Contractors say these 45 clever things under $40 make your home much nicer

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by Christina X. Wood
Originally Published: 

No one knows how to upgrade a house like a contractor, but you don't have to hire someone to help tear down the walls in order to make your home more enjoyable. There are simple tools, tricks, and products that can help you throughout the home renovation process — and I wouldn't doubt if contractors approved of these clever things on Amazon that'll make your home nicer. From sparkling countertop replacements to energy-efficient light bulbs, this list has affordable options for an instant upgrade.

Yes, revamping your house without the extra help could seem overwhelming — and without the right tools, it might be. Don't panic, though: According to Contractor Talk, a website that gives professional contractors a platform to educate their industry peers, there are various ways you can make your home stand out amongst the rest. Some of those include modernizing your kitchen, upgrading your outdoor space, revamping your countertops with granite (adhesive marble might also do the trick), and more.

With that being said, I've rounded up a few products that'll help you get the job done on your own. Some of them were inspired by advice given by contractors, while others seemed fitting for anyone working on DIY home projects. They're all under $40 — and since they're on Amazon, you'll probably get them really fast.

1. These energy-saving LED light bulbs that change colors

These impressive light bulbs are an easy way to create a deluxe lighting experience in your home. With a simple voice command — after you connect them to your Amazon Echo or Google Home — you can go from colorful party lights to a romantic dinner ambiance by announcing your desires or using the phone app. You can even turn them into an alarm clock that slowly illuminates the room to wake you up. Plus, they're energy-efficient, which is a must-have according to some contractors.

2. A set of floating bookshelves that blend into your decor

These invisible shelves basically disappear once you place your books on them, so it kind of looks like they're floating. First, screw them to the wall (in a grouped collection or as a single shelf), and then load them up with books. The bottom cover slides into the angled shelf so you see the back half of the book and not the unit itself. You can even stack plants or decorations on top of the books to create more of a statement. Plus, these come in packs of four, so you can easily customize your own layout.

3. This waterproof patio curtain for more privacy on your deck

According to an article by Contractor Talk, an enjoyable outdoor living space is important. Whether you're entertaining guests or want more privacy outside, this water-repellent curtain can help. It's made of polyester, but it's lightweight and sheer enough to let sunbeams shine through. The fabric itself even comes with rustproof grommets and curtain strings so you can leave it open whenever you want to.

4. An over-the-sink dish rack that can also handle hot plates

This over-the-sink drying rack is a modern kitchen upgrade because it turns your sink into an extra workspace as well as a brilliant place to dry dishes. Plus, it's made from steel rods that are wrapped in silicone — so it's heat resistant. When you aren't using it, it can be rolled up and stored easily in one of your drawers. It's must have for any small kitchen, but it's just as useful in a huge one.

5. This magnetic knife rack that puts your kitchen utensils on display

A wall-mounted utensil holder is by far the most convenient way to store kitchen knives and other metal kitchen tools. They'll be on display for easy access when you're cooking, and it'll be convenient to see each utensil and have it within an arm's reach at all times. When you wash a knife, just stick it back up onto the wall to air dry. You can also use this for keys, baking whisks, and other metal items.

6. A beeswax paste for finishing & polishing wood

Finish your woodworking projects with this beeswax paste, which penetrates quickly and buffs to a soft sheen. The hand-mixed polish is all-natural and non-toxic, so it’s great for handcrafted cutting boards, spoons, and other kitchen items. Plus, the 6.25-ounce jar will last through many DIY projects.

7. The gorgeous waterproof shower curtain that doesn't need a liner

There's no need to have an additional shower liner if you upgrade to this washable shower curtain. It's heavy duty, decorative, and waterproof — so it can do the job on its own. This shower curtain is also weighted heavily at the bottom, so it won't fly into your shower when the temperature change creates an air current.

8. This peel-and-stick marble paper that upgrades counters & tables

You can transform any old surface into one with a sleek, marble-like finish with this peel-and-stick vinyl contact paper. It's waterproof and durable, so you can use it on anything from a vanity to a kitchen countertop. It's also removable, so it's perfect for use in rental apartments, or on anything you don't want to cover up permanently. Applying the film doesn't require tools, and reviewers say it lasts a long time. You can choose from different sized rolls depending on what you're trying to revamp.

9. The energy-efficient air conditioner that's rechargeable

If you live in an older home, your air conditioning system might not be as energy-efficient as you'd like (and according to Contractor Talk, energy-saving appliances are important in newer houses). Thankfully, this portable AC unit provides a cool airflow while remaining energy-efficient. It's rechargeable via USB, and it can even double as an evaporative air conditioner.

10. These battery-operated candles with realistic flickers

These battery-operated candles will have your family and friends fooled, because they flicker like the real thing. They're made with real wax and the LED lights can be controlled via remote, so you can set the mood from anywhere in the room. You can even set them on hourly timers and even increase their' brightness with the click of a button. Each candle comes in its own glass jar, and they're sold in packs of three candles with different heights.

11. This wall-mounted cordless hand vacuum for small messes

If you stay on top of small messes when they happen, you don't have to clean as often. The secret? This handheld cordless vacuum. Mount the charger to the wall somewhere convenient — its cute enough for the kitchen — and whip it out to clean spilled coffee grounds, cereal, or crumbs. You never have to order bags for it either, just empty and wash the dirt bowl when it's full.

12. A dish that drains extra water to keep soap & sponges dry

This dish is a brilliant solution to your problems with grimy sponges and melted bars of soap. It sits at the edge of your sink and drains excess water away from the bowl so it goes down the drain, keeping the area around your soap or sponge clean. There are two in a package, so it's easy to put these in the bathroom, kitchen, shower, or anywhere else you need them.

13. These colored backlights for your wall-mounted TV

You can mount these smart lights behind your TV so they create delightful mood lighting, even when the power is off. When it's on, they'll give your viewing experience a theatrical feel, and help reduce eye strain by softening the contrast. You can even set them to pulse to the music when you watch concerts or play music through your TV speakers. They're simple to install, too: just pull the tape cover off and stick them onto the back of your device. These can also be used in other places around your home, like on headboards and behind wall-mounted mirrors.

14. This colorful shower head that glows while water runs through

This shower head will turn your bathroom at home into a spa-like experience. It fits easily onto any standard shower hose, and has 7 LED color light options to help you maximize shower time relaxation. Reviewers say that kids love it, but adults get just as much enjoyment from making getting clean a little more fun.

15. These grippers that turn any surface into a spice rack

Turn the inside of a cabinet, the side of the fridge, a small bit of wall, or whatever surface is handy into a spice rack by simply mounting these gripper clips. Use the included adhesive tape to mount the grippers strips to the wall, and then snap the spice bottles you have into the clips. This pack comes with six strips of clips, which is enough to hold 30 spice jars. Note that the clips fit containers ranging from 1.5"-1.75" in diameter.

16. A 5-tired shelving system that fits between your fridge & counter

Guess what? The storage space between your fridge and kitchen wall (or counter) is really important — especially to various home buyers. To help make the space you currently have useful, add this shelving unit. It's tall enough to store all of your kitchen essentials, and it's thin enough to fit in that tight area. Not to mention, there are five tiers of shelving – and since it's on wheels, it's easy to slide out whenever you need something.

17. These burner covers that make it easier to clean the stove

Getting under the burners on the stove and scrubbing spills is a tough job, but if you install these burner covers when you get the stove clean, it'll be much easier next time. They'll catch all the messes before they get cooked onto your stovetop — and when the covers get dirty, they'll be easy to pull out and wash. You'll get ten in this pack, which means you can keep cycling through them to always have a clean stove.

18. These motion-activated bed lights that provide a subtle glow

These subtle under-the-bed lights come on when they sense motion, and they illuminate the floor — not your sleeping partner's eyes — so you can get up, see where you're going, and never fumble for a light switch. They're also handy for those times when you're trying to find something you've stashed under the bed. You can put them under furniture, cabinets, and other places you'd like to see when it's dark, too.

19. This soap dispenser that's completely touchless

There's a slight flaw in the current hand-washing regimen: you have to touch the soap pump when your hands are dirty. This touchless soap dispenser changes that. It has a sensor that notices when a hand appears and delivers a dollop of soap directly into that hand. It also holds 17 ounces of soap, so you don't have to fill it very often. Plus, it looks sleek standing on your counter.

20. These rustic storage shelves that add style to your space

If your home isn't already equipped with shelving units in each room, go ahead and add these floating shelves to your decor. Each shelf in the two-pack boasts a wooden base and a metal trim, making them rustic additions to your bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, or wherever else you want them.

21. A modern, electric take on the kettle you have in your kitchen

This borosilicate glass kettle gets water hot fast, and it looks gorgeous as well as modern. The LED lights within the kettle will illuminate the interior when the water heats up. When it's hot, you can lift the cordless kettle off the base and pour the water into your cup. It has measurements printed onto the glass kettle, so you'll know exactly how much water you're using. Plus, it's simple to use: fill it, set it on the base, and push a button. It should shut off automatically when the water is boiled.

22. These smart plugs that connect anything to your smart home

If you have an Amazon Echo or Google Home, take your house to the next level of modern with this two-pack of smart plugs. Think about that lamp you always forget to turn off before bed and those string lights with the hard-to-reach switch. You can plug them into these, connect them to your smart home system, and control them by voice. They should also work with the Kasa app, and that means you can turn your lights on and off from anywhere, or put them on a schedule.

23. This toilet paper holder that keeps a backup supply

This toilet paper holder takes care of two problems at once: It provides a simple place where toilet paper can be reached without an actual wall-mounted roll holder, and it stores a few extra rolls of paper, too, so you don't have to restock the bathroom as often. It's also super sturdy, and is available in silver or bronze.

24. A box that keeps your tech cables covered & organized

You know that collection of wires that spills out from behind your computer and TV? Well, this kit will tidy that right up — including the power strip. You can drop the power strip into the box and run the main cord through the side opening, while the other cords come through the opposite side. You can also use the included cable ties and sleeves to corral the wires. The included cable clips make it easy to guide the cords so they go where you want them.

25. This charging station that powers all your devices at one time

This desktop charging station offers a complete solution for charging all of your personal electronics. There are slots that allow you to fit up to five gadgets in a small space. It comes with three lightning cables and two micro-USB cables, all of which are the perfect length for this charger and keeps things tidy.

26. The weatherproof screen protector for your outdoor TV set

Adding a hidden TV to your deck can easily upgrade your outdoor living area — but installing a wall-mounted set could provide the same level of entertainment. If you already have one, you can protect your flatscreen with this weatherproof cover. It features a closed back and bottom along with a front flap, and there's even a pouch for your remote. The cover is also soft on the inside and will help shield your tech from rain, snow, and sunshine. It's available in various screen sizes.

27. An elegant sun shade that's easy to install

You don't have to build a complicated structure to create shade over a deck or hot tub, because this shade sail only requires three points to connect to. Once it's up, it throws shade right where you want it. It's a minimal and elegant solution that you can install and take down easily. It also allows rain and air through, so it won't alter the breeze.

28. A smaller storage cart with hanger clips for towels

This rolling shelf cart is small enough to sneak into just about any corner or crevice in not only your kitchen, but also your bathroom, laundry room, or closet. It'll help you organize toiletries, kitchen supplies, or whatever clutter you've got into a compact, out-of-the-way spot. It even comes with clips so you can hang a washcloth or sponge from it. The unit is less than six inches deep and comes in two colors: black and white.

29. The shelf that organizes the bathroom & dispenses toothpaste

If clutter has begun taking over your bathroom, it's time to get your essentials organized and mounted to the wall. Thankfully, this slick wall-mounted shelf has a place for everything. The platform on top serves as a place to keep your hair products, lotions, or cosmetics — and even your phone. There's also a shelf that closes to help keep your toothbrush bristles and shaving razors shielded, as well as a toothpaste dispenser that gives you the same amount each time.

30. A makeup organizer that makes it easy to find everything

This compact organizer has a place for everything in your makeup and self-care kit. You can stack it or separate into two separate pieces, so it's easy to design the storage space you need to keep small things from turning into clutter. It has a few slots for brushes, three drawers, and a larger space for big and small items.

31. This bamboo organizer that adjusts to fit your drawer

This clever bamboo organizer expands to fit your drawer, and the side compartments can get wider in a large drawer and narrower in a smaller one. With plenty of compartments for all your utensils, it'll help organize the kitchen the way you want it. Plus, you can take it with you if you decide to move.

32. These storage baskets that can help create a cubby system

If you want to organize your closet with new shelves and cubbies, it's easy to spend a small fortune. This set of baskets is affordable, and they're easy to fit in your closet or cube system. The polyester-cotton baskets are available in three sizes — medium, large, and jumbo — and have sturdy rope handles. They're also collapsable for easy storage when not in use.

33. A bathtub tray that holds your drink, book, & candle

Ready for a bath? This bamboo bathtub tray turns what was once a necessary chore into an hour of self-care and indulgence. It holds your wine or cocktail glass, a candle, and a book so you can read your favorite novel while you soak. It expands to fit your tub, too.

34. These bamboo cutting boards that come with wooden utensils

This set provides a quick kitchen upgrade with four matching bamboo cutting boards and six wooden utensils in one affordable package. The cutting boards have grooves around the edges to catch juices from fruits or meats, and each is labeled with an icon so you don't cut fresh fruit on the same board you used for raw meat. A varied collection of six matching cooking utensils comes with it, too.

35. A broom & mop holder to make more room in your closet

Home storage space is valuable — and sometimes, cleaning supplies take too much of it up. To create more room in your closet, mount this mop and broom holder to your wall. It holds your cleaning supplies — including hats, wash cloths, and towels — above the ground so you have more storage space on the floor. Each clamp can support over 7 pounds of weight, and it's made of plastic that's durable.

36. This toilet brush that looks super sleek

If you've got a pretty bathroom, you probably don't want a bulky toilet bowl brush with an even bulkier holder. This discreet cylinder hides the brush in a sleek container, and it comes in six colors to match your bathroom aesthetic. When you're done scrubbing the toilet, that cylinder will catch the excess water and keep it off your floors.

37. This adjustable LED desk lamp that's also a phone charger

This table lamp can transform any corner into a workspace by delivering exactly the level of lighting you need for the task you're working on, and it even includes a wireless phone charger. It has five brightness levels and 15 different colors so you can dial in the exact illumination you need — whether you're working on a screen or not. Set your phone down on the base and it'll pick up a charge while it's there. If you have an older phone, there's also a built-in USB charger.

38. These hangers that hold the curtain away from the window

Hanging the curtains so that they're a couple of inches away from the window can make it easier to open and close them. It also gives you a small space between the curtain and the windowsill or blinds — this hanger hardware can help you create that effect. They're easy to install, adjustable, sturdy, and available in five different shades.

39. This handy stick-on wall shelf for small items

Stick this clever shelf to the bathroom wall and put your toothbrush on it. Or, use it in the kitchen for spices. Charge your phone on it next to your bed or keep your keys and wallet near the door. It's the right size for small items that you don't want to lose, of as well as items that tend to clutter up your desk and counters. These shelves mount to the wall with included adhesive, and they come in both white and black.

40. The easy cure for all the holes in your walls

So you hung pictures or accidentally slammed a doorknob into the wall, and now it's time to move out or paint. What's the easiest way to fix those wall holes? This putty stick. It's super easy to use: just push up the stick and rub it all over the wall, filling in the hole. Then wipe away the excess with a putty knife or rag. It doesn't shrink when it dries, so you can keep one on hand while painting or cleaning to fix small imperfections or holes in the drywall as you go.

41. This moldable silicone putty that can fix pretty much anything

When this moldable glue comes out of the package, it's pliable and you can handle it like clay. You can use it to build missing feet on small pieces of furniture, and you can mold it around broken or frayed wires. Fix your shoes. Put softer handles on pans, pens, or tools. Glue things together. After it's been out of the package for thirty minutes, it'll dry into a strong, silicone rubber that creates a permanent bond.

42. These furniture markers that help repair every mark & ding

If you scraped your wooden furniture or floors — or even left a wet drink ring on your bedside table — don't fret. These markers can help you take care of it, because they're made to replicate the shades of various wood types. All you have to do is color over the mark! If there's a deep gash in the wood, you can use one of the included wax crayons to fill it in first. Both will help freshen up your favorite furniture within seconds.

43. This bottle cutter that turns empty bottles into cool decorations

Instead of sorting your wine and beer glasses into the recycling, turn them into glasses, fixtures, vases, and more with this clever bottle cutter. It comes with everything you need — including precise instructions — to turn your glass waste into useful and beautiful glassware. Simply spin the bottle in place to score it, then follow the directions about how much hot and cold water to apply before sanding.

44. The magnetic wrist band so you never lose your screws

While making home renovations, tool belts are important — but this wrist brace pulls its weight. It's magnetic and has several small pockets so you can stick tiny tool parts, nails, screws, pins, needles, pens, pencils, and even your phone — if your phone has a metal plate on it — to your wrist to keep it all handy. That way, you won't have to dig through the toolbox, whether you're working on a new project or fixing something up.

45. This genius magnetic tool that sticks to the studs in your walls

This stud-finding tool is super clever. It uses super strong magnets to find the nails and screws that are buried in the studs within your walls. When it locates a stud, it sticks to the wall. You can leave it there to give you a visual reference while you're hanging pictures, mirrors, hooks, or anything else that needs the strength of a stud to stay up.

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