It’s the last day of an unusually long weekend, and there’s absolutely nothing on the schedule. Break out the tools and pull up one of these nifty DIY projects to improve your living space and boost your can-do cred.
10. Light up your yard with mason jars
Buy a mess of ground-staked, solar or battery-powered yard lights from your local big box store, and people might be impressed at your ability to space the sticks you plunge into the ground. Convert some run-of-the-mill mason jars into hanging votive lanterns, battery-powered backyard lights, or go the way of weekend editor Jason and make your own solar-powered sun jars, and you’ll get some real kudos, and have a nicer looking yard, to boot.
9. Make your patio a Wi-Fi hotspot
Three different solutions of varying DIY-ness can get your Wi-Fi out to your grassier spaces. A self-powered solar extender is the ultimate in techno/eco-cred. If that kind of cost, soldering, and circuit knowledge is a stretch too far, you can install DD-WRT or boost your household router with Tomato to boost its signal strength and, in the case of DD-WRT, turn an old or spare router into a dedicated repeater. That still involves a bit of installing, though, so for a casual shot at backyard Wi-Fi, try a tinfoil parabola, a wok-style strainer, or a dollar’s worth of extender parts.
8. Build a backyard pizza oven
If you’ve had wood-fired pizza before, you know it’s notably different and tasty, and almost always pricey. You can have the good stuff whenever you feel like building a fire, however, with two different Lifehacker readers’ brick-by-brick instructions. Kevin Lester showed us his fourth pizza oven build, while Mike Wilkie based his two-level oven on Forno Bravo’s extensive wood-fired guide. You can do the same, and become the grill party invitation nobody turns down.
7. Assemble an outdoor movie theater
Your couch can only seat so many people. Your yard or patio, however, can fit as many folks as feel comfortable, and offers a much nicer environment to eat, drink, watch, and enjoy the waning bits of summer air, whether for the kids or with friends. Wired.com has hit upon this project twice, once with a house-mounted sheet and DVD/projector. Then the Geek Dad tackled the idea with a stand-alone outdoor screen, built with PVC pipe, mounted in cement, and ready for easy setup and take-down. You’ll need a decent projector for either setup, but often times, nobody at work minds if the presentation room is a little de-stocked on weekends.
6. Power up your Wii
You can’t pull off the total renovation that you can with an XBox Media Center, but your Wii can do a lot more than let you play tennis against the in-laws. You can surf the web with the recently-made-free Opera browser, and once that’s installed, a free Orb software package lets you use your Wii as a media center. These days, opening your Wii to the Homebrew channel doesn’t even require the purchase of an (admittedly great) Twilight Princess game and extensive hacking, and once that’s done, you can back up and load games from a hard drive, play old-school games in an emulator, and much more.
5. Build yourself a serious knife block
Two or three good, sharp knives are really all you need, but you’ve probably got more than that. If you bought them piece by piece, or don’t want to shell out for a generic hunk of wood, consider making your own wall-mounted magnetic holder for easy access and visual appeal, or cut a holder out of a counter for super-quick access. We’re also partial to Chris DiClerico’s DIY universal knife block, which requires only a few bucks of wood, dollar store bamboo skewers, and access to a table saw.
4. Get creative with enhanced paints
Go beyond the color spread at your local paint store, and you’ll likely find a good deal of neat paints that can inspire some awesome projects. Dry-erase or ‘whiteboard’ paint lets you jot down your ideas anywhere, and that inspired reader Chris Burke to make this awesome wall-size speech ‘bubble’. He also layered some magnetic paint underneath, the kind that lets you hang posters without nails or tacks. If school-style chalkboards are more your speed, you can grab a bucket of chalkboard paint, or make your own, and then craft an erase-as-you-go wall calendar, kid-friendly table, or wall mural (sorry, original link is apparently dead). If they made tinfoil-based Wi-Fi boosting paint, we’d simply declare the whole house in need of a new look.
3. Fold and cut your own furniture
You only occasionally need an extra seat or two for groups of guests, or maybe you just need a cheap place to sit when working in the garage. The Evil Mad Scientist blog suggests buying a few sheets of paperboard or plywood and crafting some flat-packing but sturdy stools. If it’s little ones you’re looking to seat, and entertain while you do so, the FoldSchool tutorial site details how to help kids make their own stepladders, creative kids table seats, and much more. (Original post)
2. Add rope lights for cheap ambient improvements
Gina’s father-in-law used rope lights (and a nifty reverse circuit switch) to craft an automatic pantry light system. Jason added an eye-pleasing and light-improving touch to his extreme home office makeover with strategic rope lights. Other crafty folks have found rope lighting useful for kitchen looks and ridiculously awesome home theater setups. It’s inspiring, illuminating stuff, and fairly easy to get started with.
1. Spruce up a bare wall
Not every notably blank wall in your dwelling requires custom-framed artwork or expensive prints. Gina combined her Flickr account and a few dollars of craft store hardware to craft a sleek wire photo wall, inspired by this wood block example (original link down). Adam found his inspiration in used record stores and great album art, crafting an album art wall on the cheap. If great-looking books are what you want to show off, you can get by with very little by converting a colored wire hanger.