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20 weekend projects for under $20

How to make the most of limited time and resources



It’s Friday, and men in work pants and flannel shirts scrutinize the array of kitchen cabinets, sinks and light fixtures that line Home ReSource’s cluttered aisles. Led Zeppelin’s “Over the Hills and Far Away” plays on the radio as locals pick over decorative electrical plates, locally milled lumber and discount-priced wall paint. Though it’s a busy morning at Missoula’s recycled building supply center, store staffers take time to share their tips on inexpensive yet transformative home improvement projects. With their help, we compiled this list of 20 weekend projects that can be accomplished for under $20.

Replace overhead light fixtures

For months, you’ve been staring at that ugly overhead light in your bedroom. It’s a yellow globe that casts a sickly glow. Because replacing it is easy—mostly a matter of turning off the power and loosening a few screws prior to attaching a new fixture—there’s no reason to keep it. If the project seems intimidating, check out how-to guides available online. Home ReSource sells a range of used fixtures, from basic white globes to elaborate candelabras for between $5 and $20. “So, you’d be able to switch out a few,” says Home ReSource manager Simon Deter.

Tile a sink backsplash

Tiling behind a sink gives a kitchen or bathroom an artsy flair. To get started, you’ll need to hang a waterproof backerboard. Use carpenter’s glue and galvanized screws to affix the backerboard to the wall, drilling the screws into wall studs. From there, use mastic tile adhesive and grout to attach the tile. “That would be under $20 here,” Deter says.


Among the easiest ways to transform the feel of a room is to give it a new coat of paint. Using premixed hues, or “oops paints,” as they’re called, will cut supply costs by 75 percent or more. Home ReSource sells gallons of exterior and interior wall paint in assorted “oops” colors for $5.

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Make a chalkboard wall

Home Depot sells 30-ounce cans of Rust-Oleum Specialty Black Flat Chalkboard Paint for $9.67. That’s enough paint to cover 110-square feet of wood, metal, concrete or masonry and provide tons of space for your household to express itself in ways that can be erased.

Refinish a coffee table or desk

A hand sander helps with this project. Take an old wooden table or desk and clean it with mineral spirits. Sand it. Select a wood stain and apply to the piece. A quart of stain at local hardware stores typically costs about $10. For an extra polish and to better ensure that the furniture isn’t damaged by spills, seal it with polyurethane, which will cost an additional $8.

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