10 DIY Projects That Even Renters Can Do

By Scott Gamm

NEW YORK -- Even though mortgage rates are at historically low levels, it's the rental market in many areas across the U.S. that is really heating up. Obtaining a mortgage is undoubtedly a strenuous process on the heels of tightened credit standards. Add to that the fact that many Americans simply can't afford a new home, the number of Americans still jobless or just getting by -- and many consumers are finding it easier, or necessary, to rent, which explains why the average rent nationally is at its highest level since 2007, according to researchers at Reis.

Testifying on Capitol Hill in the aftermath of the housing crash, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner spoke words that previously might have been considered political suicide: Geithner suggested that homeownership should no longer be considered a singular measure of the American Dream -- and maybe every American shouldn't own a home.

Welcome to the post-housing bubble renter's society. Geithner didn't mention it, but his words implied that the do-it-yourself projects associated with the American Dream of home ownership should be applicable to the growing ranks of renters across the nation.

When renting, it doesn't make sense to complete a major renovation, like flooring, new windows or a new kitchen. Throughout the duration of your lease, however, there are some easy and inexpensive projects you can do yourself to spruce up your rental. MainStreet asked design pros to weigh in on the top DIY projects for renters.

Replacing a Showerhead

If you've ever thought the weak water pressure in your shower has nothing to do with the low-flow showerhead installed by the building to minimize their water bill, think again. Chances are the showerhead in your rental needs to be replaced -- whether or not it's because the landlord installed a low-flow head. You, and your hair, will be very happy if you complete this project, and thankfully, this isn't a lengthy or costly job.

First off, it's helpful to know the types of showerheads so you can easily narrow your choices when selecting one at a home improvement store.

"There are two main categories of showerheads to choose from: fixed or handheld. But within these categories is a wealth of options -- from rainshowers to multi-setting versions," said Andrea Conroy, director of retail marketing at Moen.

And as for the actual installation of your new showerhead, here's what Controy suggests:

1. Unscrew the existing showerhead from the shower arm, using a crescent wrench if necessary.

2. Remove any old thread seal tape and apply new by wrapping the tape around the shower arm threads two to three times.

3. By hand, screw the new showerhead onto the shower arm. Use the wrench to tighten the new showerhead. If installing a handheld version, first screw the handheld bracket to the shower arm and tighten with a wrench. Then, attach the hose and handheld shower to the handheld bracket.

Choosing the Right Paint Color

Any time you move into a new place, chances are you'll be painting the kitchen, bedrooms and living room. When choosing what color to paint your rental, there's a "science" behind different colors.

"Blue colors elicit feelings of tranquility and confidence. This is the least appetizing color, so it should not be the main color in a kitchen," advises Chris Ring, v.p. of ProTect Painters.

"Yellow enhances concentration, speeds metabolism, and is perfect for kitchens and bathrooms," Ring advises.

Pink colors are on the tranquilizing end of the color mood scale, making a pink shade an appropriate choice for bedrooms.

For this and other painting tips below, do keep in mind that even if you are a Michaelangelo, you may have to repaint the walls to white when you move out, and/or take the risk of a landlord trying to claim part of a security deposit as a result of a custom paint job. As such, it's best to ask for a landlord's approval to paint and agree to terms before undertaking the project.

Painting the Bathroom

Painting a tiny bathroom makes for a challenge, especially when trying to paint around the sink, mirror and shower.

"Before painting, wash all the walls to remove any mildew with mildew remover or bleach and water," advises Joe Kowalski, training manager at Glidden.

And for your bathroom painting job, Kowalski adds these recommendations:

  • For walls, use either a semi-gloss or eggshell finish; both provide dirt and moisture resistance.
  • For the ceiling, paint with an eggshell finish is advised.
  • Paint that includes primer provides extra adhesion over a glossy surface.

More Storage Is Better

Whether you're sidestepping into your small studio rental or fortunate enough to be renting a place with enough closet space, tips for maximizing your rental's storage space always come in handy.

Janet Lee, author of Living In A Nutshell, shares these tips:

1. Place a removable, peel-and-stick wall decal on a bare surface (whether it's on a wall or the back of a door.)
2. Rub the surface of the sticker with a squeegee to ensure that the decal lays smoothly against the wall.
3. Add a hook onto the decal and apply pressure to ensure damage-free hanging.
4. Wait one hour before hanging hats, jackets, backpacks and other apparel.

Hiding Your Lamp Cord

Cords can make your rental a cluttered mess as well as an electrical hazard for children. Lee offers these easy steps for making the cord "disappear":

1. Use a hand drill to create a hole in the bottom of a metal gelatin mold.
2. Run a pre-wired pendant cord through the hole of the mold.
3. Insert a light bulb into the end of the cord.
4. Affix cords to wall in decorative loops using clear cord clips for damage-free hanging.

Read the rest of this story at TheStreet.com.

More from TheStreet:
Kids Off to College? Time to Sell Your Home
10 DIY Projects for Your New Home
10 Home Improvements You're Wasting Time and Money On


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