Becky Flaum
Updated Mar 05, 2014 @ 4:58 am

It might not feel like it in most parts of the country, but spring is approaching, I promise. It’s time to spruce up your place a bit: add a coat of paint, install some shelves or replace some lighting fixtures.

While I’m not a fan of DIY crafts or anything involving glue or glitter, I do feel immense satisfaction in the swinging of a hammer and the whir of a drill. But some folks prefer the latter. While that is all well and good, at some point you’re going to need to hang some curtains or repair the hole in the wall from that crazy Christmas party you had (at least if you want your security deposit back).

Here are 8 ways to make it look as if you were born with a drill in your hand and totally knowing exactly what a Phillips head screwdriver looks like.

1. Start small.

Pick something small that needs to be done in your home and focus on that – something that looks hard but is actually easy. That way, when people come over and you tell them that you were the one that stenciled those flowers on your dining room wall, they will be way impressed. Another simple project that seems hard but isn’t is installing a dimmer switch in the bedroom (oooh la la).

2. Make friends with the level.

The level is the metal bar with a sort of test tube looking thing in the middle that helps you cut, paint, draw and saw in a straight line. It adds an extra step and is a pain in the ass sometimes, but trust me, a level is a must when hanging shelves, pictures and curtains, as well as any painting of edges. Nothing says amateur hour more than a wonky shelf or paint job. And most smartphones have a free level app available for them, so you don’t have to buy a new tool. That being said…

3. Have your own tools.

When I moved into my first apartment, my brother-in-law gave me a drill with drill bits (the end parts of the drill) and a tool set. I actually used both quite a bit. You won’t be able to fool anyone into thinking you can do ANY home project without at least a hammer, screwdriver and some pliers. You can get little beginner kits at any home improvement store. Also… know how to use them. There are tons of YouTube videos to help you.

4. Find a stud just by knocking.

Not on your hot neighbor’s door… When mounting anything heavy to a wall (a shelf, a cool object, a huge picture) you need to hang it on the sturdiest part of the wall, the stud. The studs are the main beams that make up a wall’s structure. In order to find the studs in your wall, you can use a device that looks like something you would see on Star Trek (a stud finder) or to look like you really know what you’re doing ,you can simply tap on the wall and listen. If it sounds hollow, not a stud; if it feels hard and doesn’t echo…you’ve found your stud!

5. Always have a clean work space.

Even if you have no clue what comes next, the first step if you’re going to paint, lay tile or refinish furniture is always to clean the surface you are about to work on. In some cases that means sanding down with sand paper and in others, you really just have to scrub with a coarse sponge.

6. Don’t giggle every time the guy at the hardware store says “caulk”.

You’re a DIY pro! Caulk is the sealant that closes up small gaps in your tiling, sinks, tubs or around baseboards in your house. Caulking helps make your home energy efficient when you put it around window sills that are leaking in air. It’s not a dirty word!

7. Follow instructions.

This might sound like something a novice would do and a dead giveaway to your beginner status, but read the instructions that come with any tool or apparatus that you buy for home improvement. Because, I mean, who do you think wrote those instructions?! A pro!

8. Don’t fall for any tool that says it’s a time saver, you’ll end up wasting time doing it over the right way.

When I was painting my apartment walls, I bought an “edger” that promised to keep all my edges neat without all that painter’s tape. It ended up getting smeared everywhere and making a huge mess that I then had to clean, hang painter’s tape and repaint. My sister also had a similar experience with a spray that said it would peel her wall paper right off, instead of the hours of peeling and steaming it usually takes. She used the spray and THEN spent hours and hours. Home improvement projects take time. Only a rookie would spend money on a gadget that says it “saves time and energy”. If there is a tried and true way to do something, even if it takes an extra 20 minutes or so, it is best to follow that rather than waste time and money on some newfangled toy.


There is so much good stuff out there for you budding Tim Allens. Check out these sites to take your DIY home improvements to the next level (and by next level I mean outdoor fountains and fire pits y’all!)

DIY Network – All the helpful tips from some of TV’s handiest folks

Family Handyman – Step by step instructions on projects that range from easy to expert

This Old House – Classic home remodel and repair show now has a site for everything you need to know!

Featured image via ShutterStock