For many of us, the arrival of summer means it’s time to lounge by a swimming pool, throw a few backyard barbecues, and maybe tackle some home improvement projects around the house.
After all, warmer temps provide ideal conditions for most renovations in and around the house. However, a recent survey by Home Depot found that nearly 30% of Americans aren’t quite sure how to kick off outdoor projects and are seeking some inspiration.
We’re here to help! We asked home improvement experts to share their take on the most popular home improvement projects to try this summer—the ones that are reasonably easy for even a novice to tackle, provide fabulous ROI, or will otherwise make this season’s long, hot days sweeter than ever.
Best of all? These tasks don’t cost that much, although if you have a mortgage and have built up equity in your home, you could explore the option of a home equity loan (just be sure to shop around for home equity loan rates to get the best deal).
There’s no better time to give these a go than now.
1. Paint kitchen cabinets
Doing a full kitchen remodel costs, on average, a whopping $23,525, according to HomeAdvisor, a remodeling project resource. Refinishing kitchen cabinets, though, is a significantly less expensive improvement that’s ideal for summer, since wet paint dries more quickly when you open the windows, which is doable during warm-weather days, says Dan DiClerico, home expert at HomeAdvisor.
Moreover, painting kitchen cabinets is perfect for homeowners who like their kitchen layout but want to give the room a fresh look.
2. Spice up your landscaping
Photo by Angus McCaffrey
Go beyond just mowing your lawn this summer, says David Pekel, chief executive officer of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. Building a walkway of crushed stones—from your backyard porch to your pool, for instance—is an easy, low-cost project that will give your backyard a face-lift.
Another way to spruce up your landscaping is by building a vertical garden—a perfect addition for homeowners who are tight on space but want a fresh perspective. Add vibrant colors by planting roses, summer hydrangeas, or wave petunias, says landscape designer Steve Griggs.
3. Tend to your deck
Porches, patios, and decks can take a beating during the cold-weather months. Summer is a great time to revive them. Use a putty knife to clear out cracks, crevices, and spaces between boards. For extra credit, apply a fresh layer of stain or sealer. (Just be sure to hammer down any nailheads that aren’t flush with the deck surface before you get started.)
If you haven’t done so already, summer is also the time to waterproof a wood deck.
“Water can cause direct damage in the form of rot and indirect damage like mold,” warns Chris Peterson, author of “Deck Ideas You Can Use.”
Harry Adler of Adler’s Design Center & Hardware, in Providence, RI, recommends protecting vulnerable surfaces with a product such as C2 Guard, a nontoxic waterproofer designed for use on unsealed wood and concrete surfaces.
4. Help your air conditioner breathe easier
If your home’s air-conditioning unit is dirty or partly blocked, cranking up your AC on blistering summer days can lead to sky-high electric bills. If you have central air, clear out any dead leaves and trim back encroaching shrubs around your condenser unit—then shut off the power, hose down the coils, and vacuum the vents to make sure they’re operating efficiently. If you have window units, dust them inside and out.
5. Build a stacked fire pit
Photo by Rick O’Donnell Architect
Hanging out by a stacked fire pit is the perfect way to enjoy cooler summer nights.
“DIYers of any skill level can build a stacked fire pit using retaining wall blocks,” says Hunter Macfarlane, Lowe’s project expert. Safety, though, is crucial.
“Choose a spot located away from your house, low-hanging limbs, and anything else that could potentially catch fire,” Macfarlane says, and make sure you’ll have enough room for outdoor furniture around the pit.
“It’s best to keep the back legs of furniture about 6 to 7 feet away from the base,” Macfarlane says.
Here’s more on how to build a fire pit.
6. Install a paver patio
Enhance the look and feel of your outdoor living space by installing a paver patio.
“You can customize your patio by choosing from an array of paver styles like brick, cobblestone, or natural-style pavers,” says Macfarlane. “You may also want to consider a layout that complements your home’s architecture, from basic running bond to more advanced techniques like herringbone or basket weave.”
Pro tip: “Before you buy materials or begin work on a paver patio, be sure to check local building codes and your homeowners association’s regulations,” Macfarlane advises.
7. Build a fence around your swimming pool
Many states and local jurisdictions require home pools be surrounded by a fence. But, regardless of whether it’s mandated, building a fence can help keep animals like deer out of the water—and summer is an ideal time to install one.
Fence pricing depends on the size of the area and the materials you use. Black aluminum is a popular choice, but if you’re looking to save some money, opt for a post and rail with a wire in-between, recommends Jodie Freeland, senior landscape designer and project manager at Black River Landscape Management in Randolph, NJ.
8. Plug air leaks
To keep the cool air inside your home, inspect the insulation in your basement and attic for gaps—especially around ductwork, where cracks can form easily. Also, check windows and doors to see if you need to recaulk or seal any openings. These are simple repairs that you can do yourself in a weekend.
Here’s more on how to plug air leaks in a house.
9. Paint your front door and shutters
Putting a fresh coat of paint on your front door and shutters will make your home “instantly warmer and more inviting,” Macfarlane says.
So what paint color should you select? “Deep, moody shades add drama, while softer hues convey peace and calm,” Macfarlane says.
You can use Lowe’s paint calculator to estimate how much paint or primer you’ll need. Generally, 1 gallon of paint covers 250 square feet, while 1 gallon of primer covers 200 square feet, Macfarlane says.