There’s a three-day weekend coming up soon, and you’ve decided to spend a relaxing weekend at home instead of sitting in a traffic jam. So what little projects can you do around your home in three days or even two? And how can you be sure to finish the job? There’s nothing more depressing than a half-finished improvement and a pile of tools left sitting around the house.
Here are five jobs to do in a weekend or less in order of difficulty:
1 – Hanging heavy pictures, shelves or a big mirror
Start with a stud finder (about $10). You may need one because you may want to drill screws or picture hooks into the 2-by-4 wooden studs that are 16 or 24 inches apart behind the drywall.
While moving the stud finder across the wall, a light flashes and a beep sounds when you reach a stud because wood is denser than the cosmetic half-inch of drywall in front of it. Then mark the spot with a pencil. For heavier loads in drywall, like a mirror, shelf or picture over 20 pounds, use a molly or toggle bolt. A toggle bolt is installed about the same way you install a molly bolt.
But what if you live in a masonry home, as many Arizona residents do and your walls are built of concrete blocks? In that case “furring” strips of wood measuring about 1 inch by 1½ inches were probably put on top of blocks used in interior walls. Then drywall was fastened to furring strips. A stud finder can help find those strips to use in hanging the picture or mirror.
A laser level ($20 or less) will project a beam of light, usually red, across a wall so that you can line up where hooks or hangers for a picture or mirror should go. You can fasten the level to the wall with suction cups as well. Then using a pencil, mark the height where you will drive a screw into a stud or drywall.
A power screwdriver is great for drilling screws into studs. A power drill or combined driver-drill can speed things up if you’re using molly bolts or toggle bolts on drywall since you need to drill a hole in the wall about the same diameter as a molly bolt. Once the mirror is on the wall, use the laser level to check your work.
2 – Adding plastic/vinyl liners in the kitchen and bathrooms cabinets
When you buy new kitchen cabinets these days, they already come with these drip trays. They are particularly great to install in Arizona where leaks seem to be very common.
You can also install liners in older cabinets. These trays are the first line of defense against cabinet damage from minor leaks. Some funnel liquid to the front of the device so you will see it and shut off the water. Buy trays in standard sizes (about $30-$40) for 36-, 33- or 30-inch cabinets. You can cut down some larger trays to fit older cabinets. Or order custom sizes which may cost more.
3 – Cleaning your gas fireplace and replacing “logs”
Now that temperatures are in the 90s, you’re unlikely to use your indoor gas fireplace any more. It’s the right time for a good cleaning of your hearth and flue. Have a chimney sweep inspect the fireplace flue pipe to look for obstructions or problems with the damper.
But you can do a general cleaning yourself to wipe off and remove debris. Clean the glass doors. Brush off the gas burner under the ceramic logs to clean out all the ports. Take the logs outside to clean them off. Over time, logs deteriorate and need changing. Buy replacements ($200-$300 or more) at a hardware or fireplace store. Cover the floor with old sheets or a drop cloth before working on a fireplace.
4 – Changing lighting fixtures
New fixtures can dramatically improve a house and even make it sell more quickly. Changing the chandelier over the dining room or kitchen table or in the master bedroom is relatively easy provided that the fixture you replace is similar to your current light, the fixtures don’t weigh a ton, and ceilings are not too high.
Turn off the power in the room where you are working using the correct circuit breaker on your electric panel. When working with electricity, you also need a quick way to tell if the power is really off. A non-contact voltage detector (about $20) can provide that assurance. These testers will chirp or flash when they detect live wires.
Don’t try to install a ceiling fan where there’s only a light fixture and don’t try to install a light fixture where none exists. Those are jobs for licensed electricians.
5 - Installing pullout shelves in kitchen or bath cabinets
If you can tackle something trickier, pullout shelves make a great improvement. Imagine having two or three sliding shelves or bins for heavy pots and pans. No more digging around for covers to fit the pans that are stuck in a corner somewhere. The awkward part of this job is installing slides inside the cabinet. Measure carefully, then measure again before placing an order with a store or online. (Prices vary depending on number and size of shelves and the wood used).
Also available are new drawers with special inserts in them for storing tiny items like 40 of those mini-coffee pods. You just put your old drawer front on the new drawer.
Remember: You can keep any job from becoming an ordeal by:
1 – Doing all shopping for equipment or replacement parts or items to install long before the weekend arrives.
2 – Making sure you have all tools on hand before starting. If you have to visit the hardware store midway through, and you’re confused about which size nail or screw to buy, buy both and return the unused package later.
For more do-it-yourself tips on all your home projects, be sure to visit our DIY Q&A Database.
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