DIY Home Improvement Checklist
(Before You Sell Your House)

For a faster, more profitable home sale

Neglected home with "House for sale" spray painted on the brick exterior.The spray painted exterior really lowers your expectations for the rest of the home.

This do it yourself home improvement checklist will show you the most common problems that should be taken care of before you place your home on the real estate market.

When you're ready to present your house to prospective buyers, be sure that it's in the best condition possible.

Buyers will notice the problems and will keep a list of everything they see wrong and use it to negotiate the price of your house down. Old carpeting, stained ceilings, damaged bathroom tiles, even a running toilet WILL BE NOTICED by buyers.

In addition, buyers may assume that your house has been neglected and that bigger and more expensive problems may exist behind the walls, in the foundation, and in the rafters.

If you're hoping for that ONE person looking for a “fixer-upper", dream on. Despite what you see on TV, there aren't that many people out there willing to take on a "fixer-upper."

Why not get a higher price for your house by making it more marketable to a larger number of home buyers? 

Note: This page deals ONLY with do-it-yourself home improvements. If your house has any structural issues, like a roof in need of replacement, cracks in the foundation, or ancient knob and tube wiring lurking inside the the professionals.

Diy home improvement check list

Identify your home's trouble spots

Beautifully painted bathroom paneling.Add value to your home by painting over old paneled walls!

After you have decluttered and cleaned your home, you may have found certain areas that need special attention.

It's a good idea to walk through every room in your house with a notepad and write down all the problems you see.

Following is a checklist of what to look out for:

  • Check the ceilings and walls in every room-- look for cracks and holes. Certain types of cracks are far more serious than others and may effect the structural integrity of your home.
  • Water stains may indicate a larger plumbing issue. Don't paint over any water stains without first having it inspected by a professional. 
  • Dated wallpaper or faux wood paneling... most home buyers don't want to deal with them. These issues can be dealt with yourself at very little cost and with great results. See removing wallpaper or painting wood paneling.
  • For small non-structural ceiling or wall cracks and holes, try using my favorite spackling product, “DryDex.” All you need is a putty knife and light sandpaper. This product goes on pink and turns white when it's dry. Add a second coat if needed. After sanding and feathering out the edges and letting it dry, you are ready to paint over it. Another good spackling product is, “One Time” by Red Devil. 

To repair large holes in drywall, watch the excellent instructional video below by Vancouver Carpenter on how to repair a hole in drywall, using the California patch method.

Popcorn textured ceilings - In my experience, the only thing worse than a popcorn textured ceiling is a popcorn ceiling with sparkles in it! 

Popcorn ceilings are universally detested!Popcorn ceilings-- universally detested!

Popcorn-textured ceilings are universally detested by home buyers on par with wallpaper and paneling. You have to wonder what builders were thinking when they came up with this idea?

I rented a house years ago that had sparkly popcorn ceilings in every room. I would often wake up in the morning with sparkles on my face that had drifted down during the night. 

You can remove a popcorn ceiling texture yourself, though it's a very messy and unpleasant job. Be sure to follow proper protocol by wearing protective clothing and safety glasses

If the popcorn texture was added before 1979, it may contain asbestos. If you suspect asbestos, call in an asbestos abatement professional to test it. 

If asbestos is found, your can either have an asbestos expert remove it, or hire a general contractor to complete the work.

If you get the go ahead from the asbestos pros and still want to remove the popcorn texture yourself, watch the instructional video below by;

  • Inspect all the windows:  Do they need re-caulking? Cracked or broken window panes? Do all the windows open and close? Are the edges of the window panes covered in paint? The paint can be easily removed with a flat razor blade.
  • Take a look at your baseboards:  Baseboards tend to get all sorts of abuse, especially in the entry where people kick off their shoes. Are they scuffed up or cracked? How about molding and door trim? A bit of spackle and a fresh coat of paint will give your baseboards a clean fresh look. Using the same color throughout the house will create good flow.
  • Access doors:  If you have an access door leading to an attic, basement or crawl space, be sure that it integrates nicely with the room. Take a look at these doors that lie flush to the wall
  • Repaint the front door:  The front door is one place where a bold color will enhance the curb appeal of your home. Be sure to fill in any holes, dents or scratches and polish up the kickplate if your have one. Refresh a brass kickplate and doorknob with "Brasso" multipurpose Brass Polish. 
  • Check inside closets, around windows, in the basement and bathrooms for mold:  Mold is one of the biggest home sale killers out there! When I was a Real Estate Agent, I saw many home showings take a bad turn at the first sign of mold. You MUST take care of mold problems before putting your home on the market.

Use TSP (Trisodium phosphate) to remove cigarette smoke and dirt from walls before painting.Use TSP to remove cigarette smoke residue from walls before painting.
  • Clean soot from brick or stone:  with Johnson "Scrubbing Bubbles" bathroom cleaner. Yes, it's a bit unorthodox, but it works! Spray this product on the affected areas, leave on for the designated time, then scrub off using a soft scrub brush and water. Repeat if needed. Rinse with clean water. Or try TSP, trisodium phosphate, which is a good masonry cleaner. You'll need gloves, eye protection and plenty of elbow grease when using this product.
  • Update an ugly brick fireplace by painting it yourself. Painting a massive or ugly fireplace in a neutral color the same paint color as the walls will make it seem less obtrusive. 
  • Paint outdated brass features on a fireplace surround or screen:  Update outdated fireplace features with spray paint. Be sure to work in a well ventilated area. Protect the surrounding fireplace and floor by covering with plastic and taping off. 

Watch the video below by Ashley's Conscious Life, as she updates the brass features on her stone fireplace.

  • Paint interior walls:  This is the cheapest way to quickly update and freshen the look of your home. Select neutral paint colors, as they appeal to more people than any other color. 
  • Update kitchen and bathroom cabinet hardware:  See declutter your kitchen for tips on painting kitchen cabinets and filling old hardware holes to replace with new ones.
Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.Great for removing dirt-smudged walls in a hurry!
  • Dirty walls are a red flag to home buyers:  They will assume the entire house is dirty. Clean grime easily from walls with Mr. Clean "Magic Eraser." This product works amazingly well!
  • Check out sinks, showers and bathtubs:  Look for leaks and slow drains. Is a toilet running or rocking? For a rocking toilet, check the bolts at the base by removing the plastic caps twist the nut at the top of the bolts with a wrench, but don't over tighten, as you could break the porcelain. If that doesn't work, you floor may not be level. Place plumbing shims in any gaps beneath the toilet and floor, and seal off with a bead of silicone bath caulk. 
  • Does the garbage disposal stink? The kitchen garbage disposal is a breeding ground for bacteria; try removing bad odors with lemon halves. Throw a couple lemon halves into a running disposal. If this doesn’t help, pour 1/2 cup of white vinegar down with cold running water. Still stinks? Spray with an anti-bacterial cleaner such as, “Clorox Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner,” or Johnson “Scrubbing Bubbles Bathroom Cleaner.” As a last resort, inspect the rubber ring around the opening. This ring is a gunk collector and should be scrubbed periodically with an anti-bacterial product.
  • Do you have a bathtub or toilet in need of re-caulkingTake a look at this instructional diy home improvement video for caulking tips from 
  • Ugly builder-grade mirrors - Get rid of these huge, cheap-looking mirrors in your bathrooms-- most home buyers don't like them. Go to removing a glued on mirror for instructions on taking a large mirror down or how to update the mirror with an attractive frame.
  • Flooring - Are carpets stained and worn? Do you have broken tile or damaged hardwood? Do your floors squeak? For minor squeaking, try shaking a little baby powder into the cracks.
  • Are light fixtures in good working order? Do they need updating? See lighting for information on selecting the right light fixtures for each room in your home. 
  • Check all of the light switch plates and outlets in your home. They should all be the same color for good flow in your home decor. If they're grimy, take them down and wash with dish soap. Spray with Johnson's "Scrubbing Bubbles" bathroom cleaner to remove particularly stubborn grease and dirt caught in the cracks.

  • To repair damaged tile grout in the bathroom and kitchen, take a look at the video below for diy home improvement tips on repairing these problems. Video by essortment.

Painting is a great way to improve the appearance of concrete basement or garage floors. Watch the instructive video below by ppgprofessional below for directions on how to properly clean, prep and paint concrete floors.

These are just some basic do it yourself home improvement solutions that will keep home buyers from negotiating the price of your home down. For home exterior tips, see curb appeal.

Return from diy home improvement to home page

Last updated 08-31-23