The weekend is the perfect time to tackle that long-awaited home makeover. If you’re not careful, though, do-it-yourself home projects can turn into more trouble than they’re worth.
How can you make sure those “simple” DIY upgrades don’t become aggravating, messy chores? Here are four quick guides—and a bunch of tips—for a cleaner and easier weekend home makeover:
GUIDE 1: Drilling Walls With Minimal Dust and Damage
Need to hang a mirror in the bedroom or picture frames above the sofa? You’ll likely need to drill at least a few holes in your wall. Here are some tips for reducing the dust, damage, and frustration:
Find the stud. You’ll typically want to hang heavy items by drilling the screws into the wooden beams (“studs”) behind your walls; otherwise, those items may not have enough support and could damage your walls. A stud finder, which you can pick up at any hardware store, allows you to easily locate the studs behind your walls.
Start with a hammer. Before you drill, consider using a nail and hammer to create a small hole in the wall. It will help to guide and support the drill as it goes in. This means less error and less mess when drilling.
Use the right type of drill bit. Your drill may accommodate several types of bits. Make sure to use one designed to drill into wood and other light-weight materials—called a Brad Point or Dowel—rather than a bit used to drill into masonry and other heavy-duty materials. This will minimize the risk of damage to your walls and reduce the amount of dust produced.
Use anchors to strengthen the hold. If you can’t drill directly into the studs–perhaps because there are no studs located where you want to hang your decor–you can use screw anchors. These are small plastic tubes that are inserted into drill holes in order to strengthen the holes before inserting screws. Screw anchors are an especially good option when you’re hanging heavy objects, such as large frames, mirrors, or shelves.
Use a dustbin to trap the dust. You might want to lay a tarp or other cloth over your floors and furniture to protect them from dust. But another quick solution is holding a dustbin beneath the site where you’re drilling to collect the dust.
Use tape to trap the dust. Tear off a piece of painter’s tape that’s five to six inches long. Fold the tape in half, lengthwise, sticky side facing out. Stick the bottom half of the tape directly below where you’ll be drilling. The top half should face up toward the drill site and once you start drilling, the dust should stick to the top half.
GUIDE 2: Hanging Frames Perfectly Straight
Hanging picture frames and other wall decor can be frustrating—and you may find yourself doing it over and over again to get it just right. Here are tips for hanging photos and other items straight the first time:
Photocopy the back of your frame. What better way to visualize your picture’s positioning on the wall than to hang a life-size replica? Photocopy the back of your picture frame. Be sure to capture the holes in the frames that are meant for hanging. Make sure to turn off the “auto-scale” feature so that your photocopies reflect the true size of the frame.
Tape the photocopy to the wall. To determine where you want to hang your frame, use tape to stick the photocopy (or photocopies if yours is a larger frame) on the wall.
Adjust as needed. Before you start drilling or nailing, make sure your photocopies are in the perfect, eye-pleasing position.
Use a laser level. Not sure if you’ve hung the photocopies as straight as possible? Use a level or laser level to ensure that your photos are right where you want them to be.
Drill through your copies. Use the holes shown on the photocopies to determine where to drill or hammer. Insert the screws or nails directly through the paper to ensure that you’re in the right spot. Once you’re done, you can remove the paper.
Use tape to mark drill holes. Another method for hanging frames involves placing a continuous piece of masking or painter’s tape over the holes on the back of the frame. Use a pen or pencil to mark where the holes are beneath the tape. Remove the tape from the back of the frame and position it on the wall where you want the frame to go. You can then drill directly through the tape.
Go the old-fashioned route. Don’t forget the old standby methods for hanging frames, including using a pencil and tape measure or a wire hanger.
GUIDE 3: Removing Old Screws and Nails
As you perform various jobs around the house, you may encounter old screws and nails that need to be removed, without causing unnecessary damage to your walls and wood. Here are some tips to get you started:
Remove old paint first. Before attempting to extract an old nail or screw, scrape away any old paint from around the head—especially the outer perimeter and any slot meant to hold a screwdriver tip.
Try the basic methods. Once you have a clean surface, try using the right type of screwdriver—whether a Phillips-head or a flat-head—to remove the old screw from its hole. The back of a hammer (the “claw”) can be used to remove old nails.
Use lubricant for stubborn jobs. Putting a lubricant, such as WD-40, around the head of an old screw or nail may make it easier to remove.
Use rubber bands on stripped screws. Trying to remove a screw that’s partially or completely stripped? Put a rubber band over the top of the screw head and then use the screwdriver to try to unscrew it. The rubber provides much-needed traction to help you extract the screw.
GUIDE 4: Painting With Less Mess
Painting a room doesn’t have to be a huge, time-consuming mess. Here are some tips to make sure the process goes more smoothly:
Choose the right style of brush or roller. Use a large, flat brush or roller when painting a large area. Use an angled paintbrush when careful attention to detail is required, such as when painting the top of a wall next to a ceiling.
Buy a quality brush. High-quality paintbrushes can range from $15 to $25, but you’ll quickly notice the difference between them and the cheaper brushes. Natural bristle brushes are good for oil paints, whereas synthetic brushes are good for latex paints. Brushes made with polyester are well-suited to exterior work, whereas brushes made with nylon are a better fit for interior and detailing work.
Put a rubber band over the paint can opening. After you open your paint can, place a rubber band around it so that the band goes over the can’s opening. You can use that band to wipe off excess paint every time you dip your brush. This is crucial because a brush loaded with too much paint will drip and splatter.
Use a large bucket instead of a roller pan. If you’re painting a large area and plan to use a roller, five-gallon buckets with roller grids are easier to work with than roller pans. An added benefit, they’re much less likely to tip over.
Consider ditching the tape. Many people automatically whip out the masking tape before they paint. Not only does taping take time, but when removed, it can leave behind a jagged line as it tears away some of the “skin” of the dried latex paint. Instead of taping, practice cutting in with an angled brush. Once you get the hang of the technique, you’ll save time and get better results.
Put down a drop cloth. Covering the floor with plastic or heavy cloth provides extra protection in case there are any drips or spills. Consider taping your drop cloth to the baseboard to prevent it from moving and exposing the floor while you paint.
Move anything of value. Don’t risk paint dripping on your sofa. Remove anything from the room that you wouldn’t want the paint to fall on. If something’s too hard to move, put a drop cloth over it.
Remove drips quickly and carefully. Even after taking these preventive measures, you may still experience drips. By using a cloth and white vinegar or nail polish remover, you can clean up paint on various types of surfaces before it dries. Be sure to test your quick-fix paint remover on an area that won’t show, just in case it causes damage.
Before you start your next home improvement project, plan ahead to make it less messy, less frustrating, and more fun.
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