Top 10 Staples for My DIY Projects

Ever since my post about our $0 bathroom makeover on Monday, I’ve been thinking about the zero dollar aspect of the project. I said again and again that I didn’t want to spend any money, and I am really proud to say I made the space shine and didn’t spend a dime. But maybe I should say, I didn’t actively spend a dime. Because when I really think about it, it’s not *truly* $0. Like, I didn’t just revamp a space using absolutely nothing. It was $0 because I didn’t actively spend money on the project – everything I used was something I already had.

I love to share my DIYs and I often share how I was able to complete them for a super low cost (like this dresser for under $50 , this special wall and surrounding area in our garage for $0, or this secret nook I revamped for $75). So many of these projects are very low cost and easy because I usually have many of the supplies on hand. And I’m not talking about just the random, junky things left in the back of the drawer from a project 8 years ago (although I don’t count those items out either haha), but quality products that I’m intentional about having in my stash.

Today I thought it would be fun to talk about the things that I find myself reaching for and using in project after project – the go-to things that I always stock up on because it’s not only more economical to use the same things for multiple projects, but it ensures I’m ready to dive in whenever the mood for a project strikes. I would venture to say that 98% of my projects involve at least one of the items listed below, and more often than not I’m using a combination of them. This is my all-star lineup!

1. Black Spray Paint

$0 Bathroom Makeover

I always always always have a can of black spray paint handy. Black is a tireless workhorse – it can make a hodgepodge of items look cohesive (like in the photo above!), it can freshen up outdated fixtures, and it can work in every space. It seems like anytime I need an inexpensive and easy update, I’m reaching for my black spray paint. I’ve used it on planters, handles, light fixtures, frames, chairs, and more! I like to have both a satin and a matte finish on hand and I’m always sure to replenish as soon as one can gets low, because I know I will use it!

2. Gold Spray Paint and/or Rub n Buff

Modern, Bright Entryway Makeover

Gold spray paint is another staple I always have on hand (this one is my favorite!) It gives a modern touch to dated pieces and it can add some warmth to a space. Similarly, rub n buff is a newer product to my arsenal, but I’m already obsessed and know it is here for the long haul. This little miracle worker is a great way to add some character to a piece. So far I have mostly used it on frames that I’ve thrifted, but it could work for freshening up lots of different kinds of decor.

3. Caulk

Caulk is one of those things that you don’t really notice – and that’s the point. It’s the finishing touch that makes a project look polished without actually standing out. Even if you do no other update to a space other than running fresh caulk around a sink or bathtub, it can make a big difference! I also use it to fill in gaps along trim or baseboards or do things like attach our “new” vanity sink to a cabinet. I always have a paintable white silicone caulk (and a caulk gun) on hand, but I’ve also started keeping a clear acrylic as well since this works well along sinks.

4. Electric Screwdriver

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This is my go-to tool for projects around the home. It’s perfect for taking out or installing hardware, removing cabinet doors, swapping out switch plates, etc. All the little projects that require a screw driver, this makes things super quick and easy. Justin and I are constantly reaching for it during projects! I couldn’t find our exact brand online but this one looks similar to the one we use.

5. Painter’s Tape

This obviously comes in handy to give me nice crisp lines anytime I decide to paint a wall, but I also like to use it to map out where I want a picture frame to hang or plan the size of a cabinet against the wall or a rug on the floor. It really helps me visualize a space!

6, 7, & 8. Paint Roller Covers, Brushes, and Tray Liners

Items to Always Have on Hand for DIY Projects

I buy roller covers and paint tray liners in bulk, and I try to take good care of my paint brushes so they last a long time ( I use this multi-tool for cleaning brushes and it really helps prolong the life of a brush by getting all the paint out of the bristles after a project). I re-use a lot of the same colors throughout my house, so I often already have the paint I want to use and having the other supplies on hand allows me to jump right in to a project without having to go to the store to buy a roller. Plus, I know that I will go through this items eventually and it is more economical to buy in bulk.

9. Primer

Along the same lines, I buy my favorite primer in huge 3.5 gallon buckets because it is more economical: one 3.5 gallon bucket costs about $47, wheras if I’d buy the same amount in 1 gallon quantities at a time, I’m spending about $59. It’s a lot of primer, but looking around at all the projects in my house, I know that I’ll go through it. I use primer as the first step for not only painting walls, but also cabinets and other furniture and it’s nice to be able to just start a project and have the primer ready to go.

10. Wood Filler

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This stuff comes in handy for both big and small projects. I’ve used it in everything from filling the extra holes in cabinet doors when swapping hardware from handles to knobs, to covering the holes left by a nail gun when installing wood trim and baseboards, to patching old holes in the DIY frames that Justin makes me from scrap wood. Since I am often repurposing something instead of using a brand new item, there are often dings, nicks, holes, etc to fill in and smooth out so I’m often reaching for wood filler to help me with the job.

 

What products or tools are your DIY go-tos?

A $0 Bathroom Makeover

Do you ever get a strong desire to just DO something? I sometimes get this restless energy and just feel the need to accomplish something. It can be big, it can be small, but I just want to see tangible progress and a finished product. Last week, I got that urge. I wanted to channel my restless energy into a project, which is all well and good but … I also felt strongly that I did not want to spend any money. Hmm.

I looked around my house and decided to challenge myself to do a $0 makeover to one of our bathrooms. Using only items that I already had around the house, I set out to transform this room and I have to say, even without spending a dime, I’m absolutely thrilled with the result!

$0 Bathroom Makeover

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this endeavor, but I decided to just dive on in without giving it much thought (seriously, I decided to do this and then started a half hour later). Sometimes it helps to not overthink things and just get moving!

Here’s what the bathroom looked like last week:

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Located right off our laundry room, just a few steps from the garage, this full bathroom is handy to have if you get really dirty outside and don’t want to track dirt through the house, or if you happen to be in the middle of a pandemic and want to shower after work before interacting with your family (who would’ve thought?!). Otherwise, the only time it gets used is when we have multiple guests staying with us and we use the nearby office as a spare bedroom and this as its accompanying bathroom.

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A few encouraging mirror notes from me and LJ back in May when Justin was using this bathroom after work. ❤

The bathroom itself may not be used much, but since we use the garage as our main entry to the house, we see this room every single day. I would love to gut the space and expand our laundry room, but we’re probably at least 10 years away from making that dream a reality. In the meantime, I wanted to freshen this dingy and sad bathroom, and so the $0 bathroom update challenge began!

The very first thing I did was take down the old medicine cabinet mirror. Since we don’t really use this bathroom, there was no need to for that storage anyways. And bonus – I then sold it on Facebook Marketplace for $15, making this my first (and likely, only) renovation to actually turn a profit!  Once that was down, I wiped down all the walls, filled all the old holes with plaster, sanded, and primed all the walls.

I keep all the leftover paint from past projects and I raided my stash to find a color for the walls. I decided to go with a two-toned look and measured up 5 feet from the floor and taped a line around the room. I used Benjamin Moore Smoky Mountain on the bottom portion, trim, and baseboards (the same paint I used in our guest bathroom and secret nook) and Sherwin Williams Alabaster on the top and ceiling (the same paint I used in our basement kitchen).

Justin took leftover pine 1×3 boards we had in our barn and cut them to size and I painted them with stain from a previous project (Miniwax Provincial). We used a nail gun to attach them to the wall over the colorblock line and I love how this wood detail adds character and warmth to the room. We have a mudroom with all these unused hooks on the walls (the previous owners stored all their outdoor coats there) and I raided the stash to find three black hooks to add to the wood trim for towels. Perfect!

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On to my favorite update: the vanity! After removing all hardware, I used deglosser leftover from painting the kitchen cabinets to prep the wood. I painted a layer of primer over top and went back to my stash to pick a cabinet color. This was a trickier process, because I had to find something that worked with the other colors already in the room. None of my initial colors felt quite right and I worried I didn’t have anything that would work, but then…waaaaaay in the back of my drawer full of paint samples, I found a small sample size of Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray that I bought last year as a contender for the walls in our Phase One master bathroom update. I can’t even believe how perfect it is for this space and it made the vanity look 1000x better.

$0 Bathroom Makeover

I originally planned to keep all the handles and just spray paint them, but then I noticed the handles in our main floor powder room…

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Eventually, we will update this half bathroom, but until then, it can have ugly old gold and white handles. 😉 I took the half bathroom’s vanity handles and spray painted them with a black spray paint from my stash.

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I didn’t originally plan to replace the counter and sink, but as the project was underway, I remembered that we had an extra vanity top out in storage. We bought it at a Habitat for Humanity ReStore over a year ago – we thought we could use it in our guest bathroom and it was too good a deal to pass up (new for $45!!) so we bought it, only to come home and realize it was not the correct size. It’s just been in our barn ever since. Turns out, it was the exact size needed for this vanity – feels like it was meant to be! I guess this could feel like cheating the $0 goal since it’s something new, but since we’ve had it for over a year and didn’t spend the money specifically for this project, I’m still counting it as just using something we already had. 🙂 We caulked the sink in place on the cabinet and then ran another line of clear caulk (leftover from the basement kitchen project) around the edge to seal it along the walls.

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The “new” faucet and stopper came from the old sink we took out during the guest bathroom renovation – we had kept it in our barn and the faucet was still in really good shape so we swapped it in and it completes the look! I like that it brings in a mixed metal look and ties in all the silver from the shower area.

I kept the same light above the mirror and the toilet paper holder, but I gave them a few coats of the same black spray paint I used on the vanity handles to give everything a nice cohesive look.

The last thing I needed to find was a mirror. I was super committed to spending $0, but it was tricky to find a mirror in our house that worked in the space. We tried three different ones – one was unframed and too hard to attach with the wood trim. One was too big, one was too small. I went searching the house in search of the “Goldilocks” mirror – one that was just right. I found the perfect mirror in the kids’ bathroom upstairs!

I loved the size and style, but did not love the color. I tried updating it with Rub n Buff, but that was too shiny and looked cheap. Then I tried my favorite gold spray paint and that was just right! I used this same spray paint to give a little update to the fan light on the ceiling too.

A $0 Bathroom Makeover

I raided my house for decor to finish off the space. The gorgeous pottery bowl on the wall was a wedding present – I have loved displaying in our previous homes but I hadn’t found the right place for it in this home until now. I love how it plays off all the different colors in the room and the round shape brings some softness to all the straight lines and angles in the room. I pulled an old planter that wasn’t being used and transplanted a few leaves from the snake plant in our playroom. I pulled soap from my stash (and even the colors work perfectly!) and a towel from my basement kitchen. A few items I had previously thrifted without a specific purpose in mind were suddenly just right for this space: a decorative bowl to store spare toiletries and washcloths and some cute pottery vessels to hold cotton balls and q-tips. A glass vase I had and some branches from a bush in our yard. It always amazes me how things I’ve had for years can feel fresh and new when I put them in a different place!

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I could not be more thrilled with how this space turned out. Not only does it make me so happy to now have a cute bathroom instead of an eyesore, but this challenge served as such a great reminder that creating a home you love doesn’t have to cost a lot of (or in this case, any!) money. Shopping my house for decor, using up leftover paint and supplies from other projects, giving old fixtures a fresh look with simple spray paint, repurposing items from other renovations instead of just junking them . . . instead of just buying something to fit my needs, taking things I already had and getting creative with them is so satisfying! It stretched me and challenged me and that makes me love this bathroom even more now.

Laundry Bath

Sources

Wall Color: Sherwin Williams Alabaster (top), Benjamin Moore Smoky Mountain (bottom) both in Eggshell finish

Vanity Color: Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray

Gold Spray Paint

Black Spray Paint