If you've been in your home awhile, you're probably considering making some changes or improvements. You might even want to DIY to save money on those improvements. And, fortunately, with proper planning, you'll get the highest rate of return for your efforts and learn some new skills.
What's not to love about that?
I spent years working in the building industry and the interior design industry. I've also invested in real estate and renovated my own properties. As a result, I have picked up quite a few tricks, here are my easiest, and best, DIY home improvement hacks.
Some areas where I like to start include painting, replacing hardware in kitchens and bathrooms, organizing, and pressure washing your home's exterior. These can be done on your schedule and your budget to get you the most bang for your buck.
Painting is something almost anyone can do. The key is figuring out what really needs to be painted, and making sure that you choose the right color. This is an integral part of any home improvement project. If you pick the wrong paint color, it can turn your home improvement into a home disaster.
Neutral colors are usually the best choices because it is easy to add accent pieces to a room. But if you paint a wall bright orange, it is going to be difficult to work the rest of the room around that.
One of the most popular colors is Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray (SW 7029). Not only is it an easy color to match with your accessories, but it is also extremely easy to find. Lowe's and the Sherwin Williams stores carry it. You might even be able to find a coupon or a rebate when you purchase paint, making it an even better deal!
Another fairly easy painting project is giving your cabinets a facelift. It is easy for cabinets to become dated which makes kitchens and bathrooms look old and shabby. As with the walls, a neutral color is best for cabinets. It is also easier to work with the pre-existing countertops if you use a neutral color.
When you paint cabinets, make sure you properly prepare them. This will ensure that the paint sticks long-term. Most of the time, proper preparation involves sanding the cabinet doors to rough up the surface.
A small electric sander works best for jobs like these, and won't cost you a fortune to purchase. Black and Decker and Ryobi are two of the most popular brands with some of the most budget-friendly price points. Depending upon where you live, you should be able to pick one up for $20 – $30. The only recurring cost with these is the sandpaper.
When you are removing previous paint or stain, the medium grit sandpaper is best. This range is usually between 80 – 180 grit. I prefer to stick to the 100 grit because you can find it pretty much anywhere and it gets the job done without destroying the cabinets. The courser the grit, or the lower the number, the more potential damage you could do to the surface of the cabinet.
However, the finer the grit, or the higher the number, the harder it will be to remove the existing paint or stain. It also may not scuff up the surface enough to get the new paint to stick.
Decks & Patios
Repainting decks and patios can take a bit more time than a simple cabinet face-lift. Of course, this all depends on the size of deck or patio you have, the environment you live in, and the time of year. The best temperature to paint a deck or patio is between 40°- 90° F.
In my experience, it is much easier to repaint a patio than a deck. The biggest thing to remember when painting or staining a patio is to properly prepare the area first. To do this, you will need to pressure wash it to clear away all of the dirt, debris, mold, mildew, and previous loose paint or stain.
Once that is done, you need to choose the correct concrete stain or paint and get rolling. Literally. Purchase a paint roller with a long handle and a larger nap since that works better for patios than for walls. The best size I have found for great coverage and overall appearance is a 3/4″ nap roller.
Since patio surfaces are generally not 100% smooth, this roller size will get into the cracks and crevices better than a smaller nap roller to create a better looking finished product.
When it comes to decks, you will probably have to spend more time removing the old paint or stain. You can do this through pressure washing or sanding–it depends on the size of your project and how much old paint or stain you need to remove. Either way, you will want the surface to be clean before you start painting or staining.
Once the area is prepped, you can begin painting. You can use the same 3/4″ nap roller for the deck since the wood is going to be not completely smooth. Or you can go with a slightly smoother 3/8″ nap roller for a smoother finish.
If you decide to stain the deck, using a stain with a built-in sealer is your best option for longevity. When painting an oil-based paint is the way to go for longer-term results.
Tile & Tub
Another great project that can really spruce up a bathroom is to paint the old tile or tub. This project can be a bit more detail-oriented so it will take a bit longer. Make sure you build in extra time and have a flexible schedule for this project.
Repainting the surface of a tub or surrounding tile is commonly known as reglazing. There are companies you can pay to do this for you, but there are also kits you can buy to do it yourself. Rust-Oleum makes a great tub and tile reglazing kit that currently costs between $30-$55.When it comes to refinishing a tub or the tile, this is pretty darn cheap!
Your labor will be the most expensive part, so be prepared to roll up your sleeves and spend a few hours in your bathroom. But once it is done, the results are pretty amazing, and it gives the bathroom a new and updated look.
Pressure washing your exterior hard surfaces can bring back new life to your house. This includes your house siding, decks, patios, driveways, and walkways. If you have any retaining walls on your property, you should probably include them as well.
In environments that are more wet and rainy, this is a great home improvement project because mold and mildew can grow quickly on the hard surfaces. Purchasing a residential pressure washer instead of a commercial-grade one will get the job done for a much lower cost.
Keep in mind that the residential pressure washers don't have the same power and flow of the commercial-grade variety, so it will take longer. The pressure washer that I chose based on reviews, output, and price point, was the AR Blue Clean 1,900 PSI pressure washer. It has worked great for me but does take longer than I originally thought.
Overall, if you do it right, you should only have to pressure wash your home every few years.
Changing out your hardware can be a fairly quick, easy, and extremely budget-friendly fix. As styles change throughout the years, so should door and cabinet hardware. After all, brass was trendy in the '80s and '90s, but it isn't so much these days. Keeping this type of hardware will seriously date your house.
So changing out the doorknobs, handles, locks, and hinges to a more updated oil-rubbed bronze or brushed nickel finish can really spruce up and modernize your home.
Once you have tackled those, the next step is to change the cabinet handles to match the finish. A lot of the cabinet hardware can be more decorative than just a simple knob if you really want to get creative with your updates. Head down to your local home improvement store or look online for some ideas.
Bathrooms become dated pretty quickly as the styles change. If you feel that your bathroom needs a complete overhaul because no amount of paint will save it from itself, then that is what you should do. Fortunately, it is possible to do this in a cost-effective and efficient manner.
The great thing about changing out a vanity is that there are so many options now that come with the sink and sometimes even the faucet. This saves money and time, especially when it comes to installation. In fact, when I had to replace an old 70's vanity and sink top in our girls' bathroom just last year, I did just that.
Not only was I able to find a product that fit the space and made the bathroom feel larger, but it had more usable space. All that for under $200, too! The vanity I found came with the sink and faucet, which made me happy, and all I had to do was change the hardware to match the rest of the bathroom.
Another fairly easy bathroom fix is to change the flooring. If you have linoleum or Masonite flooring, then grabbing some LVP (Luxury Vinyl Plank) is the way to go. You put this down directly on top of the flooring you need to replace, instead of ripping it up, which is a time-saver. And the planks snap together like a puzzle, so it is very easy to install.
The hardest part is cutting around doorway thresholds if you haven't ripped it up to replace it, or door trim. But all you need is an Exacto knife or box cutter and a solid surface to do that.
Replacing an old, dated (and possibly leaking) toilet with a low-flow toilet can help you save big on your household expenses. The low-flow toilets use 1.3 US gallons or less per flush. So, even though they cost a little over $100 to purchase new, you can recoup that money just from saving money on your water bill.
Lighting is another fun thing to change that doesn't have to cost a ton of money. This is actually one of the first things I change when I go into a new house. Not only do new light fixtures bring the house more up to date, but more often than not, you get to find out if there are any electrical problems when you replace them. Some of these problems include:
- Fixtures not being grounded
- Loose hot wire
- Hot wires hanging in the wall and not connected to anything
All of these are potential safety hazards, so it's good to address them immediately.
Plus, changing out fixtures with newer LED lighting fixtures will save money on your electric bill.
Organizing is one of my favorite things to do. I love looking at a nice, organized room because it makes me feel calm and centered. It also saves me money because it allows me to see what I already own before I purchase anything new.
Part of organizing is to declutter your home and your wallet, and I don't want to spend any money to do it if I don't have to.
The easiest way to do this is to pick one space and start there. This helps you avoid becoming overwhelmed and walking away. I generally start with the pantry and closets first because they have a tendency to stockpile things you don't want to deal with every day.
To get started, simply take everything out of the space and sort it into four piles:
Once you have done that, immediately throw away everything in the toss pile. Then bag up everything from the donate pile and put it in your car so that it can be dropped off the next time you head out. Put the sell pile to the side somewhere so you can work on it later.
Then get to work on the keep pile.
This is the pile that needs to be organized and put back into the space in some sort of discernible order. Keep like things together so that they are easy to find. If you don't have enough bins or containers to store like items, you will need to purchase them. I generally start at one of the dollar stores near us because they have a lot of great options for only $1 per item.
Once you have everything you are keeping organized and put back, your house will feel much cleaner. It also opens up more space, which is freeing. Plus, keeping your house organized just makes life easier. Knowing where everything is and where it belongs is a time and sanity-saver!
DIY Home Improvement Wrap Up
Overall, there are a ton of great DIY home improvement projects that you do. But my favorites based on time required, budget, and overall rate of return are:
- Pressure Washing
- Changing Hardware
- Updating Bathrooms
- Changing Lighting
Most households will need to tackle all of these projects at some point. Some of them, like organizing, might be on-going until you find the best system for you and your family. Therefore, when choosing where to start, select the ones that won't cost a ton of money to implement.
Completing any of these projects will make you feel like you're living in a new house. And that is a great return on your investment!
Which DIY home improvement projects have you done that made the biggest impact for the lowest cost?
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