The abundance of do-it-yourself books on home building and home repair on the market is an indication that the subject of DIY is of great interest to people. And why not? Being able to fix or build things associated with your home not only saves money, but gives you a great sense of pride and accomplishment. Laying new tile in the bathroom, building a new deck or patio in the backyard, or even tackling building a whole house brings a whole new way to boost your self confidence, as well as protecting your pocketbook.
Working with wood, tile, plaster, paint, lighting, power tools, etc. is a great exercise for kinesthetic learners. Reading instructions in a book is one thing, but actually using a power miter saw to install new baseboard or crown molding takes you from theory to the real world. Working with your hands, and with quality tools, is very satisfying. But the kinesthetic, hands-on, lesson only comes after reading some DIY book or article that has inspired you to actually pick up a hammer and try something.
You read a DIY book on building decks, let’s say. Talk to a few friends or family who may have done a similar project, and jump right into buying materials at your local home improvement store. Being able to interpret those drawings and instructions and apply them to your own personal building project is a great way to exercise that muscle between your ears. And with every project you become more confident to tackle something bigger and more involved.
But, even though doing your own home repairs and building can save you a lot of money, the one thing NOT to skimp on is quality tools. I have a friend who once tried to use a Leatherman tool (think Swiss Army knife) to cut the miters in some new baseboard molding she was putting in the bathroom. I cringed. But, at the time I didn’t want to say anything to hurt her feelings. Sometimes the best lessons learned happen this way. Trying to make do with inferior tools or materials until you realize you’re really wasting your time while in the end discovering how inferior your final results will turn out.
My best advice on all you aspiring DIY’ers out there is to buy quality tools, especially cutting tools (saw blades, drill bits, router bits, etc.). Clean, fast, and safe tools will make your job go a lot faster. Having a sharp saw blade slice through wood like butter is a pleasure you just can’t explain unless you’ve been there yourself.
Next is to ask a lot of questions of people who have done the kind of job you’re thinking of, and observe (or, better yet, take part in) someone actually doing it. Sign up for all the free demonstrations at your local home improvement store as possible. Even jump in on Habitat for Humanity building projects. You’ll not only gain some basic building experience, but get a warm fuzzy by helping a needy family gain a home.
And, finally, know when to call it quits when it’s obvious you just don’t have the skills for a particular project. For me it’s coping, the very precise cutting that’s involved in installing molding, specifically the inside corners. The objective is to make that inside corner appear as if the two pieces flow into each other without any sort of gap. For the life of me I just cannot make an accurate coping cut. So I hire it out.
Also, if a job requires a lot of strength, like replacing windows, then it’s also a good idea to hire that one out too. Last fall I had 2 very large windows replaced in my condo. There was no way I would have been able to take on that job myself, especially considering one of the windows was on the second floor and required scaffolding set up outside. These are good examples of when to hire out.
But, installing a new dishwasher? You bet I’m going to do that one myself! Which I really have to do in the next couple weeks as I’m putting my condo on the market soon. Anyone interested in a cute little condo in a quiet neighborhood?
In the end, whether you end up with a gorgeous DIY remodeling job, or a complete mess where you have to hire a pro to take over, you will have gained such valuable knowledge—mostly about yourself. And life isn’t complete until you’ve learn a few hard-won lessons about yourself. For me the lessons learned in building a house have given me so much confidence to tackle just about anything. There’s not much gained if you keep your nose in a DIY book all day.
Happy building! Feel free to stop by my website Small-House-Building.com and say “hi”.