Easy Upgrades for the Weekend DIYer
Use our step-by-step project planner to map out a spring, summer and fall's worth of fun and functional do-it-yourself projects
Why is it that when spring comes, you start dreaming about all the great projects you're going to do around the house, but next thing you know, there's frost on the lawn and you still don't have that patio laid or those gutters in place?
Don't worry, This Old House is here to help you get things done—and have fun doing it. We've assembled more than 30 of our most popular Step-by-Steps in one easy-to-follow planner. Each one takes just a weekend to complete, and we have one for every weekend of the spring and summer—including great ones for Earth Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Independence Day, and more.
So scroll through our calendar to get planning, then and click through to see how to manage each project yourself. by the time the leaves start turning, you'll have created the home you're always dreaming about.
For homes in most regions of the country, rain gutters and downspouts are necessary to collect and carry away rainwater. Without them, water would erode the soil around the foundation, splash dirt onto the siding and likely leak into the basement or crawlspace.Gutters are most often installed by professionals, but there's no reason you can't do it yourself.
In How to Install Rain Gutters, we'll show you how to install reproduction half-round gutters that are exact replicas of the size and style gutters typically found on older homes. This system features corrugated downspouts and decorative cast-aluminum brackets.
How to Extend a Downspout may also interest you.
Adding a tree this Earth Month will bring cool shade to your property and life-giving oxygen to the planet. But, for a tree to survive long enough to reach full maturity, it must get a healthy head start with a proper planting. To learn the correct way to plant a young tree, we turned to our resident expert, This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook.
See How to Plant a Tree for Roger's secrets on each step of the planting process—from digging the hole to watering techniques for proper hydration. And don't miss his comprehensive three-year plan for maintaining a young tree.
If you have a kid who loves helping out in the garden but you're always brushing the dirt off their knees, a raised bed may be the perfect addition to your landscape. A simple frame of rot-resistant lumber holds the soil in place and brings it to a height that's easy for everyone to reach in without climbing all over precious plants. The quick upgrade makes a great Earth Month family project.
Take a look at How to Build a Raised Vegetable Garden to see how This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook got it done in just 2 hours.
Whether big or small, used in pairs or on their own, planter boxes are a cheery way to flank an entry, break up an expansive patio, or simply add a splash of color to a small yard. They're also a great way to say "Happy Mother's Day" next weekend.
This roomy rectangular version gives you plenty of space for your favorite bloomers, and, knowing that large planters are tough to store during the off-season, This Old House senior technical editor Mark Powers opted to build it from cellular PVC. "The material is easy to cut, it holds up well in heat and cold, and it won't rot when exposed to soil and water,' he says. See How to Build a Weather-Resistant Planter to learn how to create an eye-catching container of your own.
There are few things as warm and welcoming as a white picket fence. A properly built and installed fence can beautify a home's landscape, define property lines and add a modicum of security. Building a fence from scratch, even a short fence, takes quite a bit of time and requires an arsenal of woodworking tools. Fortunately prefabricated fencing sections make it much easier for the average homeowner to install their own fence.
The hardest part of any fence installation is digging the postholes. The level of difficulty, not surprisingly, depends on the fence length and hardness of the soil. See How to Install a Picket Fence for full instructions.
Add a splash of color and visual interest to your home with a traditional wooden window box. These charming planters have been used for centuries the world over to dress up plain, somber windows. And now you can install one in just an hour or so with a minimal amount of effort or expense.
In How to Hang a Window Box, This Old House general contractor Tom Silva shows the best way to install a prefabricated window box and This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook gives his top tips for preparing, planting and maintaining the plants inside of one.
Take a scenic drive through the back roads of New England and you will inevitably spot some of the 240,000 miles of stone walls built by 19th-century farmers trying to delineate their land. You may not have a large plot to mark off, but your patios and flower beds are still deserving of a border, and one that doubles as a place to sit down will make your landscape all the more enjoyable this Memorial Day weekend.
As This Old House senior technical editor Mark Powers shows, a wall built from cast concrete blocks made to look like stone is just as beautiful and much easier to build—especially when your "planting season" is confined to the weekends. See How to Build a Sitting Wall for full instructions.
A garden pond attracts birds, frogs, butterflies, and crickets (no mosquitoes, though, thanks to the moving water). It'll also attract, well, you and your family, too. In How to Create a Backyard Pond, This Old House senior technical editor Mark Powers shows you how to make the one you see here. All you need is a shovel and a few materials, and before you know it, you'll have a relaxing outdoor retreat.
In most parts of the country, trying to keep yards watered throughout the summer requires an open tap like you haven't seen since your last fraternity kegger. Which isn't so great if you live in a conservation-conscious area that restricts sprinkler use. If the best defense is a good offense, the way to beat the heat is with micro irrigation. This system of drip tubing and tiny sprayers delivers aqua right at the base of plants.
Setting up a system to feed a backyard's worth of plant beds, shrubs, and trees takes just a few minutes of designing and a couple of hours of connecting components. See How to Install Drip Irrigation to get started.
How to Install Programmable Sprinklers may also interest you.
You've finally got the tools hanging neatly on an outlined pegboard, and all the paint is organized in carefully labeled cabinets. But now the car is jealous, sitting like a lump on the oily, dirty concrete slab. A colorful, shiny epoxy floor coating will have you—and your car—feeling like you're driving into a showroom every time you come home.
Epoxy resists oil stains, beads water, and wipes clean like a kitchen counter. Color chips and custom paint colors hide annoying imperfections in the concrete, and antiskid additives give you the grip you need on a snowy day. As This Old House technical editor Mark Powers shows in How to Epoxy-Coat a Garage Floor, you just need a weekend to sweep the dirt out and paint the epoxy on.
If your little builders inherited the DIY gene, then they're more or less programmed to dive into Mom and Dad's tools. So maybe you should think about giving the handy helpers their own set—the better to get them involved while keeping your precious collection from getting trashed.
This Father's Day weekend, make a toolbox with your little do-it-yourselfer, and drop in a few introductory tools. The fun of ''How to Build a Toolbox'' is in having something for everyone to do, and getting in good practice for future, more advanced projects.
Our full line of Family Projects may interest you as well.
Anyone who's ever sat in the low-slung seat of an Adirondack chair and sunk into the curve of the fanned back knows there's no cushion-free seat like it. You'll see how some of the parts do double duty, making it a simple build. The beefy seat supports are also the back legs; the wide armrests (perfect for resting a picnic plate or cocktail, by the way) also hold the back support.
Assembling a basic one will take less than a day, if you follow the plans we show here. See How to Build an Adirondack Chair to see how you can make yours just in time for 4th of July.
Get ready for Independence Day barbecuing! Tony DiGangi of Wellesley, Mass., will be out on the deck, barbecuing steak and burgers for a crowd. "We entertain a lot, and our grill is the social hub," he says. So when This Old House asked readers to design their own Home Center Project, Tony let his inner grill master do the thinking.
He came up with a great idea for a place to store his cooking tools and set his platters of food—a cart assembled from wood planters and metal-wrapped plywood—and won the right to build his creation with TOH general contractor Tom Silva. With a few tweaks—hooks, hinges, and wheels—Tom turned Tony's idea into barbecue brilliance. See How to Build a Grilling Station to start building yours.
Make the most of your long Independence Day weekend by installing outdoor flooring, and you'll have a patio that'll last you years. The bluestone that makes up millions of American patios often comes in neatly sawn rectangles. But for a rustic landscape, nothing looks more natural than "snapped" or "broken" bluestone, terms used to describe an irregular edge on the slabs.
This Old House senior technical editor Mark Powers recently built a patio out of this hearty stone in his backyard. As he shows in How to Lay a Bluestone Patio, laying a long-lasting patio like his is as much about the base underneath it as the layout above.
The popularity of ceiling fans continues to grow as more and more homeowners discover dramatic, year-round energy savings. In summer, ceiling fans create cooling breezes, which reduce the strain on air conditioners. In winter, they circulate heated air to keep the room warm.
Installing a one is relatively simple, especially if the space above is accessible from an attic. However, even when it isn't, the job is still doable. In How to Install a Ceiling Fan we'll show how to replace an old light fixture with a new ceiling fan and light, in a room with no attic above. The advantage of this approach is that you don't have to run new wiring; the fan connects to the existing cable from the old light.
The years and the elements hadn't been kind to the exterior of this particular 94-year-old, thick, cypress door. Wood entry doors everywhere suffer from the same assaults, and many end up in the trash, replaced by low-maintenance, mass-produced metal and fiberglass surrogates.
Painting contractor John Dee, who has worked on many This Old House television projects, attacked the splotchy surface of this door with sandpaper and scrapers until the old pine door was as fresh and as fragrant as the day it was built. See all the steps to giving your old door a fresh, new look at How to Refinish a Door.
Summer's great and all, but sometimes sunlight streaming through windows can be an annoying distraction. You could install shades to foil prying eyes, but aren't swinging wood shutters much prettier?
Interior shutters were the original "window treatments," commonly used in Southern and urban houses, and they're still a great way to add architectural and historical detail to a room. They also help keep out winter's chilly winds or summer's oppressive heat. Ready to get started with this privacy-enhancing upgrade? Check out How to Hang Interior Shutters to see how to do it yourself.
If your porch isn't well maintained, the whole house looks shabby. Here you'll learn how to handle one of the most common of all porch repairs: building a new lattice skirt. This enclosure conceals the framing while it also allows air to circulate under the porch floor, which keeps the framing dry and free of rot. It'll help to keep critters from camping out under your porch, too.
In How to Install Porch Lattice we built a durable new skirt using pressure-treated lumber and plastic lattice. We also opted for an unconventional installation method: Rather than permanently attach the frames, we hung them on hinges so the homeowners could use the space below the porch for storage.
Front Porch Fix-Up, a Step-by-Step about replacing weather-beaten porch floorboards, might also interest you.
Just a friendly reminder from your friends at This Old House to take a break from home improvement, and go on vacation. Whether you travel afar or staycation at home (the better to enjoy your new relaxing backyard pond or gorgeous stone patio), make sure you take time out for some R&R. And don't forget to pack your most vibrant Hawaiian button-down, but not your tool belt. Don't worry; this gallery of great weekend projects will still be here when you get back. Promise.
You tried sweating it out in the sauna and "Om" isn't exactly hitting home. No wonder! You're working too hard at relaxing! Put all that effort into creating a place to sit quietly and contemplate the sounds of nature: birds chirping, breezes blowing, brooks babbling. What—no backyard brook? Not a problem. Just build yourself the next best thing, with a softly trickling garden fountain.
In a mere weekend, you can fountain-ize most any leftover garden ornament, turning it into an enduring monument to tranquility. Revive a defunct birdbath, declare your own ode to a Grecian urn, or drill holes in a stack of rocks you found on-site, as This Old House technical editor Mark Powers did for a friend one hot afternoon. See How to Build a Fountain to get started on yours.
When crossing your muddy yard to fetch the daily paper turns into an obstacle course of slips and slides, perhaps it's time to think about an alternative path—literally. Instead of sinking up to your ankles in the name of the morning stock report, take a weekend to lay a brick walkway.
As This Old House senior technical editor Mark Powers shows, in just one weekend you can turn a swath of dirt into a ribbon of elegance, able to withstand anything from a winter gale to a summer lawn mower. See How to Lay a Brick Path to get started.
We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but fall—with her longer evening hours—looms. Your new brick path prepares you for trick-or-treaters and holiday guest traffic; now enhance the safety and security of your home by adding a motion-sensor floodlight to the garage. The dual-lamp model installed here comes on automatically if something—or someone—crosses its field of vision.
If you're hesitant about working with electricity, don't worry. We've greatly simplified the process by safely tapping into an existing garage circuit. This technique speeds the installation by eliminating the need to blindly pull wires through walls and ceilings. Take a look at How to Install a Garage Floodlight to get started.
We'll take it inside this Labor Day weekend for an upgrade that'll prepare you for back-to-school season and wet winters. (Always thinking ahead, right?) Create a stopping area just inside the door where everyone can leave the weather and dirt from their day behind.
In How to Build a Mudroom Bench This Old House senior technical editor Mark Powers shows how to create the perfect catchall, complete with an open top shelf, coat hooks, and flip-top bench storage. This handsome entry hall built-in is sure to make your house more welcoming, even while protecting it from wear and tear.
Mankind has called the hearth home for the centuries, it's true, but these days people are going ultra-retro and getting their heat from stone-walled pits set into the earth. And, why not? On cool late-summer and fall nights, you can melt marshmallows and nibble s'mores while you lounge in an Adirondack chair, feet propped up on the rock ledge. So if you really want to light up right, do it in style. See How to Build a Fire Pit and take a few days to build your very own ring of fire.
Enhance the nighttime curb appeal of your home—and add a measure of safety and security—by adding low-voltage lanterns. These exterior-grade fixtures are typically placed along walkways and driveways, but they're also ideal for illuminating steps, trees, stonewalls, fences and other prominent garden features. And because the system operates on only 12 volts of electricity, it's completely safe for do-it-yourself installation. See How to Put in Landscape Lighting to get started.
Want to brighten your yard even more? How to Install a Lamppost can help you shed at least enough light for people to see what treacherous terrain might lie underfoot as they approach your home. Adding one is simpler than you might think. A hole filled with concrete keeps the post straight, and a narrow trench from the house carries the wiring—and you could do that all in a day.
If you've spent the summer lamenting your tattered yard or wishing that your patch of dirt were a blanket of soft blades, How to Seed a Lawn can help. "Seeding is the easiest thing for a homeowner to do," says This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook. "It just takes a little soil preparation, the right mix of seed, and lots of watering." We should warn you: It won't get any better this year, but next spring could be a whole other story if you seed this fall—the perfect time to start a new lawn.
So what if you want to crank up the Bob Seger, slip on the dark sunglasses, turn up your collar, and slide across the living room floor in nothing but your underpants and oxford shirt? Go right ahead—what you do in the privacy of your own home is, frankly, nobody's beeswax. Just do the neighbors a favor and shutter the windows.
As This Old House technical editor Mark Powers shows in How to Hang Exterior Shutters, you could put several pairs up in a weekend to provide privacy from prying eyes, get relief from the summer heat, a barrier against storm winds, and a sure defense against arrow attacks (if you're a 17-century colonist, that is).
Nothing mucks up the curb appeal of your house more than a bunch of beat-up trash cans and overflowing recycling bins scattered next to the side door. What you need is a sturdy storage house that hides your waste while keeping it organized. In How to Build a Trash Shed, This Old House senior technical editor Mark Powers builds one big enough for two 32-gallon trash cans and several stacked recycling bins. Flip-open lids give it easy access so that you can quickly toss something away in the right place. Bifold front doors make it easy to move heavy cans in and out.