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DIY home improvement: What to tackle and what to avoid

Let's look closer at our living space and make some improvements.

Woman painting interior wall with roller
Posted on Feb 9, 2021, 12:00:00 PM GMT

We’ve all been spending much more time at home the last number of months and that has given us a chance to look closer at our living space and make some improvements. If you are considering what projects to tackle, it’s important to determine what is best for you to take on and what is best left to the professionals. While we all want to save money, sometimes it’s not worth your time or you may not have the expertise to do the job correctly. That could result in you spending more money in the long run. Here are some projects to consider doing yourself and which ones you should call in the experts.

DIY projects to tackle:

  • Painting
    If you’ve never painted before, it’s best to start in a small area to practice or you may end up having to hire a professional to fix your work afterwards. Generally, painting a room isn’t too difficult, but it can be time consuming as there is prep and clean up involved. Besides room or accent walls, here are some other painting projects you can take on:

    • Freshen up cabinets with a new shade. Grey cabinets are a fresh trend this season.
    • Update a bedroom dresser with a new color. If you are tired of your old bedroom furniture, you can give it a boost with some color or even a new wood stain.
    • Paint your front door a fresh new color. Try a bright green or red. Feel free to go bold to increase your curb appeal.
    • Paint the back of a bookshelf. This can add a pop of color behind books or knickknacks on the shelf.
    • Add some color over your head. Freshen up a bedroom headboard with a nice accent color and you can bring that color into your bedding and pillow covers.
    • Paint chair spindles. Add some color to your room with some bright chair spindles. This would be fun to add color to chairs in a playroom set, kitchen chairs or desk chair.
    • Paint the trim. Swap out the white trim around windows and doors with a new color to give the room a little pop.

Before you start any project, make sure you have all the supplies needed such as drop cloths, brushes (all sizes), rollers, edging tape, etc. Your local paint store or home store can help you get all the gear you need.

  • Planting a garden
    Whether you plant a full-blown garden or just some potted herbs, gardening is easy to do and can even be a relaxing hobby. Some gardeners like to use seeds to start the process or you can purchase small seedlings. Do your research to determine when the best time to plant is and make sure you space out the plants to allow room for growth. Also, a garden requires maintenance, so look into an automatic watering system to save some time.
  • Add a bathroom or kitchen backsplash
    This is one project that you can easily take on as these DIY backsplashes are easier to apply than glass or ceramic. Here are some options:

    • Laminate gets you a wood look without the price and it’s also waterproof.
    • Self-stick options or wallpaper are easy to apply in one strip, plus there are a number of designs you can try.
    • Decals can make your backsplash look like real tile as you just cover up what is already there. Get ones made from waterproof vinyl and faux grout lines to make it look like the expensive, real version.
    • Veneer stone is an artificial tile that looks like real stone and are easy to install. Their multi-dimensional look helps bring depth to the area.
    • Subway tiles are easier to install as they are uniform in shape, so you don’t have to worry about sizes and lines.
  • Power washing your house
    You can freshen up the outside of your home with a power wash. Use it on the home’s exterior, driveway, walkway and patio to remove dirt, mud and other buildup. This will make the outside look new and clean. You can rent a pressure washer from your local home store.

DIY projects to avoid:

  • Redoing plumbing
    Plumbing work can be pretty tricky if you’re not sure what you’re doing. One false move and you could cause a flood or worse, electrocution, since electricity and plumbing in a kitchen or bathroom are in close proximity. Small plumbing work like changing hardware like a faucet can be done, but it’s best to avoid taking on the complicated tasks.
  • Roofing
    Just getting up on a roof can be dangerous as there is a chance of losing your footing and falling either from the top of the roof or ladder getting up there. Plus, professionals know how and where to look for trouble spots such as mold, rot or leaking and have the right tools to do the job and do it safely.
  • Rewiring and installing light fixtures
    Electrical work can be risky as there are safety considerations such as knowing how and where to shut off the circuit breaker to prevent the potential for electric shock. Also, if you don’t know how to do the job, then you are at risk for serious electrical problems or even an electrical fire. In addition, you may not know what permits or building codes are needed for your town and you should ensure that any work done is up to code.
  • Replacing windows
    If you don’t install windows correctly, there are a number of issues that can result including leaks, bugs, loss of heat or air conditioning, which will impact your energy bills.
  • Updating or swapping a gas line
    If you are deciding to swap a gas stove for an electric one, changing it over is a job for a professional. Improper assembly can result in gas leaks or issues with connectivity that could cause the stove to not function properly. Since gas is poisonous and highly flammable, it’s best to take this off your to-do list.
  • Cutting down a tree
    Small shrubs or limbs are fine to chop yourself, but unless you are completely comfortable that tree won’t land on your house, car or power lines, then it’s best to let a professional do the chopping for you. Plus, a tree service will cart away the wood and grind the stumps, so you won’t have to worry about clean up.

Simple, modern DIY touches:

  • Freshening up hardware
    Changing out knobs, towel holders or shower heads with new items can be easily done and you can freshen the area up further with accessories like an updated soap dispenser, mats and towels to match the new look. Make sure the hardware you buy fits the existing holes or you will have to patch up, sand and spackle and make a new hole to fit. A new, more efficient shower head can save you money, so that’s a good project to tackle and there are plenty of DIY videos on changing a shower head that are easy to follow.
  • Update light fixtures
    Just swapping out lighting like a new hanging light or side table lamp for a new style can make a big change in how the room looks and feels. Even changing out the wattage of a bulb or using white light instead of yellow can change the interior feel.
  • Change your curtains or blinds.
    Whether you want to add light or reduce it, new curtain or blind colors can help change the look of a room with minimal effort. It’s pretty simple to install curtains or blinds yourself as well. Just make sure you have the correct hardware and measure properly.
  • Add some art.
    Creating a gallery of art such as paintings, posters and photos can bring some warmth to a room. Look for different designs and textures to bring your style in. You can also try adding an accent mirror to help make a room larger. Make sure you have strong enough hooks to hold heavier pieces and measure and lay everything out before you start drilling holes.

    There are so many possibilities for DIY home improvement projects while we all have the time, but it’s important to not bite off more than you can chew. Sometimes it’s worth bringing in a professional to help save you time and frustration and it may save you money as well if a professional has to come in and fix any damage you caused trying to do it yourself.
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