Cut do-it-yourself work down to size

Improving the look of your home doesn’t have to be a chore.

Home-improvement gurus say simple things, such as staining trim or cabinets, can give an older room a much-needed pick-me-up — or change the style of a room altogether.

Many homeowners have learned the hard way, however, that seemingly simple projects sometimes can turn into major ordeals — and, as a result, often do not get finished. Experts offer these tips to help do-it-yourselfers keep small jobs small:

• Plan of attack — Whether you’re cooking up ways to improve your kitchen or want to weatherize your deck, take some time to plot out how you will achieve your goal. That may include creating a list of materials you’ll need, a budget for the project and some basic designs or drawings that will help you work.

• Make the time — Mark off some space on your calendar to dedicate to your project. It also helps to set an end date — or time. That way, you are more inclined to stay on task and finish the job. When creating a time line, don’t forget to factor in activities such as hitting the hardware store and cleaning up. Also, be sure to give yourself enough time to work at a comfortable pace.

• Tools of the trade — The right tools can help keep small jobs simple. Most wood or metal surfaces require fine-bodied material that can be applied best with a high-volume, low-pressure sprayer. An HVLP sprayer will give you the most consistent spray pattern and guarantee a smooth finish-this is definitely your best bet. You can find HVLP sprayers designed for homeowners that are very affordable and will last for years. Many sprayers are designed for detail-oriented jobs around the house, such as staining trim and furniture, rustproofing metal chairs and staining decks.

At least one brand of sprayer has an ad-justable trigger that lets users control how much they spray and it can be set to different patterns for different size jobs. It can be used indoors during the winter months or outdoors on seasonal projects.

• Good help is easy to find — There are a number of resources that can help do-it-yourselfers who get in over their heads.

For instance, most hardware stores have knowledgeable staff that can answer home improvement questions. Many even hold free clinics where people can get expert advice on a job before they start working on it.