Home improvement projects are a staple of spring and early summer. The last few weeks I could be found out in my yard. Turning over flower beds and replanting them, framing up the new driveway with gravel, and painting the porch columns. I’ve never been really good at home improvement or gardening projects in the past. Mainly because I’ve never had a place that I could do this kind of work at. But after living here for a year, I decided to get to work this spring.
Home improvement can cost an arm and a leg sometimes, and for us, paying someone else to do it is out of the question. Nor can I afford the high end supplies that would make my home worthy of Better Homes and Gardens. But that doesn’t mean I don’t try. And over the last few weeks I’ve learned a lot of little tips for sprucing up the home, that won’t run your wallet to death.
Pictures used from here on down are tall taken by me of the home improvement projects I’ve been doing the last couple of weeks. I’m not a master at this, I’m not a gardener, painter, or landscaper. But these are just to illustrate how resourceful home improvement can make any yard look better.
Gardens and Flower Boxes
An easy way to spruce up the home in spring is the addition of flower gardens and flower boxes. If you have rich soil in your area, then most plants you buy will do very well. Same thing if using the same soil in a flower box. And creating a good looking flower bed and box does not require spending a fortune. I maybe have $100 total in everything I’ve done with my yard so far this year, and only half of that is in gardening.
The goal here isn’t looking for Better Homes and Gardens quality, rather, go by individual taste and how it can make the area around the house look better. As you can see in the photos below, I went with sprucing up the area around the tall bush out front, a small area on the front of the porch, and the two side areas of the porch. The wood used to create the borders around the beds was recycled from something else lying around the house. Any wood will work as long as it is treated. Flea markets are a great place to shop for wood that can be re-purposed.
For flowers, sometimes less is more when it comes to cost. You can look here for a guide on what can grow best in your area. We literally just went to Wal-Mart and got all of our flowers. Lowes will sometimes have a great sale on plants that just need some TLC. You can get a whole cart of plants and flowers for next to nothing. To top it all off after planting, a good layer of mulch can provide an even layer of visual goodness. I get bags of mulch of different colors from Wal-Mart for about $2.50 a bag.
Now that the flowers have been growing for some time, the gardens have filled in nicely with color, and we’ve even add more since then that came from family members and friends.
Cleaning Siding, Stone, and Brick
Did you know vinegar is best used as a household cleaner instead of a cooking ingredient? Seriously, I never use vinegar for cooking. Every bottle of white vinegar I buy is for cleaning purposes. Maybe I should write about the many uses of vinegar. I digress. Anyway, we’re talking about cleaning vinyl siding, stone and brick. While this won’t give you the quality you could get out of a good professional power washing, it will clean things up noticeably.
The mix that I use is 1/2 warm water and 1/2 vinegar. Sometimes I’ll put a small splash of dish soap in with it. Spray a liberal coating on siding, stone or brick, and let sit for a little bit. For extra tough spots, a little scrubbing with a bristle brush may be required. Then, simply rinse with water. Repeat as necessary. You’ll be surprised at how well vinegar will break up stains, mold, mildew, and other deposits.
New Paint Means New Life
Our front porch columns are a mess. They have cracks running up them and until recently, most of the paint was missing from them. What used to be beautiful white had become weather worn wood color. Of course, we are in no position to be able to replace a porch, or even just the columns. Column wraps are available but that requires precise measurements and cutting. That’s something else I’m not so good at. What did we use instead? Some patching putty, gallon of paint, brush, and small roller.
The same could apply for just about any kind of outdoor wood fixture that needs a touch up. Filling in cracks in the wood with a good sealer putty, and giving it a couple of coats of fresh color. Our columns don’t look perfect, but they do look much better than they did, and it makes a noticeable improvement to the front view of the house. Mail box posts, window shutters, painted wood furniture, all of these can be improved with minimal effort, time and money.
Framing Sidewalks and Driveways
Edging is pain in the ass. Admit it. Trying to perfectly trim up weeds and grass down sidewalks, pathways, and driveways can drive even the most seasoned yard veteran crazy. So why not make sure you don’t have to do that? Sounds like a plan right? Not only can you cut down on yard work time, but adding a nice border around sidewalks and driveways can bring an inviting look to your dwelling grounds.
Plastic flower bed edging is cheap and when installed correctly, it can create a variety of shapes and borders for your sidewalks and driveways. Filling in the area between the edging and the pathway with gravels, or mulch and small bushes can turn any plain area of concrete into a lovely area of yard to look at.
Cleaning and Staining Outdoor Wood Furniture
Everyone knows that there’s only so much cleaning you can do to outdoor wood furniture before you rub the finish off and it starts to fade. Sun is very good at fading the color of wooden furniture too. Luckily, there are plenty of household goods that can be used to bring out the best in your wooden furniture again, and it can be resealed for longer lasting visual pleasure.
The same vinegar and water mix used above for siding and stone can be used to clean up wood furniture. Wood is especially good at trapping mildew and mold in its porous surface, and scrubbing is often required to get the wood clean. Black tea bags and instant coffee can be used well to bring a little color back to your outdoor wood furniture. Keep in mind, these won’t be as dark and rich as something you can buy at Sherwin Williams, but we’re looking for resourceful and low cost. Using the methods 2 or three times after a good cleaning can bring a natural looking stain finish to wood furniture, then for around $2.99 a can of all weather clear coat can seal in that finish to last longer than the original.
And there you have it. Johnny T’s guide to resourceful home improvement. Do you have any DIY home improvement projects that you’re doing? Any other tips on how to do things with a low budget? Drop your projects and tips down in the comments below!