10 easy projects when you’re stuck at home

People tell us that their long time at home made them aware of the many small repairs that are piling up. You don’t need a lot of tools and materials to solve these problems, nor do you need a lot of experience in repairing them. Taking them one at a time can take some of the pressure out of the message cycle and leave you feeling satisfied when you cross them off your to-do list.

To sharpen a knife

If you are cooking at home and eating more, this is the perfect time to sharpen your blades.

Trevor Raab

With the amount of time people have been spending in their kitchen lately, it’s no wonder that family cutlery needs a thorough overhaul. Fortunately, sharpening kitchen knives with a sharpening steel, set of stones, or a knife sharpener is pretty easy. Check out our article on the subject. And while gadgets can help you get your job done, the lack of sharpeners shouldn’t mean you have to put up with blunt knives. No sharpening stone? No problem. In a pinch, you can use a piece of scrap 2 x 4 with sandpaper attached to the surface, as we explain here.

Patch doorknob holes

A door that pushes its limits can result in a doorknob hole in the wall. The repair is easy. Apply a peel-and-stick aluminum drywall patch to the damaged area, then apply, smooth, and sand drywall compound as explained in our Drywall Repair Compendium.

Replace door stop

The culprit behind the fact that the door is overstepping may of course be that the door hinge has been loosened, has never been installed, or is bent (in the case of a spring-type door hinge). Every hardware store has these, and you can order them from any number of suppliers such as Walmart.

Fix problem doors

With a small set of basic hand tools you can go a long way in repairing doors. Years ago, Neal Barrett (who was one of our contributing editors at the time) wrote what was perhaps the best and most succinct description of these repairs. Neal’s treatment of the subject was a classic in literature. Years after it was written, it still attracts readers. The eight tools shown in the door repair article form the basis of a decent tool kit.

Tighten a loose deck step

The secret to healing a loose stepping board on a deck is twofold. If the step is hollow and curves upwards, first pull out the screws, remove them, and stand with the cup facing down. The downward-facing cup prevents the rocking movement that occurs when stepping on. Second, replace the screws with longer screws that are at least 2 1/2 inches in size. However, if you need at least 3 inches to turn the screw into solid wood in the stair profile, you should do so too. And if there is more wrong with the steps than just a loose board, check out our carpentry article on building new boards.

Clean windows and window sills

clean windows

Roy Berendsohn

Windows and sills may need anything from a light scrubbing to an almost complete overhaul where you vacuum a large buildup of dirt from the sill and then wipe the glass with a squeegee. For general cleaning information, see our guide to simple tips and techniques.

For a detailed look at how to clean difficult (non-tilting) double-hanging windows, we show the full step-by-step treatment here.

There are many window cleaning products out there, but we have had the best results with high quality mops and squeegees from Unger and Ettore. A simple starter kit like this one from Ettore will take you a long way towards clean, streak-free glass.

And if the glass is really dirty, we haven’t seen anything that can clean as well as invisible glass. In severe cases, wipe and wipe the windows as normal, then let them dry. Angled light falling through the window shows streaks from your cleaning work. If you clean the window again with invisible glass, you will get almost perfect transparency.

Dealing with weeds

Dandelion removal

kjerulffGetty Images

If weed handling were a one-off affair, the world would be weed-free by now. The way it is, weeds have to be dealt with in one way or another while the grass is growing, which for most of the continental United States is March through November. It is most effective to maintain a healthy lawn so that the grass outperforms the weeds. This tutorial will explain how to understand basic herbicide practice, when and how to apply it.

When weeds get the upper hand, the lawn is shot; replacing it is the answer.

Clean the dryer vent

Few DIY activities pays off like cleaning the dryer vent. By improving the airflow, you reduce the chance of a lint fire, improve the energy efficiency of the dryer, and at the same time improve the consistency and smell of the clothes coming out of the dryer. It’s easy to do with a LintEater sewer cleaning tool.

Once you clear the vent, you may be inspired to do more. Check out our “Three Steps to a Better Laundry Room” article.

Clean the siding

Clean siding

Now, if you have a cordless power washer or pressure washer, it is time to use it. If not, you can still get the job done.

Trevor Raab

Few things degrade the look of a house like dirty, mold-covered siding. And we don’t mind using a pressure washer so the siding always looks good. On the other hand, simply applying Jomax to a garden sprayer is an inexpensive and great way to keep siding, fences, and outdoor furniture clean. Mix it with bleach and water, apply with the pump sprayer and scrub any areas that are really dirty. Sometimes you don’t even have to scrub. Rinse the area with a garden hose and off you go. One gallon of the concentrate makes 20 gallons cleaner – more than enough for any typical residential application.

Change the blade

It doesn’t even take five minutes to change the blunt blade on your circular saw. This radically improves performance. Of course, it’s important to adapt the blade to the job, as we show here

BTW, if you don’t own a circular saw, you’ll be amazed at how much work you can do with one, even a cheap model like this Skil. They look intimidating to the uninitiated buzz saw, but once you get the hang of it, you can safely and efficiently complete each cut

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