With all the DIY and home improvement television shows, websites, and magazines available today, it’s easy to develop a slightly skewed idea of what is actually involved in most major home improvement projects. Kitchen and bathroom remodels are almost never finished in three days or within budget, and they require many different specialized tools and pieces of equipment. This realization can be a bit discouraging for the average homeowner, but there are several easy home updates that can make a tremendous aesthetic difference in your home—and you won’t need to have a fully equipped workshop in your basement.

Paint. A fresh coat of paint immediately updates a room and covers a multitude of flaws. In fact, painting is one of the most cost-effective improvements a homeowner can make. Just be sure to take the time necessary to prep the space so that your handiwork lasts for years to come. Yes, it is a somewhat tedious process, but taking a few hours to sand out any existing drip marks and fix flaws in the walls will make your work look so much better. Unless you have an electric sander, use medium- to fine-grit sandpaper in sheets or on a pole sander. This is a dusty job, so wear a mask, make sure the room is well ventilated, and seal off the entryway with plastic sheeting if needed. As you work, also watch out for small nail holes and embedded drywall anchors. Remove those anchors from the wall with a pair of needle-nose pliers, and use a putty knife to cover any holes with thin layers of joint compound. When those areas dry, sand over them again, and if necessary, repeat the process. Once the room is fully sanded, wipe down the walls with a damp cloth or sponge. Protect the trim in the room with painters’ tape, lay down a drop cloth, and you’re ready to start painting.

Replace old blinds and window treatments. Discolored, faded, and simply outdated blinds and window treatments can shuttle a room decades into the past. For an easy update, replace those old window treatments with new ones. A quick, clean way to let light into a room is to install wide-slat wood blinds. Wood blinds can be found in a variety of finishes, but choose ones that are painted white for a brightening effect. Real wood blinds are costly, but the plastic versions look just as nice and are much more budget friendly. Depending on how the original blinds or window treatments were installed, removing them may damage the wall, but those flaws can be easily fixed with joint compound, sandpaper, and some touch-up paint. Most blinds and window treatments are installed with screws, so the only tool you’ll need is a screwdriver.

Change drawer pulls and cabinet hardware. This may seem like a minor change that couldn’t possibly make a big difference, but switching out the hardware on your kitchen and bathroom drawers and cabinets can instantly update the space. Metal finishes are subject to trends, so while the polished brass hardware installed in your kitchen in 1994 was the height of style then, it now looks outdated. Look for more classic finishes such as chrome or brushed nickel instead, or if you’re planning to stay in your home for a while, choose hardware that reflects your personal style. To make the process even easier, select pulls and handles that are the same size as your existing hardware—that way, you won’t need to drill new holes.

Caulk. Most people don’t give caulk a second thought until they’re trying to figure out how to return it to its original appearance. The unfortunate reality is that caulk has a finite lifespan, and it can’t be brought back from the dead. The good news is that it is easy to remove and replace. Use a utility knife or razor scraper to carefully scrape the existing caulk away without scratching the surrounding area. Use a dry, nonabrasive pad to remove every last bit of caulk residue, and follow with a damp rag to remove any caulk dust. Make sure the area is completely dry before continuing. Use painters’ tape to help you lay a straight bead of caulk and to protect the surrounding surface. Once the new bead of caulk has been applied, smooth it out and press it into the joint with your finger and a damp paper towel. Remove the painters’ tape and repeat that process to smooth out any lines left by the tape. Most caulk needs 24 hours to cure, so don’t use the shower, tub, or sink for at least a day.

Add crown molding. Crown molding can lend a polished, formal look to any room, but most homeowners write off this and other home interior design ideas if they don’t have a woodshop in the basement. Luckily, there are ways to get around a lack of power tools. Polystyrene crown molding is a rigid foam material that can be cut with a handsaw, a sharp knife, or a pair of scissors—no miter saw required. Use joint compound to attach the molding to the wall and ceiling and to seal over joints where two pieces meet. Support long sections with small finish nails if necessary. Once the joint compound is dry—usually the next day—use 150-grit sandpaper to sand down any seams and areas of rough or uneven joint compound.

If a major renovation just isn’t in the cards, but you still want to update your home, focus on the small details. And if you don’t have an extensive stash of power tools, don’t resign yourself to living in an outdated space. Some power tools are nice to have, of course, but they aren’t an absolute necessity. These easy home improvement ideas won’t take more than a weekend to complete, and they’ll take years off your home’s appearance.

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Sources: Better Homes and Gardens; This Old House.

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