Walking through properties as a first-time homebuyer, it’s easy to start dreaming of all the things you’ll change. First, it’s usually the paint, then the flooring. From there you move on to bigger ideas -- remodeling a room or knocking down a wall. After buying the house and moving in, the list gets even longer as you consider upgrading fixtures, modifying lighting, or even changing the pulls on the drawers.
It doesn’t take long for a wishlist of things you want to change in this “perfect” house you just bought to emerge. Certain items get delayed because of money, but for the ones that can happen now, or this year, how do you prioritize?
Things you can do yourself
Budget aside, the best things to obsess over in your new home are things you can DIY. If you’ve got the time, these are the projects that deserve your attention first. They’ll most likely cost less, and can get accomplished in a single weekend. Projects to consider include:
- Changing out lighting
- Replacing dated fixtures
- Customizing the little things
Painting a room
Picking the right paint color (or colors) is only the start of a painting project. You want to make sure you have the right tools, which includes more than a paint roller and brushes. Those are the supplies that help get the painting part of the job done, but prepping the walls is also a major step.
You’ll need a dropcloth or two to start. Make sure to cover any furniture in the room, and pull it away from the wall. You may also want to lay a plastic sheet on the floor to catch any drips while you paint. You’ll also need painter’s tape. Tape up the edges, base, crown moldings, and window and door casings. Remove any light switch and electrical outlet plates as well, tapping over what’s exposed to protect it.
As you’re going along, if you notice any holes in the walls, make sure to fill those with putty. Fill the space all the way, let dry, and then smooth over the spot with sandpaper.
Once you prep the walls, it's time to paint. Working on one wall at a time, “cut in” first by painting along the edges with a brush. For the big space left over, use a roller, working in long strokes in a W pattern to ensure solid coverage. Two coats usually finishes the job, and then all that’s left is cleaning up. Make sure you dispose of unused paint according to local instructions.
Putting in a light fixture
Changing up the lighting is something you can obsess about in a few different ways. The easiest is changing up the lightbulbs. This could mean putting in a different wattage so rooms are brighter/dimmer, or going through your home with energy efficient alternatives to upgrade all your bulbs.
Another way is to change the actual light fixture. This can be an intimidating DIY project, but it is something you can do without an electrician. You’ll need a voltage tester, screwdriver, wire strippers, and wire connectors. Make sure you’ve turned off the electricity to the fixture, from the breaker box, before you start. Unscrew the existing fixture first, then disconnect the wiring between the fixture and the ceiling. Measure the wiring for your next fixture to make sure it hangs at the right length before attaching its wires to the ceiling for a test. If everything works right, continue assembly.
Even though you should test that your new fixture works before fully attaching it to the ceiling, whenever you’re working with electrical wires, it’s best to have the fuse switched off.
Swapping out a new shower head or faucet
An easy way to give your bathroom an upgrade is to swap out the hardware within it. When it comes to shower heads, make sure your replacement one looks good, but also meets your needs. If you have young children, consider a hand-held or a combination head. If you’re transforming your bathroom into an at-home oasis, check out the ones that feel like you’re in a rain shower.
After removing your old shower head, follow the directions to install your new one. You’ll most likely need a wrench, screwdriver, and possibly some waterproof tape.
Continue your bathroom upgrade with a new faucet. Find one in the same material as the shower head for cohesion in your design. You’ll need both a basin wrench and adjustable wrench, a bucket for any water spills, and some old rags for cleanup.
To begin, turn off the water. You’ll usually find the valve under the sink. Remove the old faucet, then follow the instructions that came with your new faucet. Make sure that the new faucet you purchased has the same specifications as the one already installed since your sink’s holes are already cut. You’ll need to know how many holes you’ve got to work with as well as whether they’re centered or widespread.
Installing drawer pulls
A final cosmetic DIY project to obsess over in your new home are the pulls on the drawers. You can quickly turn a kitchen, or bathroom, from a traditional aesthetic to one more modern with this simple update.
In most cases, this update involves unscrewing the old and screwing in the new. It’s fast and easy, and might not even need any hardware. However, if you’re swamping out pulls instead of knobs, the process is a little more complicated. The trick is to replace a pull with a new one of the exact same size.
If you’re able to match the sizes, you’ll only need a screwdriver to remove the old pull and attach the new one. If you’re using fewer holes than are already on the drawer, you can fill up empty ones with wood putty and paint over them.
A renovation strategy
If some of the home projects you’re obsessing about are bigger, you might want to postpone them. Have an ongoing list, that you maybe cross one thing off of each year. These projects will most likely involve professional help, although it’s still essential you work up a budget beforehand. It’s very easy for home projects to get out of control financially.
You also want to do some research on the products you want to add to your home. Test out flooring at a showroom if that’s the first project on your list. Feel actual carpet samples and think about the foot (and pet) traffic your floor will endure.
If you’re renovating a kitchen or bathroom, spend time in specialty stores pricing out the tile you want or the appliances you’d like to have so they go into your budget too. You don’t want to spend all your money on the labor and then have nothing left. Bookmarking pictures of design ideas you like online also helps make this type of project easier, and gives you something to obsess over until you get to the actual project.
Don’t forget about your savings
As you obsess about the things in your home you want to improve or modify, don’t forget to establish an emergency fund. You’re a homeowner now, and most likely just put down a large sum of money to buy your house. It’s worthwhile to obsess a little over your savings, building back up an emergency fund for those just-in-case moments.
Many financial experts suggest you pad your savings with between three and six months of basic living expenses. This includes mortgage payments, utility bills, groceries, etc. It may take a little while to get this back up after purchasing your first home, but obsessing about money a little bit is worth your time.
It’s not always about what you want to change
Another tactic to take when it comes to obsessing about your new home is to focus on what you have immediate control over — decorating. Yes, you want to make changes and take on DIY projects starting that very first weekend, but what about all those pictures you have waiting to get hung, and what about the new bedding for the guest room?
“Some stress is good stress,” says Beazer, “and decorating your new home certainly fits into that category.” This is because decorating a new home, your first home, is fun. You get to decide your style, pick a color palette, and put the perfect furniture pieces in each spot. Shifting your thinking to decorating lets you obsess about something you can actually do.
Take your time looking at each room in your home and figure out the aesthetic. It may end up involving painting a few walls and upgrading a few ceiling fixtures along the way, but it’s also less stressful to use what you already have. Set a timeline that puts each space in order of priority. You most likely want to handle the kitchen, living room, and master bedroom first, but maybe don’t need to rush with the office, guest room, or dining room.
However, the reward for all your obsessing and painstaking work is the housewarming party. Not only do you get to invite all your friends and family into the first home you own, but you get to show it off. There’s nothing like entertaining in your own space.
First home perfection
You most likely will never get to the end of your home improvement wishlist. We all love obsessing about our house, and trends change almost too fast to not have some lingering project to address. The goal though is to enjoy living in your home, no matter how far from perfection it is. This is your first house, and it’s a big deal that you now own it. Sometimes, it’s enough to just obsess over that accomplishment.