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9 ways to rethink DIY home improvement projects

By: Mitch Mitchell
September 2, 2021

September is the right time to tackle those DIY home improvement projects you've been putting off so you could go to the beach, the ballgame and the barbecue. It's not too hot and there's still plenty of good weather ahead to tackle both indoor and outdoor upgrades.

Plus, you won't bust your back or your budget to tackle them, either. And since these projects are easily done at such a low cost, they'll easily earn you back your money (and sweat equity) by increasing the value of your home.

So without further ado, here is our shortlist of low-cost, late summer DIY projects that you can tackle in just a few consecutive weekends.

1 – Rethink the front door 

First impressions always count and there's nothing quite as easy — or makes as bold a statement — as a front door redo. Try painting the front door in a warm (or bold, if that's your thing) color that coordinates with the home's exterior. And swap out worn-down or over-the-top entry hardware. There are so many new modern styles to choose from and they really make a first impression. If you don't trust yourself with a paintbrush and have the budget, consider getting an entirely brand new door installed. You'll want to call a professional for that job, but in the end, the curb appeal resulting from a new front door can add thousands to a home's perceived value. And according to the Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report, you'll recoup 65% percent of your cost.  

2 – Rethink your landscaping

Lots of “nice to look at” landscaping features — like a large lawn or a row of hedges — are really very high-maintenance and are real water hogs, which can be a problem in states that frequently experience droughts. They'll give you a headache and perhaps scare away potential buyers when it comes time to sell. Unless your property is on the small side, you'll want to call in landscape professionals for this one. We suggest sprucing up your exterior by exchanging anything that takes a lot of work for features that are low, low maintenance. Better for you and better for resale. Talk with your local garden center and ask them to recommend native plants that require less water and get along fine without constant care. Not only will your yard look clean and well-maintained without you lifting a hand, you'll also save money on water bills.

3 – Rethink your lighting

This is the perfect time of the year — before winter comes — to consider putting the spotlight on walks and other exterior features with inexpensive solar-powered lights. If you're the DIY type, search our outdoor lighting ideas on Pinterest (there are tons of them) and explore ways to make no-electrician-required lights that add charm to your property. Soft to moderately bright path lighting is designed to help you and your family safely navigate walkways while attractively highlighting them. Install them on both sides of your main entranceway. You can also use them around flower beds to emphasize their contours. If you're thinking of security lights, you'll want to have those hard-wired, so call in the big guns for that important job.

4 – Rethink the walls

Abandon color intensity and upgrade your walls with something new. Neutral colors are the safest choice if you're looking to put your place on the market anytime soon. But even if you just moved in or are looking to stay awhile, a neutral shade will brighten each room and make it feel larger. Depending on paint brand and quality, expect to spend $20 to $30 per can. You'll need about a gallon for a 400 square foot room.

9 ways to rethink DIY home improvement projects

5 – Rethink the kitchen cabinets

It doesn't take much to spruce up some tired old cabinets. New cabinets can get costly, so if you're looking for a low-cost DIY way to revitalize your kitchen, consider painting your old cabinets instead. You'll probably need to do a little priming so that the new paint sticks to the old finish, but there's not much prep work other than that. In fact, there are new paint kits specifically designed to coat cabinets without stripping or priming. Wood cabinets are — for the moment — out of fashion and can look cheap and run of the mill. Our suggestion is to go with either white, black or grey. They'll make your kitchen space feel modern; they're very on-trend and easy to touch up if they get scratched from normal wear and tear. While you're at it, replace the cabinet hardware — hinges, handles and knobs — for a totally new look that friends will not recognize.

6 – Rethink the caulking

Nobody ever thinks about caulk until it starts to fall apart. And that's too bad because caulk is easy to keep clean and fresh. Caulk, the stripping that protects appliances and fixtures from leaks, degrades and yellows and over time. But you can freshen up the look of your bathroom or kitchen by re-caulking around countertops, cabinets, tiling, shower floors or other fixtures. And caulk is generally paintable, too, if you're really crafty. The only downfall is that you ought to remove flaking older caulk before applying new caulk and that can be a little messy. Just have a handheld vacuum nearby or a model with a nozzle for getting into tight spaces. Otherwise, it's easy and inexpensive as far as DIY projects go. Small jobs will require a tube or two — at under $5 each. Larger jobs will require professional tubes that can be slightly more and a caulking gun that'll set you back about $10.

7 – Rethink spring cleaning

Whoever said that spring was the best season to clean the house never tried it in late summer. After decluttering the garage, why not tackle the rest of the house? Removing unwanted clutter makes rooms appear cleaner and larger and can give your home an instant facelift. Plus, as any real estate expert will tell you, if you're thinking of putting your place on the market anytime soon, you'll appear to more buyers by presenting a clutter-free home. Divide all the stuff you no longer want or need into three piles: Sell, Donate and Trash. Then have a garage sale (in your recently decluttered garage, obviously) or list them for sale on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace pages or other online neighborhood message boards.

8 – Rethink your closets

After you declutter your place, rethink the way to store the stuff you're keeping. Efficient storage can be created by installing pre-made and measured wire storage systems. It's an easy DIY project — some closet organization consultants offer online design tools that ask for the closet's dimensions and then offer the best solution to maximize the space. Some will do the installation for you. They might be worth contacting if you're tired out from all the other DIY projects you've taken on. Most closet makeover projects can be completed in a weekend if you're doing it yourself. If you hire a company, they can bang out all the closets in your house in a day.

9 – Rethink the garage

If your garage door is 15 to 20 years old, it's probably creaky, scratched, banked up and has FOMO because it's not got all the latest bells and whistles. Shop online for a model you think will go well with your home's style and one that will improve the curb appeal. Look for those that are aligned to your particular weather conditions. Don't try this as a DIY project though, contact a professional garage door company for installation. Our suggestion is to tackle all the junk in your garage before your project begins, then when the pros get there, you can act as the project supervisor while staying out of the way. 


What's next?

If you've got larger home improvements on your to-do list — like adding a new room or deck — and don't know how to pay for them, you might want to consider a cash-out refi. Right now may be a perfect time, especially as interest rates remain at historic lows. If you purchased a home a few years ago and have some equity built up, you might benefit from a cash-out refinance. Speak to a loan officer in your area to see if you qualify.

black and white photo of Mitch Mitchell
Author: Mitch Mitchell

Mitch Mitchell is a freelance contributor to Movement's marketing department. He also writes about tech, online security, the digital education community, travel, and living with dogs. He’d like to live somewhere warm.