DIY Home Improvement
Quick Home Upgrades That Deliver Big Results
Simple kitchen and bath improvements that will make your life easier
Touch up Nicks and Scratches
If you have shallow scratches or nicks, hide them with a stain-filled touch-up marker. Dab on the stain and wipe off the excess with a rag. But beware: Scratches can absorb lots of stain and turn darker than the surrounding finish. So start with a marker that’s lighter than your cabinet finish and then switch to a darker shade if needed. For deeper scratches, use a filler pencil, which fills and colors the scratch. If the cabinet finish is dingy overall and has lots of scratches, consider a wipe-on product like Old English Scratch Coat. These products can darken the finish slightly, so you have to apply them to all your cabinets. Bigger than a scratch? Use polyester filler.
Restore Free Flow to a Faucet
To remove the sand and other deposits, soak the aerator in vinegar, then scrub it with a toothbrush. This usually solves the problem. If you have to disassemble the aerator to clean it, lay out the parts in the order you removed them so you can reassemble them correctly. Still having issues? Do a showerhead deep clean.
Painting Kitchen Cabinets
Give new life to your old wood kitchen cabinets with a fresh coat of paint. But what is the best type of paint to use?
For the best adhesion and a harder, more durable finish, an oil-based (alkyd) paint is tough to beat for kitchen cabinets. But you must be willing to put up with the strong odor and solvent cleanup, along with a longer drying and curing time than you’d get if you used an ordinary water-based paint. Plus, the color may yellow over time.
The best solution to avoid the hassle of oil-based paint is a new-technology waterborne acrylic enamel paint (such as Satin Impervo by Benjamin Moore) that delivers the good flow, leveling and hardening characteristics of an oil-based paint without the odor and long drying time. These new paints dry fast and clean up with soap and water. The main challenge is a smooth finish, but pros say that if the waterborne acrylic enamel is applied heavily enough and worked in small sections, it will flatten out nicely. Avoid a dry brush and going over sections already starting to dry.
Don’t forget other keys to success when painting cabinets—surface preparation (degreasing, cleaning and sanding), priming (use a top-quality primer), brushing (use the best-quality brush for the type of paint) and drying (follow label directions). Want to add more storage space? Build under-cabinet drawers.
Appliance Touch-up Paint
A single scratch or chip can make a beautiful new appliance look like something you found out in the alley. Fortunately, you can make those eyesores, even up to 1/4-in. diameter, almost completely vanish with color-matched epoxy touch-up paint. The trick? Fill the chip with multiple thin coats instead of trying to cover it all at once. Use the porcelain-type version for stovetops and sinks. You can also paint the plastic handles on your appliances to make them look brand new.
Natural or stained woodwork is beautiful, but scratches can really stand out—especially with darker stains. You can make these scratches disappear by touching them up with a stain marker. It’s simple to use, and much cheaper than buying whole cans of stain. Start with a lighter color, and if the scratch still shows, go over it with a darker shade. Unless the varnish is in bad shape and needs to be recoated, that’s usually all you have to do to make older woodwork look almost new again. If you need to replace whole pieces, learn how to finish and match the stain.
When the floor of your sink cabinet needs a spruce-up, lay down squares of self-adhesive vinyl tile. They’re about a buck a square at home centers and provide an easy-to-wipe-clean surface. Need more organization? Try building this cabinet door storage rack.
Kitchen Window Plant Perch
Do you like having fresh herbs at your fingertips? Keeping them on your counter takes up valuable space and doesn’t expose them to enough light. Try this easy storage idea: Install a wire shelf between the upper cabinets flanking your kitchen window. You can set your plants where they’ll get plenty of light without blocking the view. This also makes watering easy and keeps them readily available for snipping. Make sure to install the shelf high enough so you don’t bump into it when you’re working at the sink. Get more quick and clever kitchen storage ideas.
Add a Spice Shelf
Hang a Shelf Over Your Towel Bar
For some reason, once the towel bar goes up, we don’t consider the wall usable for anything else. Why not hang a shelf for toiletries and decorative items? Just make sure to mount the shelf high enough so it allows easy access to your towels. Get more simple bathroom storage ideas.
Install a New Tub and Shower Trim Kit
Give your shower an instant face-lift by swapping out your existing showerhead, handle and tub spout for new ones. To make this a painless switch, buy a trim kit that uses the existing trim valve—you won’t have to touch anything inside the wall. Before you buy, check the manufacturer’s Web site for specs, styles and finishes. Also check your tub spout to see if it slips on or is threaded so you can buy the right replacement. You can buy complete trim kits or buy each component separately at home centers, plumbing suppliers and online retailers.
Add a Second Medicine Cabinet and Shelves
Here’s a way to add more storage and bump up the sophistication of your bathroom. Mount matching medicine cabinets and add shelves between them. To support these shelves, we drilled holes in the sides of the cabinets and inserted adjustable shelf pegs. The shelves are simply boards finished to match the cabinets. This makes the most of the wall space above your toilet and sink. You could also mount something similar over a double sink setup. The cabinets can be surface mounted or recessed. The shelves give the unit a nice finished quality. Medicine cabinets start at less than $100 each.
Hang a Mirror Behind the Door
The wall behind the bathroom door goes unused because the door will hit anything that protrudes. Hang a mirror there. You’ll still be able to use the back of the door to hang robes and towels. The mirror will instantly make the bathroom feel larger. And it’s nice to be able to check whether your shirt is tucked in before you head out into the world. Full-length mirrors cost as little as $30 at home centers.
Install a Curved Shower Curtain Rod
This is a two-fer. A curved shower curtain rod is an affordable luxury that makes you feel a lot less claustrophobic taking a shower. Having just that extra few inches of space means you don’t constantly brush against the shower curtain every time you raise your arm. And a double curved shower curtain is just plain clever. You can hang towels on the outer rod, which buys you drying space and puts your towel right where you need it. Or you can hang your liner and your curtain on separate rods. You may need an extra-long liner since the curve pulls the hem of the shower liner higher in the tub. You can find a variety of double rods, both curved and straight, in different finishes at online retailers, bath shops and department stores. This is just one of many easy ways to makeover your bathroom.