12 Home Improvement Ideas for Beginning DIYers
Here are a dozen starter projects to build your DIY home improvement skills and boost your confidence. These projects vary in complexity, but all of them are suitable for beginners who are willing to jump in, get their hands dirty and have some fun.
Replacing cabinet pulls or knobs is a quick way to give your kitchen a mini-facelift without breaking the bank. This Family Handyman home improvement article is an especially good walk-through, loaded with tips and tricks that are often learned only after making a mess of a cabinet door.
Why it’s a great starter project: Replacing cabinet pulls can be as simple as unscrewing the old ones and attaching the new. But there’s often some issue that pops up at one point or another. Whether it’s using washers or negotiation with a pull that’s rusted onto a screw, there’s bound to be a challenge you can tackle — without worrying about doing irreparable damage or blowing a big budget.
What it gives you an excuse to buy: If you don’t already own a cordless drill, this is a great project to pick up this essential piece of the DIY toolkit.
Replace a Torn Window Screen
Whether from a fallen branch, a pair of over-eager paws, or simple wear and tear, sooner or later most window screens will require a repair. It’s possible to patch a small tear, but you can also replace an entire screen. This is a great beginner DIY home improvement that will help keep insects out of your home and make your windows or screen doors more attractive.
Why it’s a great starter project: Removing the window screen will help familiarize you with the mechanics of your windows. And this will come in handy down the road, when it’s time to do some maintenance on the windows themselves.
What it gives you an excuse to buy: The materials for this repair are inexpensive and will last for more than one window, which means you’ll have them on hand the next time a screen is damaged. A roll of replacement screening and the rubber spline that holds it in place are easy to find at a home improvement store. And a spline roller makes the replacement quick and easy. It’s also possible to secure the spline without using a roller. Often a flat screwdriver or old credit card can pop the spline into place. But the spline roller makes things go smoother and decreases the risk of damaging the spline during installation. And a spline roller lasts forever!
Over time, your home’s interior doors may stick or fail to latch. The home improvement fix will depend on the cause — humidity, too many layers of paint, or settling all require different strategies to get the door back to fully functional. See how to repair interior doors for a good overview of the basics of door repair. And how to fix sagging or sticking doors for a focus on those specific issues.
Why it’s a great starter project: Door repair involves working with a number of different carpentry skills, from planing a door to tweaking the alignment of a strike plate. And you’ll learn by doing, without taking on the commitment of a week-long project.
What it gives you an excuse to buy: A quality plane is a great addition to your arsenal, and is relatively inexpensive. If you want to go retro, these durable hand tools are frequently found at garage sales and antique stores.
Paint a Room
A new coat of paint is one of the fastest and most economical ways to achieve an immediate and impressive change in a room’s look and feel.
Why it’s a great starter project: Painting is a must-have skill for any burgeoning DIYer. And whether you’re touching up a drywall patch or freshening up a guest room, painting is always the final touch that makes a project complete. Also, the great thing about painting a room is that if you don’t like the finished product, you can simply repaint it.
What it gives you an excuse to buy: There’s no shortage of great painting equipment to make the DIY experience go smoother. If you’re just starting out, this is a great time to invest in a roller and pan, trim brush and clean-up equipment. But if you’ve already got the basics and want to acquire some new goodies, check the best DIY painting tools.
Balance your Furnace Dampers
Furnace vent lines have a metal damper that can be used to reduce their flow with the turn of a handle. By balancing them correctly, you can direct your furnace’s output to the areas of your home that need them the most.
This Family Handyman home improvement article has a number of seasonal maintenance items for your furnace, including instructions on damper adjustments. And if your lines don’t have damper marks already, you can add them yourself or with the help of an assistant and a pair of cell phones.
Why it’s a great starter project: A great project for two-story homes in climates where there is a large seasonal temperature swing, it will also get you acquainted with the way your furnace functions. You’ll also be reducing your heating and cooling expenses. And it’s always less stressful to learn about your furnace on your timeline, instead of waiting until you don’t have heat in the middle of winter.
What it gives you an excuse to buy: Depending on the height of your basement or crawlspace, you may need a ladder to reach the trunk lines or a headlamp to see them easily. Either of these items will be used dozens, if not hundreds of times over your DIY career.
Leaky Faucet Repair
A leaky faucet wastes water and wears a hole in your pocketbook. If you have a faucet that drips or trickles, it’s time to step up your game and learn the basics of plumbing and home improvement repair.
Why it’s a great starter project: Faucet repairs are a great way to get accustomed to the way that plumbing fixtures work. Almost all faucets are designed to come apart and go back together with relative ease. But there are a number of different variations, so you’ll pick up a wider education as you research your specific faucet.
What it gives you an excuse to buy: For loosening faucets and aerators, nothing works better than a pair of vice grips and channel lock pliers. Pick up a quality pair of each, and you’ll find that they’ll quickly earn a spot on your list of favorite tools.
Over time the caulk that seals seams and gaps in your bathroom can wear out or collect dirt. So whether it’s for aesthetic or practical reasons, re-caulking a shower or bathtub is a great way to freshen up your bathroom while learning an essential home repair skill.
Why it’s a great starter project: Clumpy, blobby caulk lines are unsightly. And laying a proper bead of caulk is an acquired skill that you won’t learn it unless you jump in and give it a try. The link above covers the removal of existing caulk, and these tips for caulking provide techniques that it takes most pros years to acquire.
What it gives you an excuse to buy: If you don’t already have a caulk gun, this is the time to pick one up. Spend a few dollars more for one with a smooth action and no-drip stop; you’ll be glad you did. As long as you wipe off any excess caulk when you’re done working, the caulk gun should last a decade or more.
Garage Storage Shelves
Expand your storage space and learn the basics of woodworking by building and hanging custom shelving in your garage.
Why it’s a great starter project: Most garages are strictly utilitarian spaces. In other words, you have more leeway for imperfections and the inevitable mistakes you’ll make along the way when you’re learning basic DIY skills. And this is a good project on which to learn about planning and how to maximize cuts to make the best use of a sheet of plywood.
What it gives you an excuse to buy: A circular saw is a must-have for this project. You may also want to pick up a ripping fence accessory for the saw to make your long cuts easier. And if you already have a circular saw, this project is a great time to invest in a compressor and nail gun.
Build a Fire Pit
Create a gathering spot that’s perfect for bonfires and s’mores by building your own backyard fire pit.
Why it’s a great starter project: This is a great introduction to basic concrete work, hardscaping, home improvement and masonry. These skills can evolve a great number of other projects, from patios and retaining walls to tuckpointing and dozens of other DIY projects.
What it gives you an excuse to buy: And simple, inexpensive masonry tools such as a trowel and tuckpointer will make this and any future jobs go faster.
Hang a Ceiling Fan
Upgrading an existing light fixture to a ceiling fan adds an attractive feature to a room while cutting down your HVAC costs. Long considered a surprisingly big headache, recent changes in fan design have made installation far easier than it used to be. These changes allow the fan to dangle from a support strut while being assembled, thus bringing it into the realm of beginner DIY projects.
Why it’s a great starter project: As long as there’s an existing light fixture or ceiling fan present, upgrading to a ceiling fan involves basic wiring and assembly skills. And like most DIY projects, the challenges are really in the tiny things that don’t go exactly as expected. The worst-case scenario is that you rehang the existing fixture and tackle it again in a few days.
What it gives you an excuse to buy: Once you’ve begun to work with residential wiring, it’s time to pick up a voltage tester. Always keep it in your pocket as you work, to verify that the lines are not live before working with electricity. It’s an inexpensive tool that will make things safer and less stressful.
Install a Wall-Mounted Television
Flat-panel televisions look great, but exposed cables running down the wall ruin their sleek look and elegant design.
Why it’s a great starter project: Mounting a TV, relocating an outlet, and running cables behind a wall are great stepping stones to more complex projects. They’ll give you a more advanced understanding of wiring and some basic experience with the crucial skill of fishing wire through a wall cavity. With a little bit of preplanning, you won’t even have to do any drywall touch-ups.
What it gives you an excuse to buy: This is a job which can be done with surprisingly simple tools. But to make things go smoother, consider picking up a stud finder, some fish tape and a drywall saw.
Sink Trap Clean-Out
Over time, the sink traps in kitchens and bathrooms become clogged. Disassembling one, cleaning it out and reassembling it will teach you how the pipes go together, while also helping ensure that your sink drains correctly. And if your trap is an old metal assembly, this is a great time to upgrade to PVC. And fair warning: traps collect gunk and grime, so the cleanout home improvement process can be messy and foul-smelling — but the education is worth it!
Why it’s a great starter project: Just as faucet repairs are a great way to begin to learn how plumbing works, drain cleanouts are a low-risk, low-cost way to begin understanding drain line structure.
What it gives you an excuse to buy: If you didn’t already grab a pair of channel lock pliers for faucet repair, you’ll definitely want to pick some up for this task.