Cherie Barber renovating

Cherie Barber’s tips to nailing a classy reno on a cheapskate’s budget

Walk into one of those flash bathroom showrooms and it’s easy to walk out several thousand dollars poorer. Designer baths, Italian fittings, sleek basins… they can cost a bomb. But what if I told you, you could get the same look for a fraction of the price? Frugal renovators will always find the budget shortcuts that don’t compromise the final look. Bargain hunting becomes second nature, even addictive. It takes a bit of leg work – and the occasional bit of detective work – but you’ll be amazed at how far you can stretch a tight budget with just a few of these tricks.

Fake it!

Guess what. Those schmick designer pieces you’ve been eyeing off probably have clones. Cheap copies that look amazingly like the real designer version. Everything from baths and basins, to light fittings and taps, now have clones. It’s a matter of finding the look you’re after, then scouring shops and online to locate the cheap lookalike.

Cherie Barber Meadowbank lounge before

A lounge room in Meadowbank, before

Trawl the bargains online

How did we ever renovate pre-internet? It’s not only the greatest research tool in your kit, but an Aladdin’s cave of bargains. Sites like eBay, GraysOnline, Gumtree and Freecycle (recycling of stuff in your local area) are an amazing source of goodies. Unwanted goods; hasty purchases that didn’t pan out for the renovation; mismeasured benchtops, windows and doors; excess tiles and freshly gutted kitchens… they invariably end up online somewhere and you can pick them up for a pittance. On a large renovation, we’re talking tens of thousands of dollars saved.

Cherie Barber Meadowbank lounge after

A lounge room in Meadowbank, after

Recycle, re-use

Surprise, surprise, you’re not the only bargain hunter on the block. One man’s junk can be another man’s treasure, so never discard anything that might be worth advertising for sale. You’ll not only get revenue in, but save on skip and tipping fees, and even labour costs. I sold a whole roof of tiles for 80 cents each and they came and removed them as part of the deal: $3225 straight back in my pocket. 

Cherie Barber Marsfield kitchen before

A kitchen in Marsfield, before


Think carefully about what you can keep and rework. A kitchen that looks dated and drab may actually be in great condition and just need updating. There’s a whole range of specialty paints from companies like White Knight and Rust-Oleum that can paint over laminate and tiles, resurface benchtops and even turn an old bronze rangehood into a stainless steel lookalike.

Cherie Barber Marsfield kitchen after

A kitchen in Marsfield, after

DIY vs the pros

Never assume doing a job yourself is always cheaper than calling in the pros. You might save money painting, but from there the projects get trickier. Tradies will jokingly tell you that Monday is typically when the calls trickle in from gungho DIYers who have botched the weekend kitchen installation or created a bathroom disaster. Learning on the job doesn’t make great sense when you’re the one paying for the expensive mistakes. And you may have to outlay for tools or equipment hire which quickly negate any savings on labour.

Remember, cheap doesn’t have to mean poor quality. It just shows you’re clever about finding the very best deal at every stage of the renovation. All those modest savings add up, and whether you’re renovating for yourself or to sell for a profit, surely the money is better in your pocket than someone else’s.

Cherie Barber renovating brick wall

Who is Cherie Barber?

Cherie Barber is the founder and CEO of Renovating For Profit, a company that teaches everyday people how to buy and renovate properties for a profit. Cherie is a TV renovator on Network 10’s The Living Room, a regular on Channel 9’s Today Extra, a weekly radio presenter on 2UE, and highly sought-after public speaker and star of her own American renovating show, 5 Day Flip, currently airing on 9Life.

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