Our first home was a fixer-upper. It was structurally sound but cosmetically a wreck. Since our budget was limited, we tackled most of the work ourselves, from refinishing hardwood floors to installing new light fixtures. We learned a lot along the way. Before you grab your tool belt, make sure you’ve thought the project through.
Professional Vs. DIY
The first step is to determine if you can actually handle the scope of the project. We handled all of the cosmetic work, but we left the mechanical aspects and specialty work to the professionals, including furnace installation, gutter installation and window replacement. Plumbing and electrical work are also best left to the pros. You can quickly create more of a problem than you had originally.
Before you decide to do a project yourself, do your research to find out what is involved. We easily tackled tiling the bathroom and kitchen floors, but you need to follow specific steps for the floor to turn out right. Are you willing to put in the time to do it right? Do you feel you have the skills to do all aspects of the job? Don’t be overconfident. You’ll quickly learn if you bit off more than you can handle once the work begins.
It’s best to start off with small scale projects. This allows you to test the DIY waters so you can see if you even like doing the work yourself. You also get practice using tools so you’re better prepared for larger projects.
Right Tools for the Job
A basic set of tools gets you through minor home repair and home improvement projects, but some jobs require special tools. Tiling, for example, requires a tile cutting tool and grout tools. Installing wood trim requires a quality saw that won’t damage the wood. Refinishing hardwood floors requires a sander.
Don’t fret if you don’t own all of the tools or equipment for a project. Check with friends, family and neighbors to see if they have the items you need. For larger equipment, like floor sanders, check with local home improvement stores. They often rent out the equipment for a reasonable rate so you don’t have to buy expensive equipment you’ll never use again.
DIY home improvement projects almost always save the homeowner money, but don’t forget to put a price on your time. Tackling a home project you’ve never done before will likely take you much longer than the professionals. For small jobs, like painting a bathroom, the time isn’t that large. But for bigger projects, such as gutting and redoing a kitchen, a job that might take a professional few days could take you weeks. Not only does all of your spare time go to that project, you also lose functionality of that room until you finish the projects.
If you decide the project is worth your time investment, always overestimate how long it will take. You’ll likely run into some roadblocks along the way that slow down the progress. It’s best to start a project in the morning in case you do come across a problem. Home improvement stores will still be open when you realize you need a different part, for example.
Just because you don’t hire a professional doesn’t mean you have to tackle the project all yourself. Getting advice or help from an acquaintance who has done a similar project can help you avoid mistakes. The Internet is another great resource for planning a DIY home improvement project.
If you’re still set on tackling your first DIY project, it’s time to get started. Plan out the project from start to finish so you have all of the materials you need. And don’t forget to take before and after photos so you can share all your hard work.