I favor home improvement products that disguise, renew or otherwise rescue from imperfection without involving a contractor or a home equity loan. So these are my favorites...

I favor home improvement products that disguise, renew or otherwise rescue from imperfection without involving a contractor or a home equity loan. So these are my favorites: Drywall compound What a miracle product. A few dollars buy a bucket large enough to coat the walls of the U.S. Capitol. Applied thinly in several coats, it will turn ragged walls into smooth, cool surfaces. Notice I said thinly. The big mistake everyone makes with it is to smear it on like cake frosting. Don't do that because sanding the stuff produces dust reminiscent of what Neil Armstrong tromped through on the moon. Primer I think of it in religious terms. To me, primer represents nothing less than redemption. It absolves surfaces of their sins, creating a clean slate over which beautiful new paint can be applied. When in doubt, prime. That's my advice. Caulk A hundred years ago, a hole in your house was a serious thing. Now? You just caulk it. I love the idea. Sometimes I'm tempted to make some holes just so I can fill them. I'm not saying that a caulked hole necessarily look great. But it defeats nature's relentless attempts to enter my sanctuary. Insects walk away dejected. The winter winds howl in vain. Now that's power. Lawn mower Even a weedy lawn improves drastically when mowed. It's the fresh haircut of home improvement. In fact, I think a newly mown lawn speckled with a few dandelion flowers as accents is quite attractive. Two days later, it looks bad, but so what? All you have to do is get the mower out again. This will carry you through the crucial months of May and early June, when expectations run high for neat lawns. Come summer's heat, everyone's grass turns to straw, half the town goes on vacation, the other half sits in the shade and drinks beer, and the pressure is off. Flowers Plant some, that's all I can say. They speak of cultivation and intent. Let's say the house is leaning several degrees off plumb, with boarded-up windows and a pickup truck on blocks in the front yard. What to do? Scatter some annuals in strategic locations and call it a cottage garden. People will find it charming. Ladders Here's the thing about a ladder: You don't even have to be doing anything on it to send a message. Simply lean a nice big one against the house and you've instantly created a work in progress. Climb up and down a couple of times a day. It's good exercise and raises hopes in the neighborhood for better things to come. Indoors, it's hard to beat the combination of ladders and drop cloths. They hint at serious work and enable you to hide messes under fabric without looking like you're hiding messes under fabric. To complete the look, add flowers. -Joe Blundo's column So to Speak appears in the Life section of The Columbus Dispatch. Visit his blog at Dispatch.com