There are two kinds of DIY project: those that absolutely must be done that you choose to do yourself (the overflowing toilet comes to mind), and the ones that you could probably avoid indefinitely, but should really take care of (wretchedly ugly paint or tile, for example).
Today, I’m relieved to say, we’ll be discussing a few projects that fall into the latter category. Perhaps I can help motivate you to finally tackle those updates, fixes, and repairs that have been lurking in the corners of your home (and the back of your mind) for months or even years, but that you simply haven’t tended to yet; at least I’m sure I can build your confidence in your inherent abilities as a DIY-type. How can I be so sure of that? Well hell, I managed to complete these projects…
But I didn’t do it alone. Not exactly, anyway. I had some help from my wife, and lot of help from Kobalt tools recommended to me by the friendly folks at my local neighborhood Lowe’s hardware store.
The people at Lowe’s, and a gentleman named Michael in particular (that’s him!) helped make what could have been a truly aggravating series of DIY projects into a relatively painless process. I fact, I only got a few splinters, only dropped a level on my foot once (don’t do projects barefoot, people. Just don’t), and only kind of sort of freaked out a little bit when figuring out which screws to use for plaster walls dating from the 1920s (my house is pretty old, FYI).
When you have the right tools for the job, you not only get your projects done faster, but you invariably get them done better. The Kobalt tools I used to replace a pair of old sconces, makeover a guest room closet, and repair some flooring issues helped these projects go smoothly because the tools themselves are of good quality and good design.
Want an example? The Kobalt cordless drill has an LED light built into its shaft, clearly illuminating your screw or drill bit. Want another example? Kobalt’s laser level features magnets strong enough to attach it to most any metal surface, freeing up your hands to work. Want more examples? Just read the article, sir…
Now, without further adieu-it-yourself (and with sincere apologies for that wretched pun. I mean it: I’m sorry), let’s talk about a few ways I spruced up the ol’ homestead prior to the influx of in-laws, parents, aunts, uncles, and other such familial entities.
Replacing Old Sconces
The problem? Our charming old house is old. Add in from the late 1920s (like I said mere seconds ago, yes). Much of the home has been updated and is in great shape; some of it? Not so much. The scones in our living room are just about the first thing you see when you walk in the front door, and until me and my Kobalt drill, screwdrivers, level, and pliers got to work, my goodness, were they ugly.
See? Ugly, mean old sconces. We hate them, right? Right.
I had thought about replacing these things for almost a half decade, but with the family finally ready to spend the winter holidays in our own home, and with visitors descending, it was time to stop all the thinking and take action!
When you set out to replace a light fixture, first make sure the power to it is turned off. Then double check that you did, in fact, actually turn off the power correctly. Go ahead and triple check if you need, I can wait. Seriously. Be sure.
Once I was sure the power was off, I used a Kobalt screwdriver to unscrew the screw (makes sense, right?) securing the old sconce to the wall, then worked a flathead screwdriver between the layers of paint and paster that were actually the light’s primary anchor, as it turned out.
With the old sconce popped off the wall and its wiring removed, I could see that, thankfully, this was going to be a pretty simple project thanks to the tools at my disposal, and thanks to the fact that I actually took the time to do some relevant reading and to ask the Lowe’s folks some questions before getting to work.
All you do to disconnect electrical wiring in a lighting fixture is unscrew the caps holding the braided (or simply twisted) wires together and then just pull the wires apart. Take care with the ground wire, which may be wrapped more tightly around a screw (which is often green, FYI. The screw is, I mean. The wire may be simply copper, it may be sheathed, hard to say).
With the old sconce removed from the wall, I took careful note which color from the light wire had been attached to which color wire sticking out of the wall. When the new sconces went on, that same white-to-white and black-to-black pattern would be necessary, see?
We (meaning me and the drill, I guess) attached the new sconce’s faceplate, making sure it was level using a, um, well a level, of course.
Next, I attached the wires, matching the colors correctly, and then spooling the copper ground wire around the faceplate’s green screw (see? Just like I said).
After that, all I needed to do was secure the ground wire, make sure the caps were tight (those are the orange conical things there) and then affix the sconce to the wall using its own built-in screws.
Then… I had my wife help me see if this had all been worth the time and effort. I stepped outside… took in a deep breath of cool December air, and then heroically threw the circuit switch back into place!
“She shines a-brightly!” My wife cried aloud from within the home! Or maybe she called out: “OK, cool it’s working,” in a rather casual voice.
… finally stepped back to behold our new, no longer awful sconces!
Ah yes, that is sconces plural. Did I mention that as soon as the aforementioned process was completed I had to do it all over again?
There are two lights, after all.
Updating the Guest Room Closet
I’m going to let you in on a little secret here: with the Rubbermaid Home Free Series of closet organizing hardware (you guessed it, I got it at Lowe’s), this project was… not very hard. But that’s between you, me, and everyone who reads this article.
But anyway, see here was the problem: our guest room closet has long been used for storing the various and sundry whatnot of life that never quite found a proper home.
With people on their way for a stay, I knew I needed to provide them a place to put their things while they were here. Pretty smart thinking, right? Right.
Anyway, with the clutter (yes, that is the top rack from a dishwasher, and no, I won’t be explaining why) removed and relegated to a pile in the garage, the closet still didn’t look exactly inviting…
But I had my secret ubbermaid Home Free Series of closet organizing system and Kobalt tools at the ready, remember?
So I got to work!
The first step when you are planning any project that involves spatial organization is to actually plan what you’re going to do before you just start drilling, hammering, and/or screaming.
Thus it was that I laid out all the many components of the organization system, took some careful measurements, did some loose sketching and planning, and only then did I go for my toolbox.
(Or, as the case is in this picture, actually ensure what you’re about to affix to the wall is level. It’s a lot easier to be careful with a tape measure and level than it is to pull screws back out of a wall and attempt to seal the holes and paint over the damage later.)
Viola: a place to put clothing on hangers – thank you handy Kobalt measuring tape and cheap but sturdy piece of wood. As for the rest of the closet, for that I did indeed use the pre-fab, modular Rubbermaid system, and gracious but was it easy to use: once its mounting rack and bars are secured to the wall, you can move the drawers and shelving designed to work with the system at will. And then, for the purposes of this picture “you” can use some of your own clothing to load up the closet…
Let’s do a before and after for ya:
Make yourselves most at home.
Fixing Floors – The Wood Putty Life Hack
Did you know that there’s a magical goo you can squeeze into cracks in most types of wooden floor that makes them disappear? Well, there is, though the term “magic goo” is less commonly used. Most folks call it…
In fact, in this case the brand I chose (from Lowe’s. Boom) was indeed Wood Filler by trusty Elmer’s, maker of the glue paste you loved to eat in grade school. (Don’t eat glue, kids. Or adults. That’s a categorical imperative.)
Whatever you call it, putty/filler is the difference between a project that lasts about 20, maybe 25 minutes total (not counting the few hours you need to wait between initial application and sanding) and between the truly horrid prospect of replacing sections of your wooden floors.
Our lovely old house has lots of its original hardwood flooring, and most of it is in great shape, thank you very much Southern California climate. But there are areas of the flooring that has experienced deterioration, which can also be taken to mean potential for wildly painful splinters.
And beyond splinters, left untreated, cracks and gaps in wood will only growl larger with time, eventually necessitating the replacement of whole boards.
Boo to that.
And now here’s how that same floor looked after about, oh, 12 minutes of effort, that including the time it took to walk to the bedroom for Q-Tips, walk back to the living room without Q-Tips, then remember what it was all about and make the round trip yet again, this time successfully.
No more cracks/gaps. That means no more potential for splinters, and no further damage will result from this compromised section of flooring.
No one has to know how easy all this stuff is, people. Just get the right tools for job (perhaps tools of the Kobalt brand from Lowe’s – hey, they work for me pretty damn well), do some reading, talk to an expert or two… and make sure the power is off before you even THINK about doing any electrical work!
Now… stay tuned for adventures in plumbing…
And for the record, these projects and this article were completed in partnership with Lowe’s Home Improvement. Lowe’s provided product and materials. All images, writing, project ideas and guidelines, and other such content are the original creation of the author. The author and The Manual extend their grateful appreciation to the people from Lowe’s for their help, support, and encouragement.