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4 Things you need to know before you start a DIY project

February 26, 2021 8 min read

4 Things you need to know before you start a DIY project

Ready to remodel the kitchen, paint that room, or build new wall cabinets? DIY projects can save you money and give you a sense of accomplishment, but you must be careful.

Improper planning for mistakes or setbacks can lead to frustration and even cancel your project entirely.  Setting your budget too low can lead to disappointment and take you years to catch up. Preparing in advance will help you get the most out of your efforts.

We’re going to touch on four areas to help you prepare better and get more out of your project.

  1. Gathering tools
  2. Budgeting your time and finances
  3. Allowing for mistakes
  4. Safety preparations

Research the job thoroughly through a handyman guide book, youtube videos, or whatever other means you have available. Ensure you understand what you’ll do from start to finish of the project and then start planning.


Area 1: Gathering your tools

Begin with your essential toolbox. These are the tools that every homeowner and DIY handyman needs to keep on hand.

Essential toolbox:

  1. Hammer
  2. Level
  3. Tape measure
  4. Hand saws
  5. Electric drills
  6. Mixed clamps
  7. Sanders - hand and orbital
  8. Staple gun
  9. Handheld circular saw
  10. Carpenter’s square

Add in anything you’ve needed but didn’t have in the past. Screwdrivers, wrenches, pliers, utility knives, putty knives, everything you can think of related to any job you’ll do around the house.

Don’t forget about the emotional tools you’re going to need. Patience and attention to detail are crucial to a successful result.

Honesty is another mental tool you need. Know your limitations. Be prepared to hire a professional for parts of the project that you should not do yourself.

Then look at the DIY project you are about to undertake. Having the right tools for the right task will help you save time in the long run. It’s frustrating when a project takes twice as long because you discover you’re missing some tools you need partway through it. 

Area 2: Budgeting your time and finances.

Don’t get caught up in a busy life and fail to commit to your project’s proper budget of time and finances. Underestimating either will make a satisfying undertaking into a frustration.

If you’re taking on a DIY project you’ve never done before, give yourself twice as much time as it takes someone who’s done it before. Never assume you’re going to find your work rhythm right away.

Do the job at the right time of the year. Many home improvement projects are best suited for warm-season weather. Time your project when it’s not too cold to open the area for airflow and preferably not too hot.

Commit to the project. 

Make completing the DIY work a priority. By no means neglect your family or miss that important ball game. Plan your project times out ahead of time and stick to the schedule.

Look at the areas your project touches and figure out what complimentary work will be needed. Can you do the work yourself, or do you hire someone for it?

For instance, if you’re remodeling your kitchen or bathroom, you should count on a professional electrician for the wiring work. Consult with the electrician ahead of time. Go through the plans together and make sure your schedules match up. 

When it comes to budgeting the finances for a DIY remodel, don’t skimp on the electrical. Go with the best. Hire an electrician who’s licensed and insured with a good track record. Ask about any guarantees and work warranties. 

Don’t skimp on the plumbing work either. You should always have plumbing done by someone with experience.

If you live within city limits, be sure to check with your city office for any permits needed. Sometimes those can take a while to get approved. Many of those permits are valid for a year, so you can fill these out way ahead of time, even before you know your work schedule.

Don’t leave out anything when building your budget list. Every hand tool, permit fee, rental, sheets of plastic, paintbrushes, no matter what type and size, must be accounted for. Research every little detail of the project and include everything you will need.

Whatever you think a project will cost, count on it costing more. This falls under the always expect the unexpected umbrella. 

The standard rule is to figure in 10-15% more than what you expect the project to cost. 

You may find out that your project is going to cost more than you can afford. See if you can do the work in smaller manageable chunks that you can pay for as you go along.

You can save some costs by being frugal:

  • Shop clearance-items and major seasonal sales at the home stores.
  • Replace cabinet doors instead of buying new cabinets.
  • Consider vinyl flooring instead of tile.
  • Consider laminate countertops, or opt for composites instead of granite or marble.
  • Replace appliances with white instead of the expensive stainless steel.
  • Reclaim wood from an old barn being torn down. (Check for termites first.)

Hire an interior designer if you’re remodeling an entire room. Don’t be afraid to pay for an hour or two of the designer’s time. They know how to budget shop, and you’ll come out ahead in the end.

Area 3: Allow for Mistakes

Mistakes happen. Every professional makes mistakes, just as every DIY beginner. 

When you buy wood for a project, buy a little extra in case you measure wrong, split the wood, or other mishaps. 

Make sure you buy a little more paint than you need. Expect a can of paint to get tipped over. 

Tools break. Figure in a little extra to replace tools. 

You’re going to get hurt. It happens to the best of us. Make sure your tetanus shot is up to date before you start remodeling—no use taking the chance of landing in the hospital for something as insignificant as a splinter.

Some mistakes are avoidable. 

  • Read the instructions for every power tool you use carefully. 
  • Watch professional videos, not DIYer videos, of the project you want to do.
  • Research the materials carefully that you want to use in your project.
  • Take any classes offered by the home improvement store you buy from.
  • Speak to the specialist about your project at your home improvement store and get their help in choosing the right materials at the best price.
  • Again, do your research. Know the job from the beginning to the end, even before you start buying your materials and doing the work. 

And most of all, forgive yourself if you do make a mistake. Some will be momentary irritations and won’t hinder your progress.

Others may be costly and time-consuming. If this happens, take it calmly and know there’s a way to fix it. 

It may take time. It may take some funds that you need to raise to correct whatever mistake you make. But it will pass, and you will have learned a valuable lesson from it.


Area 4: Safety preparations

Being safe on the job is essential for your DIY projects. Nothing ruins a good project more than having to spend days in the hospital due to improper planning. 

We’ll go through five things you should consider:

  1. Safety gear for you and your power tools.
  2. The clothing you wear.
  3. Setting up a safe work area.
  4. Electrical concerns.
  5. Proper Ventilation.

Safety Gear and Protection:

Understand your project fully enough to buy all the safety equipment you’ll need. Safety glasses, helmets, gloves, earplugs, etc., are vital. 

Making sure any power tools you’ll use have proper guards installed is crucial. Never take them off and purchase additional safety equipment as needed.

Keep a working fire extinguisher handy. You may never have a fire during your DIY projects, but it’s better to plan for the unexpected. 

Keep a first aid kit handy. 

Proper Attire:

Avoid loose clothing. Wear closed-toe shoes that protect your feet and are comfortable. Purchase additional attire that your job may require, such as knee pads, gloves, and aprons.

Take off any dangling jewelry and tie back loose hair. Additionally, take off your wedding ring, as it may get scratched during your work.

Safe Work Area:

Any ladders or work tables you will use must be level and sturdy. Make sure the surface they sit on is solid and level too. 

The ladder you use should be the proper height you need. Never stack ladders to reach your work location.

The flooring should be level and free of any debris that has to be stepped over. Keep any sawdust or other material swept up as you work through your project.

Make sure you have plenty of lighting to work by. Windows with plenty of natural light provide the best lighting. If you don’t have overhead lighting in your work area, you can purchase an inexpensive LED shop light.

Electrical concerns:

Make sure that all the cords for power tools, lights, and other equipment are in good condition with no exposed wires. Make sure you turn the power off in the work area as needed. 

If you’re remodeling a room, is your house wiring up to code? Make sure your wiring is good, and plan out in advance what wiring help you need during your remodel. Make arrangements to time the work you hire out for with your remodeling schedule.

For room remodels that involve new walls, make sure you look at how your wall sockets line up. If you’re adding a wall layer that recesses them, you’ll need to have those adjusted or learn how to do it yourself.

If you’re remodeling your kitchen or bathroom, can your service panel handle any additional loads your remodel adds? 

Proper Ventilation:

When you’re working with paint and other materials that give off toxic fumes, proper airflow is crucial. Woodwork, sanding, painting, and stripping are types of activities that can endanger you and other people in your house.

If you’re not working with paint, exhaust ventilation is an excellent method to use.

The exhaust ventilation system can be as simple as placing a box fan in a window and pointing it outward. This serves a dual purpose in that it expels irritants your project creates out of the room and keeps new ones from sneaking in from outside.

Seal around the fan and seal off any windows or doors you’re not using. Cover the door you do use with plastic. 

Crack a window on the opposite side of the room or allow for some air to come in through your barriers. The cross-flow will push the contaminants your work creates out through the window fan.

If it’s raining or snowing outside, the window fan should be turned off, unplugged, and taken out of the window. 

If you’re repainting a room, open up all the windows as wide as you can and set up multiple fans to ensure proper ventilation. You can also use low-VOC or no-VOC paint to cut back on the fumes. Keep the fans running while the paint dries long enough to eliminate the fumes from the room. 

If ventilation is difficult to achieve, such as for a closet, use a respirator designed for the job and work in shorter intervals.

Conclusion

A DIY home improvement project can be beneficial to your wallet and great for your family. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and self-sufficiency, plus you’ll know what went into every bit of that project—no more guessing if the contractor used quality materials or if the contractor cut corners to save money.

You get to choose what goes into your house and the level of attention you pay to the details. You own the work and take pride in making a successful project come outright.

When you take the time to plan out every step and piece of expense associated with your project, you increase your chances of completing a DIY project that saves you money, and you enjoy showing off to everyone. 

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