When you’re ready to invest in new skills, it can be frustrating to find the guidance you need. The good news is that often you have the skills and tools to do more than you might think you’re capable of.
Scan this list for a variety of DIY projects you can tackle yourself, even if you’re at the very beginning of your skill-building journey.
1. Bathtub Shelf
Start with a bit of woodworking. Making a bathtub shelf really just requires a board that reaches from one edge to the other.
From there, you can cut it down in size as needed. That might mean ripping the board lengthwise with a table saw or cutting the ends to length with a miter saw. If that’s too intimidating, ask for the cuts at the home improvement store.
With the board the right size, use a manual or power sander to make all the surfaces smooth. This can take a while, so be patient and enjoy the rhythm of sanding.
If you want to play with other tools, you can use a bandsaw to carve out a spot to hold a wine glass. Or you can use a router to create a groove to hold a book.
Once everything is just the way you want it, put your finish on. You can stain or paint your bathtub board. A tung oil or shellac finish will protect your wood surface. Lightly sand your board after each application.
Painting is at the base of many home improvement projects. From updating the wall color to painting the exterior, it’s one of the easiest things you can learn to do.
Like everything else, experience will make the job easier, so start with a basic job like painting the laundry room.
There are several things to know about painting, even though it seems like a very simple job. The first is that the quality of the paint matters.
A cheap paint will be watery and will cause a lot of streaking and paint runs. Go with at least a mid-range paint for indoors and invest in quality paint for outdoors.
Also use good brushes and rollers. It makes a huge difference in your finish. When starting out, rely on some tools to help keep paint within the lines. Get an edger and a corner tool.
Also, use painter’s tape to guide your lines. When using painter’s tape, start with your brush on the paint and move away. This helps keep paint from seeping underneath the tape.
When working around trim, it’s great if you can remove it. It makes the job much faster. If you can’t, be sure to protect it well.
A few other tips to note. The first is to use a primer if necessary.
The second is to make sure you give your paint adequate time to dry between coats. Even when you’re done, it takes several days for paint to properly cure, so avoid contact as much as possible.
3. Swap in a New Thermostat
Your thermostat is key in regulating the temperature of your home. Newer thermostats, especially programmable and smart models, have features that will save you money throughout the year.
When it’s time to swap out the old for the new, there’s no need to call in an electrician.
Just make sure the power is off by flipping the circuit breaker that powers the thermostat. If you’re not positive the power is off, you can flip the main power switch for the house.
With the fear of electrocution out of the way, replacing the thermostat is a simple task that will take less than an hour.
Remove the faceplate of your thermostat and locate the mounting screws. Remove the screws and pull the thermostat away from the wall. Take a picture of the wiring and then disconnect each attachment.
Put the new thermostat in place in reverse. Hook up the wiring, referring to your picture if needed. Then mount the thermostat to the wall and attach the cover plate.
Use the manual to program your thermostat and attach it to your phone app if applicable.
4. Make a Welcome Sign
Woodworking is a fun way to get familiar with tools while making gifts or enhancing the look of your home.
Make a welcome sign for yourself or others by first choosing a board. This can be a large, freestanding board, a rectangular plank, or a few narrow boards connected together. You can use any type of wood for your sign.
Similar to the bathtub board, you’ll start by cutting your board or boards to size. Then sand it to a smooth surface.
Next, you’ll paint the welcome words on the board. Use a stencil with the font of your choice. For a different look and practice with a different skill set, you can use a wood burner to form your words.
Apply your desired finish and attach hardware to the back if you plan to hang the sign. This can be a simple picture hanger or a wire hanger. Heavier signs may require corner-mount hardware.
5. Build a Garden Box
There’s nothing more basic in woodworking than creating a box. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t embellish to your heart’s desire.
A garden box is a great way to practice your woodworking skills. You can make it as simple or as detailed as you want.
In its most basic form, simply screw together whatever lumber you have around. 2x4s and 2x6s work well for this, but you can use pallet boards or scrap lumber.
Create boards of the same length for the long side of your box. Then cut boards of the same length for the short side. There’s no need to make a bottom for the box.
Nail or screw the boards together at the corners to make butt joints. Reinforce your garden box with 1x1 or 1x2 pieces inside each corner.
If you want to up your woodworking skill set, practice joints like dowel joint, box joint, mortise and tenon, tongue and groove, mitered butt joint, or a rabbet joint.
6. Install Laminate Flooring
Laminate flooring is surprisingly easy to install. However, it can be challenging to make detailed cuts around some features in your home. Start with a room that’s open with square edges to gain some experience.
There are plenty of videos and tutorials on how to install wood flooring, including directions that will come with your purchase.
But there are tips you’ll only learn from experience. For starters, be sure to use a tapping board when securing the tongue and groove together.
This can be a scrap piece of flooring or a tool you can buy specifically for the task. Either way, be sure you’re not hitting the flooring directly when tapping it together.
Also make sure your floor is level. You can install laminate flooring directly over vinyl without removing it. If you have vinyl, there’s a good chance the floor is level.
If you’re pulling carpet out of a basement and find a cement floor below it, you may have an issue on your hands. While carpet is forgiving of uneven ground, a floating laminate floor may not be.
Also be sure to leave a small gap around every edge of the flooring. This allows the floor to expand and contract without buckling. You can use spacers while you work and remove them at the end of the project.
To cover the gap, you’ll install trim. More likely, you’ll reinstall the trim you already had.
7. Install New Trim
Whether it’s in conjunction with new flooring or it’s just an update you’ve been meaning to make, new trim can make a big impact on the look of your home.
It’s a project filled with small skills that will transfer to other projects around the home. Whether you’re installing crown molding, chair molding, base molding, or door trim, the process is basically the same.
First, apply your paint or stain. When your boards are ready, carefully measure the first wall. Then measure again. Start with the longest wall and work down to smaller pieces.
If your wall is longer than your board, cut the ends of the boards, so they overlap on the wall. When you get to a corner, you have two choices. The first, and most common method, is to simply cut the ends at 45 degrees.
Double and triple check every cut to make sure the open faces will meet each other.
You will mess this up from time to time. It takes some practice. This is why you’ll want to start with the longest boards, so if you make a wrong cut, you can use the board on a shorter wall.
The second method is to make a 90-degree cut on one piece of trim, so it sits flush with the wall. For the piece that meets into it, use a coping saw to contour the grooves so it fits over the other piece of trim in the corner.
On an outside corner, you’ll also cut both boards, so the cut-sides meet.
Important notes. When marking the length of your board, think about the angle of your cut.
On an inside corner, the length of your board will go to the corner, meaning it will be the top of the cut angle. When lining up your cut, make sure your measurement goes to the outer (longest) part of the angle. Otherwise you’ll be short.
On an outside angle, the inside (shortest) part of the angle will meet up with the adjacent board at the corner.
That means the inside of the cut needs to be measured to the end of the corner. If you measure and cut to the outside corner, your board will be short.
When making wood cuts, be aware of the thickness of your saw blade. Called kerf, the blade width can skew your measurements.
When you line up your blade, make sure the edge is aligned with the outside of the line you have marked. In other words, the blade should be on the side of the line you are cutting off.
It’s always best to leave your board slightly long if in doubt. You can always trim it a bit more.
Another thing to keep in mind is that there will usually be a slight gap where your trim and molding pieces meet. This is due to corners that aren’t square and other issues.
Unless the gap is large, don’t worry about it. You’ll fill them in with caulking before doing your touch-up painting, and the gaps will no longer show.
Dry fit all your molding and trim pieces before installing them with the aid of a Brad nailer/gun. Use brads that are three times as long as the thickness of your trim.
8. Make a Picture Frame
Once you’ve mastered the art of using a miter saw to cut trim, you’ll have the skills you need to make picture frames.
Simply make your cuts to create the right angles at each corner. You can fill your frame with glass, a chalkboard, or a corkboard.
9. Mirror Upgrade
Use your miter skills again to dress up a basic contractor’s mirror. Start by painting your trim pieces. Then cut them to make a frame around the mirror. Mount them with glue and add a whole new dimension to the room.
10. Install a Closet Organizer
Adding shelves, hanging space, and cubbies can net you a whole lot of additional closet space. Not only that, but your clothes, shoes, and accessories will be organized, uncrowded, and easy to find.
Measure your closet space to find the best system to suit your needs. Decide on a brand and buy the organizer. If you’re feeling ready to tackle a more advanced project, you can build your own closet organizer.
We won’t go into details on the installation process here. Follow the directions provided.
Just make sure you’re mounting the system into studs in the wall or using countersinks to ensure strength and stability. Also make sure everything is square and level as you work.
11. Build a Shoe Shelf
There are many ways to go about making a shoe rack. You can slightly angle the board and put a stop along the bottom to keep shoes from sliding off.
Or you can make the shelves flat. They can be long or short, stacked tall, or left low to the ground.
12. Make a Wall Shelf
Floating shelves and options with supports are another satisfying project for beginning DIYers. Decide on your style, collect supplies, and dig in.
13. Paint the Fireplace
While we started by listing painting near the top of the list, you may not realize how many ways you can use the skill.
In addition to changing the look of walls, you can paint the patio, give a fresh look to furniture, or adopt a new look for cabinetry.
If you have a dated fireplace, you can apply paint there too. Simply give it a good clean and apply a primer. Use a brush to cover the spaces between the bricks and watch for running paint drips.
When the primer is completely dry, apply the paint color of your choice.
14. Change the Furnace Filter
It’s not necessarily a project, but it’s worth adding to any DIY list.
Changing your furnace filter every one to three months is one of the most important things you can do to improve the air quality in your house and increase the lifespan of your HVAC system.
To replace your filter, find the opening. It usually has a simple release to open the hatch. Remove the old filter. Put the new filter in place, paying attention to any installation recommendations.
The list of easy DIY projects goes on and on.
While there are many tasks that may seem beyond your capabilities, every time you cook up your own hummingbird food, create a water feature for the deck, address a running toilet, or patch a hole in the wall, you’ll gain crucial skills for the next chore on the list.