This is a wonderful guest post by Mindy Jensen. She is a licensed real estate agent in Colorado, and flips houses with her husband for fun and profit, doing much of the work themselves. She's the Community Manager at BiggerPockets.com, where she spends all day doing what she loves – talking about real estate. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and over at BiggerPockets.com.
Home Improvement projects can seem daunting if you don't have experience. It's ALWAYS easier to just hire it out and be done with it – and some jobs honestly do take special skills.
There is no shortage of home improvement projects that are extremely easy to do, require little to no special tools, and can save you hundreds – or let's face it, thousands – by doing it yourself.
While you may not be able to – or feel comfortable – tackling all these projects, here are 5 improvements that you CAN do yourself.
Anyone can paint. You need a paint pan, roller with roller cover, brush to get into the corners and edges, and paint. The big box home improvement stores sell paint kits to get you started. They include a metal paint pan, roller with two covers, mini roller with one cover and a brush – for under $10. Add a Paint Can Pour Spout and supply-wise you're all-in for less than $11, plus the cost of the paint.
And while painting is probably the easiest task on this list, there are still a few things to consider.
Buy quality paint. I've made the mistake of buying cheap paint in the past. You end up putting on more coats – and therefore use more paint which costs more money – and taking much longer to finish the job. The pennies you save on paint are eaten up by the extra hours it takes to complete. My favorite brand is Behr, which is sold at The Home Depot and runs around $30-$35 a gallon. Pro Tip: Buy during the holidays, like Labor Day or 4th of July and they typically have a sale going on.
Watch a YouTube video. Seriously, YouTube can teach you anything, and there's a ton of videos about the best way to paint, both with a roller and using a brush to “cut in” in stead of using tape to mask off walls, ceilings and trim.
Take your time. It's going to take you several hours to paint each room. If you go fast, you'll make mistakes that can be difficult to fix – paint on the trim, floors, ceiling. I've also discovered that if you roll the paint slower, you have a better chance of getting the paint into the dips and textures of the wall. The faster you roll, the less paint gets into those deeper sections, requiring a second (or third) coat.
I don't recommend that you install carpet yourself. You need to stretch the carpet properly, or it gets lumps. But laminate, vinyl plank and linoleum are all fair game.
Laminate flooring is basically putting together a puzzle with all straight edges. Click into place, repeat repeat repeat. Some laminate flooring is better than others – both in wear and ease of installation. I recommend using a brand name like Pergo for the best results. This flooring material cuts best with a saw, and I recommend a mitre saw for the easiest, straightest cuts.
Vinyl plank is made out of PVC, is waterproof, and extremely durable. Installation is ridiculously easy, you take the overlapping edge from one side and place it on top of the underlapping edge on the other side. Repeat, repeat, repeat. It cuts with a utility knife so there are no special tools required.
Linoleum. This vinyl sheeting was extremely popular in the 70s, and is experiencing a resurgence thanks to much better colors and patterns. The old way of installation required gluing the sheet to the floor, which was a messy, stinky process. Newer, thicker linoleum options make glue unnecessary – although you can still glue it if you choose. Roll it out, cut to fit, and silicone caulk the edges to make it truly waterproof. (There are videos on YouTube that show step by step the installation process.)
Hardwood is not difficult to install, but does require more specialized tools. You'll need an air compressor and a flooring nailer, which is a pneumatic nail gun that shoots special flooring staples at a specific angle into the flooring material. You'll also need a mitre saw to cut the hardwood material. The money spent on these tools will be more than made up in the savings realized by doing it yourself. While the air compressor has multiple uses, as does the mitre saw, the flooring nailer is very specialized and can only be used to install hardwood floors. If you don't have a big job, consider renting it.
Before you skip over this paragraph and move to the next one, wait! I said basic plumbing – like replacing a brass faucet or a pink toilet. I'm not talking about installing new pipes.
Basic plumbing can give your home a brand new look and feel – and really isn't that difficult to do.
Step 1. TURN OFF THE WATER. Whatever you're trying to replace or repair, turn off the water to that particular spot in the house. If you're replacing a toilet, turn off the water supply right at the toilet. Ditto the sink.
Step 2. Check the water is truly off.
Step 3. Start your replacement. Again, there are multiple videos on YouTube available that will show you step by step how to repair or replace just about anything in your home. The library is also filled with books that give step by step instructions as well.
Similar to basic plumbing, basic electric is really not that hard. And no, I'm not talking about upgrading the electric service – leave that to the pros.
But you can change a light fixture, replace a non-functioning outlet, even install a new light switch as a beginner.
I'm directing you back to YouTube and your library once again, to get great, step by step instructions on how to do those simple electrical tasks – and more!
Pro Tip: Turn off the power to the item you're replacing, then test to double check. Electrocution takes the fun right out of DIY projects…
I hope you aren't paying someone to mow your lawn or rake your leaves – unless you are over the age of 75 or missing at least one limb. If you are a healthy, young person, there is no excuse for not doing your own yard work.
Even designing your landscaping isn't difficult to do. Choose a color scheme, or even just a general theme, then drive down to your local home improvement store for plant ideas. Take the pots and place them around your yard until you like the way it looks, paying attention to whether the plants need full or partial sun, or total shade. Plant according to the directions on the card.
Look around your home and you might be surprised at what you can fix, replace or improve, all by yourself. Not all jobs need a pro. A little time, a little elbow grease and a trip to Home Depot can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Mindy Jensen is a licensed real estate agent in Colorado, and flips houses with her husband for fun and profit, doing much of the work themselves. She's the Community Manager at BiggerPockets.com, where she spends all day doing what she loves – talking about real estate. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and over at BiggerPockets.com.