21 Home Improvement Projects to Tackle in 2021
A new year means a new start on home improvement projects. Tackle these to-do list items this year.
Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links.
Add Curb Appeal
Redesigning your front yard can completely change the feel of your house. Something as simple as planting flowers in the entryway will draw in party guests, and, when the time comes to sell, curb appeal is attractive to prospective buyers. Improve your front landscaping, paint your front door, power wash the front walk or complete another curb appeal project this year.
Silence Floor Squeaks
With a bare floor, you can eliminate floor squeaks the easiest, most effective way: by driving screws into the floor joists. Existing nails or screws tell you where the joists are. Walk around the room, pencil in hand, and mark squeaky spots. Drive screws 6 in. apart and add more screws if needed until the squeak is gone. In most cases, 2-in. screws are best; for subfloors thicker than 3/4 in., use 2-1/2-in. screws. If you want to prevent squeaks from developing, add screws along all the floor joists.
Put Up Motion Detector Lighting
Motion detector lights are a proven crime deterrent, and standard hard-wired models cost as little as $15. If running a power supply would be difficult, buy ones that run on solar power. The downside is the cost. Don’t stop at motion sensor lights; install a full home security system to match.
Removing Radon, the Silent Killer
Radon is a radioactive gas that moves through spaces in the soil and can enter a house through any opening, such as cracks in the foundation or the concrete slab. At elevated levels over long periods of time, radon can cause lung cancer and is the second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking. Radon is estimated to cause 21,000 deaths annually in the United States. It’s colorless, odorless and tasteless, and often called ‘the silent killer.’
Even if your neighbor’s house has a high level of radon, that doesn’t mean yours does. Each house is different, and age doesn’t matter and can be found in new homes. Radon test kits are available at home centers and hardware stores for about $10. They usually involve setting a collector in your home for a week or so and then sending it to a lab for analysis. You’ll get results in about a week. (One manufacturer is Pro-Lab and charges $40; includes a postage-paid envelope.) Conduct the test in the lowest livable area.
If two tests give a high reading, consult a radon mitigation contractor (from a list provided by your state health department). These contractors can professionally test the house and install a mitigation system for reducing radon to a harmless level. The most effective system is a vent pipe placed in the sump pit or a hole made under your concrete floor slab. The vent runs up through the house and out the roof, or out the side of the house and up to the eaves. A special in-line fan for radon is placed in the attic or outside the house to suck air through the vent. Any openings in the slab or foundation are sealed to keep out radon. Pros usually charge up to $2,000 for installation.
Weatherstrip Hatches and Doors
After sealing the attic bypasses, push the insulation back into place with an old broom handle or a stick as you back out of the attic. Then finish up by sealing the access hatch with self-sticking foam weatherstrip. You may have to add new wood stops to provide a better surface for the weatherstrip and enough room for hook-and-eye fasteners. Position the screw eyes so that you slightly compress the weatherstrip when you latch the hatch. Use a similar procedure if you have a hinged door that leads to the attic.
Update the Bathroom
When it comes to projects that will give you a great return when you sell your home, look no further than a minor bathroom remodel. Give your bathroom vanity a makeover, replace the toilet and faucet if needed, update the shower head for a better shower experience and re-caulk the bathroom tub.
If the carpet in your living room is looking worn, remove it and install some hardwood flooring. Quality hardwood flooring can cost anywhere from $3 to $8 per square foot and you can save some money by installing it yourself. If the carpet is still good, give it a good DIY carpet cleaning.
Countertops can be a tell-tale sign of a dated house. Participants of a Maytag survey prioritized upgrading their countertops to something more on-trend. If your laminate kitchen countertops are worn but still sound, give them a fresh, new look by resurfacing them. A variety of colors are available, and the process is no harder than painting.
Make Your Home Safer
It’s better to be safe than sorry, which surely applies to your home security! If you want to add more safety features to your home but can’t seem to follow through, make it one of your top priorities in the new year. A security camera system will give you peace of mind, providing a whole video surveillance system that’s connected together by a series of security cameras and network video recorders, so you can have 24/7 reliable video monitoring around your home and/or business.
Reolink is a solid option. Its security camera system allows you to browse by 16-channel and 8-channel PoE security camera systems, for super HD reliable videos. See live view, stay informed when an invasion happens and replay video records on your phone and computer with the NVR camera system.
Upgrade Light Fixtures
Twenty-three percent of homeowners want to spend the colder months taking care of home renovations. The survey found that homeowners would rather complete home renovations during the fall/winter so they can travel in the spring/summer. Simple upgrades like adding a new light fixture, such as the semi-flush sputnik chandelier, to your foyer can make a bold statement.
Upgrade the Laundry Room
Aside from the weeks around the holidays, homeowners find the colder months a valuable time to make necessary upgrades. In fact, according to the Maytag survey, 44 percent of millennials and 41 percent of parent homeowners plan to remodel their laundry room or kitchen (compared to 29 percent of all homeowners). If you’re in need of new laundry appliances, Maytag’s high-efficiency top load washer and gas dryer with INTELLIDRY sensor are ideal for big loads. Sleek design, commercial technology and quiet as a mouse, this duo makes your laundry room look sparkling new, and your clothes too!
Replace a Torn Window Screen
Whether it’s from a fallen branch, a pair of over-eager paws, or simple wear and tear, sooner or later most window screens will require a repair. And it’s possible to patch a small tear, but you can also replace an entire screen. This is a great beginner DIY home improvement that will help keep insects out of your home and make your windows or screen doors more attractive.
Why it’s a great starter project: Removing the window screen will help familiarize you with the mechanics of your windows. And this will come in handy down the road, when it’s time to do some maintenance on the windows themselves.
What it gives you an excuse to buy: The materials for this repair are inexpensive and will last for more than one window, which means you’ll have them on hand the next time a screen is damaged. A roll of replacement screening and the rubber spline that holds it in place are easily obtained. And a spline roller makes the replacement quick and easy. It’s possible to secure the spline without using a roller. Often times a flat screwdriver or old credit card can pop the spline into place. But the spline roller makes things go smoother and decreases the risk of damaging the spline during installation. And a spline roller lasts forever!
Over time the caulk that seals seams and gaps can wear out or collect dirt. So whether it’s for aesthetic or practical reasons, re-caulking a shower or bathtub is a great way to freshen up your bathroom while learning an essential home repair skill.
Why it’s a great starter project: Clumpy, blobby caulk lines are unsightly. And laying a proper bead of caulk is an acquired skill, and you won’t learn it unless you jump in and give it a try. The link above covers the removal of existing caulk, and these tips for caulking provide techniques that it takes most pros years to acquire.
What it gives you an excuse to buy: If you don’t already have a caulk gun, this is the time to pick one up. And spend a few dollars more for one with a smooth action and no-drip stop; you’ll be glad you did. As long as you wipe off any excess caulk when you’re done working, the caulk gun should last a decade or more.
Sink Trap Clean-Out
Over time, the sink traps in kitchens and bathrooms become clogged. Disassembling one, cleaning it out and reassembling it will teach you how the pipes go together, while also helping ensure that your sink drains correctly. And if your trap is an old metal assembly, this is a great time to upgrade to PVC. And fair warning: traps collect gunk and grime, so the cleanout home improvement process can be messy and foul-smelling, but the education is worth it!
Why it’s a great starter project: Just as faucet repairs are a great way to begin to learn how plumbing works, drain cleanouts are a low-risk, low-cost way to begin understanding drain line structure.
What it gives you an excuse to buy: If you didn’t already grab a pair of channel lock pliers for faucet repair, you’ll definitely want to pick some up for this task.
Raise an Adjustable Entry Door Threshold
Those big screwheads in the threshold of a newer entry door aren’t just decorative; they raise or lower a narrow strip set in the threshold. So if you’ve noticed a draft under the door, try this: On a sunny day, turn off the lights and close nearby curtains. Lie down and look for daylight under the door. A sliver of light sneaking in at both corners of the door is normal. But if you see light between the threshold and the door, grab your screwdriver and raise the threshold.