Most of the time, do-it-yourselfers do most things right. But you can save time, money and frustration by keeping these common no-no’s in mind next time you start a home project on your own.
- Get a permit. Even if you’re doing a small job, call the city and ask if you need one. You might be surprised to learn that just putting a cover on your carport or installing a new water heater require permits in some cities.
- Make a plan. If you don’t know every detail of the job you’re about to do, you could come up short when it comes to materials, time, money and patience. Creating a plan will help you decide if you really want to, and are able to, take on the job.
- Decide whether you’re qualified. We all think we’re qualified for any job around the house, but when it comes down to it, few of us really know enough to safely mess with electrical wires or gas lines. There’s no shame in hiring professional help to do a job that could cause you harm if you do it incorrectly.
- Prepare for deliveries. If your job involves a lot of materials, know before they arrive where you will store them until you need them, so they don’t wind up sitting outside in the hot summer sun or a monsoon storm. Know if the materials need to “acclimate” to the indoor temperature and for how long so you will order them in plenty of time.
- Buy the best. Don’t fall for low prices. If a high-quality item is on sale, great. But don’t skimp on materials to save money at the expense of quality. Don’t buy drywall or plywood for walls and floors that’s too thin, for example, just because it’s cheaper. Don’t buy tools by a manufacturer you’ve never heard of to shave a couple of dollars off the price of the price of the job. You’ll wind up having to replace them too soon, which means you didn’t get a bargain.
- Use the right materials for the job. Educate yourself by searching online, reading labels and talking to contractors. Know when to use flat paint and when to use glossy. Understand which outdoor materials like deck and patio sealers will hold up under our hot sun and which will peel.
- Prep your work surface. It can feel tedious to clean and sand walls, to apply primer and to do other prep work, but those chores are critical to the success of the project.
- Make your work area safe. Keep it clutter-free. Use grounded electrical receptacles. Dry the floor. Unplug tools and put them out of the way when you’re finished with them.
- Make yourself safe. Even if you’re an old hand at using power tools, suit up in safety glasses, work gloves, rubber-soled shoes and other safety gear before you start the job. It only takes one fall or one stray splinter of wood to change your life forever.
- Make your tools safe. Inspect the tool body and cord for cracks, exposed wires and signs of wear. Have the tools serviced—or replace them—if they’re in poor condition so they don’t shock you, malfunction or catch on fire.
- Measure twice and cut once. You’ll waste material, time and money if you cut in the wrong place. Take your time, and don’t guess.
- Ask for help. If you’ve never done a particular kind of job before, don’t make your house your guinea pig. Ask a pro or at least an experienced friend to lend a hand. Better yet: Volunteer to help a pal do the same job at his house so you can learn the ropes before taking on your own place.
- Be realistic. Home improvement can be time-consuming, expensive and stressful. Consider the impact every job will have on your family, your social life and your wallet before resolving to do it yourself.