DIY always seems like such a good idea in the dream stage. Build in some equity with elbow grease. Get more for our money while learning some important skills. Create pretty spaces without having to deal with contractors. What could go wrong?
Plenty, actually. If you don’t already have a DIY horror story, or at least a tale of woe that’s funny only in the rear-view mirror, you’re probably overdue. But you can avoid the problems and the pain by learning from others’ mistakes.
Don’t start a project without educating yourself
Putting up a backsplash. It seems like an easy enough task. One that you can involve your children in, even. And then you step back and take a look at your post-backsplash handiwork and realize…perhaps you should have consulted an expert. Or at least watched a YouTube video or two.
The truth is that you can learn almost anything you want today just by Googling it. There are tons of tutorials out there that can teach you how to lay wood floor or replace a window or, yes, do your own backsplash. Or, build a house from scratch, if that’s what you’re into. They probably won’t turn you into an expert overnight, and, in many cases, an abbreviated study isn’t going to compare to the work of someone who has been honing their craft for many years. But for the persistent DIYer, getting in some good study before starting your project is essential to doing a job well.
Don’t paint your cabinets without prepping first
Guilty. Yes, we knew sanding was necessary for a smooth finish. Yes, we did it anyway (We’ve since learned from our mistakes but still…). If you want cabinets that chip and peel and generally look like crap, painting without prepping is definitely the way to go.
Commit to finishing a project
Anyone else paint half a room – the lower half that doesn’t require standing on a ladder, perhaps – with the intention of finishing the other half in a day or two? Anyone else have one or more unpainted rooms? Sometimes, the DIY brain just won’t rest, and it’s always looking ahead to the next project. That can lead to a house-full of projects in progress and a chaotic home. Of course, that could just be us.
One way to combat this is by goal-setting with an actual deadline, whether it’s a weekend or a month. You abide by them at work, right? Make your projects a priority by setting realistic deadlines you can follow, and then commit to getting it all done before starting something new.
Measure, measure, measure
We’ve all heard the saying. “Measure twice, cut once.” But, honestly, sometimes measuring twice doesn’t feel sufficient to us. If we can get it right three times in a two, we feel pretty confident we’ve got the right measurements.
“One of the biggest fails you can make is also one of the most common, especially for do-it-yourselfers,” said HomeAdvisor. “Measuring incorrectly can cost you a lot of money and cause a lot of headaches. Being off by an inch, a half-inch, or an even smaller fraction of an inch can have dire consequences when it comes to your home renovation project. Incorrect measurements can mean that you don’t have enough space to install your appliances or you don’t purchase enough materials to complete the project. To avoid making this mistake, measure multiple times. If you’re working with someone, have him or her measure as well to ensure that the numbers are accurate.”
Don’t rush your paint choice
If it looks great in the store, it’ll look great in (or on) your place, right? Not always. There’s a reason paint stores have samples. Do yourself a favor and buy a couple. The light and shadows in your room could make the color look completely different in your home, turning what you thought was the perfect shade into something meh.
You’ll also want to make sure you try the paint in every room you plan to use it in. Perfect Greige is one of our favorite colors, and it looked great in our sunny office. Used in our dark-ish bathroom, however, it turned it into a muddy, cave-like space.
Another important factor to remember is what type of paint to use. That same bathroom was extra challenging to make over because someone had slathered the walls in flat paint long before we got there. “Manufacturers make paint for every surface in your home and they are not all the same,” said HomeAdvisor. “Flat paint does not have a shine, shows marks, and is not easy to clean. Use this type of paint on ceilings and on walls in low-traffic areas. Semi-gloss and gloss paints have a nice shine and are a better option for walls in bathrooms, kitchens, and other high-traffic rooms.”
Make a realistic budget
When it comes to our home, we all want more than we want to (or can) pay for. But lowballing your reno budget just to get a project going typically won’t work out so well in the end when the numbers start to add up and you don’t have enough money to comfortably finish it. Planning out a project well and doing sufficient research to come up with legitimate numbers is key.
“To calculate how much remodel you can afford, follow these four steps: Ballpark the cost, establish a spending limit, get quotes from contractors, and set your priorities,” said houselogic. A fifth, very important step is this: Once you arrive at that magic number, add more money to it. “Add a 15% to 20% contingency for the unforeseen problems and changes that occur on every project. Is the total still within your ability to pay? If so, you’re ready to get started. If not, it’s time to scale back your plans.”
Make sure your contractor is qualified
There are times you just aren’t going to be able to DIY something or will find yourself overmatched by a task and in need of someone to pick it up and finish. It happens.
The handyman down the street may be affordable and gung ho about redoing your bathroom, but is he qualified? Trying to save a buck can cost you big time in the end if the work is done incorrectly. Sometimes, it pays to go with a qualified contractor who may cost a bit more upfront but who you can be confident about.