Do parts of your house need a facelift? Many renovations don't require costly professional help; instead, you can do them yourself. A DIY project may sound intimidating, but with the right advice you can reinvigorate a space at minimal cost—and have something to show off to your friends, too.
Experts say it's still a good idea to call in the pros for large-scale projects, like replacing a roof or remodeling a kitchen, so start small. "With big projects, it's not as easy as you see on TV," says Robert Palmarozza, president of Mr. Handyman Tri-County, a home repair and maintenance franchise based in Wayne, N.J.
Most electrical and plumbing jobs should also be left to the experts, since you can harm yourself or damage the home. (If you break a pipe and flood the basement, that's thousands of dollars down the drain.)
U.S. News spoke to DIY experts, who provided step-by-step instructions on three home projects for beginners:
Wall-mount a TV
Watching movies on your flat-screen is nice, but they'll look that much better with the TV mounted on the wall. All you need is a wall-mount kit with a bracket that suits the size of the TV, a stud finder, a tape measure, a socket wrench, a level, and a drill/driver. Brian Kelsey, a licensed contractor and host of the online video series Kelsey on the House, explains how:
1. Locate the studs. Use the stud finder to pinpoint two studs, which are usually 16 inches apart (with older homes, the spacing may vary).
2. Take careful measurements. Use a tape measure to determine at what height on the wall you want your TV's upper bracket to hang, and then mark a spot to drill.
3. Drill holes in the wall. Use a drill bit that's a little smaller than the screw you'll be using to attach the mount to the wall.
4. Drive the screws in. The mounting bracket should have many holes lined up, making it easy for you to line up holes with the studs.
5. Tighten the top screw. Attach the mount to the wall by using a socket wrench to tighten the bolt.
6. Make sure the bracket is level. With one bolt in the mount, use a level to make sure the mount is even.
7. Drill and tighten the other screws. Tighten a second bolt directly below the first one to secure the bracket into the first stud. Then move onto the second stud, again drilling and securing upper and lower bolts.
8. Locate mounting holes on the TV. Flip the TV over, on a blanket, and locate the four standardized mounting holes that come with all new flat-panel TVs.
9. Attach brackets to the TV. Attach the brackets to the TV at the holes and tighten. Refer to your user manual to make sure they're the right side up.
10. Hang the TV on the wall. Carefully lift the TV and hang it on the mount track. Slide the TV to the left and right to center.
11. Secure the TV in place. Use the small set screws to lock it into place.
12. Attach the cables.
Make Your Own Curtains
Give any room in the house a makeover by installing new curtains. All you'll need is fabric, one roll of Stitch Witchery (found at craft and fabric stores), an iron, a thin cotton cloth, a curtain rod, and drapery clip rings. That's right—no sewing machine required. Kirsten Nieman, a DIY expert with Restored Style in Portland, Ore., describes how in just five steps:
1. Measure the window. Curtains look best when they are hung high and wide—creating the illusion of a larger window by doing so. Measure how high you want the curtains hung, as well as the width of the window.
2. Purchase the fabric and one large roll of stitch witchery. Head to the nearest fabric store and take your pick. Ask a store clerk for help calculating how much yardage you'll need.
3. Cut the fabric. Using your window's measurements, cut the fabric into two equal-sized panels. Note: You'll be "hemming" both the top and the bottom part of the panel, so account for one inch on both ends.
4. Iron the Stitch Witchery. Prepare the iron and place a thin, damp cloth between the iron and the curtain panel, to ensure the fabric does not burn. Insert the Stitch Witchery inside the seam and press down with the iron for 10 seconds in one spot. Slowly move around the entire panel until the Stitch Witchery holds the seams together.
5. Hang the curtain. Hang the panel on the curtain rod using drapery clip rings (spaced about four inches apart).
Paint a Room
Breathe new life into a room by giving it a fresh paint job. This requires paint, spackling paste, plastic, painter's tape, paint brushes, and a paint roller. Jackie Jordan, director of color marketing for Sherwin-Williams, lays out the steps:
1. Pick a paint color. The simplest way to find inspiration is to pull from something that already exists in the room. Consider a hue that complements the carpet color or the shade of the wood floor. You can also match the walls to the furniture's upholstery.
2. Buy the paint. Paints range from economical to high-end. If the room gets a lot of traffic or you have kids that could get fingerprints or food on the walls, opt for a high-end paint so that the walls can be easily cleaned.
3. Assemble the tools. The paint store's clerks can advise you on exactly what brushes and roller covers you'll need.
4. Prep the surface. The surface you're painting has to be clean, dull, and dry. If there are fingerprints or cooking oils on the walls, they must be cleaned. Use spackling paste to patch up any holes or cracks in the wall. If your wall was previously painted with a semi-gloss and you're going for a flat finish, make sure the surface is dull so that the new paint adheres to the existing paint. Wait for the wall to dry before applying the new paint. Also, cover any furniture in the room with plastic.
5. Trim the room. Use painter's tape to line the ceiling, base boards, windows, and light fixtures.
6. Apply the paint. Roll and brush the paint onto the walls. Let the paint dry before removing the trim.