D.I.Y. or Sweat Equity


It's hard not to admire the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) work ethic.  What's not to admire about getting your hands dirty, doing something yourself, doing it the way that you desired and imagined it, and maybe saving a little money along the way?  When done right, a DIY project can be both very satisfying and cost effective, even profitable.  However when done wrong, a DIY project can be frustrating, disappointing, and very costly.  Here are some tips to keep in mind to avoid the DIY project gone wrong.



Some jobs require knowledge and skill to perform well.  You may think that you are ready to tackle that big project, but are you really ready?  If you're doing something for the first time, the answer is likely to be "NO!"  If you are laying tile for the first time, you may find that your grout lines are crooked and that some of the tiles are not level.  Your hope had been to remodel, update, and impress.  If done poorly, a project like this can create a poor impression and may lower the value of your home.  Who wants to spend money to lose money?  Rather than learning to lay tile in the very visible kitchen or bathroom, it may be wiser to start by re-tiling the floor in the pantry closet, or even tiling a piece of plywood set up on the picnic table in the backyard.  



Need knowledge and skill to do a job?  There are a wealth of materials available today for every DIY project.  Whatever the project, there are probably a number of books written about it.  And if those books aren't available at your local bookstore, they can most likely be found online.  Helpful videos can also be found online, most for free.  And since most of us learn by doing, taking a class is a great forum for learning the tricks of a trade (and an even better playground to make your mistakes, before trying out your new skills live in your home).  Your local building supply warehouse probably hosts a variety of home improvement classes for free.  Those are great places to learn things like that they make spacers that will help you keep your tile grout lines even and other useful tips.



Don’t make changes that contrast with your house’s basic style.  If you have a cute Victorian cottage, it will not be improved by a modern addition, or vice versa.  Classic finishes that complement your home's existing features and finishes will have the best results.   Classic finishes and colors are classic because they have held up well over time.  



Always use the best materials that you can afford and are appropriate to your home.  Need to update the flooring of your home?  If you have a limited budget or you're remodeling a modest bungalow, you may not need expensive Carrara marble tiles, but you shouldn't use cheap laminate flooring either.  Cheap laminate flooring looks cheap when brand new and rarely holds up over time.  That's true of almost all of the cheapest materials.  Paying for the best materials that you can afford (within reason) will almost always pay for themselves because they will last longer.  There are exceptions, of course, but there are no exceptions when going cheap.  Going cheap will always be more costly in the long run because cheap will not survive the long run.



A corollary of not going cheap is to beware of DIY kits.  Many DIY kits are a collection of cheap materials in one place.  If any one of the individual constituent parts of a DIY kit are not on your must have list, the whole kit may be worthless to you.  Also avoid anything listed as "user friendly".  Replacing a electrical receptacle?  It may be tempting to get those "user friendly" backstab receptacles where you merely push in the wires in the back of the receptacle.  Hopefully, if you did your research and took some training, you will already know to avoid these because they can result in loose connections, especially over time.  It will not be "user friendly" if those loose connections don't work, or worse, start to get hot.



Investing in the appropriate tools is essential in doing any job well and will reduce many of the frustrations that accompany learning new skills.  Without the appropriate tools you are likely to ruin your materials, get inconsistent even unsafe results, and waste money and time.  Many jobs will have job specific tools and other jobs just need the right tool.  Soft brass fittings may be damaged by an adjustable crescent wrench.  Stripping electrical wires requires using a appropriately sized wire stripper tool or you can damage the wiring.  Professional jobs require the use of professional tools.  Luckily some of the most expensive tools can be rented, but however you acquire them, budgeting for their use should be part of your calculations when deciding to take on any project.



Which brings us to the final and perhaps most important tip for the DIYourselfer.  Know your limitations.  Not every job is right for every person.  Some jobs require practice and some jobs require an innate predisposition.  We all have different skills and potentials.  If you find that a job is too big, too expensive, or too frustrating for you to master, moving on to the next task and hiring a professional will be a good investment. 


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