To some, a home is never complete until it is furnished and decorated to their liking. They even hire professionals to help them achieve the finished look. But if for you, comfort and livability are more about function than beauty, then these small home improvements are perfect. And there’s even no need to call on the handyman. Here are some ideas from Henri and Beema Villar, contractors from H&B Design and Construction.



An extra lock on doors that open to the outside can provide added security, even if you do live in a home enclosed by a fence and gate.

1. Mark the spot where you will place the lock. The set usually comes with a template to help you find the required distance from the edge of the door. Make sure the deadbolt is positioned at least six inches above your existing doorknob.


2. Use a hole saw to drill a hole for the deadbolt (check instructions or manual to determine the hole size you need). If your saw only goes halfway through the door, once the central drill bit goes through all the way, move the saw to other side and continue drilling from there.

3. Drill the second hole (perpendicular to the first) into the edge of the door using a spade or smaller hole saw until you get through the first hole you made. Close the door and, using a small pencil, mark the doorframe from inside the holes. This is where the bolt meets the doorframe.

4. Insert the bolt mechanism into the first two holes you made so you can position the faceplate on the door edge and trace around it. Chisel inside your markings until you have a recess that sets the faceplate flush with the surface of the door edge. When the faceplate fits properly, drill holes for the screws and secure the bolt.


5. Install the cylinder and thumb lever into the first hole. Align the exterior piece with the interior piece, making sure the locking mechanism is working, and fasten the deadbolt together with screws.

6. Drill a hole into the doorframe, where you marked, until the depth matches the length of the deadbolt when fully extended. Chisel out a recess for the strike plate and secure this in place with screws.

7. Close the door and check to see if the deadbolt is working properly. Make the necessary adjustments to the strike plate until the lock works perfectly.



little_fixes_eplace_a_doorknob.jpgConstant opening and closing of doors can take a toll on doorknobs. When they stop working like they’re supposed to, you may have to replace it with a new one.


1. Remove the screws that hold the trim together (the ring of metal between the doorknobs and door), then detach the trim—each side has one. These should come off easily. Some newer models may not even have a screw—in this case, pry them off with a small flathead screwdriver or other flat-tipped tool.

2. Unscrew the next two screws that hold the doorknobs together. Then pull the doorknobs apart away from the door.

3. Another two screws hold the bolt or locking mechanism in place. Remove these and extract the bolt. (Most doorknobs come in standard sizes so finding one that fits your door shouldn’t be a problem).

4. Check to see if the strike plate (the metal plate attached to the door jamb that catches the lock) is loose. Most strike plates don’t need to be replaced and should work well with your new doorknob. If you decide to change this as well, simply remove the screws that hold it in place and replace it with the one that comes with your new set.


5. Install your new doorknob by working your way backwards, starting with the new bolt. Insert the bolt through the hole and screw into place, making sure that the slanted side points in the direction the door closes. This ensures that the door cannot be pushed open.

6. Place one trim between the new knob and the door, and insert the doorknob into the door. Do the same on the other side and make sure that the two are aligned. Screw everything in place, working gradually and alternately on each side until the doorknob comes together evenly.

(Photo source:



little_fixes_replace_a_ceiling_fan.jpgIn our tropical climate, wind from above your head can provide much needed relief from the hot weather. Installing a fan from scratch can be a little tricky as it requires finding the proper support in your ceiling, and having the proper wiring for it to work. Replacing an existing fan or light fixture is much easier.


1. First things first: shut off the power from the main electrical box. Check to see that the power is off. Remove the mounting bolts and take down the existing light fixture or ceiling fan until you see the wires.

2. Disconnect the electrical wires. There are usually two (black or blue for power and white for neutral), but sometimes there is a third wire—the ground wire is either green or bare copper.

3. Lay out your new ceiling fan kit’s pieces on a nearby table or on the floor, as well as necessary tools. Make sure you read the manufacturer’s manual or instructions carefully.

4. Inspect the electrical box in the ceiling and the support that it is connected to—make sure it will be able to carry the weight of the fan. Attack the mounting bracket to the electrical box, securing all screws tightly to avoid a wobbly fan.


5. Work on wiring next. The kit should include a “working hook” which you can use to hang the fan from while you work on your wiring. Attach the wires together by matching wire colors—black to black and white to white. The third, or ground, wire is usually attached directly to the junction box. Simply loosen the screw, wrap the ground wire around it, then return the screw tightly. Once you’re finished with the wiring, push all the wires into the electrical box to keep them out of the way.

6. Remove the working hook and attach the fan motor to the mounting bracket using the screws provided in the kit. Set the fan’s pull-cord switch to the “on” position, then turn the power back on and check to see if it is working properly.

7. Switch the power off again and proceed with assembling the rest of the fan: attach the decorative motor cover, then mount each fan blade to its bracket.


8. Switch the fan on to check that it is working properly. If it wobbles, you may just need to adjust the motor by pushing it gently until the whole thing is level.

(Photo source:



Curtains provide shade from harsh sunlight, or privacy when you want it. They’re also an easy way to alter the architectural features of your room: they can lengthen a wall or window, or make a room seem taller.

1. Curtain rods don’t usually come with instructions about where to position them on your wall. A good rule of thumb is to install them at least two inches above your window or window frame. You may want to ask someone to hold up the curtain strung through the rod as you look on to determine the height you prefer (most curtains come in standard lengths).

2. Once you’ve decided on the height, mark the wall with a pencil. Using a level, mark the placement of the brackets (usually three to size inches from the edge of the window), as well as the holes on the bracket where the screws go.


3. Drill pilot holes on the markings then insert the screws or anchors through the brackets.

4. Insert the rod into the tabs or grommets of the curtain, making sure the right side of the curtain is facing the room, and place the rod on the brackets.



little_fixes_install_shelves.jpgAdd storage to a room without taking up any more floor space by installing shelves. There are several kinds, including the “invisible” shelf and floating shelves. Below are instructions for standard-and-bracket shelves.


1. Mark the wall where the shelf’s center will be. From that point, measure eight inches to the left, and eight inches to the right, and mark with a pencil. Standards (they’re the long slotted pieces of metal where you attach your brackets) are usually placed 16 inches apart but always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for specific measurements.

2. Drill a pilot hole on your pencil mark. Hold the first standard up on the wall and screw in the top screw. Let the bracket hang straight down (you can also use a level to make sure it’s vertically straight) and screw in the other screws.

3. Do the same for the second standard. Place a long level (or the shelf itself) above both standards before screwing on the second standard to make sure the shelf will lie evenly.

4. Attach the brackets at the height you want your shelf to be, and place the shelf on top.


5. Some brackets have a lip at their tips to hold the shelf in place. Otherwise, secure the shelf to the bracket by using a screw on the shelf’s underside.

(Photo source: )



little_fixes_replace_light_switch.jpgLight switches rarely malfunction—most of the time, it’s the bulb that needs replacing. But if the bulb works just fine and the switch does need to be replaced, it takes all but a few minutes.


1. Locate your home’s circuit breaker and shut off the electricity connected to the switch. Check that it is off by trying the switch and making sure the light or appliance does not turn on.

2. Take off the cover plate by removing the two screws holding it in place. Remove the mounting screws holding the switch inside the electrical box. Pull the switch out of the electrical box a few inches to expose the wires.

3. Loosen the screws that connect the main power wires to the switch wires. Tag each wire so you know which screw it attaches to.

4. Hold up the new switch in the “off” position. Attach its wires to the main power wires according to your tags. Tighten the screws that connect switch and power wires.

5. Place the switch back into the electrical box and securely mount with screws.

6. Replace the cover plate (you may use a new one if you like). Turn the power back on and test the switch.


7. To change just the switch/cover plate, follow steps one, two and seven.

(Photo source: )



little_fixes_replace_a_shower_head.jpgClogs can cause trickling water flows or a showerhead that directs water in every direction but down. If unclogging has little effect, replace the defective one with a new shower head that can not only provide a stronger water flow but help you save water too.


1. Check under the showerhead for any small screws holding it in place. Remove those, if there are any. Then, unscrew the showerhead by hand or using a wrench. Be sure to hold the pipe or water line securely with your other hand to prevent any damage that may lead to leaks.

2. Before attaching the new showerhead, apply a pipe sealant onto the threads (Teflon tape, pipe dope or compound). This prevents water from dripping through any gaps.

3. Screw the new showerhead on using your hand, and then using a wrench, again making sure that the pipe or water line is stable. Turn the water on and watch for leaks. If there aren’t any, tighten the showerhead in place.

(Photo source:



Many new homes come sans bathroom mirrors, yet these are everyday necessities. They not only let you get ready in the mornings, but they also reflect light into what is usually a small space.


1. Hold the purchased mirror up to the wall to determine where you’d like to place it. Consider the height of everyone who will be using the bathroom and position it accordingly. Then mark at the mirror’s corners for reference.

2. If your mirror comes with a wire or hooks on the back, make the necessary marks on the wall. Screw in some brackets to hang the mirror from.

3. For a more permanent fixture, you will need a plywood backing cut in the same size as the mirror (this prevents oxidation and discoloration). Mount the plywood onto the wall first using screws, hooks, or mounting brackets. Apply a strong adhesive to the back of the mirror and position onto the plywood. The adhesive should be strong enough that you can let go after a few seconds, with it drying soon after. For additional support, you can mount a frame around the mirror or a ledge right below it.




little_fixes_create_slip_free_floors.jpgWet shower areas can get slippery, especially for little kids or the elderly. Prevent any untoward incidents by adding non-slip, safety features to your shower or bathtub floors.

1. Choose from non-skid mats, adhesive safety strips, or decals that can be found in most department and hardware stores. Non-skid mats are simply placed onto the shower or tub. They’re made of a lightweight material that holds securely to your shower floor like suctions, and the textured surface provides a safe grip for your feet so that you don’t slip.


2. Adhesive strips or decals need to be stuck directly on to the floor. They also have textured surfaces but are sometimes more decorative than mats, and are available in many designs. Before peeling off the adhesive’s protective film, figure out where you will place the decals. Lay them on the floor, then, one by one, remove the backing and paste as you have positioned them.

(Photo source: )



Since the kitchen is the hub for different activities—cooking, eating, homework—it’s the best place to have a bulletin board for schedules, notes, and the like. Everyone passing through on a daily basis gets reminded what to do.

1. Look for a spare wall or kitchen cabinet that everyone can reach, then decide whether you want to have a chalkboard, corkboard, or both. Once you’ve figured out what kind of board you’ll put in and where to place it, purchase you materials.


2. For a chalkboard, tape off the area you want to paint with painter’s tape or masking tape. Apply one to two coats of chalkboard paint. As the paint dries, prepare a box or basket with chalk and an eraser.

3. Make your corkboard by simply cutting a pre-bought board to size. Glue this on to your wall or cabinet using a strong adhesive or double-sided mounting tape. Stick some thumbtacks onto the board and prepare a pad of paper and pens nearby.



little_fixes_nstall_a_towel_rod.jpgA towel rod can serve the dual purpose of storing kitchen towels while keeping other useful tools like ladles and prongs within easy reach.


1. Determine where you will be attaching the rods so you can purchase these in the appropriate length.

2. Hold the rod up to the wall or cabinet and, using a pencil, mark off the holes where the screws will go. Some wood cabinets are soft enough for you to screw directly into. Other harder surfaces may need to be drilled with pilot holes first.

3. Position the towel rod and screw into place.

4. To hang kitchen tools, make use of a few S-hooks.

(Photo source: )


little_fixes_create_a_magnetic_spice_rack.jpgBottles of spices can clutter a counter top, but there’s a chance you’ll forget you even have them if they’re hidden away in a drawer. Maximize the spice with a magnetic rack that makes for easy dishing and dashing.


1. You can buy small metal tins with built-in magnetic bottoms at some department stores or specialty boutiques, or you can simply make your own. Choose several identical containers and attach small strips of magnets to the bottom of each one (magnetic strips are available in small rolls at bookstores and home improvement stores).

2. Label each container with the name of the spice, then fill accordingly.

3. Place them on a magnetic surface like your refrigerator or a metal backsplash. You can also buy a metal sheet or strip from a hardware store and mount this onto a wall or cabinet, and attach your spices there.

(Photo source: )


(First published in Good Housekeeping, October 2009)

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