6 tips, 3 months, 1 season: Elevate your summer experience with these easy summer projects
Winter was freezing, spring raced by and now you find yourself in the middle of summer—a hot summer— wondering how you can add value, aesthetics and a certain “fun factor” to your home without overtaxing your energies—or siphoning your savings.
Mindset is crucial. Remember: You aren’t signing up for arduous labor, just a little home enhancement, a few small projects here and there that once completed will provide tangible, ongoing benefit to you and your family, and with any luck, your friends and neighbors who’ll doubtlessly stop by and marvel at the improvements.
Let’s take a look at a few easy projects that can be completed around the house in a day or so—a weekend at most. Be prepared for some basic organization, a trip or two to the hardware store and a hearty appetite at the end of the day to go with your sense of accomplishment.
Project #1: Repaint the front door
Understandably, this is a box that plenty of homeowners want to check but end up putting the project off for one reason or another. A summer weekend, however, is your new season of opportunity. While it might be nice to contemplate a fresh coat for the entire house (now, that’s a major project!), those who understand curb appeal know that repainting the front door alone can reinstate a certain pride and majesty to a property. And it doesn’t take long.
There are no hard and fast rules here. Choose the color that appeals to you, while taking into account your home’s exterior: molding, siding, shutters, etc. If you want to add personality to your house go for something bold, a color that jumps out from the street like a deep red or cobalt blue. Color swatches can be easily obtained at local hardware stores and painting supply companies.
As for the project itself, you’ve got this. While there will be some sanding, some removing and reattaching of handles, locks and knockers, the main event is the paint job itself. This is often preceded by a layer of all-purpose primer to help weatherproof the door and provide a smooth consistent base for the paint to adhere to. Once the primer is dry, apply a couple coats of your chosen paint to the front door, being careful not to leave any streaks. Give the door some time to dry and then reattach the handles, knocker and locks using your trusty screwdriver.
You’re finished. Walk to the end of your driveway or take in the view from the street. Your newly painted door has tidied up your property and given your home a much-needed facelift. And you didn’t even break a sweat.
Project #2: Reimagine your deck or patio
Your back patio or deck is your special outdoor place; it’s where during the warmer months you eat, relax and entertain. Unfortunately, it’s often disorganized and aesthetically undernourished. Let’s face it: it could use some sprucing up.
There are two categories of enhancements that can be easily achieved: the practical additions you can add to your patio (new grill, new furniture, perhaps some new plants) and the Zen-like improvements that speak to clarity of mind and a deeper sense of relaxation.
Begin by surveying the size of your deck and take note of what’s currently there. If you intend to spend quality time out here, you should want things to be as nice as the interior of your home. Make sure there is a patio table that’s sturdy and large enough to double as a dinner table—with room for guests. Think about 4-6 metal chairs. Since the table is outside, ensure there’s space to insert an umbrella for much-needed shade.
For the more comfy seating around the edges of your patio, try an upgrade over those old folding chairs and consider something that will last—and impress. Teak furniture has been popular for some time and imparts a kind of country club charm. But look around. There are many options in many price ranges. And don’t forget to look into acquiring a chaise lounge in a color that matches the chairs.
While much of your furniture, side tables and even your grill may have been purchased separately, there’s still a way to achieve a unifying visual harmony. Try to find a centerpiece (grill, table, fire pit) and work outwards from that. Think symmetry and think declutter. This is your chance to say to the world that less is more while still maintaining charm and function.
Lastly, be playful but be in tune with your surroundings.. You don’t have to go full minimalist decor, but do be cognizant of feng shui. Without getting too deep into the mystical weeds, just be mindful that the energy and position of all items can contribute to the harmony of your deck, enabling serenity, pleasure and relaxation. Remember, you’re under the sun and stars—and hopefully within arm’s length of flowers and plants and trees. A few small adjustments can create the comfort you crave while putting you in a better place to commune with nature alongside friends and family.
Project #3: Fix cracked concrete on pavement and driveway
While repaving your entire driveway definitely smacks of a larger DIY project, the prospect of addressing its imperfections is something you can undertake in a single afternoon. Same goes for those disagreeable cracks that have suddenly appeared on the front sidewalk.
Surface cracks in concrete pathways can drive a homeowner crazy. The solution? A trip to the hardware store where you can pick up a concrete crack filler (much like caulking) and fill the gaps like a proper mason. Begin by washing the area, wiping it off and letting it dry. Once the concrete is ready, squeeze the filler into small cracks that are ¼ inch wide or less. There are many products on the market that will gel nicely with your old concrete and provide you with an easy, secure way to close up cracks.
If you have many cracks or cracks that are wider and deeper than a quarter of an inch, consider purchasing a concrete patching compound. For this you’ll need a bucket, a trowel and maybe even some knee pads (we’re serious!). Go from crack to crack, applying the compound and using the trowel to ensure a flat edge. Once dry, it should be good for walking.
Patching an asphalt driveway involves a similar methodology. You’ll need to acquire material for an asphalt patch and begin hunting for raveling, depressions, potholes, etc. Simply pour in the patching material, add water if need be and tamp down with a flat shovel or other device. It won’t look exactly like the original asphalt, but it will add structural integrity and provide a safe surface on which to stroll.
Project 4: Enhance lighting around walkways and driveways
Have you ever pondered a more cinematic way to illuminate your property at night? How about just some improved nighttime clarity to brighten paths and add a level of security? If so, you might be a candidate for a lighting upgrade, particularly around your walkways and driveway.
Start by doing some scouting. Do you simply need more lighting or an entirely new design approach? As you know, whether it’s in the front, back or side of your property, there needs to be proper lighting if you’re going to spend time outside during the evening. There are safety factors to consider as well as the best way to highlight your home and guide visitors seamlessly from their car to your back deck or front door.
Once you’ve determined how much lighting you need, go to a hardware or lighting store and get some easy-to-install outdoor lighting that is solar powered. While you can make things (slightly) more complicated by going the route of low voltage landscape lights, solar is your best choice for a self-installed green energy solution that’s also virtually cost-free to operate.
Solar lights have a photovoltaic cell that charges during the day beneath the sun. Out of the box it may need 12-14 hours of sunshine to get up and running; after that 6-8 hours should do the trick on a daily basis. Begin by placing your lights equidistant from each other along pathways and sidewalks that require lighting. The light fixture is typically attached to a stake that you drive into the ground. No switches, no wires, nothing like that is necessary. Just make sure there’s plenty of available sunshine to fuel your solar-powered lights.
Of course, in a world as advanced as ours, even the absence of sunshine does not signal doom. If you require lighting in a shady area where the sun is an infrequent visitor, simply opt for a remote solar panel that can be used to collect the rays out in the open and then send back the energy to the shaded fixtures.
Project #5: Install energy-efficient windows
You’re doing a stand-up job with outdoor projects—but what about the interior of your home? Are there some things you’ve put on the back burner that are ideal to tackle during the summer months?
Depending on how old your house is, you may be in need of an improvement on the window front. Begin by researching Energy Star certified windows. They can help keep your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Their special coating also prevents some of the harsh UV rays from entering your home and discoloring rugs and furniture over time. Not only that, but their cost-efficiency saves you money and protects the environment; hence, the Energy Star designation.
Begin by examining relevant information to determine which windows to purchase. Different windows are recommended for the different regions of the U.S. Some windows are fine in all 50 states and some are not. Secondly—stick to the instructions. You don’t want to void any warranties by incorrectly installing your windows. And while many windows can be self-installed (this is especially true for insert replacement windows), it’s a good idea to have a helper on hand and take your time.
While the process of removing the old windows is something that needs to be addressed on a case-by-case basis, generally you will need the use of a hammer and crowbar to remove the existing window stops and sashes, perhaps even the frame. If your window frame is in good condition, the job is much easier. At this point, thoroughly clean out the sides and the bottom of the windowsill. Make sure to have your goggles and work gloves on. A mask is a good idea too.
Once you’ve done that, and before installing the replacement window, apply some flashing tape the full length of the sill. Then add some fresh caulking to the sides, top and windowsill to seal the window and ensure zero leakage. To prevent excessive future condensation from appearing, make sure that the area between the window opening and the frame is insulated during installation. Some simple window insulation film is your go-to product for this.
If properly organized, you can install at least one or maybe two windows on a Saturday afternoon. That’s more than enough to feel like you’ve made progress. If this has been something on your radar for years, then congratulate yourself. Your new energy-efficient windows are good for the environment, good for your home and good for your finances.
Project #6: Spend more time with friends and family outside at your home!
Sometimes you have to make a project out of this, too. You spent weekend after weekend making your home more comfortable for visitors and fun for your family; now go out there and enjoy it!
Start by inviting your friends over for afternoon drinks and refreshments. How’s that grill looking? This is a great time to fire up some brats, some hot dogs, even a burger. Mix up a pitcher of your favorite summer beverage, and sit around the patio and enjoy the serenity and good conversation that goes hand-in-hand with the summer season. Note: Badminton and horseshoes should definitely be on the agenda, space permitting.
As you might suspect, even a small improvement to your home can feel like a big deal. After all, you can build upon these victories, one after another, until you have a slew of completed home improvement projects that you can point to. Then you’ll really have something to crow about when the neighbors stop by.
Homes are like people: The best ones evolve over time. If you decide to move or refinance, you have plenty of options available. But if you want to optimize enjoyment in the here and now, consider undertaking a few projects around the house before the sun sets on summer inspiration.