Fix ‘er up!

A new home is exciting, and for most it’s often a big step up. A place that you can decorate and make into your own.

A new home is exciting, and for most it’s often a big step up. A place that you can decorate and make into your own. The reality is that you often enter your new rental home or apartment and become suspicious that it was the scene of a homicide involving cat litter and cigarettes. You still can’t complain about the price.

Luckily, there are a lot of little fixes that won’t cost you much money and can help spruce up a neglected home into a space that you’re happy to live in.

General cleanup:

The best way to start any sort of job in a residence is to get everything as clean as it can possibly be. Almost all home improvement tasks can be made a little more pleasant if the space you are working on is clean. Luckily, cleaning supplies are fairly cheap, so don’t fret if you’re strapped for cash.

Some things you will need:
Mop and bucket
Garbage bags
Rubber gloves
Scouring pads

Depending on the previous residents and the management of the property, this can either be a very short or long process. The idea behind cleaning is to make the space better for habitation. It will help keep away things like bugs and rodents, or better yet, it will help you get rid of that mysterious odor.

Step 1 – Start by removing clutter and little pieces of trash until everything is clear of small objects and junk that is out of place. You want to be on the lookout for leftovers from repairs or trash left behind by previous renters.

Step 2 – Once the big junk is out of the way, it is time to get to the details. If you have carpet, vacuum first and then shampoo the carpet to help get smells and grub out. You will be glad you did when the carpet turns a lighter shade than when you started. If you have wood floors, then you can hit it with a mop and some Pine-Sol.  During this step it’s also wise to vacuum out air ducts and replace the air filter if your rental has a central heating and air unit. Write down and save the size of the filter before tossing the old one.

Step 3 – Surfaces such as counters of all types can usually be cleaned up just fine with some warm water and a sponge, but for tougher smudges a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser usually does the trick. Wipe off grime around the base of toilets and check under counters to make sure there is no mold or leaks.


Since there are hundreds of projects that could be done in most rentals, we can’t focus on all of them here. These steps here are intended to be generally helpful for any task you undertake. Before trying any home improvement project you should talk to an expert, which can be found at most hardware stores. They can give you some pointers for your specific needs.

Some things you will need:
Paint scraper

Removing wallpaper:
Wallpaper has been around for a long time, but that doesn’t mean you need to keep it. Luckily it’s easy to take off. Using a washcloth or sponge with warm water you can soak the wallpaper until it is a little soggy. Then, using a paint scraper, scrape the wallpaper off bit by bit.

Removing light fixtures:

Ceiling fans are nice, unless they are ugly and broken or you want to paint around them. No matter your reason for wanting to take the lights down, you need to take steps not to get electrocuted. To do this, just locate the breaker box, which is typically on a wall somewhere. One of the switches in the box will shut down power to the area you are trying to work on. When the power is cut off you can replace your light fixture without getting zapped. If in doubt, play it safe and consult an expert.

Trim and switches:
When it comes to rentals it’s not uncommon to find cracked trim, switches or plugs. Luckily, both are easy to remove, and often inexpensive to replace. For switches and plugs, you can unscrew the plate without needing to cut off the power. This can be done with a handheld screwdriver. For trim, which is often located around the bottoms of walls, it is usually very easy to simply pry it off with the back of a hammer. If the trim or switches are stuck onto the wall with paint, use a hammer to gently tap them free. To replace trim, you can find pre-fabricated trim at the hardware store that you can measure, cut and nail in yourself with a hammer and some small nails.

Wall damage:
Depending on what your walls are made of, this may not be a problem. If it is, then wall damage can mean holes from little pinholes left by pushpins—which can be easily covered with paint—or drill holes and gashes. The latter must be plugged before you paint, and should be plugged regardless. To do this, find yourself a jar of putty from the hardware store. All you have to do then is put some putty on the hole or gash and scrape it smooth with your paint scraper. Once applied, simply let dry. If you find a patch of broken wall you will need to have the drywall repaired. Otherwise, you could also cover it with a painting.
Additionally, if you want to hang up a painting, cabinet or anything that requires drilling into a wall, use a stud finder to locate wood posts in the wall so that when you hang up something heavy it doesn’t rip your wall out.

Toilets and showerheads:

If your toilet is making noise constantly it may be broken or made from cheap parts. You may find the showerhead shoots water at the ceiling or not at all. While these can both be repaired or cleaned, over time you may find it easier just to replace them. So head to the hardware store to get a complete toilet replacement kit and a new showerhead, but also get yourself an adjustable wrench and some Teflon tape. After that, follow the instructions included and be sure to have the water turned off for both. The water valve on a toilet is located behind the bowl.

Painting a room can accomplish several things. It changes the way light works in the room, changes the atmosphere and covers odors. That is part of the reason you should give a lot of thought to what paint color to use. The other part is that it’s frustrating to paint a wall and realize you hate the color.
The best part about painting is that it can be done fairly cheaply. Most tools only cost around $5, while a gallon of paint ranges from about $20 to $40. If you plan carefully, you can avoid additional costs.

Some things you will need:
Paint tray
Drop cloth

Step 1 – Use your drop cloth to cover furniture and flooring. Use painter’s tape to protect switches, counters and windows. Once prepped, determine whether or not you need to prime what you are painting. If the wall is already colorful or black, you should prime before painting. A primer is a solid thick paint that covers old paint to make your new paint work better. If your wall is white, or only lightly colored, it is probably okay to paint without primer.

Step 2 – Crack open your paint or primer and mix it with a stick. If you don’t have a stick you should shake the can like crazy. Pour some paint into a paint tray if you’re using a roller, otherwise, just dip your brush. Spread the paint out across the wall with the roller and use the brush for finer details.

Step 3 – Let the paint dry so you can spot anything you missed, or to see if you need to paint additional layers. Use a washcloth or sponge to wipe up stray drops of paint.

Decor is key!
Is your place looking a little sparse, to the point that those cinder block walls are starting to lull you into a mild depression?

Add a little spark to your place with some simple decorations. Here are some ideas to help you get started:

•    Make a mural out of old CD or vinyl covers
•    Hang a cool sheet across the ceiling
•    Find some nice houseplants to put in corners or next to furniture
•    Put a bouquet of flowers on the table
•    Get some extra lamps to brighten up a dim area
•    Put a rug in the bathroom or entryway
•    Find all of your old printed photos and frame them
•    Put a nice full-body mirror in your bedroom
•    Buy a ton of magnets for the fridge
•    Make your own wall art with some friends
•    Find some gigantic pillows
•    Add a photo book to your coffee table
•    Start putting some fruit in a bowl on the kitchen counter