7 easy, DIY rental upgrades


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Sure, it’s pretty awesome to be able to call up the super and have anything in your place fixed for free, but rentals do have their downsides — and they’re almost all aesthetic. Whether you’re counting on getting back that security deposit or just don’t want to drop too much cash on upgrades, it can be tough to fix up a home that’s only semi-yours. Fear your landlord’s wrath no more. There are plenty of easy, inexpensive and mostly removable ways to deal with rental-grade anything.

Paint, paint, paint. Paint’s not exactly cheap at as much as $30 a gallon, but it’s easily the biggest bang for your buck. Don’t forget about patterns or stencils, too, which can give a richer wallpaper-like look at a fraction of the price. If your landlord’s a stickler, though, color-match the current hue and purchase that paint before you cover it up.

Deal with questionable counters.
Granite may be all the rage now, but once upon a time brightly hued Formica reigned supreme. There aren’t many reversible ways to cover up counters, but with your landlord’s permission, there are some cheap and easy compromises. Countertops can be painted, tiled, mosaic-ed, or even covered with stainless steel for a retro diner look. For a temporary solution, invest in large, butcher-block cutting boards to cover up as much of the offending surface as possible.

DIY a backsplash.
For a kitchen with a seriously outdated (or even nonexistent) backsplash, you can actually make a “portable” backsplash, which you’ll be able to pick up and move with you. For a grout-free alternative, try some contact paper — yep, that stuff that’s used to line drawers. There are some surprisingly stylish options available, such as beadboard or copper.

Add shelves.
Whether the closets simply won’t accommodate your shoe collection or the bathroom counter space isn’t cutting it, add shelves where you need them. This is one of those “Why didn’t I just do that sooner?!” upgrades you’ll be glad you made. You can take them with you when you leave, or the landlord may not even notice a few inconspicuous additions.

Replace the flooring.
Nope, this doesn’t have to be crazy-expensive. If your floors are truly hideous, they may actually be improved by cheap and easy adhesive vinyl tiles (note: this is a permanent solution). For a bit more money, you can also lay down high-quality carpet squares, which you’ll be able to take with you when you leave.

Fix the lighting.
Good lighting can seriously improve the look of your space. Whether you want drama, coziness or a breezy feel, new light fixtures — or even just bulbs — can accomplish that. Be sure to locate your breaker box and turn off the power before switching out fixtures. And hold on to the old fixtures to swap them back out when you move.

Accentuate the positive.
Chances are there’s something about your rental you love, or you wouldn’t have moved there. If the high ceilings make you smile, hang large, dramatic art extra-high to highlight them. If it’s the view that you moved for, frame the windows in low-key white sheers and enjoy the scenery.