After another successful project in the books this weekend, I was thinking to myself, "What advice would I give to my friends or family who are trying to do some of these same projects around their homes?" I'm not a "professional" in the sense that I don't get paid for what I do, but I have some training, a lot of creative inclinations/skills, and enough experience to know how to help people out with some common DIY endeavors. Most of the people I know come to me for advice on how to build/decorate/lay out things in their homes, so that makes me feel that I'm somewhat qualified to teach a little here and there. Not to toot my own horn or anything. So I came up with this list of five things that I would tell a first time DIY-er, or someone starting a new project they're not too sure about.
1. Know your limits
One of the smartest thing any DIY-ing homeowner can do for themselves is to know their strengths and their weaknesses. I know from my own experience what I can handle, and then I know there are things that are just completely beyond my skill level/expertise. I would never try to mess with plumping, electrical, structural home issues. I'll even throw in flooring and tiling. To me, those things really are best left to the professionals. KNOW what you can do, and what you can't. Hiring a professional doesn't mean you are giving in or accepting defeat, it means you are being smart - and probably saving yourself some money & stress in the long run.
2. Be realistic
Part of knowing your limits is being realistic with your time and your wallet. I can't tell you how hard I laugh when I watch some of the homeowner renovation shows on TV. You'll see a sweet little couple who is absolutely determined that they are going to gut and completely remodel their entire kitchen for $6,000 in a weekend. I'm sorry, but it ain't gonna happen. You could easily spend $6,000 on appliances alone! I'm no expert, but I've done enough research and work in my own home to know that setting these types of expectations for yourself is completely unrealistic, and hurt you in the long run. What usually winds up happening at the end of the show is their original budget & actual cost (and time) is compared, and what they actually spend is at least twice, if not more than they thought they would - AND nine times out of ten, they wind up calling in the pros to help them finish the job because they realize they are in over their heads. Do your research, and come up with a budget and time frame that will truly work for your family's schedule and finances.
3. Budget for about 25% more than you think you will spend
There are always, always, always last minute costs that tend to add up. Forgetting to budget in hardware, paint, and other things you didn't put on your list but grabbed while you were at your local home improvement store can majorly add to the cost of your project. You would probably be smart to add in a little extra materials in case of mistakes - because let's face it - it happens. Say you need a project that requires 10 feet of lumber. Buy 12 or 14, just to be safe. If you're doing a bigger renovation project that requires the help of professionals, expect the little things to add up. Sometimes you run across issues tearing a wall down that you won't actually see or know about until that wall comes apart! You need to be prepared for these types of things, and adding a little extra cushion in your budget is the best way to make these unanticipated costs a little easier to swallow.
4. Enlist in help
Most DIY projects are at least two-person jobs, some require more than that. It's nice to have an extra set of hands or eyes on a project, if for nothing more than to just hold something steady while you nail it into place. In addition, when bringing on another person, you're also bringing in a different skill level and view point that can help you because either a) they know how to do something that you don't, or b) they may bring something up that you hadn't thought of. You may also want to ask someone to come over - cue the grandparents! - just to keep your kids occupied so they aren't running underfoot while you're trying to concentrate. So don't be afraid to ask for help, whether it be from friends, family, or your local professionals.
5. Expect mistakes
Listen, mistakes happen, even to the best of us. We all know the motto, "measure twice, cut once", but even sometimes you may have read your notes or directions wrong, and/or it's 2 am and you are running on fumes. This is when mistakes happen. OR you could complete all or part of a project, and it's not turning out quite how you wanted/anticipated, and you either backpedal or start over. Screwing up is inevitable, but in an attempt to minimize catastrophes, the following can be helpful:
- Think things through. Do your research. There is no shame in taking your time and being very careful with your planning. Double and triple check things like measurements, just to be sure.
- Take short, frequent breaks. Make sure you've eaten and are keeping yourself hydrated. When you get weak from hunger, thirst, or being overheated, it's easy to get distracted and rush through something to just "get it done". Stand back and take a look at your work as it develops to make sure it's headed a direction that you're happy with. Know when to stop and say, "I need to finish this another time." Just don't wait too long :)
- Have extra materials on hand, in case you mess something up and need to redo it. If you don't use the extra stuff, save your receipt and return it!
- Stay calm, and know that messing up is just part of it, whether big or small. But hopefully following these five tips will keep things on the small scale!
Alright homeowners, what do you think? Do you have anything to add? Are you ready to tackle your next big project?!