Homeowners have many good reasons for choosing to tackle minor and major projects around the house by themselves: Convenience, saving money, enjoyment and seeing the job gets done right are among the most common.
Today’s marketplace is also full of resources to help the do-it-yourselfer. “Do-it-yourself” is so common that the abbreviation DIY can be used without definition. Whether the project is as simple as painting a bedroom or changing a light fixture or as intensive as remodeling and retiling a bath, there are books, home-improvement stores, catalogs and web sites that provide information and supplies for getting the job done. For just a sample of what’s available on the Internet, see the Homeowner’s Guide Online Resources for Homeowners.
If you are an experienced DIYer, you’ll recognize the practicality of the following rules. If you are a newbie, commit these rules to memory before you pick up the first how-to book or tool—they are the foundation for success.
Rules for Do-It-Yourself Success
Start small. Work up to bigger projects. If you’ve never lifted a hammer except to hang a picture frame, building a new deck is not the place to start. Chose projects that will allow you to learn the basics while enjoying a feeling of accomplishment. For example:
- Paint a single room before deciding to paint the whole interior of your home.
- Replace the flush valve in the toilet or a washer in a faucet before tackling total replacement of the toilet or basin and faucet fixture.
- Repair and reseal the grout in a ceramic tile wall or do a simple tiling job—such as tiling a kitchen backsplash—before deciding to retile the bathroom floor or wall completely.
Educate yourself about the project and skills required first. A joke that circulates among DIYers and techies goes, “when all else fails, read the directions.” A smart DIYer begins with self-education.
- Read a book or three or four. Search the Internet for relevant information.
- Take a 3-hour class in the project at a home-improvement center.
- Ask a friend who’s done the job to help or assist an experienced friend in a similar task before undertaking your own.
- Take a short course at a continuing education center for a more extensive project.
Plan the repair or remodeling project thoroughly. Woodworkers have an old saying, “Measure twice, cut once.” The same care needs to go into planning the project.
- What are the steps involved in the project.
- What equipment and tools are needed? What materials?
- How long will it take?
- Can the job be done by one person or will it take a team? What safety steps need to be observed?
- Any special requirements to protect against dust or to dispose of trash and debris?
Acquire the right tools for the job. Having the right tools for the job will not only save time and frustration but will enable a DIYer to accomplish a more professional result. For example, replacing an old kitchen faucet with a new one does not look like a hard task on paper. But if your toolbox doesn’t contain a basin wrench (and few ordinary home toolboxes do), then the simple chore becomes a time-consuming adventure of barked knuckles, immovable nuts, and possibly damaged fixtures. If you enjoy doing projects yourself, then evaluating and acquiring good quality tools to do a variety of tasks should be part of your plan. Remember that large tools such as floor sanders, pressure washers, concrete mixers, ceramic tile cutters, and the like can be rented economically.
Take your time. If you’ve never done a particular job before and planning suggests that it will take one weekend, allow for two. Don’t rush a job just to finish within some arbitrary time frame. Rushing too often equals mistakes, fatigue and frustration. Remember who won that old fairy-tale race—the tortoise, not the hare.
Expect the unexpected. Repair and remodeling jobs, unlike new construction, must take into account the existing conditions and structures of a house. Something almost always will not be what you expect. For example, a wall may not be plumb or a floor level. You may remove drywall to install a new in-wall cabinet and find an electrical conduit or pipe that nothing suggested was there. The list could go on. Expecting the unexpected, laughing rather than cursing surprises, and being tough enough to put on your thinking cap and solve the problem are prime attributes for a successful do-it-yourself homeowner.