Something for Almost Nothing

By: Danny Lipford
Danny Lipford with yellow spray painted wicker chair.

Danny Lipford with repaired and refinished wicker chair.

Watch Full Episode

Updating and improving the look of your home doesn’t have to put a strain on your budget. By using recycled or reused materials, along with a little imagination and creativity, you can make a big difference in your home for a very small investment. Here are seven simple DIY projects to get you started.

Where to Find Items to Reuse and Renew

There are a number of sources for used and discarded items, such as:

  • Thrift stores
  • Secondhand consignment shops
  • Goodwill
  • Salvage companies
  • Habit for Humanity ReStores
  • Online at The Freecycle Network
  • Yard and garage sales
  • Classified ads online and in newspapers
  • Remodeling site dumpsters

How to Refinish a Ceiling Fan

Instead of throwing an outdated ceiling fan in the trash, consider refinishing it to make it look like new. Here’s how to go about it:

  • Disassemble the fan components you plan to paint.
  • Clean all the parts with denatured alcohol to remove any dust or grease.
  • Rub metal surfaces with fine steel wool to remove the gloss.
  • Lay all of the pieces out and spray with several light coats of spray paint for metal.
  • Reassemble the fan components except the blades.
  • Reattach the fan to the ceiling.
  • Attach the blades and balance if needed.

How to Refurbish Old Furniture

Kendra Bennett is a homeowner who has a knack for taking old objects and transforming them into something new. She found an old credenza for $20 at a yard sale. After stripping off the black finish and refinishing it, the piece was converted into this unique conversation piece for her home.

Old credenza that has been repaired and refinished.

The two cabinet doors in the center of the piece were removed and replaced by wine racks. As an accent, two wooden window frames were backed by mirrors then mounted on the wall above it. The whole project only cost $150 dollars and a little imagination.

How to Make a Fireplace Screen

To hide a fireplace from view during the summer, create a simple fireplace screen by hinging together discarded shutters found at a salvage store. Here’s how to go about it:

  • Clean, sand, and make any repairs to the shutters.
  • Apply two coats of interior paint and allow to dry.
  • Link the shutters together with brass cabinet hinges.
  • For screens of more than three shutters, install each pair of hinges on alternating sides so the screen can be folded up like an accordion when not in use.

The project was completed in less than a day for under $10.

How to Personalize a Child’s Chair

Lisa Brodie also enjoys giving new life to old pieces of furniture. Some of her favorite items are small chairs made for children. Here’s how to go about it:

  • Clean the chair to make sure all of the dust and loose finish is removed.
  • Apply a coat of primer and allow to dry.
  • Apply two coats of paint.
  • Decorate the chair as desired with contrasting colors and patterns.
  • Personalize the piece with the child’s name.
  • For a more durable finish, apply a final coat of clear finish (brushed or sprayed) to the painted surface.

How to Refinish a Wicker Chair

To make an old wicker chair new again:

  • Use an air compressor to blow off dirt and dust out of cracks.
  • Clean surface with a scrub brush and denatured alcohol.
  • Use a hot glue gun to reattach broken or loose caning.
  • Apply several light coats of spray paint, letting it dry for the recommended time between coats.
  • Allow the paint to dry completely for several days before using. A fan can help speed up the process.
  • Store any leftover paint to use for touch up later.

How to Build a Headboard

To turn a discarded column and some leftover lumber into a headboard:

  • Mark the cuts around the column with painter’s tape.
  • Cut the column to length using a reciprocating saw.
  • Construct a cubbyhole shadow box for the headboard from 1×6 lumber.
  • Use 2×12 lumber for the feet and caps.
  • Assemble the columns to the headboard.
  • Paint the headboard and allow to dry.
  • Use screws to attach the headboard to the wall studs.

Since all of the material used in the headboard was discarded or scrap, the project cost next to nothing.

How to Pour Concrete Stepping Stones

To make personalized concrete stepping stones for your yard:

  • Cut down a 5-gallon bucket with a jigsaw to use as a mold.
  • Spray lubricating oil around the inside of the mold to prevent the concrete from adhering.
  • Mix up concrete and fill the mold with it.
  • Smooth off the top of the concrete using a board as a screed.
  • Customize the concrete while wet with handprints, decorations, or masonry dye.
  • Allow concrete to dry before removing stepping stone from the mold.

Other Tips from This Episode

Kitchen Banana Hook

Simple Solutions with Joe Truini:
Homemade Kitchen Banana Hook

To allow bananas to ripen naturally without taking up your counter, make a hook to suspend a bunch of bananas from a hanging cabinet in your kitchen. Start by drilling a 1/8” hole in the cabinet dividers beneath the cabinet. Next, cut off a piece of coat hanger wire, bend it into a “Z” shape with pliers, and insert one end into the hole. (Watch This Video)

Maestro Dimmer with Occupancy Sensor

Best New Products with Jodi Marks:
Lutron Occupancy Sensor Dimmer

The Lutron Maestro Dimmer with Occupancy Sensor turns the lights on automatically when you walk into a room. If the sensor doesn’t detect any motion after a preset period of time, the dimmer then automatically turns off the lights to save energy. The Lutron Occupancy Sensor Dimmer is available at The Home Depot. (Watch This Video)

Solar Hot Water Heaters

Thinking Green with Danny Lipford:
Solar Hot Water Heaters

Solar water heaters can save energy, but they typically only provide 50% to 80% of the water heating needs of a home. While most solar water heaters require electricity to run a pump, they require only a tenth the operating cost of a regular water heater. The cost is coming down, too, due to cheaper technology and DIY models. (Watch This Video)



Please Leave a Comment

We want to hear from you! In addition to posting comments on articles and videos, you can also send your comments and questions to us on our contact page or at (800) 946-4420. While we can't answer them all, we may use your question on our Today's Homeowner radio or TV show, or online at

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.