Sometimes it’s intimidating to start something entirely new. In reality, though, getting started is the hardest part when it comes to most household tasks.
You’ll be surprised how easy many maintenance tasks are once you gather a bit of information and develop a can-do mindset. If you’re looking to boost your DIY skills, here are some projects to expand your current repertoire.
1. Preserving Food
Whether the produce in the fridge is about to go bad or you have an entire garden needing your attention, preserving food is easy, healthy, and cost effective.
Canning food is the best example. Fruits and tomatoes are an easy place to begin because they only require a hot water bath rather than a pressure cooker.
The main things to know about canning are you need to keep the process sanitary and you need to ensure a good seal.
Try your hand at canning peaches or pears, or make jam out of strawberries or raspberries. If you have an abundance of tomatoes, turn them into sauce, paste, ketchup, or salsa.
You’ll need some jars with lids and rings. A basic kit that includes a magnet for retrieving lids, a funnel, and tongs will come in handy.
Place your jars into the hot water bath, making sure they don’t touch. Once your fruit is prepared, retrieve one jar at a time and fill it within ⅛” of the top with hot fruit. Each recipe is a bit different, with some having you add additional liquid or ingredients such as lemon.
Then wipe the edge of each jar, apply a lid and ring, and place it back into the hot water bath. Process as per the recipe directions.
Once the jars cool, check the seal by pushing on each lid. If it pops up and down, it’s not a good seal. Eat the food instead of storing. Tightly sealed jars can be stored in the pantry.
In addition to canning, your harvest can be preserved through freezing or dehydrating. Give it a try!
Understanding how to properly sand wood is an essential skill for everything from refinishing cabinets to making a birdhouse.
Use your hand, a sanding block, or an electric sander. Whatever you decide on, the key is to always sand with the grain of the wood rather than against it.
Also understand the difference in grits. The lower the number, the more coarse the sandpaper is. A 50 or 60-grit paper is good for knocking off the first layer of paint or stain.
The higher numbers of grit produce a softer, finished sand. Most projects benefit from starting with a low number grit, then progressing up to a higher number grit. For example, if you’re refinishing a dresser, start with a 60-grit paper. Then do a round with 80 or 100-grit. Then move on to 150-200.
If you like the feel at that point, you can paint or stain your furniture. If you want a smoother finish, go up in your grit to meet your needs.
3. Miter Saw
The miter saw is one of the most versatile tools in your workshop arsenal. It’s valuable for cutting 2x4s for framing in a wall, doorway, window, or closet. It works to cut through 4x4s if you’re building a fence too.
Plus, it’s a great tool for more detailed work like cutting the sides of a picture frame or cutting flooring planks to size.
A miter saw is easy to use, but it takes a bit of practice. Start by making straight cuts up and down. Grab a practice board and some ear and eye protection.
Set the blade straight ahead and put the board in place. Push the board to the back of the saw so it sets flush. Then squeeze the safety release and the button that engages the blade. Practice this motion a few times before making the cut.
Once comfortable, lower the moving blade down through the board. Release the buttons and allow the blade to stop before lifting it back up again.
Move the board down a few inches and try the cut again as many times as you want. Always ensure your hands are out of the way and don’t reach across the blade. Clamp the board in place if you don’t have room to safely hold it.
Once you’re comfortable with this basic cut, adjust the blade to the 45-degree mark and make cuts from there.
4. Trim Work
With your new comfort in using the miter saw, you can now advance onto countless woodworking projects--one of which is trim work inside your home.
This can be crown molding, chair rail molding, base molding, or window and door trim.
Whatever the project, the 45-degree cut will be your best friend. With that mastered, it’s about board placement. Some cuts require you to stand the board up and others require it to lay flat. Also note there are two settings for the 45-degree mark. That’s because you’ll need to be able to make cuts in both directions.
Although it sounds intimidating, you’ll quickly be able to see how the ends meet at either an inside corner or an outside corner and how those cuts differ. Save yourself material waste by playing around with these cuts so you can have a visual model of how they come together.
Once you understand the cuts required for trim work, the next step is to ensure accurate measurements. Always leave a mark or two long. You can always trim it a bit if needed, but you can’t make a board longer.
Tip: The width of your blade will result in boards that are shorter than you measured. When lining up your blade, make sure to align it with the side of the mark you are cutting off rather than cutting the mark directly down the middle.
5. Laminate Flooring
The same basic techniques explained for trim work will also suit you in the installation of hardwood or laminate flooring. If you’re comfortable with a miter saw, you can install click-together, tongue-in-groove flooring. Review the directions and watch a few videos to get you started.
Create your first row by connecting boards end to end. Do not use the wall as a guide since most are not square. Do ensure boards are aligned along each edge.
Your next row will be staggered with boards overlapping the seam on the previous row. This helps hold the flooring in place. Securely tap each board into place, making sure it achieves a solid connection. You’ll often hear or feel it ‘click’ into place. If the connection isn’t solid it will separate over time.
Most laminate, tile, vinyl, and engineered hardwoods click together in this way to create a ‘floating’ floor. Some of these products, along with solid hardwood, need to be nailed down instead. In this case, each board is nailed into place with a nail gun.
6. Replace a Toilet
Is your toilet outdated, water consumptive, broken, or not the right height? Replacing it is easier than you might think. Start by turning off the water to the fixture. The knob is typically behind the toilet near the ground. You can also choose to turn the water off to the entire house.
With the water off, loosen and disconnect the hoses on the back of the toilet. Then loosen and remove the bolts on the bottom of the toilet. Rock the toilet until it comes loose and then lift it off of the bolts in the ground. Use the same process if your toilet is mounted to a wall.
Clean up the area around the toilet location.
If the tank isn’t attached, place it onto the base and tighten the bolts. Do not overtighten as it can crack the tank.
Place a wax ring where your new toilet will sit. Lower the new fixture into place over the screws and wax ring. Press it firmly into place and tighten the bolts. Do not overtighten. Then reconnect the hoses and turn the water back on. If everything looks good, caulk around the base of the toilet.
7. Replace a Faucet
Replacing leaky, outdated, or broken faucets is another DIY skill you can easily develop. Again, you’ll start by turning off the water at either the local water control or by turning it off at the main.
Disconnect all hoses, paying attention to their location. Take a picture to help with reassembly. Loosen and remove screws from beneath the faucet casing. Then lift the faucet and hoses out of place.
Gently scrape away any caulking residue and clean the space. Double check to ensure your new faucet has the same mounting layout as the previous model.
Review the directions for your specific faucet. Lower it into place and tighten the screws from the bottom. Attach the hoses in the same pattern as before. You may need to apply plumbers tape to some connections.
Turn the water source back on. Watch for leaks over the first week or so.
While it can take a lifetime to perfect the intricacies of painting, you can tackle many basic paint jobs in a single weekend.
The primary tip to a great paint job is a well-prepared surface. Any imperfections in the wall or ceiling will be amplified by a layer of paint, so make the repairs before grabbing a paintbrush.
Sand down high points, match texture if needed, replace drywall, patch holes of all sizes, and use a primer if you’re making drastic changes to the color.
If your painting project has a glossy finish, use a deglosser and then sand it down to create a rough surface for paint to adhere to.
Invest in quality paint, brushes, and rollers. It makes a huge difference in the end result. Also, when you buy your paint, discuss the project with the salesperson and ask if they recommend a primer.
While you may not need one if you’re simply painting over a wall surface in a similar color, you’ll almost certainly want one for cabinets and other surfaces. If you’re making a dramatic color change, such as from beige to red, you’ll want to use a tinted primer as a stepping stone to the final color.
As for technique, painting takes practice. Be sure to thoroughly protect all surrounding areas from paint drips and splatters. Remove all shelving, outlet and light switch covers, and other things attached to the surface.
For things that can’t be removed, tape them off with Frog tape or blue tape. Make this a priority and allow time for it. It can take an entire day to prep a space. Remember how important this step is.
Note: When using painter’s tape, create a clean line in your application. Do this by lightly dipping your brush into the paint. Starting on the surface of the tape, brush outwards.
Move along the length of the tape, applying a very thin layer in this way. This will create a protective seal so additional layers of paint won’t seep beneath the edge of the tape.
9. Smart Device Installation
You can upgrade a number of systems in your home with some easy swaps. Replace your thermostat with a Smart, programmable model by turning off the electricity, removing the old model, and wiring in the new one.
Similarly, you can swap out outdoor flood lights with motion-sensor camera/light combos or put in a Smart shower head to upgrade your morning routine.
10. Building a Garden Box
Raised garden beds provide an effective environment for plant health and are a great resource if you’re renting or less than ideal soil. Garden boxes are easy to build with scraps you have around the house or with a quick run to the lumber yard.
Design your box so it’s easy to maneuver around--a 4x4 or 4x8 works well. Stack boards on top of each other to the height you desire. Measure and cut your boards accordingly. Then use a cordless drill to screw them together at the corners.
Reinforce them by mounting a 1x1 or 2x4 length of wood inside each corner and place another flat board on the inside of the slats about halfway along the lengths of each side. This gives something for the slats to adhere to for support.
Place your planters, fill with soil, and get your garden underway.
For more ideas for DIY skills you can acquire, check out Easy Wood Fence Removal, Easy Ways to Repair Accordion Shutters, and Common Furnace Repairs and Easy Fixes.