5 High-Impact Home Projects to Do This Weekend—for Just $15 Each

published Jul 17, 2020
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Credit: Anna Spaller

Dreaming up grand plans for renovating a tired space? You don’t have to spend years waiting for your bank account to have just enough padding to get the job done. There are plenty of low-cost, low-effort projects that can really move the needle. You don’t need to be a DIY pro, either. As long as you have a screwdriver at your disposal, you can accomplish at least one project on this pro-approved list of easy upgrades—all of which come in at $15 or less.

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

Weatherstripping doors and windows

“A seemingly tiny ⅛-inch gap under your door can lead to the same amount of heat or AC loss, and the resulting increase in energy bills, as a three-inch hole drilled into the side of your home,” says Kevin Busch, VP of operations of Mr. Handyman, a Neighborly company. To increase your home’s efficiency, add weatherstripping to drafty windows and doors. “A little goes a long way, it’s very affordable, and almost anyone can DIY this project with ease,” says Busch. “Additionally, sealing these drafty areas of the home will prevent bugs, mice, and other pests from finding their way inside.”

Typically, weatherstripping looks like a thin roll of foam or felt tape with adhesive for easy application. Apply these along the tracks of your windows and doors to create a tighter seal. For more drafty areas, such as the bottom of a door, consider installing a door sweep. Though just as easy to install, you may need a few basic tools, such as a power drill or a screwdriver. 

Replacing old hardware

Though just a small element, the hardware on your kitchen cabinets or bathroom vanity can really make a difference for just a few bucks, says Busch. Consider replacing any dated knobs and pulls with modern alternatives. When it comes to removal and installation, this is something just about anyone can do. Just unscrew the old, then screw in the new.

While high-end hardware can cost $100 or more per piece, this doesn’t have to be an expensive project. Simple wood or metal pulls are both affordable alternatives if you’re outfitting a large kitchen; or, spice up a small vanity with just a couple pricier pulls. One way to save lots? Paint the hardware you have now. For best results, make sure to choose a spray paint formulated for metal, doing a couple light coats on your pieces rather than one thick one.

Credit: Anna Spaller

Adding a fresh coat of paint to doors or trim

Sure, you already know that a fresh coat of paint can do wonders for your walls, but there’s other ways to get creative with a brush. To boost curb appeal, paint your front door a bright color, says Jimmy Chalmers, franchisee and owner of Handyman Connection in Marietta, Georgia. “Blues, greens, yellows, and even an orange can add great color and big dramatic flare to the front of your home.” Other areas of your home that may be in need? Your trim, baseboards, and even your stair risers all take a regular beating. You’ll be surprised what a single coat of semigloss can do. For these projects, you only need a few tools—namely a quality paint brush, some painters tape, and a drop cloth to protect the floors.

Replacing switch plates

Do you have ornate gold switch plates that look like they’re from another century? Or maybe the white plastic ones the previous owner installed are now a pale shade of yellow? For less than $15, you can get a brand new set for an entire room—and beyond. Or, for a more decorative touch, you can use small picture frames. “With a little paint and some creativity, you can make them look like expensive $30-plus switch covers,” says Chalmers. Since you’re just replacing what’s already there, this ultra-basic project is doable with nothing more than a screwdriver (or a power drill to make quick work of the task).

Another eyesore that’s easy to replace: yellowy dimmer knobs, which easily pop off and on without any tools. If yours don’t match your switch plates, you can grab fresh white ones for as little as $2 a pop.

Credit: Minette Hand

Re-caulking the bathroom 

Are the seams in your tile starting to yellow or crack? You don’t have to live with that dingy, dated look—and you don’t have to rip the tile out to remedy the situation. With an afternoon to spare, it’s a project just about any homeowner can take on. “Bathroom caulking is not only about a great appearance but is helpful in keeping moisture from seeping in places where you don’t want it,” says Chalmers. “Removing old caulking and replacing with new around showers, tubs, and toilet bases will help avoid costly water damage and maintenance.”

To get started, all you will need is the chalking, a small bucket of water, and cleaning rags. A caulking tool—essentially a squirt gun to apply caulk more precisely—is helpful, but not necessary, says Chalmers. Re-caulking a tub a project you can do for less than $15 and in the course of an afternoon.