12 Cheap Summer Projects That Make Your Home Feel New

Now is the perfect time for these do-it-yourself maintenance projects that can spruce up your home — and potentially save you thousands of dollars.

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Home maintenance is like housework, flossing and exercise: Work it into your routine, because the penalties are worse than the jobs themselves.

For example, cleaning the gutters costs nothing if you do it yourself, and roughly $100 to $200 if you hire a service.

Ignore the job, though, and you may face expensive repairs thanks to:

  • Leaky or overflowing gutters that rot fascia boards (the roof edge under the gutters), soffits and rafters.
  • Water that drips onto window trim, rotting it.
  • Leaky gutters that let water pool at the foundation, causing basement leaks, mold and even foundation damage.

Fortunately, summer gives you a chance to repair damage, protect your home and keep its face to the world — and to you — looking bright.

Following are 10 cheap and easy home projects that make your home feel new — and potentially save you a bundle in repair costs down the road.

1. Paint

Fresh paint doesn’t just make your home look great — it’s also a protective skin against UV light and moisture.

Earth911 reveals where to get free paint:

Many household hazardous waste (HHW) facilities around the country have product exchange rooms, sometimes called swap rooms or swap shops. These rooms offer safe, unopened HHW items for public consumption, keeping them out of the landfill and letting you save some money.

Call your city to ask about your local HHW facility. Other sources for cheap paint:

  • Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores (find one near you) sell “gently used” tools and supplies for home projects at low cost.
  • See EcoBusinessLinks’ national directory of recycled and surplus building materials and suppliers.
  • Search online for a city’s name and “salvaged building supplies” or “recycled building materials.”

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2. Mulch

Laying a 1- to 3-inch layer of mulch on garden beds will quickly spruce up the area around your home’s exterior.

Mulch has other benefits. For example, it spares you from having to do a lot of weeding. Mulch smothers weeds by depriving them of oxygen and light, and it holds moisture in the soil, saving water and giving plants a consistent source of moisture.

Free or cheap sources of mulch include:

  • Shredded wood or bark. Electric utility companies and tree services may have cheap or free wood chips or shredded bark. Also, some cities collect leaves and branches, chipping them for use by local residents.
  • Grass clippings. Let them cool down before mulching.
  • Raked leaves. Shred first with a shredder or lawn mower so air and moisture can reach the soil beneath.
  • Cardboard. Ask recycling centers and appliance stores for free cardboard. Wet it down, cut it to fit and place it around plants, covering with soil or bark mulch. This is best in wet climates where cardboard breaks down into the soil.

3. Seal wood decks

If your deck is looking a little tired, it might be time to seal it, and stain or paint it. Staining or painting your wood deck will make it look like a million bucks — and you’ll only spend a tiny fraction of that amount.

The cheap way to seal a deck is do it yourself. You’ll spend a couple hundred dollars on supplies and rented tools. Do it annually or every two to three years, depending on where you live. Ignore the job long enough and you’ll need to replace the deck, at a cost of thousands of dollars.

 4. Clean gutters

You may be able to do this job yourself, and at little or no cost. Rent or borrow a solid ladder tall enough to do the job safely. Enlist someone to stand on the ground and steady it while you work.

Clean gutters once or twice a year, depending on how quickly they fill with leaves and debris. While you’re cleaning, check for leaks and breaks.

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  • Y2KJillian

    We have painted our entire house, inside and out, twice and more with free paint from Craigslist. With a big plastic container, (I don’t know what they’re called, but they’re like giant buckets of heavy plastic and often have rope handles)–I even mix my own colors, admittedly, not just anything, but a combo of the paint collected and sorted out…Our house is currently (mostly) beige inside and out; we just got a 2-gallon bucket of exterior white latex and are adding white trim to the outside…I’ve mixed greys, greens, blues, deep reds, browns, pinks…depends on what you get. And when you’re done mixing, using, and sealing back up, you can get rid of the extras by relisting on Craigslist for free giveaways, too. It’s super!t

  • Y2KJillian

    Mulch–we got a paper shredder for xmas and my husband mixes the shreds (cross-cut) in with the compost–it breaks down fast and why would it be any worse than cardboard?

  • Lorilu

    You really should use a vacuum cleaner to clean out your dryer vent. There are long, narrow tube accessories sold for this purpose. Vacuum from each end of the vent–from the dryer, and from the outside vent.

  • LagunaLady27

    El Niño is building up this year, and the West might actually get rain, lots of it (think last week in Texas). I plan on using the summer to prepare for rain and possible flooding. Get ready, fellow Californians. It may not rain in Southern California, but it pours! (-Mamas and Papas)

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