The Family Handyman

Instant Impact

EASY ES— ingput RAD stay UPG u’re heryo gor whet sellin ng, buyi


18 easy, low-cost upgrades to take your house to the next level.

We recently sat down with homestagin­g expert Melanie Zaelich of Happy Place Interiors. She flooded us with great tips for home sellers—we could hardly write them down fast enough. Then it struck us: This would be great advice for everyone. 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.

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.

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.

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 judylighti­ Nor is it difficult, even if you have no experience with electrical work. To see how, search for “light fixture” at familyhand­

Replace a doorbell button

If the first thing buyers notice as they approach a house is a stuck, broken or ugly doorbell 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 familyhand­ and search for “doorbell.”

Instant backsplash

An attractive kitchen backsplash can transform a kitchen. Melanie recommends 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.

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 sunblockin­g limb is higher than that.

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.

Block the view, not the light

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

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.

Replace outlets and switches

Switches, outlets and cover plates get dirty, damaged 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).

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

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

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. Spraypaint 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.

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 turnoff. The good news is that you can solve most problems in less than an hour. Familyhand­yman. com has how-to help for any type of door trouble. Search for “door repair.”

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.

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.

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.

Mask ceiling stains

If you have a waterstain­ed ceiling, a stainblock­ing 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.


This includes torn window and storm door screens, doorbells and bifold and sliding doors inside the house.

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