Forget makeover shows that boast a whole house transformation in a day – what can you realistically do yourself in under 24 hours to improve your home
Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned DIYer, the trick, of course, is to play to your strengths. So, if you’re handy with a paintbrush, it makes sense to tackle some decorating; and if you’re useful with a toolbox, the makeover you give your home might not focus on the cosmetic as much as on what needs fixing.
Then there’s the task itself. Never under-estimate just how long it takes to prepare for and clear up after the work has been done, and allow yourself time to make sure you’re properly kitted out, too – there’s nothing worse than getting to a critical part of the job before you realise you need to pop out to the DIY superstore.
Ready to roll? We’ve picked out the most worthwhile one-day DIY projects you really can get done in a day.
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The biggest impact you can make on a room is to redecorate it. How to get this done in a day? Concentrate your energies on the following:
1) If your current wallcoverings are sound and crack-free, give them a quick wipe down with some sugar soap and a couple of coats of a new paint colour. Use a paint brush for neat edges and a roller for a speedy finish. Reckon on two coats of good-quality paint for covering an existing colour of a similar tone, and three coats if you’re painting a light colour over a dark one (or vice versa).
2) Love your room’s current colour scheme but want to give it a lift? Use a complementing wallpaper on just one focal wall to add interest – modern murals are a big trend. Even a novice, with the right kit, including a sturdy ladder, should be able to wallpaper a wall in a day.
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What do the most stylish homes always seem to have? You got it: shutters. But it’s not just a fashion thing – they’re popular for a bunch of good reasons: they go with everything; they’ll never go out of fashion; they’re decent draught-proofers; you can wipe them clean; they let in loads of light but provide privacy, and disguise uninspiring views and ugly window frames. What’s not to like – other than the price tag?
The good news is that you can get DIY shutters that you design, measure up for and hang yourself, making them much more affordable. They’re not that difficult to hang (there are online guides if you can’t figure it out yourself), plus all you need to get them up is a hammer, screwdriver, drill and spirit level. Allow a good couple of hours to get the hang of the first window.
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After walls and windows, the biggest change you can make to transform a room is to give the floors a whole new look. Here’s what you could do in a day:
1) If your floorboards are coated in an aged and unattractive yellowy-orange varnish – all you need to do is sand them lightly, wipe down to remove any dust or grease, then give them two to three coats of floor paint. On trend colours include bright white, pale greys and deep inky blues. Choose a soft sheen over a gloss for best results.
2) If you’re sick of an otherwise sound solid floor – perhaps tiles or concrete hidden under an old carpet – a fabulous new wooden one can be within your reach in a day (assuming the room isn’t vast). A push or lock-together version that’s designed for DIY fitting will be easier and quicker to install. Remember to allow for an expansion gap and stack the new boards flat on the floor in the room in which they’re going to be fitted for 48 hours before you start so they can acclimatise.
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Time for something non-cosmetic but essential for a comfortable home with manageable heating bills: loft insulation. In an uninsulated home, 25% of the heat lost is through the roof. Loft insulation is effective for at least 40 years, isn’t expensive and will pay for itself many times over. What’s more, laying it is a very doable DIY job. Check you’re getting the depth of insulation recommended by the Energy Saving Trust
before you buy – 270mm for mineral wool, for example – and choose a width that matches the spaces between your joists so that there’s minimal cutting involved. If you’re finding the measuring up tricky, there are even online calculators to do the job for you.
Insulating with mineral wool is pretty easy – it’s just a case of rolling it out into the gaps created by the joists. You’ll need a dust mask and protective clothing to do the job, and help from a mate to get the (fairly sizeable) rolls up into the loft would be a bonus.
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While we’re in a practical frame of mind… let’s get home security sorted. It’s not glam or pretty, but it will protect everything you own that’s glam and pretty indoors – and your home insurance policy might demand it anyway.
Start with the basics: a bolt and door chain for the front and back doors, perhaps even a viewer if you’d rather not answer without knowing who’s there first. Sliding or French doors without modern security fittings will benefit from surface-mounted, key-operated locks. For windows, choose fastenings and locks that prevent those windows that you’ve opened for ventilation from being opened further.
Alarm systems are a great deterrent, too, as are security cameras, and you can buy battery-run, wireless models, which DIY-fit quickly and easily. What do you need for all these jobs? A drill, screwdriver and fixings should just about cover it.
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House inundated with clutter? Devote one wall in any room to shelving that can take everything from books and DVDs to knick knacks and family photos, and (almost all of) your storage issues will be solved for good.
Before you start, check the wall you’ve nominated will take the weight of the shelves; solid brick and the studs in partitions are both pretty sturdy, but plasterboard on its own isn’t. You also need the right wall plugs and the correct screws for your wall type, and a pipe and cable detector so you don’t drill where you shouldn’t.
What to do if your walls aren’t strong enough? Resort to floor-standing shelving units, but ensure you fix the upper back of them to the wall behind to stop them tipping forwards.
How to make sure the shelving looks its best? Incorporate boxes or baskets that can hide less decorative items and ensure there’s space left on some shelves for display.
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It’s the first thing anyone – especially potential buyers – sees when arriving at your home, but the front door is often neglected and scruffy.
To do a proper job, you should remove door furniture, fill any cracks or knocks, rub the door back then apply a couple of coats of paint, spending the time between coats to buff and polish the door furniture – or maybe even shop for new. However, if you have a steady hand, you could leave the door furniture on and paint round it, using the time between coats to tidy the front garden instead.
Which colour to choose? White and black in a gloss finish are eternally popular, as are blues, while on-trend greys or muted, natural shades, such as olive green, look great in a low-sheen finish. What to avoid? Brown, purple and pink.
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Thanks to the popularity of the country style and vintage looks, painting furniture has never been so fashionable. So, if you’d ear-marked granny’s beloved armchair or your cheap but cheerful dining furniture for the charity shop/boot fair/skip, have a rethink (then get a paint brush out).
There are tons of paints that can cope with all sorts of surfaces, so shop around to find not just the right shade, but the correct finish and application for the look you want to get in the time you have. Our top tip is that oil-based paints are the toughest customer for long-lasting good looks and that fiddly or difficult to reach angles can be got at easily with spray paint. Look for quick-drying finishes, too.
Want your furniture to look on-trend? If you’re painting a dining set, choose one colour for the table, then a tone or two darker or lighter for the chairs. Painting just one piece, such as the aforementioned armchair? Choose an acid tone for a cutting edge feel.