There’s a good chance you’ve recently rolled up your sleeves and taken on a home improvement yourself.
Eight out of 10 homeowners have tackled at least one DIY project since the start of the pandemic, an Angi survey found. Furthermore, spending for home improvements and repairs is expected to peak this year, according to a study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. In 2019, the most recent year JCHS has data for, homeowners spent an average of $3,300 on improvements and $820 on maintenance.
One big reason more homeowners are hopping on the DIY bandwagon is a construction labor shortage that’s making it harder for consumers to find skilled home contractors.
But let’s face it: Some home improvement projects are easier for the unskilled homeowner than others. A BJ’s Wholesale Club survey of 2,000 U.S. adults conducted in July 2021 revealed that four in 10 Americans said they’ve had more DIY failures than successes. And nearly half (45%) of those surveyed admit they’ve “butchered” a home improvement project.
Remodeling experts say the key to executing a DIY home renovation is selecting the right project for your skill level. For example, painting an accent wall can be a good project for beginners, but refinishing a wood deck would be a better fit for intermediates since it requires using a sander and power washer, two pieces of heavy-duty equipment.
Fortunately for DIY newbies, “There are lots of projects that the average person can accomplish on their own,” says veteran home improvement expert Bob Vila. Here are five relatively easy DIY improvements that will add value to your home.
1. Show your front yard a little TLC
Landscaping can add roughly 5% to 12% to your home's value depending on where you live, a recent Virginia Tech study found. In fact, listings with the word "landscaping" in the property description can sell for 1.4% higher than Zillow’s pre-listing value estimate.
“You don’t need to spend a fortune on new landscaping to make an impact,” says Mitchell Parker, senior editor at Houzz, a home improvement and interior design website. For example, simply having a well-tended lawn typically boosts a home’s resale value, a survey of real estate agents by the National Association of Realtors found. So make sure the grass is mowed, weeds are pulled and that you’ve reseeded any dirt patches.
Vila also recommends trimming hedges and trees — "you don’t want large trees that cast shade on your home,” he says — planting hedges that vary in size and adding lighting to walkways. Sets of simple to install garden lights can cost just a few dollars per lamp.
2. Paint the front door
You probably recognize that a freshly painted front door can make your home more inviting to guests and potential buyers. But what color should you paint it?
The answer, for many, is black or charcoal gray — homes with front doors in these colors sold for as much as $6,271 more than expected, according to a Zillow analysis examining more than 135,000 photos from listings across the U.S. (That said, it’s more important to pick a color that works for your home than to be on trend.)
Repainting a front door is relatively low-cost to do yourself. According to HomeGuide, exterior paint prices typically run $30 to $80 per gallon for standard acrylic or latex, and primer costs $20 to $50 per gallon on average, although you’ll also have to purchase tools such as a paint brushes, rollers and painter’s tape. These can often be found in sets costing around $40.
3. Refinish kitchen cabinets
For many, the kitchen is the most important room in the house. That means a fresh looking kitchen can go a long way when you put your house on the market.
Refinishing cabinets is the most popular partial kitchen upgrade homeowners make, according to Houzz's annual Kitchen Trends Report. It’s also affordable to do on your own — costing as little as $200, depending on the brand of paint you choose and the supplies you buy, according to Kitchn, a kitchen design advice resource.
But bear in mind: refinishing kitchen cabinets is time-consuming. You have to remove the cabinets, as well as all knobs and hardware, before you clean, sand, paint and finally reinstall them.
4. Seal air leaks
Buyers these days, especially millennials, want energy efficient homes. Energy efficiency is not only good for the environment but also good for your monthly utility bill.
Luckily, you don’t have to go to great lengths to make your home more efficient. If you have an older home, simply sealing air leaks can cut your utility costs significantly, according to EnergyStar.gov.
An easy fix is to caulk gaps around windows and doors, says James Bruno, chief construction officer at Curbio, a national home improvement company for home sellers. “It really adds a lot in terms of insulation and conserves energy,” he says.
5. Install smart home technology
Several surveys suggest that today’s homebuyers are willing to pay more for homes that already have smart technologies in place. These include features like smart security locks, smart thermostats and smart lighting, all of which are “fairly easy for the average homeowner to install,” Bruno says.
He recommends getting your feet wet by installing a smart security system like Ring, a video doorbell that detects motion when people come to your property, or a Nest thermostat, which lets you control your home’s heating and cooling system from your smartphone.
What home improvement projects should I avoid DIYing?
Some home renovations are better left to professionals. “I generally tell people to avoid doing anything that presents a risk of falling,” says Michael DiMartino, senior vice president of installations at Power Home Remodeling, a national home improvement company. “I also recommend people avoid doing complex electrical work” where they can potentially be electrocuted, he adds.
Jobs that require plumbing or structural expertise should also be reserved for professionals, says Houzz’s Parker.