DIY home projects 101: tips from a first-timer

March 17, 2021

Ready to create a dream home within your budget and with little experience under your belt? Learn how taking a do-it-yourself approach can help you achieve a modern and beautiful living space.

When shopping for a dream home, you have many options to consider. Turn-key properties are livable and move-in ready, which can be desirable for those with limited time and a flexible budget. But “fixer-uppers” offer the opportunity to achieve a similar end result, with advantages like fewer costs and the ability to create personalized design features that bring your dream home vision to life. Maddie Martini, a U.S. Bank marketing specialist, recently purchased her first home with an intention of making it her own. Here are some of her beginner-friendly DIY tips for sprucing up your space and navigating the planning process.


Setting yourself up for DIY home project success

If you’re in the midst of searching for a new home, you might be drawn toward updated properties that tend to be more expensive. But by looking at older homes with a creative mindset, you may be able to purchase something more affordable that has great potential.

“During my home search, all of the homes I was in love with were $10,000 over my budget,” says Maddie. “I realized there were things I could do to make a home what I want it to be.” When she ultimately purchased a home that fit her budget, she already had an idea of the look and improvements she wanted to create with DIY methods. “There was definitely a vision because I had put an offer on another house and didn't get it. In hindsight, it was out of my price range and I could get what I wanted by just putting in a little work in my house.”

Before upgrading her home, Maddie had minimal experience with remodeling. “I’ve always been pretty creative, but I hadn’t done any projects – besides putting together a dresser,” she explains. The first project she chose was refreshing outdated walls and trim – it was a cosmetic fix that cost around $300 for supplies and paint, when it would have been substantially more to hire a professional.

Starting small with an easy project that falls within your comfort zone can be key when beginning home improvement projects. Over time, you’ll build expertise and eventually feel prepared for more advanced updates.

See before and after pictures of Maddie's bathroom:



Getting the most bang for your buck

While you may want to renovate your whole house, certain spaces tend to hold more resale value than others. If you’re looking at your projects as a long-term investment, prioritize the kitchen, bathrooms and elements that play up curb appeal. Roof preservation, deck installation and cabinet refacing also go a long way in adding value.

Keeping close attention on any areas that require maintenance will preserve the utility of your home as well. Taking care of minor problems and moving forward with any necessary large-scale upgrades or replacements will ensure your home doesn’t lose value or deteriorate in structure over time.


Finding inspiration and learning techniques

Once you’ve decided on a room or area of interest to remodel, you’ll want to look at examples and explore methods to follow. Architecture and design magazines, furniture stores and even friends’ homes can offer inspiration for different concepts to try. You can also find creative ideas online.

Maddie typically starts a project by browsing the internet and social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest to explore visual possibilities and see how other people are doing similar projects to the ones she’s planning. She also recommends looking at realty websites for bigger picture interior design inspiration. “[These sites] spark my ideas and help me get a feel for what techniques and materials are used,” she says. “Then if I need to get details on nitty gritty processes, I go to YouTube for step-by-step instructions.”


Choosing materials

The final step of the improvement process is selecting materials. These typically include items like paint, lumber and power tools. Maddie emphasizes the importance of doing research to fully understand your options and determine when to invest in higher quality supplies and when that’s not necessary.

Learning about the different varieties of materials available will help you know where to splurge on specific projects and build your knowledge for future ones. “Now I understand costs of wood based on the different types, and that was a learning curve for me,” she says. “I think the same thing with paint – for instance, I think it's important for trim to have high quality paint.”

While the specific materials used change based on each project, power tools are an investment that can be used over and over again. Precise tools can be expensive, so coming up with way to borrow, rent or make a long-term purchase plan is an important step as well. “You're not going to have everything you need right away, but investing in the tools you'll use the most is also pretty important,” adds Maddie.


Keeping a positive mindset

Throughout her home remodeling experience, Maddie has found that confidence is essential to successfully completing new projects. “There are fun parts of every project, but I’ve never had a project go completely perfect, so there are disappointing moments in every project too.” she says. “I’ve appreciated building in time and positive energy into projects to account for these disappointments, but the more I’ve learned, the more I think I could take on a full “fixer-upper.”

By approaching each task with a positive mindset, careful planning and the right materials, you’ll discover how much you’re capable of and add value to your home over time.

To continue following Maddie’s home projects, connect with her on Instagram (maddiy.martini) and Pinterest (maddiymartini)


Learn more about smaller projects you can do that offer big returns on investment.

Related content

How to start investing: A beginner’s guide

What are conforming loan limits and why are they increasing

How digital platforms streamline client onboarding for investment funds

Saving for a down payment: Where should I keep my money?

Don’t underestimate the importance of balancing your checking account

Multiple accounts can make it easier to follow a monthly budget

How much money do I need to start investing?

Mortgage basics: Finding the right home loan for you

Uncover the cost: Home renovation

Mortgage basics: How much house can you afford?

Uncover the cost: Building a home

Why compound annual growth matters

A guide to tax diversification in investing

10 ways to increase your home’s curb appeal

Retirement income planning: 4 steps to take

How grandparents can contribute to college funds instead of buying gifts

What type of investor are you?

Understanding yield vs. return

The unsung heroes of exchange-traded funds

4 ways to free up your budget (and your life) with a smaller home

Key considerations for launching an ILP

Bull and bear markets: What do they mean for you?

Interval funds find growing popularity

A first look at the new fund of funds rule

ESG-focused investing: A closer look at the disclosure regulation

Housing market trends and relocation impact

How liquid asset secured financing helps with cash flow

The ongoing evolution of custody: Tips for renewing your custody contract

5 things to avoid that can devalue your home

Start a Roth IRA for kids

How institutional investors can meet demand for ESG investing

8 steps to take before you buy a home

Money Moments: How to finance a home addition

Checklist: 6 to-dos for after a move

Employee benefit plan management: trustee vs. custodian

OCIO: An expanding trend in the investment industry

4 benefits of independent loan agents

High-cost housing and down payment options in relocation

At your service: outsourcing loan agency work

How I did it: Bought a home without a 20 percent down payment

Crypto + Relo: Mobility industry impacts

Changes in credit reporting and what it means for homebuyers

For today's relocating home buyers, time and money are everything

Checklist: 10 questions to ask your home inspector

Closing on a house checklist for buyers

What are alternative investments?

Investment strategies by age

5 questions to help you determine your investment risk tolerance

These small home improvement projects offer big returns on investment

The lowdown on 6 myths about buying a home

Checklist: financial recovery after a natural disaster

3 tips for saving money when moving to a new home

5 ways to maximize your garage sale profits 

Pros and cons of a personal line credit

For today's homebuyers, time and money are everything

What Is a 401(k)?

How to open and invest in a 529 plan

Investing myths: Separating fact from fiction in investing

4 questions you should ask about your custodian

Planning self-care moments that matter (and how to finance them)

Is raising backyard chickens a good idea financially?

7 steps to prepare for the high cost of child care

How to save for a wedding

How I did it: Turned my side hustle into a full-time job

7 diversification strategies for your investment portfolio

Year end tax planning tips

4 major asset classes explained

ETF vs. mutual fund: What’s the difference?

Effects of inflation on investments

4 times to consider rebalancing your portfolio

How do I prequalify for a mortgage?

Can you take advantage of the dead equity in your home?

Home equity: Small ways to improve the value of your home

Is a home equity line of credit (HELOC) right for you?

How to use your home equity to finance home improvements

Should you get a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit?

6 questions to ask before buying a new home

What is an escrow account? Do I have one?

Quiz: How prepared are you to buy a home?

10 questions to ask when hiring a contractor

What to know when buying a home with your significant other

What is a home equity line of credit (HELOC) and what can it be used for?

Dear Money Mentor: When should I refinance a mortgage?

Building a dream home that fits your life

Beyond the mortgage: Other costs for homeowners

How I did it: Bought my dream home using equity

Get more home for your money with these tips

How I did it: Built living spaces to support my family

Managing the impacts of appraisal gaps in a hot housing market

Is it the right time to refinance your mortgage?

Spring cleaning checklist for your home: 5 budget-boosting tasks

Overcoming high interest rates: Getting your homeownership goals back on track

Home improvements with the best ROI

Home buying myths: Realities of owning a home

House Hacks: How buying an investment property worked as my first home

How we did it: Converted to solar power

Should you buy a house that’s still under construction?

10 uses for a home equity loan

Know your debt-to-income ratio

Your guide to breaking the rental cycle

Which is better: Combining bank accounts before marriage — or after?

Save time and money with automatic bill pay

Is it time to get a shared bank account with your partner?

It's possible: 7 tips for breaking the spending cycle

Here’s how to create a budget for yourself

9 simple ways to save

Do you and your fiancé have compatible financial goals?

Is online banking safe?

Recognize. React. Report. Caregivers can help protect against financial exploitation

Adulting 101: How to make a budget plan

You can take these 18 budgeting tips straight to the bank

How I did it: Learned to budget as a single mom

Buying a home Q&A: What made three homeowners fall in love with their new home

What you need to know about renting

Personal finance for teens can empower your child

Money Moments: Tips for selling your home

How I did it: My house remodel

DIY home projects 101: tips from a first-timer

Crypto + Homebuying: Impacts on the real estate market

Do I need a financial advisor?

4 questions to ask before you buy an investment property

How do interest rates affect investments?

Preparing for homeownership: A guide for LGBTQ+ homebuyers


Start of disclosure content

Loan approval is subject to credit approval and program guidelines. Not all loan programs are available in all states for all loan amounts. Interest rate and program terms are subject to change without notice. Mortgage, Home Equity and Credit products are offered through U.S. Bank National Association. Deposit products are offered through U.S. Bank National Association. Member FDIC.