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Weekend DIY projects to tackle this winter

Blustery winter days are made for staying home, and that time can be put to good use with home improvement projects that won’t require a loan to complete.
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Blustery winter days are made for staying home, and that time can be put to good use with home improvement projects that won’t require a loan to complete. Spending a weekend applying a fresh coat of paint or updating cabinet hardware not only improves the look of your living space, but some DIY projects can even boost your home’s value.

If you are planning on selling in the spring or summer, finishing a repair or two during the winter months will not only give you a jump start come peak home-buying season, but it might also save you money on materials. According to homelight.com, "67 per cent of top agents say that building materials and labour for home renovations are the cheapest between October and March.”

When talking about quick home improvement tasks, the first thing that comes to mind for many people is painting. Though painting the interior of your home may seem like a warmer-weather project, low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint has virtually eliminated the need to open windows to ventilate the area.

VOCs are found in paints, coatings and cleaning products and “carbon-containing substances that easily become vapours or gases," according to greenhomeguide.com. VOCs prevent paint from streaking but have been linked to respiratory and other health issues.

"Paints labelled 'low-VOC' should contain fewer than 50 grams per litre of volatile compounds, if they meet the Green Seal standards,” states Green Home Guide.

Low-VOC is less odorous than traditional paint, meaning a fan will do the trick when it comes to ventilation.

It might surprise you, but winter conditions are ideal for updating your walls.

“That same dry interior air that affects your skin in winter can help a fresh coat of paint dry more quickly, and you may also find better deals on paint at your local hardware store, which means you can get a fresh look for less,” according to bobvila.com.

A paint update isn’t exclusively for walls and can breathe new life into outdated furniture. You could sand, apply primer, paint and seal, but an easier way to update unsightly furnishings is with chalk paint. Chalk paint is low-VOC, requires no sanding or priming, requires fewer coats and comes in a variety of colours and finishes.

A new backsplash can do wonders for updating the kitchen or bathrooms. The cost will depend on the size of the area and what tile is selected, but the change makes a big impact. Installing tile does take prep and skill, but a how-to is available at lowes.ca by selecting the “Ideas & How To” tab, clicking on “How To Projects” and then “Kitchen.”

If installing tile seems out of reach for your skills, painting them is another option. You will need to thoroughly clean the tiles and give them a light sanding before you get started with priming. To help the paint adhere to the tiles, two coats of a bonding primer is recommended. Once the primer has dried, use a kitchen and bath paint and apply two coats for best results.

Peel and stick tiles are another option requiring no glue, grout or special tools. These come in a variety of styles and colours and require little more than a cutting pad, cutting knife, ruler, level and tape measure to install. Some styles are removable, making them great for renters. Visit blog.homedepot.com, and search "peel and stick backsplash" for a how-to.

Updating cabinet hardware is a simple, relatively low-cost project that makes a big difference and takes little time to complete.

“Adding cabinet hardware that has a dash of colour can make the kitchen extra homey and cheerful,” according to bobvila.com. “Best of all, this is one cheap and easy DIY project that you can complete in your pyjamas.”

Another kitchen and bathroom project that can redefine the space is installing new faucets and showerheads.

“Normally, plumbing projects are near the top of the list of ‘Don't Try This At Home’ ideas,” writes homelogic.com. “But this one is an easy one – as long as you get a faucet with the same number of mounting holes in your sink.”

Replacing old faucets or showerheads not only looks good, but low-flow options are better for the environment and can shrink utility costs.

Fixing that slowly dripping faucet or switching to low-flow water appliances can make a huge impact. According to ecohome.net, moving to a low-flow showerhead from a standard 9.5-litres-per-minute one will save 42,340 litres of water and 1180 kWh of power per year. This measurement is based on a family of four that each takes a daily 10-minute shower at a temperature of 38 C. In dollars, Eco Home said the savings in utility costs mean a more efficient showerhead will pay for itself in six months.

“In the kitchen, flow rates have been decreasing over the years, but still need to have a higher flow rate than lavatory faucets based on the nature of their use,” according to plumbingandhvac.ca

Still, faucets are advancing, and some offer options that allow the user to adjust gallons-per-minute or water pressure when they need a boost to wash off stuck-on grime.

If saving on utilities is your motivation for repairs, sealing leaking seams around your home is the first place you should start.

“Air that leaks through your home’s envelope − the outer walls, windows, doors, and other openings − wastes a lot of energy and increases your utility costs,” according to Energy Star. “A well-sealed envelope, coupled with the right amount of insulation, can make a real difference on your utility bills.”

It's estimated homeowners could save an average of 15 per cent on heating and cooling costs (an average of 11 per cent on total energy costs) by air sealing their homes and adding insulation in attics, over crawl spaces and basements.

Natural Resources Canada's Office of Energy Efficiency offers a guide to assist homeowners with retrofit projects such as insulation and air sealing improvements. It suggests using premium caulks and a high-quality caulking gun that easily fits your hand in order to avoid strain. 

“Practice running and smoothing beads before starting on the actual job,” the guide states. “A thumb release is convenient since it permits one-hand operation, as are a nozzle cutter and tube piercer.”

For more information, visit nrcan.gc.ca

Whatever this winter brings, make use of frigid days to make your home a place you want to spend time.