A few years ago, I took over a house that was in shambles. Nothing had been done to the house in decades. One of the bathrooms hadn’t been used in years, the basement was covered in mold, the kitchen sink was broken due to a plumbing issue, the ceiling had caved in one of the bedrooms, some of the walls had water damage, the original windows were still there, etc. The most comical of all things was someone had boarded up a window in the upstairs bedroom because they didn’t want to take the air conditioner out. Mind you, this air conditioning unit was ancient. It frightened me.
Most of the renovations were completed DIY style. My hands were blistered from peeling off layers of wallpaper. There must have been 5 layers of wallpaper on the wall. The upstairs bedrooms had three layers of carpet stacked on top of each other. The mold issue was taken care of in the basement. Minor plumbing issues in the kitchen were fixed. The ceiling was torn down in several rooms and repaired. The entire inside of the house received a fresh coat of paint. It took a little over a year to get half of the work done.
People typically opt to go DIY for the sake of saving money. That was my motive. If you’re a homeowner, you’ve probably already ventured into the world of DIY. Whether it’s been a leaky faucet or a hole in the wall, most of us have attempted to fix the problem without calling a professional. Some have ended with success while others…well, epic fail. Some disasters leave behind a funny story to tell while others leave a trail of severe damage that has to be corrected by professionals. DIY doesn’t have to end in failure or frustration if you remember a few simple tidbits of advice…
1. Don’t bite off more than you can chew! One of the most important things to do before starting any DIY project is to give some serious thought to whatever project it is you want to tackle. If the last hammer you picked up was the plastic tool set you had as a toddler, chances are, you might want to reconsider taking on major projects. Having knowledge of the tools you’ll be using is half the battle. Knowing what you’re doing is the other half. Most disasters are caused by an over ambitious attitude. Sure, you want to save money and skip the cost of hiring a professional, but in the long run it could cost you some big bucks if they have to come in and fix major damage. Know your limits and be realistic.
2. Don’t chance it! Unless you’re a professional, if it involves major plumbing or anything to do with electrical work, leave it for the electricians and plumbers to take care of. I can’t stress this enough. I’ve seen too many injuries and disasters brought on by over zealous DIY enthusiasts. This has included a major house fire, an electrical shock that ended in hospitalization, a flooded basement, severe water damage and third degree burns. Hire a professional for major plumbing work or anything electrical. And, make sure they’re licensed. End of story.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family to lend a helping hand. Often times, people shy away from DIY because it’s too much for one person to do. I can’t tell you how many times I asked for assistance and people were more than happy to help out. We’d work on a Saturday afternoon and the job was completed by early evening. I supplied the pizza, beer and homemade chocolate chip cookies and it was a success.
4. Learn the basics before you start any project. There is an endless supply of DIY books out there. From mending a chair to adding a new deck, there is a book that will take you through step by step from start to finish. Another great resource is YouTube. You’ll find an endless amount of DIY videos that show you how to conquer pretty much any home improvement project. Read, watch and learn.
5. Take advantage of places like Home Depot and Lowe’s. Each department is usually staffed with a few experts who can show you how to do the job. Some locations even offer free classes. You can learn how to install a door, texture paint a room or lay tile. The staff are more than happy to answer any questions and provide you with the information you need.
6. One of the things I learned early on was that a one day project often turned into a week long project. The first room that I started on was the bedroom. I figured it would take an afternoon to take the old wallpaper off. Wrong. Over the years, the owners of the house layered wallpaper over paint. And then another layer of wallpaper. Paint. Wallpaper. On one section paper bags had been glued to the wall and wallpaper was plastered over that. I have yet to figure that one out. Needless to say, it took a little over a week to get one room done. Often times, especially with older houses, you’re going to run into unforseen problems. Keep that in mind when you’re determining how long a project will take.
7. And last, by all means, have some fun! This is your home and you’re turning it into something unique that is all yours. Extensive DIY home improvement projects can, at times, be frustrating. A small project might turn into something huge or you stumble on another repair that needs your attention. There will be spats. Blisters. Sore muscles. All of the above. However, try to make it fun. Take your time. The DIY road is not a relay race. Pace yourself. The light at the end of the tunnel may seem like an oncoming freight train at times. Just know that the day will come when you stand in the door way and you’re able to say, “We did it!”