Sometimes a little work really does go a long way.

Some DIY projects do more harm than good, at least when it comes to boosting house values. But some really are worth trying. It all looks so easy on TV, and then the realities are sometimes more than you bargained for. But if you choose your projects wisely, you can get a lot of mileage out of a little investment and elbow grease.

Here are 5 straightforward projects that can improve your house, many of which you could finish in a day or less.

#1: Dress up the Front Door

It's all about the curb appeal, at least when it comes to first impressions. And the front door is a major player in that arena. DIY mavens, Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman tell® that a fresh coat of paint on a vintage door is on-point for older homes. You could paint the door on its hinges, but that's practically asking for unsightly drips and runs. A better way is to remove the door and lay it across a pair of sawhorses to do the job.

You don't have to remove the hinges to remove a door. In many cases, you can tap out the hinge pins, which run through the center of each hinge, using an old flat head screwdriver and hammer. Then the door just lifts off. The same applies to interior doors.

#2: Make Lumpy Drywall Smooth as Glass

Have you ever noticed how some walls look perfect while others are peppered with lumps, bumps and imperfections? Plaster walls have natural irregularities, and that's part of their charm. They're supposed to look that way. But drywall is different, and their imperfections detract from the look of the room.

Even if a wall has been painted numerous times, you can make it smooth again. That makes your next paint job leaps and bounds better. Sand down rough spots using a drywall sander with sanding screen. Raise dipped areas to make them flat by spreading on drywall joint compound (not spackle), letting it dry, then sanding the whole wall using long strokes. Remember to prime again before you paint, since repairs leave porous spots.

A basic back splash doesn't require a lot of special tools or skills.

#3: Install a New Back Splash

Want to perk up your kitchen without spending a fortune? A new back splash is a real attention getter, it's not expensive, and it's definitely DIY friendly. And because the wall doesn't have to contend with lots of water, you don't have to prep or protect the area as you would with a new countertop.

Some ideas to think about include pressed metal tiles, or their contemporary cousins, plastic tiles. They add a lot of texture, and the plastic versions come in numerous finishes such as tin and copper. Speaking of copper, you could mount sheet copper or stainless steel on the wall for a gleaming back splash. Thinner materials are less expensive than you might think, and they mount using contact cement. And there's always tile, from travertine or marble, to glass mosaics or porcelain.

The right outdoor arrangements can make all the difference.

#4: Create Inviting Outdoor Spaces

Need a more spacious feel to your home? Make outdoor spaces as inviting as interior spaces. This visually extends your square footage, making your home feel roomier than if all of the usable space were contained inside the front and back doors.

Front porches are made for rocking chairs or a small table and two or more comfy chairs with fluffy cushions. A pretty utility-grade rug under the vignette pulls it together. Decks and patios give you more space to work with, so you can really make them feel comfortable. A chiminea, dining set, chairs and a cocktail table, and other clustered arrangements make the outdoors look welcoming instead of just a spot to set up a grill.

#5: Install Updated Lighting Fixtures

You may rarely notice your light fixtures, but updated ones can have a major effect on any room. Contractor-grade ceiling fixtures are usually the worst. They're bland, and don't offer much more than function-only lighting. Swap them out for 5-blade ceiling fans with lights, and you have even more function plus something really attractive.

If you don't want fans, or at least not in every room, you can still improve on what you've got. Larger, nicer ceiling-mount fixtures look intentional instead of merely a means to provide light. And if you can't afford new lights, think about painting the existing fixture trim in black, dark bronze, or another color. While you're at it, replace all of your bulbs with efficient ones.

It's easy to get excited about home improvement projects, especially when the right improvements could translate to more money in the long run. But bettering house values takes a keen eye and careful evaluation. Know your skill level, and research the return on investment for any project that you want to tackle. House Logic is a good place to start with that.

You don't need to sell your house to appreciate a boost in its value. A refinance could also turn out in your favor if the value of your house goes up. Check out our article, 'When to Refinance Your Mortgage' to learn more.