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18 Easy Home Updates for Instant Impact

We all want our homes to “show” better, whether we’re selling a house, moving into a new home or apartment, or staying in place for years.

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flooringBelinda Fontes/

Get rid of rugs—maybe

If you’re staying in your home, you probably want the softness and silencing effect of area rugs. But if you’re selling, remove them. They chop up the room in photographs and hide your nice flooring. Melanie tells her clients, “You’re selling the floor, not the rug.”

There is an exception to this rule: In a large, open layout, rugs help to define the space. For example, a rug can make a seating area distinct from an adjoining dining area.

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lightFamily Handyman

Upgrade light fixtures

In many homes, it’s the most powerful, effective thing you can do: Replace dated lights with more stylish fixtures,
especially in “public” rooms like the living room and kitchen. It doesn’t have to be expensive, since home centers carry up-to-date fixtures starting at about $50. (The fixture above is $89 at Nor is it difficult, even if you have no experience with electrical work. To see how, search for “light fixture” at

Make sure lights match in color and brightness from room to room. The bulbs in recessed lights should be the same, and the bulbs in fixtures should all match as well. Melanie suggests using GE Crystal Clear incandescent bulbs. She thinks they show off the interior best.

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doorbellFamily Handyman

Replace a doorbell button

If the first thing buyers notice as they approach a house is a stuck, broken or ugly door- bell button, it will affect their impression as they check out the rest of the house. Replacement is easy; there are just two low-voltage wires to connect. To solve other doorbell problems, go to and search for “doorbell.”

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backsplashFamily Handyman

Instant backsplash

An attractive kitchen back- splash can transform a kitchen. Melanie recom- mends a peel-and-stick backsplash as an easy DIY solution. You just peel off the backing from the sheet of tile and stick it to the wall. The tiles are available in all types of materials from natural stone to gel tile and cost $3 a sheet and up.

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treesFamily Handyman

Trim trees that block views or light

Natural light is something everyone craves, especially during the shorter days of the year. To let in as much light as possible, trim trees or shrubs that are creating shade. If the branches are within arm’s reach, use a lopper or reciprocating saw with a pruning blade. Use a pole saw if the sun- blocking limb is higher than that.

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groutFamily Handyman

Restore grout

If the grout lines in your tile are dingy and dark from grime, you can easily get the grout to look like new again with a grout restorer. Some are kits that come with two solutions—a tile-and-grout cleaner and a color sealer. Other products consist of just a colorant. Either way, clean the grout and wipe it dry, apply the colorant according to the manufacturer, then wipe off the excess. Products range from less than $15 to $30 and can be found at home centers.

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outletsFamily Handyman

Replace outlets and switches

Switches, outlets and cover plates get dirty, dam- aged and discolored, giving your home a worn look. New ones give your home a remodeled feel. Replacing them is usually easy and inexpensive ($2 to $3 each).

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WindowFamily Handyman

Block the view, not the light

People like bright, sunlit spaces. So if you want to block the view of your neighbor’s back- yard junk collection, go with translucent window film rather than opaque window coverings. Window film is also ideal for bathroom privacy.

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hardwareFamily Handyman

Replace cabinet hardware

Changing out old cabinet hardware for an updated style can drastically change the way the entire room looks. Updating the cabinet knobs and pulls will cost as little as $2 to $5 apiece, and each can be done in a matter of minutes. If the shape of the knob is up to date, but the color or shade isn’t, give it a few coats of spray paint.

During showings, potential home buyers first notice things at eye level, then they look up, and lastly, they check near the door. Keep that in mind when choosing the projects you want to prioritize.

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sprayFamily Handyman

Make spray paint your friend

All homeowners should get familiar with laying a nice coat of spray paint over all kinds of faded, rusty or outdated things around your home. The key to a good spray-paint job is a good cleaning with a degreaser followed by several very light coats of paint, starting with a primer. Spray- paint appliance handles, HVAC registers, bath fan covers and light fixtures to give them new life. If the material you’re painting is plastic, use a paint formulated for plastic.

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cabinetFamily Handyman

Adjust cabinet doors

Make sure those cabinet doors are aligned properly. It will make a huge difference and it’s really easy. On euro hinges, there are two screws you can tighten and loosen to align the doors and make sure gaps between them are consistent.

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doorFamily Handyman

Fix doors

If you’ve lived in your home for a while, you’ve learned to tolerate your sticking, stubborn doors. But to other people, they’re a frustration and a turn- off. The good news is that you can solve most problems in less than an hour.

The front entry is first priority. Buyers typically know within 10 seconds whether or not they’re interested.

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stainFamily Handyman

Cover up claw marks

Claw marks from pets need to be fixed. If the door is painted, it’s easy to fill the gouges with wood filler or patching compound and repaint. On a stained door, try gel stain. Lightly sand the area and then, using a dry brush, start with a light stain and darken it to match the old finish. Keep the brush on the drier side by wiping excess stain off on a clean rag. When you’re done, feather from the newly stained area with a clear spray finish into the surrounding area.

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cutFamily Handyman

Replace torn screens

This is an easy DIY project that involves a special screen roller and just a few basic tools. You start by removing the old spline, the stringy rubber piece that holds the screen in the groove, then you’ll be able to take off the old screen. Place the new screen over the frame and use the screen roller to press in a new spline. After cutting away the excess screen, you’ll have it back in the opening in half an hour.

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damageFamily Handyman

Hide wall damage

If you’ve got dings or dents around your outlet, or made a mistake cutting tile or dry- wall around an outlet or switch, install a jumbo cover plate to hide those gaps or dents. In fact, consider replacing all your old, yellowed or dirty cover plates: they cost less than $1 apiece.

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CracksFamily Handyman

Adiós, Good-Bye Cracks

Our favorite solution to cracks in plaster and drywall was Good-Bye Cracks, an elastic spray-on coating that flexes along with wall movement. After filling the gaps with patching compound, you spray on two coats, then repaint. However, it has been discontinued and will soon be gone for good. A 4-oz. can is $4. Stock up while you can!

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dingsFamily Handyman

Cover doorknob dings

Doorknobs are some of the main culprits when it comes to doing damage to your walls. If the accident has already happened, you can prevent further damage and cover up the dent with a bumper. And if your wall is still in good condition, you can keep it that way. You can find door bumpers online or at home centers for about $5.

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upwardFamily Handyman

Mask ceiling stains

If you have a water-stained ceiling, a stain- blocking primer is mandatory to prevent the stain from bleeding through a fresh coat of paint. KILZ Upshot and Zinsser Covers Up are both stain-blocking primers, and both have nozzles that shoot upward. These primers attempt to match aged ceilings, so you may be able to get away without repainting the ceiling. You can pick up a can at any home center for about $7.