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These 5 Damage-Free DIY Projects Are Perfect for Renters

These at-home projects won't break your lease or cause you to pay damage fees.

Macy Meyer Editor I
Macy Meyer is a N.C. native who graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2021 with a B.A. in English and Journalism. She currently resides in Charlotte, N.C., where she has been working as an Editor I, covering a variety of topics across CNET's Home and Wellness teams, including home security, fitness and nutrition, smart home tech and more. Prior to her time at CNET, Macy was featured in The News & Observer, The Charlotte Observer, INDY Week, and other state and national publications. In each article, Macy helps readers get the most out of their home and wellness. When Macy isn't writing, she's volunteering, exploring the town or watching sports.
Expertise Macy covers a variety of topics across CNET's Home and Wellness teams, including home security, smart home tech, fitness, nutrition, travel, lifestyle and more. Credentials
  • Macy has been working for CNET for coming on 2 years. Prior to CNET, Macy received a North Carolina College Media Association award in sports writing.
Macy Meyer
3 min read
room under renovation

A home isn't any less of a home because it's rented. 

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I've always found moving apartments to be difficult. Not only is moving costly and emotionally taxing, but it takes time to make your new space actually feel like home. And when you're renting, you still want your place to feel homey and warm even if the lease is just for a year or so. That means decorating, designing and starting a slew of DIY projects. 

But when you're renting your apartment, townhome or single-family home, you need to pick and choose your DIY carefully to make sure your new project isn't going to break the terms of your lease.

Here are five simple, rental-friendly projects you can do now that'll ensure you still get your security deposit back at the end of your lease. For more DIY hacks, you can check out how to paint your kitchen cabinets, how to build DIY pipe shelves and how to make custom poster hangers for just $1.

chest of drawers with decorative handles
Peter Carruthers/Getty Images

1. Replace hardware

Oftentimes you'll find rental properties have boring, cookie-cutter hardware. The outlet covers, light switches, cabinet handles and pulls, knobs and bathroom fixtures are usually plastic, cheap or not well-made. An easy way to spruce up your apartment, and add your own personality and flair, is to upgrade the hardware.

This simple fix can majorly transform your kitchen cabinets, living room and bathroom, and can tie all your furniture together. Plus, you can take the hardware when you move. I just recommend keeping the original hardware the rental supplied to reinstall at the end of your lease.

Color palette, guide of paint samples catalog
boonchai wedmakawand/Getty Images

2. Paint an accent wall

Many landlords will allow considerable changes to your rental from mounting a TV to installing a ceiling fan and even painting. A simple but effective way to make your new space feel more personable is to ditch the white walls by adding some color. While many townhomes will allow renters to paint each and every wall, I recommend apartment-dwellers pick one wall to paint as an accent. 

While many rentals allow painting and just ask that you primer the painted walls once you move, I recommend you check with your landlord before you break out the rollers and masking tape.

couple hanging yellow wallpaper
Liquorice/Getty Images

3. Apply wallpaper

There's nothing worse than four blank white walls. And while adding a pop of color can do wonders to make a space feel brighter and more comfortable, sometimes you'd prefer to add a design or texture to a space. Enter wallpaper.

You can find removable or peel-and-stick wallpaper at many home improvement stores to customize the walls of your rental. While these wallpapers require patience to apply, it's fairly easy and it'll leave walls residue-free after removal. Plus, there are endless patterns and textures to choose from, so you're sure to find something that suits your design aesthetic.

wall shelves with kitchen and household tools
Luis Alvarez/Getty Images

4. Add storage shelves

They say organization is key to a happy home. And I've already mentioned how much I despise bare walls. Installing wall shelves addresses both of these points. Whether you add a few floating shelves in the bathroom to hold washcloths and candles or installing hefty bookshelves to hold your books and knickknacks, shelves can act as additional storage in small rentals and decor. 

The only downside is that you'll likely need to drill the shelves into the wall. Most rentals allow holes to be drilled, but double check with your landlord before you break out the power tools. And if you can't drill or nail shelves or artwork into the walls, you can opt for lighter wall hangings that can be hung with command strips.

With these tips, your home won't feel like any less of a home just because it's rented. And, you won't have to worry about losing your security deposit. Even though these projects are approved at most rental properties, I still recommend you reach out to your landlord before you start.

For more home projects, explore how to choose the best paint for your home's exterior and how to pick the right paint color for your home office

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