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DIY home projects can be fun, help you learn new skills, and give your house a new look—all while saving you big bucks. According to data from the US Census Bureau’s 2019 American Housing Survey, the cost of hiring a professional to renovate and repair homes is at least double, and sometimes three or even four times, the cost of doing it yourself. But where do you start if you’ve never done a DIY project before and can’t tell a hawk from a handsaw?
The key is to start small and slowly build trust. Here are five DIY projects for beginners — roughly ranked by skill required — that are relatively easy, affordable, and even fun.
Paint a room
- Why it’s great for DIY beginners: Painting a room is perhaps the easiest and most affordable home improvement project, not to mention the easiest way to give any room a makeover. Unlike some other DIY projects, you can never go wrong with paint. If you don’t like the result, just start over.
- What you will need: You don’t need too many tools to paint a room, but you should invest in a quality brush set, roller and pan, and cleaning equipment. A set of wall paints can be purchased at the department store for as little as $20. Depending on the type and quality of paint, a gallon can cost you around $20 to $100.
- What you save: Painting a room yourself will cost you between $1 and $3 per square foot, which is almost half the cost of a professional. You’ll also need at least two gallons of paint; Although often recommended, if your walls have already been professionally painted and are in fairly good condition, a primer is optional. To save more money, you could try borrowing painting tools from friends or neighbors.
- What to look out for: DIY painting only works if the walls are in good condition and don’t need more than a color change. However, if there are serious stains, corrosion, mold or cracks, hiring a professional may be a wiser move.
Replace a window pane
- Why it’s great for DIY beginners: Whether it’s due to age, a storm, or a fallen branch, torn window screens are a common occurrence for every homeowner. But replacing them does not require special skills or even a lot of strength.
- What you will need: A new screen, a flathead screwdriver and a wedge roller are all you need to replace a window screen. Plus, these cheap tools last forever, so next time you need to replace another screen, you’ll already have the gear on hand.
- What you save: According to HomeAdvisor, professional window replacement or repair costs an average of $306. Although the labor is only about a third of the total bill, it still accounts for more than the $20 to $80 that easy-to-install pre-assembled screens cost.
- What to look out for: If your windows are very tall and you don’t have a way to safely reach them, or if they are an unusual size or shape, consider hiring a professional to do the job. Pre-assembled screens only fit standard size windows.
- Why it’s great for DIY beginners: Refreshing dirty or moldy-looking grout around the shower, bathtub or sink requires few tools and no super-specialized training – just a steady hand. Mainly you have to remove the existing caulking and then run a new line with a caulking gun.
- What you will need: Tools needed to re-caulk the bathroom include a caulk gun, spatula, scraper, caulk remover, and caulk with additives to prevent mold and mildew.
- What you save: According to Porch, professional re-capping by a handyman can cost $100 to $500 per 125 feet, or $0.15 per linear foot. While you will need to purchase accessories, they will last for years and can be used multiple times if stored properly.
- What to look out for: When using silicone sealant, the odor can be overpowering, causing irritation and even drowsiness. It generally takes a few hours for the smell to dissipate. Don’t forget to invest in gloves: you should never handle caulk with bare hands as it can cause burns and peel off the skin.
Build a shelf
- Why it’s great for DIY beginners: Building is admittedly a more advanced category, but for woodworking projects, building a custom shelf is relatively easy – no complex designs – and so good for starters.
- What you will need: Plywood, drill, circular saw, dowels, nail guns and bolts. If the idea of chainsaws sounds scary, you can always have the lumber supplier or a hardware store cut the shelving for you based on your specifications. Or even buy ready-made ones.
- What you save: Closets are quite a labor-intensive project: According to HomeAdvisor, custom shelving by a professional carpenter can cost up to $4,000, depending on the type of shelving and materials used. Do-it-yourself, on the other hand, only involves material and equipment costs. Plywood is available in cabinet and construction grades and is priced per sheet or panel. The cost will depend on the thickness and type of wood you choose, but the average range is around $5 to $40 per sheet. A circular saw costs between $50 and $200, and you can buy different saw blades separately. A nail gun costs an average of $80 to $300.
- What to look out for: Measurement is the key here. Be sure to properly measure the planks and mark locations for brackets or anchors before installing them. Also consider the weight of the items the shelves can hold before you begin; You may need to use the wall studs for support.
- Why it’s great for DIY beginners: If you have the time and a little wiring experience, you can save a lot of labor costs by replacing a ceiling or wall light. For electrical work this is easier as you are just connecting the light to the existing wiring and not installing anything new.
- What you will need: Pliers, 4-in-1 screwdriver, needle nose pliers, voltage tester, wire cutters, ground screw, electrical tape, and step stool are some of the tools required. All of this can be easily bought at a hardware store if you don’t already have it.
- What you save: Electricians are expensive. According to HomeAdvisor, a professional installation of a light fixture can cost an average of $80 an hour, or $527 per project. Small lights can cost less than $100, but complicated lights can cost up to a few thousand dollars.
- What to look out for: Of course you know that you have to turn off the power before you do anything. Nevertheless, working with electricity always involves a certain risk. If the wires look severely frayed or damaged in any way after exposing them, do not attempt this. Make sure the new light is the same size as the old one; If it doesn’t fit the space, don’t try this. And never attempt to install a light fixture in a new location where none previously existed. These are all jobs for the licensed professionals.
The bottom line on beginner DIY projects
Do-it-yourself home renovation jobs can save you a lot of money and bring you a lot of satisfaction. Of course, beginners always have a learning curve. But while it’s good to stretch, know your limits – especially when it comes to a project involving power tools or electricity – and it’s always good to know where to draw the line and when to call the professionals have to be consulted.