Six quick, low-cost home project ideas to tackle over Memorial Day weekend

May 18, 2017, 12:37 PM
(Public Domain Photo)...
(Public Domain Photo)
(Public Domain Photo)

With Memorial Day weekend coming up soon, you may be thinking you might stay home to avoid the traffic and crowds.

Those three days are also a perfect time when you can do a small project to spiff up or clean up your house.

Before starting, buy all the equipment and items you want to install. Make sure you have the right tools.

If you’re unsure of how many nails or rolls of duct tape you’ll need, buy extra and return unused supplies to the store later.

But don’t launch too big of a project, because you still need a little time for relaxing and grilling steaks for the holiday barbecue.

Here are some ideas:

1. Replace electrical outlet covers and switch plates with clean new ones

This is a relatively easy fix, though for safety’s sake, you may want to turn off the power to the outlets or the room before you do it.

If you want to replace the switches as well, you must follow many complicated instructions. That’s a job that might best be handled by a Rosie-certified electrician.

2. Clean dusty chandeliers and light fixtures

If you have a chandelier loaded with crystal drops, you can spray cleaning liquid on a pair of cotton gloves. Then, while wearing the gloves, wipe off each crystal piece. Or wet down a clean cloth and individually wipe off the crystals.

You’ll need more than one pair of gloves and one cloth to complete the job.

To clean a fixture with individual glass chimneys, remove them and wash in a sink full of sudsy water, then dry and replace them. In some cases, you’ll have to unscrew bulbs to remove the chimneys. Be sure to wipe the arms of the chandelier clean with a damp cloth.

This can be a long, slow process, but it’s easy. You can reach most light fixtures from a standard ladder.

If you have a chandelier hanging from a 12- or 14-foot ceiling, you will probably want to hire someone to do the job.

3 . Change lighting fixtures

Maybe when you start cleaning that chandelier, you decide you want a new one. Changing the fixture over the dining or kitchen table or in a bathroom or bedroom is relatively easy, provided that the fixture you replace is like the current light, the fixtures don’t weigh a ton and ceilings are not too high.

Turn off power in the room using the circuit breaker on your electric panel. When working with electricity, you also need a quick way to tell if the power is 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.

4. Hang a mirror in a small room

Hanging a large mirror in a tiny hallway or small room can sometimes make the area look larger. A mirror can also pick up light from a window or door to brighten the area as well.

Once you buy the mirror, be sure you have a stud finder (about $10). You need one to drill screws or picture hooks into the two-inch by four-inch wooden studs that are 16 inches apart behind the drywall.

When moving the stud finder across the wall, a light will flash and beeps will sound as you reach a stud because wood is denser than the half-inch of drywall in front of it. 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.

If you have a concrete block masonry home, furring strips of wood measuring about 1 inch by 1½ inches were probably put on top of the blocks in interior walls. The drywall was fastened to furring strips. A stud finder can help find those strips, too.

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 the 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 the molly bolt.

Once the mirror is on the wall, use the laser again to check your work.

5. Add a tile backsplash to your kitchen

It’s easy to install tile on a cleaned-up, painted wall surface behind the counters, sink and range in your kitchen.

If you have wallpaper, however, remove it. Then sand the surface and clean up all the dust.

Easiest to work with are mesh-backed sheets of mosaic glass or ceramic tiles. Measure your space to estimate how many sheets to buy.

When you get the tiles home, measure your space again. Then, use masking tape to outline the size and shape of the wall you are covering on the kitchen floor. Lay down the mesh sheets of tiles to see how they will fit the space on the floor.

In some cases, you must fill in odd gaps with partial sheets or extra tiles. Arrange the extra tiles so they’re in an area where they are less visible.

Use a tile saw or carbide nipper if you must cut tiles to make them fit. Use spacers between sheets to keep the joints of equal size.

The tricky part is smoothly applying a layer of thin-set on the wall and then setting the tiles on top of it. You’ll need many tools including a level, tape measure, notched putty knife, grout application trowel and sponges.

Five-gallon buckets are needed, too.

6. Paint a small bedroom or a closet

For a small bedroom or closet, painting can take the whole weekend. Save time by not painting the ceiling if it looks good. You may not need to paint woodwork either.

Moving furniture and covering everything with drop cloths will take time. Tape baseboards and other framing on windows and doors with painting tape designed to keep paint from bleeding onto woodwork.

Always use top-quality paint. When changing colors, you need to prime the walls with an undercoat or use two coats of paint. If you’re applying flat paint on a wall that had a high or semi-gloss finish, prime it first. Let paint or primer dry doing the next coat.

Pull off the tape as soon as all paint is on the walls. Don’t wait until paint thoroughly dries or you could pull paint off the woodwork.

One tip: Rough up the finish a bit with sandpaper or a good scrubbing with the cleaner TSP (trisodium phosphate), before you prime. Flat paint won’t adhere well to a glossy wall if you don’t scrub it.

Wear gloves and goggles for this process.

For more homeowner advice, DIY tips and videos, and information about all the projects around your house, home, castle or cabin, visit Arizona’s largest collection of homeowner DIY advice and information at

And if you are in need of a quality contractor you know you can trust, visit our list of Arizona’s very best contractors or service providers for your home improvement projects at – Arizona’s most-trusted referral network.

Tune in to KTAR every Saturday morning from 7-11 a.m. for the Rosie on the House broadcast!

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Six quick, low-cost home project ideas to tackle over Memorial Day weekend