Why it's a great starter project: Replacing cabinet pulls can be as simple as unscrewing the old and attaching the new. But there's often some issue that pops up at one point or another. Whether it's using washers or negotiation with a pull that's rusted onto a screw, there's bound to be a headache that you can tackle. And without worrying about doing irreparable damage or blowing a big budget.
What it gives you an excuse to buy: If you don't already own a cordless drill, this is a great project to pick up this essential piece of the DIY toolkit.
Replace a Torn Window Screen
Why it's a great starter project: Removing the window screen will help familiarize you with the mechanics of your windows. And this will come in handy down the road, when it's time to do some maintenance on the windows themselves.
What it gives you an excuse to buy: The materials for this repair are inexpensive and will last for more than one window, which means you'll have them on hand the next time a screen is damaged. A roll of replacement screening and the rubber spline that holds it in place are easily obtained. And a spline roller makes the replacement quick and easy. It's possible to secure the spline without using a roller. Often times a flat screwdriver or old credit card can pop the spline into place. But the spline roller makes things go smoother and decreases the risk of damaging the spline during installation. And a spline roller lasts forever!
Why it's a great starter project: Door repair involves working with a number of different carpentry skills, from planing a door to tweaking the alignment of a strike plate. And you'll learn by doing, without taking on the commitment of a week-long project.
What it gives you an excuse to buy: A quality plane is a great addition to your arsenal, and is relatively inexpensive. If you want to go retro, these durable hand tools are frequently found at garage sales and antique stores.
Paint a Room
Why it's a great starter project: Painting is a must-have skill for any burgeoning DIYer. And whether you're touching up a drywall patch or freshening up a guest room, painting is always the final touch that makes a project complete. Also, the great thing about painting a room is that if you don't like the finished product, you can simply repaint it.
What it gives you an excuse to buy: There's no shortage of great painting equipment you can buy to make the DIY experience go smoother. And if you're just starting out, this is a great time to invest in a roller and pan, trim brush and clean-up equipment. But if you've got the basics and want to acquire some new goodies, check out this article on Best DIY Painting Tools.
Balance your Furnace Dampers
This Family Handyman home improvement article has a number of seasonal maintenance items for your furnace, including instructions on damper adjustments. And if your lines don't have damper marks already, you can add them yourself or with the help of an assistant and a pair of cell phones.
Why it's a great starter project: A great project for two story homes in climates where there is a large seasonal temperature swing, it will also get you acquainted with the way your furnace functions. Also, it's always less stressful to learn about your furnace on your timeline, instead of waiting until you don't have heat in the middle of winter. And in this case, you'll also be reducing your heating and cooling expense.
What it gives you an excuse to buy: Depending on the height of your basement or crawlspace, you may need a ladder to reach the trunk lines or a head lamp to see them easily. And either of these items will be used dozens if not hundreds of times over your DIY career.
Leaky Faucet Repair
Why it's a great starter project: Faucet repairs are a great way to get accustomed to the way that plumbing fixtures work. And almost all faucets are designed to come apart and go back together with relative ease. But there are a number of different variations, so you'll pick up a wider education as you research your specific faucet.
What it gives you an excuse to buy: For loosening faucets and aerators, there's nothing that works better than a pair of vice grips and channel lock pliers. And pick up a quality pair of each, and you'll find that they'll quickly earn a spot on your list of favorite tools.
Why it's a great starter project: Clumpy, blobby caulk lines are unsightly. And laying a proper bead of caulk is an acquired skill, and you won't learn it unless you jump in and give it a try. The link above covers the removal of existing caulk, and these tips for caulking provide techniques that it takes most pros years to acquire.
What it gives you an excuse to buy: If you don't already have a caulk gun, this is the time to pick one up. And spend a few dollars more for one with a smooth action and no-drip stop; you'll be glad you did. As long as you wipe off any excess caulk when you're done working, the caulk gun should last a decade or more.
Garage Storage Shelves
Why it's a great starter project: Most garages are strictly utilitarian spaces. In other words, you have more leeway for imperfections and the inevitable mistakes you'll make along the way when you're learning basic DIY skills. Plus, because each garage is unique to the home and storage needs are unique to each homeowner. And this is a good project on which to learn about planning and how to maximize cuts to make the best use of a sheet of plywood.
What it gives you an excuse to buy: A circular saw is a must-have for this project. You may also want to pick up a ripping fence accessory for the saw to make your long cuts easier. And if you already have a circular saw, then this project is a great time to invest in a compressor and nail gun.
Install a Fire Pit
Why it's a great starter project: This is a great introduction to basic concrete work, hardscaping, home improvement and masonry. These skills can evolve into patio, tuckpointing, retaining wall and dozens of other DIY projects.
What it gives you an excuse to buy: And simple, inexpensive masonry tools such as a trowel and tuckpointer will make this and any future jobs go faster.
Hang a Ceiling Fan
Why it's a great starter project: As long as there was a light fixture or ceiling fan present already, upgrading to a ceiling fan involves basic wiring and assembly skills. And like most DIY projects, the challenges are really in the tiny things that don't go 100% as expected. But if the worst case scenario is that you rehang the existing fixture and tackle it again in a few days, what do you have to lose?
What it gives you an excuse to buy: Once you've begun to work with residential wiring, it's time to pick up a voltage tester. And always keep it in your pocket, and verify that the lines are not live before working with electricity. It's an inexpensive tool that will make things safer and less stressful.
Install a Wall-Mounted Television
Why it's a great starter project: Mounting a TV, relocating an outlet, and running cables behind a wall are great stepping stones to more complex projects. And they'll give you a more advanced understanding of wiring and some basic experience with the crucial skill of fishing wire through a wall cavity. With a little bit of preplanning, you won't even have to do any drywall touch ups.
What it gives you an excuse to buy: This is a job which can be done with surprisingly simple tools. But to make things go smoother, consider picking up a stud finder, some fish tape and a drywall saw.
Sink Trap Clean-Out
Why it's a great starter project: Just as faucet repairs are a great way to begin to learn how plumbing works, drain cleanouts are a low-risk, low-cost way to begin understanding drain line structure.
What it gives you an excuse to buy: If you didn't already grab a pair of channel lock pliers for faucet repair, you'll definitely want to pick some up for this task.