April 21, 2024


Friendly Interior

6 Advanced Home Improvement Projects That You Actually Can Do Yourself

Rosie the Riveter may not have been talking about home improvement projects when she touted, “We Can Do It!”—but her spirit is certainly palpable in the DIY era.

If you’re reading this story, chances are, you probably already have some projects swirling around your brain. (Blame the #diyhomeimprovement hashtag all over social media.) Don’t let a lack of confidence hold you back. Yes, you are ready to graduate from wall painting and curating a gallery wall. According to our experts, the main components to next-level home improvement projects are patience and the proverb, “Measure twice and cut once.” Your efforts will be rewarded: Not only can you potentially save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars, but the pride that comes with it is priceless.

You’ve DIY’d the basics, now it’s time to step it up.

Install ceiling beams

Wood beams can seriously elevate a space, be it a hallway or living room. Turns out you don’t have to be a superhero to work with them, at least not if they come from Barron Designs. The faux beams are a cheeky swap for the real thing. “A ceiling is not a touchable surface,” says Mikel Welch, New York City interior designer and instructor on online-learning platform Skillshare. “When you are not so close, the more expensive and real [the beams] look.” Here, Welch mimicked the vintage teak of a salvaged door turned headboard with Rough Sawn Faux Wood Beams in a Caramel finish that look carved and weathered.

Installation is a cinch. The hardest part is making sure you measure right before cutting the foam with a hacksaw. “Cut them as tight as possible, almost squeezing a bit for a snug fit,” Welch says. Though the beams probably don’t weigh more than 10 pounds, a DIY buddy can help you maneuver and install the beam as you seal in the edge with Dap Alex Plus Paintable Latex Caulk. (Look, Ma, no screws!) Allow each beam to dry for about 20 minutes. It can take about half a day to install beams in a midsized room project. “Unless you can afford to restore or rip beams from an old barn, this will cost you a tenth of what you pay for the real thing,” Welch says, noting that reclaimed wood can run $80 per square foot, whereas the faux bois is around $200 for a 4-inch-by-10-foot beam.

A mudroom nook

The pocket of space by the door is prized territory. Libby Rawes, owner and principal designer of Sharp + Grey Interiors in Philadelphia, who helped a family revive the side entrance in a mudroom, knows this firsthand. “Clutter can have a huge effect on how you live in your home, especially at the door you come in every day,” she says. “Using every inch for thoughtful storage can give a small space lots of hidden organization, so that you feel calm when walking in or out.”

Libby Rawes of Sharp + Grey Interiors designed this mudroom nook. You can try it yourself.

Libby Rawes of Sharp + Grey Interiors designed this mudroom nook. You can try it yourself.

Photo: Rebecca McAlpin

Though this is a more challenging project, it is worth the effort. If you’re not sure of your skillset, a garage is a good place to experiment. Start by deciding how the place will function and what components you covet: paneling, cabinets, shelves, a bench, perhaps. Measure the space before figuring out the configuration. IKEA Home Planner offers customizable templates, or head to a cabinet showroom where experts can assist with the cabinet layout. This is where you’ll have to wear your math hat to make sure all the measurements really add up.

Start with the paneling. Once that’s complete, work bottom up, Rawes suggests. Using a prefinished butcher’s block and plywood as dividers, create a storage bench. Install the cabinets. Plan to spend two to three weekends on this project as it requires quite a bit of trim work, Rawes warns. The pay off for doing it yourself: “To purchase and install yourself, the cabinetry portion of this is at least in the $2,000 range,” Rawes says. “If you hired a contractor, I would imagine it would probably double, or even triple that cost.”

Painting the house exterior

You already know that a coat of paint can be transformative, and the exterior of the house is no different. When Chantelle Clarke, creative director of Clarke and Co. Global Designs in Melbourne, Australia, purchased her house, she loved the potential of the interiors and the street, but hated the brick. “It was a brown multicolored brick typical of the ’80s,” she says. “You could also see places where the bricks had been replaced with mismatched bricks. It was so unsightly.” Instead of waiting for professionals, painting aficionado Clarke and her husband tackled the exterior themselves, though the sheer size of the project was intimidating. It took them almost four weekends to paint the bricks, eaves, the windows, gutters, facias, and downpipes.

Chantelle Clarke and her husband painted the exterior of their house themselves.

Chantelle Clarke and her husband painted the exterior of their house themselves.

Photo: Courtesy of Chantelle Clarke

They first pressure-washed the bricks to remove dirt and dust, then applied two coats of dramatic dark charcoal gray (similar to Sherwin-Williams’s Emerald Exterior in Iron Ore). Painting the porous brick was taxing, she says, but she watered the paint for the first coat to help it spread easier. In lieu of paint spray, Clarke opted for rollers to avoid overspray and waste. They then moved to cleaning and sanding shutters and trim, which was painted black (similar to Sherwin-Williams’s Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel in Tricorn Black). “Remember to paint both sides [of the shutters] as the back side will be visible from the interior of the home,” she advises. The other challenge was reaching the high sections of the house—Clarke had to rent a scaffold to do so. “I don’t think we would have taken on the project if it was a double story,” she notes. “I’m not afraid of hard work, but it was the most physically challenging project I’ve taken on. It’s also something I’m immensely proud of.”

The effort cost under $900, and that included paint, hiring of the scaffold, and painting equipment—a tenth of the approximately $7,000 the professional painters quoted. “Not only did we save money doing the work ourselves, but we have increased the value of the property,” Clarke says. Another perk? A newfound connection to neighbors, who stopped by and cheered them on.

Installing flooring

Putting down floors may seem like a herculean task, but it’s a manageable home improvement project. “Sounds absurd, but it’s actually brilliant and incredibly cost-effective,” says Ginger Curtis of Urbanology Designs in Dallas, who, with the help of her husband, put down handmade maple floors in the two rooms for their sons. “I would not recommend this for the whole home, unless you have a lot of time on your hands, but rather a specialty area like a study or a playroom.” Curtis applied custom-cut planks directly to the plywood subfloor with a nail gun. (You’d have to use wood glue if working with a concrete base, she notes.) Each room took two to three days, respectively.

Ginger Curtis installed these floors in two of her sons’ rooms.

Ginger Curtis installed these floors in two of her sons’ rooms.

Photo: Norman Young Photography

This is a project you want to plan well in advance, as new flooring should sit unpacked in your house for at least a few weeks, so it acclimates to the home’s temperature and humidity. You also want to make sure your floor is level. While hardwood floors can flex about 1/8 an inch, any more than that and you’ll have spring board planks. Home improvement expert Johnny Brooke of Crafted Workshop shows the step-by-step process of laying hardwood floor in his bonus room.

DIY floor savings are substantial: For Curtis, who cut reclaimed maple-wood sheets into four-inch-by-eight-foot planks, the pro price would have been between $10,000 to $15,000. Instead, she walked away spending around $900 for two kids’ spaces. If you’re lucky to find old hardwood floors as you’re pulling off the carpet, you’ll only need to sand and refinish.

Paneling the walls

“Paneling completely transforms the look of any room and can be tailored to accomplish many styles and colors,” says paneling specialist Haylie Hammill, who has done more than 60 projects for her @Home_by_haylie Instagram account in Cheltenham, England. What’s more, it can cost you less than $100.

Before you start wainscoting, draw out a game plan, deciding how many boxes you’d like. “Four across is most common on a standard 10-foot wall,” Hammill says. Take the width of your wall, subtract about 20 inches, then divide by four to get the size of each box, leaving a four-inch gap between the moulding and the baseboard. Draw out the measurements on the wall, using a four-by-four-inch spacer for corners and gaps. With a hand saw or a miter saw, cut pine moulding strips to a 45-degree angle, so they fit neatly when framed. Apply construction adhesive to the back of each moulding and stick on the marked line, guiding it with a level to ensure straightness. “Look out for uneven surfaces, as they are usually the biggest problem, but this is where the nail gun comes in,” Hammill says. Caulk along the edge to seal gaps, then lightly sand corners to prep for painting.

It takes Hammill around seven hours to complete one wall, though a newbie should expect one to two days. “Paneling hallways can take up to five days,” she warns. Her biggest advice to novice panelers: “Making sure your measurements are right is key, and having the patience to stick with it.”

Cabinet shelf upgrade

Cabinets don’t have to be boring, as DIY enthusiast Megan Duncan, who recently renovated her laundry room, can attest. Duncan, who documents her Parkersburg, West Virginia, home renovations on @themintedvintage, designed her laundry room with two things in mind: storage for supplies and a space to hang-dry clothes. Instead of installing a cabinet-to-cabinet rod, Duncan added a shelf with a rack attached to give the space a more custom look.

Megan Duncan’s renovated laundry room.

Megan Duncan’s renovated laundry room.

Photo: Megan Duncan for @themintedvintage

As you design, consider your physical reach, Duncan advises. “If I were to center the hanging rack on the shelf, even with my long arms, I wouldn’t have been able to reach to hang the clothes and the hangers would be touching the wall. Because of the depth of our washer and dryer, we ended up having to attach the rack just a couple of inches back from the front of the shelf.”

First, install the cabinets. Duncan bought unfinished oak cabinets for $90 each, but Craigslist can be a gold mine. Then, measure and cut the pine board to length—dry-fitting to ensure it fits wall-to-wall before painting or staining. “Even with a new-build home, walls are not always straight,” Duncan says. She attached the rack, made from leftover knot-free select pinewood, by screwing it on through the top of the shelf. She suggests you test hangers to make sure they fit. She then painted the shelf to match the cabinets with Valspar Signature Paint + Primer in Secret Moss 5005-2A, and then stained the rack rod.

To secure the shelf to the cabinets, she added scrap blocks of wood to the top of the recessed portions, creating a flush surface for the shelf. This project can be done in about four hours. “Sounds quick, but if you’re like us and tend to squeeze in DIY around everyday life, then it could end up taking a couple days,” Duncan jokes.

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest