Whether you’re looking to put your home on the market this spring or sell further down the road, there are many home improvements you can do on your own to add value to your home. A well-informed homeowner will keep track of all remodels and updates over the years, and will also be aware of the projects that can provide the best return on investment.
Even if your plans to put your home on the market are derailed by the coronavirus pandemic, the added time you're spending at home means you can take on some updates as do-it-yourself projects.
The average return at resale for home improvement projects is 63.7% of a project’s cost if the home is sold within a year, according to Remodeling Magazine’s 2020 annual Cost vs. Value Report. Here are a few relatively easy do-it-yourself projects that you can check off your list for cheap and add value to your home:
- Deep clean and declutter.
- Paint the interior.
- Spruce up your yard.
- Add lighting.
- Refresh your bathroom.
- Overhaul your closet.
- Refinish or paint your cabinets.
- Replace your floors.
- Update kitchen appliances.
- Remove popcorn ceilings.
Deep Clean and Declutter
First impressions count when selling your home. Make the interior of your home shine from floor to ceiling by taking the time to spruce up your space. Pick up personal items and store them away. Wipe down counters, baseboards and all areas inside and outside of the house. Remove smudge marks on all windows, doors and mirrors. Deep cleaning and decluttering your home is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to keep your home looking its best while getting ready to sell. More importantly, it helps make life easier. Dan DiClerico, smart home strategist and home expert for HomeAdvisor, based in Brooklyn, New York, explains that decluttering and getting your home in order room by room will help decrease your stress level, especially if you’re battling anxiety as you spend more time at home.
Paint the Interior
A fresh coat of paint can go a long way when it come to buyer impressions. Painting your home's interior is one of the most cost-effective improvements you can do, as newly painted rooms will add value by providing a clean and updated look. “It is more time-consuming if you really want to do the job right,” DiClerico says. Make sure to properly clean and prep surfaces, tape edges and doorways and apply a couple coats to make the new paint look consistent. Stick to neutral colors when choosing your paint so it will appeal to a large number of people.
Spruce Up Your Yard
Any yardwork that improves the curb appeal of your home will benefit you in the long term, and you’ll be more inclined to spend time in the space if you give it more love. Now is a great time to plant a vegetable garden or replace old, dead plants with new plants that will thrive, says Abeer Sweis, an architect and design partner for architecture firm SweisKloss in Santa Monica, California. If you're looking to make landscaping changes that appeal to more homebuyers, choose low-maintenance landscaping, such as beds of mulch or drought-tolerant plants.
Brighten up your home without breaking the bank by simply opening windows, cleaning skylights and removing outdated curtains that may be blocking natural light. Have old lighting fixtures hanging from your ceiling? Get rid of any eyesores by updating your lighting with an eye-catching chandelier or a modern ceiling fan.
Refresh Your Bathroom
Outdated and boring bathroom fixtures can really take away from the room's style and feel. Giving your bathroom a quick refresh is a great DIY project to prep for selling your home. Upgrade fixtures, such as knobs and pulls, and check for leaky faucets or poor drainage. “You just need a screwdriver to be able to replace (knobs or pulls) with a similar type of hardware,” Sweis says.
Overhaul Your Closet
If your version of decluttering quickly turned into piling items inside your closet, you might want to consider a new closet organizer system. Brands like EasyClosets and ELFA allow you to custom design your new closet based on the measurements and what you want to store there. All the materials and instructions can be shipped directly to your home for a DIY project. “It’s a project that will take you more than a day but helps you do some of those things you’ve wanted to do (in your house) but never touched,” Sweis says.
Refinish or Paint Your Cabinets
If you’re looking to employ more skill than painting interior walls requires, consider taking on the project of sanding and either staining or painting your kitchen cabinets. “This is a fantastic way to completely transform the look and feel of a kitchen, but it’s very time-consuming,” DiClerico says. The project is best done by removing your cabinets from the wall, then patiently sanding away the existing finish before going through the process of applying a new stain or paint.
Replace Your Floors
Homebuyers prefer hard flooring options over wall-to-wall carpeting. While the idea of removing carpeting and refinishing wood floors on your own can seem like a daunting task, this DIY project can be done on a budget with the proper tools. Be ready to take the time to remove the existing carpet or other floor material, as well as prepare the space and install new flooring. But new wood floors, or even high-quality vinyl or tile floors, can deliver a significant return on investment and help your home sell faster. “I might say think twice about (a project this size) in normal circumstances, but longer-term projects like this can be done while you’re home now,” DiClerico says.
Update Kitchen Appliances
The kitchen is the part of the home that gets the greatest return when updated. While this is a more expensive option, upgrading your kitchen appliances like the dishwasher, microwave and stove can increase the value of your home. Consider choosing stainless steel when updating your kitchen, as this style is popular among buyers.
Remove Popcorn Ceilings
Popcorn ceilings may not make or break a deal, but they tend to date and devalue a house, causing potential buyers to look the other way. You can remove your popcorn ceiling yourself with the proper equipment, but if you have an older home, check if it contains asbestos. If your popcorn ceiling does have asbestos, you'll want to wait until it's easier to be away from the house while a professional carefully removes it.
Stock up for your next DIY project.
If you're always finding new home improvement projects to take on, you're not alone. In a 2015 study of 500 do-it-yourselfers by Venveo, a digital marketing agency and parent company of DIYConsumer.com, 58 percent of respondents said they do a DIY project either because it's a simple project or they find the work fun, while another 39 percent said they want to save money. Regardless of your reason for taking on a DIY project, you need to be prepared with the right tools. Read on for tools every DIYer should have to tackle home improvement, maintenance and crafting tasks. We've included a price range for each tool, based on current prices at various home improvement retailers like Home Depot and Lowe's, to help you plan your purchases.The basics
These DIY and maintenance must-haves help set you up for success. They're simple tools that are fairly inexpensive yet key to ensuring your safety, avoiding damage or making mistakes while you work.The internet
Especially if you're new to DIY projects, take advantage of the free resources available online to help you figure out the best way to build something, make a repair or master regular maintenance you've never done before. "The information is the power," says Chris Zeisler, master technician and technical service supervisor for RepairClinic.com, an online marketplace for appliance and repair parts and equipment. Zeisler recommends watching tutorials and informational videos on YouTube or advice sites like RepairClinic.com to get a better understanding of what you need to do. If you're still nervous about the job after watching tutorials, consult a professional.
Cost: Nothing beyond the cost of your Wi-Fi or mobile data plan.Safety glasses
Regardless of skill level, eye protection is a necessary part of any project you take on. Safety glasses are particularly important when doing tasks that can create debris, like sawing, drilling, spraying paint or using a sealant.
Cost: As cheap as $1.50, or you can go all out and get prescription safety glasses, which can put you back a few hundred dollars.Tape measure
The saying goes, "Measure twice, cut once." So naturally, you need to be able to measure when it comes to cutting wood for a bookshelf, framing your artwork or simply figuring out what size couch you need for the living room.
Cost: Less than $10.Level
Keep your home from looking like a college dorm room and use a level to hang any wall decor. A level is also an important tool when building or repairing anything that's supposed to have a flat surface – a DIY nightstand isn't quite as nice if your glass of water keeps sliding off a slanted tabletop.
Cost: Free phone apps are available, or you check out torpedo, beam or laser levels ranging from $4 to $30.Drop cloth
Whether you're painting, sawing, drilling or gluing, keep your floor or driveway from getting damaged by placing a drop cloth beneath your workspace.
Cost: Use an old bedsheet for free, or invest in a canvas or plastic drop cloth for $7 to $10.Wood glue and other adhesives
Wood glue and other adhesives
Plenty of DIY projects and repair scenarios can be strengthened with a little extra sealant. For wood projects, use wood glue to back up screws and nails. When wood isn't the material you're working with, a super glue or all-surface construction adhesive can help get the job done.
Cost: Depending on the type of adhesive, expect to pay $3 to $12.Stud finder
If you're hanging a picture frame or shelf, a stud finder allows you to find the best possible place to anchor a nail or screw – without worrying whether it will fall off the wall later. When you're cutting a hole in the drywall, the same stud finder will help ensure you don't cut through an important part of the structure of your house. Studs in residential buildings are typically wood, but a stud finder using magnetism often still works by locating the nails in the stud. More sophisticated stud finders will detect the differences in density along the wall.
Cost: Depending on type, it will cost between $10 and $50.Ladder
A 12-foot ladder isn't necessary if you're an apartment dweller who relies on the property manager for most maintenance issues, but a short stepladder can always help you reach the top shelf in the kitchen or get a better angle while hanging wall decor. In a house, a taller ladder can come in handy for cleaning out your home's gutters, as well as reaching high-up spots while painting, cleaning or decorating inside.
Cost: Depending on height and stability, a ladder will cost anywhere from $40 to $1,000.Hand tools
You don't need construction experience to use these household tools skillfully. These simple tools are an important part of being able to make small, straightforward repairs at home, whether you live in an apartment, condo or house.Clamp
In DIY scenarios where the wood glue comes in handy, you'll typically want a clamp to help serve as additional security while the adhesive dries. Clamps also help hold wood and other materials together or in place while you're sawing, drilling or sanding and need help keeping the materials steady. You can opt for a simple C-clamp or bar clamp, which will suffice in relatively simple projects.
Cost: Expect to pay between $3 and $20, based on the size and type of clamp.Screwdriver
Securing a dresser to the wall or finally putting that Ikea coffee table together will likely see you reaching for a screwdriver. Screws vary in shape and size, so Zeisler recommends checking out a set of screwdrivers with interchangeable screwheads to keep the number of screwdrivers you own down, while still having access to the Phillips head, flat head, Allen wrench (hexagon), Torx drive (star) or Robertson (square).
Cost: Either invest in a set of screwdrivers with different heads or get a multibit screwdriver, which both run from about $7 to $30.Wrenches and ratchets
Wrenches and ratchets
Whether you're tightening a bolt on your bed frame or building a deck in your backyard, a wrench or ratchet and socket set is a must-have. Like with a screwdriver, Zeisler recommends checking out investing in a set to help reduce the total number of wrenches you need, and ensure you have the tool for every possible scenario. "You can get more than one thing and more than one component," he says. "Instead of having seven or eight combination wrenches, you can get one particular tool that has a combination of all those on one assembly."
Cost: Sets of wrenches with additional adjustability typically cost around $20. Ratchet and socket sets typically start at about $15.Claw hammer
A hammer almost seems too simple a tool to have, but you'll find yourself needing one quite often, whether it's to hang a calendar on the wall, construct a birdhouse or repair siding on your house. A claw hammer is often the recommended go-to for DIY projects because the backside of the tool also allows you to pull out nails as needed.
Cost: Depending on the brand, expect to pay $5 to $40.Pliers
You may need help pulling something apart or holding it in place while you apply an adhesive – and pliers are an effective tool in both cases. Some pliers are specially designed to help cut or strip wire as well, which helps if your project requires some basic electrical work. In such cases, always have the power turned off and call a licensed electrician if you're not sure what you're doing.
Cost: Pliers range from $9 to $40.Utility knife
You could be opening a package you got in the mail or cutting dowel rods that don't quite require a saw, but having a utility knife specifically for home improvement purposes means you don't have to ruin your kitchen knives to complete simple projects.
Cost: Utility knives range from $5 to $45.Handsaw
For a bigger cutting project, have a handsaw ready. This is one tool you want to have your safety glasses on hand for, along with gloves to protect your hands. Before getting started, mark the wood or material you're cutting with a pencil and straightedge to ensure you cut along a straight line.
Cost: Handsaws run between $9 and $25, so there’s no need to break the bank.Power tools
For some projects, you need a bit of additional power behind it. Enter the motorized tool. "If you're going to be in an apartment or condo where it's going to be smaller projects, I don't think power tools are going to come into play," Zeisler says. "But if you’re a homeowner, you've invested in a mortgage [and] you're in the home, you're probably going to want to start getting familiar with some of that."Drill
As you get into more skilled DIY projects, you'll likely need to use a drill to put holes in wood, masonry, plastic or other materials. Different drill bits are used for different scenarios, and most good DIY tutorials will tell you which one to use for setting screws or creating a clean hole. Like with a saw, always use eye protection.
Cost: Cordless power drills run between $50 and $130.Sander
When building a bookshelf or giving your current one a makeover, sanding is a key step before the staining or painting phase. A sander takes a painting or staining project from time-consuming to convenient. Many DIY bloggers recommend a 5-inch orbital sander, as it's relatively easy to handle.
Cost: A sander will likely cost between $40 and $70.Nail gun
When your DIY skills are more advanced, a nail gun might be the tool to help you up your game. Like with a sander, a nail gun makes the time-consuming process of hammering nails happen in a fraction of the time, though it requires a certain level of caution and some more money. There are also different types of nail guns for the project at hand – flooring, roofing and building furniture all use different types of nails, for example. Some of the more sophisticated nail guns require an air compressor, which may come with the tool or need to be purchased separately.
Cost: Expect to pay $80 to $650 or more, depending on the type of nail gun you select.Circular saw
If you're looking to build furniture or upcycle some key pieces, many DIY tutorials call for a circular saw to cut larger amounts of wood. The circular saw is recommended as the more basic option and is less expensive than a table saw – not to mention, it'll take up less room in your garage.
Cost: As low as $39 or as high as $500.Read More
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Updated on March 26, 2020: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.
She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.
Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.