But now that temps are on the rise, it could be a good time to roll up your sleeves and start giving the outside of your home a little post–Polar Vortex TLC—especially if you're thinking about putting your place on the market in the near future.
“Curb appeal is all about first impressions,” says Jeff Wilson, author of "The Greened House Effect," who has appeared on HGTV and the DIY Network. “Whether or not a home is fit as a fiddle, nobody will believe you if it doesn’t look like it. So while you should never mask something like major structural flaws, putting your best foot forward just makes sense.”
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But this doesn't mean you have to spend thousands on contractors or supplies to give your abode a spruce up. In fact, Wilson suggests tackling tasks that will give you the biggest bang for your curb-appeal buck ... yourself.
So with Wilson's help, we’ve rounded up six ways to freshen up your home’s exterior for $200 or less. Added bonus? All of them are DIYs you can wrap up in a weekend.
Easy DIY #1: Make Your Front Door More Inviting
“Colorwise, it’s O.K. to choose something interesting to draw the eye to the entrance, but don’t go crazy with fuchsia or hunter orange,” Wilson says. “Whenever somebody needs advice on choosing a paint color, I tell them to use the color wheel they learned in third grade.” For instance, if your home is brick red, a complementary color would be a bluish gray door or a golden color, suggests Wilson.
Total DIY Time: Up to 3.5 hours, with 1 hour of prep, 1 hour for priming and painting, ½ hour to install the kick plate, and 1 hour to install the latch hardware.
Price: $20 to $200, depending on whether you add hardware.
Easy DIY #2: Wash Your Home's Exterior
If your house weathered a lot of storms this winter, a simple scrub-down can provide an instant refresh.
Wilson suggests cleaning dingy siding, brick and concrete—pretty much any outdoor surface—with an oxygenated cleaning product, like this one from Thompson’s WaterSeal. Spray on the solution using a plastic pump-up sprayer and scrub gently using a basic, plastic-bristled cleaning brush, like this one. And if you're trying to reach high places and don't have a ladder, attach your brush to a telescopic pole. Wait a minute or two for the solution to do its work and then rinse off.
“The oxygenated bleach won’t harm your plants," Wilson says. "And all outside surfaces—from driveways to sidewalks to front steps—can be cleaned of dirt, mildew, mold and algae stains.”
Total DIY Time: 3 to 5 hours per side, depending on the size of your house.
Price: $50 to $100 for the cleaner, pump-up sprayer and brush.
When picking a waterproofer, the rule of thumb is that products with more pigment will last longer.
Easy DIY #3: Install a Solar-Powered Lamp
An upgrade that will give you more light without adding to your electric bill? That’s a win-win.
Reliable solar lampposts are now readily available—no wiring required. (Check out these simple installation instructions.) “These work great, throwing off a lot of light, and lasting through several cloudy days,” Wilson says. “The best place for solar lamps is in locations where they’ll get six hours of sun each day, and where they’ll illuminate the walk between the car and the front door.”
And if you have a gate or piers at the foot of your driveway, solar-powered lamps can add a nice touch to those areas—warmly welcoming visitors to your home.
Total DIY Time: 2 to 3 hours.
Price: $100 to $150.
Easy DIY #4: Refinish Your Deck or Fence
A simple way to give your wooden fence, porch or deck a face-lift is to clean and treat it with a waterproofer stain. According to Wilson, DIY-ers should be able to handle about 400 square feet in a single weekend.
Start by applying deck cleaner to the wood, allowing it to sit for 10 minutes before working it in with a stiff, bristled brush. Rinse thoroughly, wait for it to dry and then apply the waterproofer stain. (Make sure to read all of the product directions for accurate drying times.)
When picking a waterproofer, the rule of thumb, says Wilson, is that products with more pigment will last longer. So a clear waterproofer might last only one or two years, while it's more like two to three years for a tinted version. A semi-transparent stain will last four to five years, and a solid stain should work for over five years.
Total DIY Time: 2 days.
Price: $150 for the tools, cleaner and waterproofer stain.
Easy DIY #5: Replace Your Mailbox
Upgrading a box that has seen better days is one of the simplest ways to improve your home’s first impression. “If your mailbox is dented, missing a door and flag, or it's propped up with a 2x4 from the last time those teenagers whacked it with a baseball bat," Wilson says, "you might be in the market for a new one.”
Even if you have to reset the post, a new mailbox generally won’t cost more than $75. Shoot for something classic and classy, like a black or bronze model with some metallic trim. And check out this video for how to easily install your new mailbox.
Total DIY Time: 1 to 3 hours, depending on if you need a new post.
Price: $50 to $75.
Easy DIY #6: Do Some Quick Landscaping
Brighten up your front yard by simply planting a few colorful annuals, and then laying down a three-inch layer of mulch to keep weeds at bay and water in the soil. For added flair, you can also add decorative edging using bricks, stones, metal or plastic. An edging option like this will only set you back about $20.
“Annuals are inexpensive—you can buy a flat for $10—and generally hardy in the short term,” Wilson says. “Think African daisies, marigolds, pansies, phlox or vinca, and consider planting them stadium seating–style for added impact by arranging tall plants behind the shorter ones in the front.”
Don’t have much of a yard to landscape? Place flowerpots next to your front door or hang plants from a lamppost.
Total DIY Time: 1 day.
Price: $100 to $170 for plants, mulch and edging.