DIY 80’s House Exterior Makeover

How we updated the look of our 80’s split entry home on a budget.

It’s been almost five years since we bought our little 80’s split level home in the country. We love living here. But let’s face it… the 80’s were not the best years for architecture. Our split level home really needed some updating, but we didn’t want to spend a fortune doing it. Obviously it would be amazing to get all new siding and change the roof line or burn the house down and start again. But it just isn’t practical for us to sink that much money into this home, so we went for the best bang-for-your-buck projects instead.

If your home is dated, I’m hoping that by sharing what we did and why, you’ll get inspiration for how you can improve your curb appeal too.

Let’s walk through all of the projects.

Light Fixtures

light fixture makeover

Within weeks of moving in, I took down the beat-up brass lights and spray painted them with oil rubbed bronze spray paint. HUGE impact for only a few bucks! Five years later and they still look like the day I painted them. Can I just say it again? I adore spray paint.

In the last month or so I’ve been hunting for new exterior light fixtures to replace them with and I’m not finding anything. Because of the positioning of the mounts so far down on the house and so close to the brick ledge, only a light that points up will work, and who knew, but those are rare. So I guess I’m glad I spray painted the lights because they may never get updated.

Front Door

Another easy project we did that had a big impact was taking down the dated storm door and painting the front door a bright color.

mint green painted front door

I used Americana Curb Appeal Paint in the color Cape Cod Mint. Honestly, it still makes me smile every time I drive up to the house. And this was a project that only took an afternoon and about $10.

New Roof

The biggest project we tackled was replacing the roof. We did it ourselves. Yes, you read that right. My husband and I (and my amazing brother who came to help when a snowstorm was imminent) nailed on every last shingle.

diy new roof

It was a ton of backbreaking, hot, sweaty work and I would only recommend doing it yourself if you have a simple roof shape that’s not very steep. We still have post traumatic remodeling disorder from this one. But it did save us a ton of money. The total cost for our new roof was only about $4,000. We bought these shingles from Home Depot in the color Onyx Black. One thing I will say is that if you install a roof yourself, buy the roofing nailer. Just do it.

New Windows

Although replacing our old metal windows did make the house look better, we mostly chose to replace them for practical reasons. The old windows were drafty, collected condensation and were hard to open and close. This is the very first job we have ever hired out and it was so nice to watch someone else do the work for a change. The total cost for window replacement and installation was about $4,200.

curb appeal makeover

Since we were replacing the windows, we took the opportunity to switch out the two slot windows on the front entry for one large picture window and I think it really updates the look of the house. We were able to salvage the brick from in between the windows to patch the bottom ledge around the new, bigger window and you can’t even tell that it’s not original. Woot woot! 

We added a window box too and I just think everyone needs a window box. I love it so much. You can read more about it here.

New Accent Siding

Oh, how I would love to just tear off all of the siding on the entire house and replace it with something in a dreamy, modern color. But it’s just so darn expensive and the original powder coated aluminum siding is in great shape, so we couldn’t justify it. My husband vetoed painting the existing siding because then we’d be trading a durable, no maintenance material for something we’d have to repaint every few years. Although I get where he’s coming from, I would still PAINT. ALL. THE. THINGS. if I didn’t love him so much. LOL.

installing siding DIY

Our solution was to only replace the faded brown accent siding in all of the gables. We knew that there was no way to match the existing siding, so we went with a contrasting white vinyl shake shingle instead. We ordered it at the Pro Desk at Home Depot. I love the fresh, crisp feel it adds to the house. It was definitely the right choice to go with something contrasting… both in texture and color. 

curb appeal ideas

New Trim Paint

The paint on our metal fascia was peeling, so we painted it using Sherwin-Williams
Emerald Exterior Acrylic Latex Paint. I don’t know why I waited so long. It was a quick Saturday morning job and made our house look like nice people live there instead of looking like a haunted house. 

best paint for metal fascia trim

I used the same paint on the old wood balcony railing and wow! It made a big difference! I love a good coat of crisp, white paint and this particular paint came very highly recommended. It’s a paint and primer in one, so it went on really well and I’ve heard nothing but praise about how it wears. Paint is one of those things that you get what you pay for, so I knew it was worth splurging on the good paint and I regret nothing.

best exterior paint

Garage Door Hardware

One last easy fix to the house was adding decorative hardware to the garage door. I think it ties in nicely with the black roof and dark light fixtures. This set on Amazon is super cheap but has good reviews and is magnetic, so you can just slap it up for instant curb appeal. Boo-yah!

Put all of these projects together, and here’s the difference:

home exterior makeover

It looks much better, don’t you think? I still have a few small projects (and definitely some more landscaping) I want to do, but no joke, it’s snowing right now, so all our outside projects will probably have to wait for spring. 


  1. It looks so good! I’m wondering if you could still get big lantern-type lights by your garage and move them up, but put a larger piece of wood behind them to cover the old hole so you don’t have to replace or piece together siding. I feel like Young House Love did that on their duplex or something.

  2. So the garage door trim was magnetic? Meaning no screw holes? Obviously you won’t be yanking on it or anything, but an I reading that right? Amp thanks for not posting the $100,000 home Reno. Those are depressing to me. Who can achieve that? This is my kind of Reno. Thanks for posting. I’ve enjoyed it.

    • Yes! The hardware is magnetic so you just stick it on! They also sell the kind that screws in if you’d rather do that, though.

      And thanks for the kind words. I sure appreciate it!

  3. I bought those same magnetic garage door accents!! I just love them and for $20????? heck. instant boost and a great price!!! SCORE!!! Your updates look incredible! Thanks for sharing!! DIYer in Texas here !

    • Hey Tammy! Nice to “meet” you! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by. I feel the same way. Easiest little upgrade EVER. Who WOULDN’T do it?! LOL.

  4. Wow Wow Wow. What a difference a little elbow grease and some supplies could make. I love it. Congrats for a job well done.

    • Thank you so much Marjorie! It WAS a ton of work, but looking back at how it looked when we first bought it makes it WORTH IT.

  5. Why would you change the gable color on the south end of your house, but leave the gables brown and mismatched on the north side of your house?

    • We plan to change that side as well, but we ran out of warm days last fall and since the north side of the house is so tall, we’ll have to rent scaffolding to reach it, so it takes extra planning. Hopefully soon!

  6. My husband and I just bought an 80s home, very similar architecture to yours. I appreciate your photos and work…it’s really nice and helpful to see what you did to update your home. I really like it a lot. Thank you!


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