Decorations & Renovations

TL;DR

For most home repairs, you’ll need a variety of general tools to make your life easier.

There are many, many tricks to restore, maintain, update, and accent your home, both indoor and outdoor.

You will need tools

Tools simplify repairs and improvements, and every household should have an essential collection of them.

Unless you plan to use the tool once, only buy high-quality tools.

You won’t need every tool:
  • Get niche tools as you need them and your skill improves.
  • While you may need some tools for very specific tasks, try to get tools with multiple applications.

Critical Tools:
  • Hammer – especially useful when other tools fail
  • Screwdriver Set (both Philips and Flathead) – various sizes for a variety of uses
  • Power Drill and Bit Set – the only universally necessary power tool

Wrenches:
  • Crescent/Adjustable Wrench Set – for almost everything a fitted wrench won’t work on
  • Ratcheting Wrench Set (both American and Metric)- essential for engines
  • Socket Wrench Set (both American and Metric) – critical for large engines
  • Spark Plug Sockets – vital specialty tool for engines
  • Flare Nut Wrench Set – designed to grip soft surfaces

Pliers:
  • Locking Pliers – adjusts to any size and locks in place
  • Needle Nose Pliers – for small crevices
  • Bent Nose Pliers – for hard-to-reach places
  • Diagonal Pliers – for cutting vertically
  • End Cutter Pliers – for cutting horizontally
  • Short Nose Pliers – for more power and control

Saws:
  • Hack Saw – for cutting most materials
  • Wood Saw – for cutting wood


Restore things

Chrome polishing:
  1. Rub one of the following into it and let sit >15 minutes:
    • Dissolve a teaspoon of salt into a cup of vinegar, then mix in at least 1/4 cup flour.
    • Mix equal parts lemon juice and baking soda.
    • Ketchup or tomato paste.
    • Baby oil mixed with vinegar.
    • Dry baking soda in a damp cloth.
  2. Rinse with warm water and polish with a soft cloth.

Jewelry cleaning:
  • Soak for 2 minutes in a glass of water with 2 antacid tablets dropped in.

Metal oxidation (rust):
  • Rub it with the following, let dry, then gently buff the area with a dry cloth:
    • Aluminum foil soaked in vinegar
    • A cut potato coated in baking soda
    • Mix four tablespoons of Epsom salt and the juice from half a lemon, then add 1 tbsp water to make a paste.
  • Soak it in the following overnight to reverse the oxidation:
    • Vinegar and salt
    • A batch of very strong black tea
  • Rub rust stains with lemon juice to remove them.
  • Oil the metal to keep it from rusting in the future.

Nickel cleaning:
  • Rub with a mixture of 1 part water and 1 part vinegar.

Silver tarnished:
  • To clean it:
    1. Dissolve 1 teaspoon salt into 1 cup vinegar, then mix a paste with >1/4 cup flour.
    2. Apply the paste and let stand for >15 mins.
    3. Rinse with warm water and polish with a soft cloth.
  • To reverse the tarnishing process:
    1. Set in a heat-resistant non-metal container where it makes contact with aluminum.
    2. Mix 1 tablespoon baking soda in 1 liter boiling water.
    3. Pour it in and let sit.

Stainless steel polishing:
  • Rub in a mixture of white vinegar and club soda.
  • Rub in dry baking soda with a damp cloth in the direction of the grain, then rinse and dry.
  • Rub a thin layer of olive oil into it with a soft cloth.

Canvas restoration:
  • Rub clean with a small brush and dry baking soda.

Oil painting restoration:
  1. Dust thoroughly, then gently rub with a flat-cut raw potato.
  2. Wipe away lather with a soft rag and pare the potato frequently as you work.
  3. Rub pure linseed oil on it when done.

Wood furniture restoration:
  1. Before anything
    • Try rubbing a walnut on it to remove dings and scratches.
    • For leather furniture marks, apply shoe polish to a paper towel and rub in a circular motion into its surface.
    • If the furniture is wobbly, try gluing pennies to the bottoms of the legs.
  2. Scrub any dirt or grime off with an old used toothbrush.
  3. If the chair’s joints squeak, mix DAP Weldwood with water and apply to the wood joints where they will seep in.
  4. Sand the joints to avoid over-application of DAP Weldwood, then sand the rest of the chair following the wood grain.
    • Make sure the surface is even with no rough spots.
    • Stains and marks can all be sanded out.
    • Use a soft brush to remove the fine particles so they won’t mix with the varnish.
  5. If you want, stain the furniture.
    1. Sand first with coarse grain sandpaper, then work progressively downward to finer sandpaper.
    2. Wipe the furniture with wood conditioner to help it absorb the stain better.
    3. Apply the stain to the furniture with a rag or sponge
      • Use even strokes to prevent blotching.
      • Leave the stain on for longer if you want a darker stain.
    4. After the stain dries, apply a finish like polyurethane to the furniture to protect it.
  6. Paint a coat of varnish, let dry, then paint a second coat.

Faded plastic:
  • Rub lemon juice on its surface, then expose it to sunlight.

Sticking scissors:
  • Rub the scissors with distilled vinegar.

Electronics

Filthy electronics:
  • Remove any batteries, then run through the dishwasher and let dry.

Plasma TV with image burn:
  • Keep the TV on with static on it for a whole day.

Electronic spray:
  • Mix 3/4 cup distilled water, a teaspoon of Castile soap, a cup of vinegar, and 1/2 cup vodka in a spray bottle.

Video/computer screens:
  • Clean computer screens with coffee filters.
  • Rub toothpaste or vegetable oil into scratched mobile device screens.
  • Rub an eraser on LCD screens.

Scratched/skipping CDs:
  • Rub a banana or toothpaste in it.

Electronics doused in water:
  • Immediately unplug and remove any batteries.
  • Place in a container filled with silica bags, rice or Damp Rid for a day.

Crashed hard drive:
  • Place in a freezer in a sealed bag for it to work long enough to recover data.


Move furniture around

Consider where people go in the room:
  • Where do people walk when they enter?
  • How and where does everyone sit?
  • What paths do they travel when other people are or aren’t there?
  • Imagine how one, two, three, and more people can interact in the area.

When assembling furniture:
  1. When screwing in the pieces, leave all the screws loose
  2. Finish the piece and place it where it will be.
  3. Wiggle it so it sets into place.
  4. Tighten all the bolts.

Watch the room’s visual focus:
  • All the “lines” will intersect in the room to a focus point.
  • At the focus point, place a unique centerpiece or conversation topic starter.
  • To encourage people to relax, add soft geometry to the room.
  • Keep clutter away from where eyes will immediately travel.
  • When moving furniture over hardwood or tile, spray glass cleaner where you’re moving.
  • On carpet, melt ice cubes over furniture indentations and vacuum.

To make the room feel safe and inviting, bring in more light:
  • When possible, use bright colors to maximize the light.
  • If the windows don’t let in enough light, decorate with lamps.
  • Things with holes, like colanders or graters, make unique lampshades.
  • Make a starry lampshade:
    1. Draw lines on a piece of paper.
    2. Tape it to a dark lampshade.
    3. Push a pin through the paper along the lines.


Update your fixtures

Pinterest has thousands of great decorating ideas.

You can easily make unconventional decorations with items you already own, which is critical if you want to add your own identity to your home.

When planning, don’t neglect closed-off doorways or small storage areas.

Use a sewing machine to create decorations with bolts of fabric, towels, blankets, old clothes, and rags:
  • Make curtains yourself:
    • Use blankets or towels.
    • Make weights by using glue and paperclips to slide pennies into curtain hems.
    • Improvise curtain ties with chip clips or clips.
  • Make pillowcases:
    • Use towels or old t-shirts.
    • Take a plane ticket to a print store for them to print it blown-up on fabric to sew into a pillow.
  • Make blankets from old clothes.
  • Use rags and fabric remnants to repair old clothing and make new clothing.
  • Mind how you secure things on walls:
    • If something weighs more than 1-2 lbs, secure it into a drywall anchor or stud.
    • If you don’t have a stud finder, knock on the walls until you hear a hard sound or use a strong magnet to find the stud’s nails.
  • Hang things easily:
    • Apply toothpaste where you want the nails.
    • If you need precise holes, photocopy the back of the device and tape it to the wall as a template.
    • Attach a folded sticky note to the wall to collect dust when drilling.
    • To improvise spackle for a hole, mix 2 tablespoons Epsom salt and 2 tablespoons cornstarch, then make a paste by adding 5 tablespoons water

When painting a room:
  • Color-match everything else.
  • Never buy cheap paint because it peels quickly.
  • Paint more cleanly
  • Use a drop cloth or old blanket under wherever you’re painting.
  • To clean the paint tray more easily, line its inside with tinfoil.
  • Cut a hole in the paint can lid or stretch a large rubber band across the top of the paint can to make a drip guard.
  • Hold the paintbrushes by cutting notches in a pool noodle.
  • For a unique texture, paint with a straw broom.
  • Paint in a brick pattern to make it look like a wall.

Improve your fixtures:
  • Many hardware stores sell power outlets with USB plugs on them.
  • Consider ceiling fans or overhead lights.
  • Lay down new tile or install new carpeting.
    • Use pennies to space your tiles.
  • If you have a weak WiFi signal, use aluminum foil to reflect it away from a wall that absorbs it.
  • Consider installing centralized heating and air conditioning, or improving the current HVAC with a centralized dehumidifier.

Front entryway:
  • If you are concerned about privacy from a peephole, cover it with a decoration.
    • Hang a stuffed animal or seasonal wreath.
    • Make a barn door with popsicle sticks, glue, and duct tape.
  • Make a fun key holder.
    • Attach LEGOs to keychains, then secure a flat piece against the wall.
    • Secure a relatively strong magnet behind a light switch plate.
  • If you’re updating a wide stairwell, add a slide next to it.

Living room, kitchen, and family room:
  • Replace the fake drawer underneath the kitchen sink with a paper towel holder.
  • Enlarge your favorite picture and frame it inside an old window frame.
  • Attach a tablet computer to the wall with wall hooks.
  • Convert a rake head into a wine glass holder.
  • Use ladles to hold candles.
  • Make an invisible bookshelf:
    1. Attach a bracket to a wall.
    2. Glue the inside back binding of a book below the bracket.
    3. Stack books on top of it.
  • Paint the lock of a sliding door white to see if it’s locked from a distance.

Bedrooms:
  • Consider an alternative bed like a Japanese-style mat.
  • Hang a hammock in a room to add another bed.

Bathrooms:
  • Convert a rolling pin into a towel rack.
  • Attach rope lighting under the bathroom cabinets to see in the dark.


Accent your home with decorations

Set out potted plants:
  • To keep soil from falling through the holes, place a coffee filter at the bottom.
  • Some plants are easy to grow:
    • Norfolk Island Pine
    • Dracaena
    • Snake Plant
    • Aloe Vera
    • Peace Lily
  • Try something exotic if you want more of a challenge:
    • Venus Fly Trap
    • Indoor Azalea
    • Dwarf Cavendish Banana Plant
    • Gardenia
    • Calathea Ornata

Position vases and other ornaments:
  • To keep soil from falling through the holes, place a coffee filter at the bottom.
  • Some plants are easy to grow:
    • Norfolk Island Pine
    • Dracaena
    • Snake Plant
    • Aloe Vera
    • Peace Lily
  • Try something exotic if you want more of a challenge:
    • Venus Fly Trap
    • Indoor Azalea
    • Dwarf Cavendish Banana Plant
    • Gardenia
    • Calathea Ornata
  • Add one of the following to a vase to make flowers last longer:
    • 2 tablespoons vinegar and 1 teaspoon sugar
    • 7up
    • An aspirin dissolved in the water
  • Once the flower has wilted, set the stems in hot water until the water cools, cut off the ends and place them back in cold water again.

To prevent vases from falling over, partly fill them with sand.

Convert a coffee pot into a fish aquarium.

Sugru is like clay but stronger, more durable, resistant to heat, and flexible.

Tissue paper:
  • Attach an empty tissue box to a full one to allow a waste bin, then repeat with the now-empty one.
  • If you store your tissue papers in the same cupboard as your tea, they’ll smell like tea.

Place settings:
  • Turn an old picture frame into a serving tray.
  • Buy dollar-store plates, write on it with a Porcelain 150 pen and bake for 30 minutes to make it permanent.


Make the room smell nice

Food-scented:
  • Cook bacon to overpower any other smells.
  • Bake two caps full of vanilla extract in an oven-safe coffee mug at 300°F for an hour.
  • Fill a small pan with water 1-2 inches high, add some vanilla extract and cinnamon, then bake in the oven at 300°F for an hour to make the house smell like a bakery.
  • Sprinkle 3 tablespoons cinnamon into the carpet before vacuuming for the vacuum to heat the cinnamon.
  • Add cinnamon to a fireplace or wood stove.
  • Place vanilla-scented tea lights in a bowl of coffee beans for French vanilla scented candles.

Fresh-scented:
  • Place dryer sheets or a stick of deodorant on the back of a blowing fan or AC unit.
  • Set bars of unopened soap inside drawers.

Potpourri:
  • Mix dried leaves, dried petals, 15 drops sandalwood oil, 5 drops clove oil, 5 drops lavender oil, 5 drops citronella oil, and 5 drops mint oil in a bowl.

Candles

Making:
  • Add essential oils to any wax candle to scent it.
  • Fill old light bulbs with butane, then jam a wick into the hole.
  • Melt crayons and pour it into a glass container with a wick.
  • Melt old or broken candles in the microwave, pour into greased cupcake tins and freeze to make candle tarts.

Decorating:
  • Draw on wax paper with a permanent marker, wrap around a candle, and heat until the image transfers.
  • Make a family photo luminary by placing a family photo around the inside of glass jars and placing lit tea candles inside.
  • Set tea candles in holes cut into a branch.
  • Make a bloody candle by melting red wax over a white candle.

Using:
  • If you set candles in the freezer for a few hours before using them, they can burn longer and drip less.
  • if the candle doesn’t fit into the holder, hold the end of the candle in hot water until the wax softens.
  • Use nonstick cooking spray in candle glasses (votive holders) to keep wax from sticking.


Outdoor improvements

Make a simple gate latch by cutting out a half-circle and then hammering it into the edge of the gate.

Consider building a patio or deck:
  • A balcony or porch must be at least 6 feet (2 meters) deep to be useful.

Create outdoor furniture

Convert an old bunk bed into an outdoor lounge.

Place flat mats on pallets to create a sofa.

Make an outdoor bed:
  1. Connect a wood tripod about 8 feet above the ground.
  2. Attach it to a cloth tarp and an old trampoline.
  3. Hang it somewhere secure.

Improvise a hammock with 2 long pieces of wood, two ropes, and plenty of reinforced duct tape throughout the center of it.

Make a fire pit:
  1. Dig a hole 4 feet wide and 1 foot deep with the sides slightly angled.
  2. Fill the hole with three five-gallon buckets of lava rocks.
  3. Set slightly tilted bricks on the sides and even with the top of the hole.
    • Alternate colors if you want for a more creative feel.
  4. Shovel grass sod away from the rim of the pit.
  5. Place large flat rocks around the rim on the tops of the bricks.
  6. Fill in the top area with dirt around and between the flat rocks.

Make an in-ground trampoline by digging a hole and securing poles around the edges of the hole.

Improve the landscaping

Shape chicken wire and spray with glow-in-the-dark paint for holiday decorations.

Paint garden rocks with glow-in-the-dark paint.

Mix glow-in-the-dark pebbles with gravel to make it look like a starry night.

Clear unsightly debris and foliage:
  • Pour salt on dirt or sidewalk cracks when you want nothing to grow.
  • Remove trees you don’t want:
    • Black walnut trees destroy the local flora.
    • Bradford pear trees are very top-heavy and will split in half.
    • Ash trees bring emerald ash borer larvae, which feed on the inner bark of other foliage.
    • Gingko trees produce a putrid sticky fruit that can track indoors in fall.
    • Sweetgum trees generate spiny brown balls people can slip on or launch from a lawnmower that you can only clean up by picking them up by hand.
    • Palm trees spread tons of seeds everywhere, which increases your work.
  • Removing a large stump:
    1. Drill holes into the top of the stump.
    2. Cut the bark from the side and drill more holes.
    3. Fill the stump with a mixture of Solignum wood preservative and salt.
      • Alternately, pour dry Epsom salt followed with water until moist.
    4. Repeat every three weeks until you can remove the stump.

Some plants are easy to grow, but make sure they naturally grow in your climate:
  • Ruffled Velvet Siberian Iris
  • Dicentra Spectabilis
  • Prairie Splendor Purple Cornflower
  • Elegant Candy Daylily
  • “Bright Eyes” Garden Phlox
  • Hibiscus

Add a lawn to improve the overall look of the yard and provide a place to play:
  • Mow the lawn to a consistent height.
    • Too short and the grass won’t keep its nutrients, but too long and it will overgrow and look poorly maintained.
  • Water when the soil becomes dry and before the grass turns yellow or brown.
  • Rake anything off the lawn that may kill the grass or cause mold to grow.
  • Apply fertilizer the forecast calls for rain or the soil is moist.
    • Use a feeder to spread three pounds of Epsom salt per 1,250 square feet of plants.
    • When the weather is hot and dry, apply more fertilizer to compensate for the loss in nutrients.
  • Sow new grass seeds into the lawn every year to compensate for others that die over the winter.
  • Aerate the lawn in high-traffic areas with a garden fork to prevent drainage problems.

To make less work to yourself, make a low-irrigation landscape.