahandtheboysblog

What We’ve Done:

  • Gave it a good wash (expense: cost of water)
  • Trimmed Bushes (expense: electric hedge clipper, about $100, and lots of time)
  • Mulched Beds (bought a TON of it on an end-of-the season clearance, $75???)
  • Pulled Weeds (hard work)
  • Added rock border around front and side of home (free, we loaded up rocks from the side of the road after a road project)
  • Painted shutters & front door ($75 and a lot of tedious work)
  • Added a few trees (free, library Arbor day giveaway)
  • Added landscaping (end of season clearance, at most we have spent $50-$100)
  • Hanging baskets and a few plants for planters (annual expense, about $50)
  • Replaced front porch light (clearance, about $25)
  • Front porch furniture (can’t really see in these photos, but it’s all been trash finds or hand-me-downs, so free)

What We Still Need To Do (large ticket items):

  • Re-Roof Home (goodbye rust-colored roof and $10,000)
  • Replace front door with something that has a window and more character ($1,000-2,000?).
  • Re-do front walkway leading to the front porch (dubbed “the secret passageway” by the boys)
  • Add larger columns and railing to front porch (will cost paint & materials only, Nathan can do the work).

Some of the more major projects have been in a holding pattern as we’ve worked to update the interior.  But for less than $500 over the last four years, we’ve been able to make our home look more happy.

7 exterior sarahandtheboysblog8 exterior sarahandtheboysblog

9 exterior sarahandtheboysblog

The majority of our exterior improvements have been accomplished with a lot of hard, hard work. Instead of spending our days off watching TV and sleeping in, we’ve trimmed bushes, mowed lawns, and pulled weeds.  And for us, it’s worth it.  It may not increase the value of our home on paper, but it feels more like home to our family.

Two Of Hearts

If that title does not immediately have you singing the legendary Stacey Q song, then you need to stop reading and click on the link.   It will make your day better.

Did you stop and  listen?

You’re welcome.

Ok, back to the topic at hand.  We purchased this home 4 years ago, and we fondly refer to it as a 1980s wallpaper museum.  We’ve taken down wallpaper in at least 4 rooms, and the crazy part is that there was much more that was taken down while it sat (and sat…and sat) on the market!  I have no idea why it wasn’t selling.  And I have no idea what we were thinking.

Kitchen WallpaperGuest Bathroom

The last room was daunting to me.  We named it “the heart room” and even referred to it that way to outsiders.  “Welcome to our home, you can stay in the heart room!”.  It was like we were running an out-of-date bed & breakfast.  Most of the time I keep the door shut, but it seems like every time I walk past the door, I’m reminded of the awful task that still lay ahead of me.  Here it is the day we took possession of the home.


Fast forward to last weekend.  My parents were visiting and my mom finally pushed me to start the project.  Knox needs his own room (his crib is STILL in our room…no comments needed…I know we are crazy).  Anyway, I didn’t want to move him in there till we updated the room.  Which is actually a lot of work.

closer up heartroomTo “update” a room in this house, you can’t just paint.  It goes a little something like this:

  • remove popcorn ceiling
  • add any electrical updates (new lighting, switches, etc)
  • re-attach drywall to the studs & remove popped nail heads (that’s a whole post right there)
  • repair ceiling & walls as needed
  • remove window and door trim
  • prime & paint
  • replace trim with new cherry wood trim around windows & doors
  • add crown molding
  • replace closet door & exterior door

So the reason this room was daunting was that it was floor to ceiling papered…a whole step BEFORE all the other things on the “to do” list.  My mom helped to jump start this process.  It took us two whole days together and one day by myself to complete the project (but not dawn till dusk–I stopped to work out all of those days).  Even with the intermittent breaks, it was a lot of work and we were pretty tired by the end.

close up

Photo from my Instagram page

Several have asked me how I strip wallpaper.  Here’s how it goes:

  1. spray water
  2. scrape
  3. spray water
  4. scrape
  5. spray water
  6. curse the person that put up the wallpaper
  7. scrape
  8. repeat process

Instead of going through a boring tutorial on a topic that is probably been covered a million times on the intranets, I’ll just direct you to this article from This Old House.  It’s pretty much what we did.  My only thought is that patience is necessary.  Spray with water and wait.  Don’t try to rush removal immediately.  The more water-saturated your paper is, the easier it will come off without pulling off the drywall.  The more you rush it, the more damage you will do to the walls.

coming downEven with all the patience & hard work, there is still damage.  But it’s one step closer, and somehow these messed up white walls are exciting to me….it’s a step in the right direction!