I was very fortunate to be raised by a dad with a lot of DIY skills and a lot of tools. On top of his experience renovating properties, it helped that his personal motto was “Knowing how is not a requirement.” Before the wonders of the internet, he would go to trade shows and watch HGTV and find magazine articles with cool pictures and then literally tear up part of our home to change it into something different. The only downside to being raised by someone with a handy streak is that I grew accustomed to never having to pay a professional to do things that seemed like fun projects. Lucky for me, my husband seems to have that same spirit and indulges my wishes when it comes to small things around our house. We have not graduated to “tear down this wall so we can totally change the layout” just yet, but we have crossed off a few things on our list this summer that were fun to get the whole family involved in. If you have an adventurous spirit and many hands to lighten the load, I want to share three levels of DIY projects that might be fun to try at your house!
Level One: Curb Appeal
When we bought our house a few years back, we noticed that the landscaping could use a refresh, but it just wasn’t in the budget at the time. This summer, we decided to take out the existing rock border that had gotten a little wonky over time and replace it with a nice fresh border with some contrast. Then we shopped around for some hearty plants that can take Texas heat. We spent the weekend checking out options at Milberger Landscaping (where they have very knowledgeable employees who are happy to help), and we even made a day trip to Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg to find a few special things.
I will fully admit that my husband did more of the manual labor on this project because he is quite the perfectionist, but my boys were able to help out with this one too. They handed over each brick, picked out plants, and even spread mulch at the end. They also got to go with Dad to the landscaping yards to buy rocks and mulch by the truckload (which saves you a lot rather than buying individual bags). Just this evening, my youngest helped me water the bushes and said how nice it all looked. I love that he is proud of his efforts and knows that it is more fun when we all work together.
There are tons of ideas and pictures available on Pinterest when you search for what you are going for (e.g., modern, rustic, easy). We also drove around our neighborhood a few times to see if anybody else had plants that worked well with the style of our home. Don’t be shy about copying what you see around town because at least you know it will handle the San Antonio weather well. With so many ways to incorporate colors and textures and sizes, let your inspiration run free and see what you can come up with as a family!
Level Two: Power Tools
There may be little things around your house that you can change for just a few hundred dollars rather than a full Chip & Joanna makeover. For me, that thing was door hardware. I am not sure why, but when we moved into our house one weird thing that I noticed was that none of the fixtures and hardware matched. Like, not ONE. Every fan, every faucet was totally random and often different metals too. They all still worked for the most part, so we left them alone. This year, though, two of our ceiling fans broke, so we replaced them with something more modern and in my taste…which led to a bit of a “if you give a mouse a cookie” situation. I really wanted that same black metal look to carry over to other things too. My husband realized that we could order door handles and hinges on Amazon in bulk and save quite a bit. Since I was fine with the really simple model, each door cost less than $25 to upgrade, including three hinges and a doorknob.
Then my hubby had a miraculous realization: he could install self-closing hinges on the doors that drive us crazy by certain people constantly leaving them open. For a mere $12 each, he installed them on the patio door and the door that leads to the garage, and let me just say I have never been so thrilled to see a door in action. They just slowly and gently close themselves without any parents having to yell at them at all!
Even if black hardware isn’t your thing, just know that with patience and good supervision you can tackle small projects and help your kids learn to use some power tools. My son just turned seven, and he thought this was super fun. He had one Tupperware container for old screws and one for the new black ones, and he was totally able to take off the old hardware and replace it all by himself. He could only reach the bottom two hinges, but that meant that it was a group project and more fun. This was also a to-do item that we spread out over a few weeks, tackling a few doors per day when we had time.
Level Three: Get Your Paint On
If you have older kids who are good at following directions, you may be ready to advance to a project with the potential for more mess but also a lot more impact! Our house has pretty basic bathroom cabinets that are not quite ready to be replaced. In our master bath, I decided I could live with the cabinets for a while longer if I could hide some of the beat up places. Pinterest helped me picked out a rich color of paint (I went with “In the Navy” from Sherwin Williams) to balance out the white countertops. Important tip: check to see if you need a specific primer based on your base layer. It was helpful to take off one of the doors and just truck it on down to the store with us to be sure. Once you tape off the edges, this is totally a project you can trust a kid with!
Maybe you need to freshen up some trim or a door or even change a room that feels uninspiring. Your family may have a few hands that belong to “gem cutters.” They can totally focus on intricate tasks and not mind a few hours going by. Those who are not, can focus on a bigger project that has a little more freedom to be artistic. Perhaps you need a wall of shiplap or a cool geometric pattern to add some fun. Either way, you may find that paint brings people together.
If you have tackled some small DIY projects at your house, we would love for you to share it with us (and the end results!) in the comments.