How to renovate rental houses - my approach

Rental House Renovation – Make More Money

Decorating a Rental House 

Why fix up a house for rent? 

The simple answer to this is that:

  •  a tenant will be more likely to rent from you. 
  • you may achieve a higher rental figure than you  would if you didn’t do up the rental house. 
  • you may achieve a higher sales figure, if you decide to sell the rental house on. 

When should I renovate my rental house?

Me and my husband usually renovate our rental properties between tenants, or before we decide to sell a rental house on. 

Below is an example of our process of rental house redecorating. We achieved great returns when renovating rental houses.

How to get the most rent for your rental house – our process

Audit your rental house

Basically this involves walking from room to room and writing a list of what needs doing. 

It is really useful to invite an agent to help with this. 

First of all we invited the agent we have built a good relationship up with over the years, to appraise the property.

For every room, we walked through and discussed what needed doing/changing/renovating. I firmly believe in always asking experts for their advice. It is crucial in my mind, as it allows you to avoid any major overspends.

Our agent also given us different rental estimations based on different scenarios – for e.g a price for a higher level finish, new bathroom and kitchen sink.

Also a price for a quick paint up throughout, leaving existing cat-scratched wallpaper on and existing fittings.

Draft up a rental house renovation budget

Our rental needed a new bathroom and tiling.

We decided to get a tradesman in to carry out the work.

The kitchen needed renovation too, that we just didn’t have the time to do.

 Overall the cheapest tradesman’s quote was £2000 for all the works necessary. 

Ask for 3 Quotes from 3 different tradespeople.

We asked for 3 quotes, so we could assess how fair they were.  Then you know you aren’t being over charged, or worse still, paying for a poor quality renovation. 

Our budget overall for the renovation was no more than £3500 inc carpets, tradesman work and tools, materials etc.

Save 10% extra on top of your budget as a contingency fund

Since we weren’t familiar with the house, for example, the boiler could need replacing or other things such as damp could have been present. Many of these things you tend to discover mid renovation!

Other things that could unforeseen renovations: 

  • roof renovations or repairs
  • new windows or doors 
  • gas repairs 
  • drainage under the house and around. 

Set a timescale for the renovation

Remember that every day you are preparing your house for rental, it is not on the market, or making any money. 

Draw up a schedule of works targets, when you are going to achieve what and stick to them. Decide how much time you can devote to DIY and cleaning yourself. 

Research a couple of weeks in advance 3 agents to appraise the property once it is done.

Fix up as much of your rental house yourself as you can

Renovation costs for rental properties can vary massively, but a lot of the work it is possible to do yourself. When you are setting your final overall budget, you need to have the following questions in mind: 

  • How much money have you got to spend? 
  • How much time can you commit?
  • How are your DIY skills? 
  • How willing are you to learn renovation skills?

Time for a tradesman can be approx £20 an hour. If you do the work you can yourself, this is in your pocket not theirs.

Some things, such as painting, filling, cleaning and garden renovation were easily done by balancing work commitments with a couple of hours after work/weekends. 

 If we hired a tradesman in for this it would have added an extra £2000 to our costs. Shocking I know, but this is the bonus of writing everything down, and also asking local tradesman for quotes.

This allowed us to weigh up all the options.

Always analyse your process

The rental business is all about minimising void periods, so be decisive when decorating a rental house.

If there is a method of renovation that you can do quicker, then do this and stop the method that was less efficient.

Scenario 1 – I filled plasterboard walls with filler, then painted over minimal damage with an undercoat. One medium sized room took me 1 day to do this job.

Scenario 2 – I used ready mixed plaster to cover all bigger and minimal damage. I put two layers on and sanded between coats. This took me 4 days.

To save time I went with the filler approach and only use the ready mixed plaster for really damaged areas.

As a result, in week 3, I saved myself 3 days time. I was also achieving an excellent finish for rental.

Use Youtube tutorials to help you master new skills 

We decided to go for the higher level finish.

This meant that I had to learn how to fill a wall to a high finish and not be afraid to try skimming a wall as in the case of the wreck of a front bedroom.

I have no affiliation to anyone on youtube, but Paul Peck and the Ultimate Handyman have amazing tutorials for any DIY skills you will need to use when preparing a house for rental.

Rental house renovation toolkit

If you’re in need of ideas for basic things to invest in for rental house renovations, read below. 

Preparation Toolkit 

✅ Wallpaper steamer

✅ Metal filler knives – good for precision and removing wallpaper

✅ Industrial Vacuum to deal with high levels of dust and plaster dust. 

✅Claw hammer to remove any annoying old nails. 

Creating smooth walls on a budget

Wall Repair Toolkit 

 âœ…Filler for smoothing plastered walls and plasterboarded walls.

✅ Plastic filler knives  – good for holding filler on when working 

✅Metal filler knives – good for precision and removing wallpaper.


The easiest and quickest way to smooth off filler on walls, is to use an electric sander.  Use a lower grit sanding sheet to start the sanding, then do a fine finish with a 120 grit sheet.

Tip – you need to make  sure it has a dust extractor, because filler dust is not great inhaled. I also suggest wearing gloves like  these, so you protect your hands, have good grip, and also wear a  dust mask


Always check the dust mask for the purpose you need it for – there are different grades of masks for different types of projects. If in doubt, stay safe! 


When I finished off the walls, I sealed the architraves and skirting boards also. This looks way more professional and doesn’t add much more time to your schedule, once you get the hang of it. The filler gun must be a metal one, so that you can control the flow of sealer. 

Sealing Toolkit 

 âœ…Sealant (Decorator’s caulk)

✅ Metal sealant gun

✅ Caulk toolkit 

Paint and undercoat

From experience, I believe it’s best to keep things simple.

That way, you have to buy less equipment.

Buy good equipment and wash it thoroughly.  

When you are renovating to rent, white paint is much cheaper than fancy colours. I go for matt for walls and for wood. 

Gloss paint for wood goes an off yellow colour within about three years. I found matt wood paint to still be white after this time. Again, this saves money and time when you are renovating between tenants. You can just wipe down the wood and you are good to go. 

So to focus in again – you are at the final finish stage. Paint for walls and wood.

At this point it is tempting to go crazy with your decorating budget, but this is the time to keep focused. 

Painting Toolkit

â­Pro tips

  • Going for lunch and you don’t want to go wash your brushes or roller?
  • ✅Seal them and your paint tray inside a plastic bag – this should last for around an hour.
  • Don’t want to waste time washing your trays out? Check out these paint tray liners