Whether you want to impress prospective buyers or just the neighbors, as little as one day of labor can make a big difference in the look of your house.
Updating and rejuvenating the exterior of your home can be a relatively simple do-it-yourself project, one people don't always consider.
People "tend to focus on the inside. But the first thing people see is the front of the house," says Chris Lambton, star of "Going Yard," which premieres on HGTV in April.
He recently bought a place on Cape Cod, and he and fiancee, Peyton Wright have been tackling various day projects.
"One of the first we did was the front door," he says. "Ours was outdated. So we took off that old lock and picked up a nice, black brushed bronze handle. It gives an old-fashioned look to go with our house."
An added benefit of such projects is you're doing something as a couple.
"It gets you outside working together," Lambton says. "And that way you own it. You have people over for a dinner party, 'Yeah, look at what we did.'"
Sure, there are far more projects offered here than one or two people can complete in a day. But two or three, with judicious planning and enough caffeine, should be possible. Just choose the jobs that will make the most visual impact.
"It's important to make a list and know what you can do without going over your head," says Lambton. "These are all things you can do on your own."
Windows and doors
Decorative touches around windows and doors are growing in popularity, says Jonathan Wierengo, vice president of marketing for the Tapco Group, a leading U.S. manufacturer of exterior building products.
"We see a lot of shutters being added as accessories," he says. "There are lots of styles, and they're a quick improvement, a great way to give your house a fresh look."
They can range from a basic decorative vinyl shutter to a functional premium shutter that's architecturally accurate.
Wierengo also says that windows headers are doing well. Some homeowners are going that route rather than shutters. Warmer colors are in these days too.
"The darker colors, dark green and dark red, are turning into warmer colors. The dark green, for example, becomes mossy green. More earth tones, I guess is a way to explain it."
Window boxes and door surrounds are other options.
"When you're looking to sell a house, the first thing people see is the look," Lambton says. "Paint, high grade door handles. You pull up to a house, they may have dropped $50,000 in remodeling the kitchen, but you drive up and it's ugly and you say, uh . . . ."
New light fixtures, doorknob, door handle, mailbox, address numbers -- all within reach of a basic do-it-yourselfer. "These are easy fixes and really pop on the front of the house," Lambton says.
Add some oomph.
A medallion, gable pediment or even porch brackets add architectural interest. They come in a wide variety of sizes and designs and materials. "We do gable vents," Wierengo says. "A lot of times those are used not just to vent attic spaces, but to be decorative. No painting, maintenance free. You can match the siding color or match a trim piece on the windows."
You want dull? How about faded asphalt or generic gray concrete? Want ugly? Throw in some weeds growing through cracks.
No matter which type of surface, first prepare it — clean it and patch cracks and chips. Then, reseal the asphalt with a quality sealer, or stain that gray concrete with any of the dozens of colors available. This project could eat up most of your one day. So start early.
"It's one of those things (visitors) will notice faster if it's bad," Lambton says.
Less can be more when it comes to overgrown shrubs. Conifers especially can become overgrown, blocking the view of a house (and cutting off light to the interior). Trim them up or, if you're feeling really bold, whack them off at ground level.
A few lights lining the walk not only provide illumination, they're also a nice visual touch that can add a whole new look. Because we have a one-day deadline, there's no time to dig a trench to run a buried electric line. Solar lights come in a variety of attractive designs and will do the job.
"I love lights going up the driveway," Lambton says. "It's great visually, it's great at night for safety, but it's also a good deterrent if somebody wants to rob your house. And it's another project a couple can do."
Instant landscaping. Fill several pots of varying sizes with a mix of different types of flowers – tall, short, colorful, etc. Place them on the stairs and on the porch to create small (or large) islands of color.
No need to rototill and start from scratch. Think upgrade. Weed, trim and mulch what you have, then add some new plants for a fresh look.
For the birds.
Hang a birdhouse or bird feeder on a shepherd's hook on the lawn or in a flower bed (keep it off the porch; birds are messy). Birds add color, movement and even a soundtrack. Or you can become the talk of the neighborhood by setting up a bat house (store.batconservation.org/single-celledbathousekit.aspx).
That concrete slab at the base of your steps is another good place to add color and interest. Paint it or stain it. If you're feeling really creative, tile it.