Like DIY? Avoid These 10 Costly Mistakes
I love DIY. I’m completely awful at it, but as I’m thrifty I’d much rather do something myself than pay someone else three times as much to do it. But here’s the rub. You can end up costing yourself more in the long run by doing it yourself. So, I scoured the web looking for the obvious and not-so-obvious mistakes DIY addicts make and compiled this list. (See also: DIY Home Improvement: 10 Free Options for Training and Advice.)
Mistake #1 – Cheap tools, no tools, the wrong tools
You can start a job thinking you have all the right equipment, but hammering a nail in with the back of your shoe ain’t gonna cut it. Neither is that nifty saw you got in the $1 store with less teeth than your old gran. Do yourself a favor. If you’re going to DIY, buy quality tools like the pros, and research your job fully so you have all the right tools for the particular job at hand.
Mistake #2 – The Superman (or Wonder woman) syndrome
You ever meet one of those people who could do everything better than you? They’re the same people who think they can build an entire house in one weekend with no help from anyone else. This is known as working beyond your scope. If you can’t do plumbing, don’t do plumbing. If you’re rotten with heights, avoid the roof. Don’t think that you can stand on tiptoes on the top rung of a rickety old ladder and think you’ll always be safe. One day you’ll be telling your DIY story in the E.R. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, ladder mishaps land over 164,000 people in the Emergency Room each year. So, if electrical work happens to be your Kryptonite, steer clear.
Mistake #3 – “Permits? What Permits?"
Permits aren’t there to just be a pain in your butt. They have a real purpose, and it’s in your best interest. Those folks in the permit office are there to make sure the job is done right and that you don’t go hurting yourself or anyone else. They also ensure that when you do an improvement, your insurance carrier has the necessary paperwork to keep you covered. Don’t quite know if you need one? Well, unless you’re just giving a lick of paint or new layer of paper to the guest room, chances are you’ll need one. If in any doubt, call your local building department.
Mistake #4 – Saving a few too many bucks on materials
Like you know, I love a bargain. But make sure you know where to draw the line. ¼ inch drywall may save you a fortune, but it’s about as effective as a pair of curtains for soundproofing. You’ll need ¾ inch for a good sound barrier. And flooring is the same story. ¾ plywood is your best friend when it comes to keep the noise down and giving you a strong foundation. So, crack open the piggy bank. Do the job once, do it right and do it with quality materials. (Of course, if you can haggle over the cost of those materials, you’re being a true Wise Bread shopper…go for it).
Mistake #5 – Ummmmm, that’s close enough
My pop is a great DIY dude. He told me something that was not exactly original, but I never forgot it. “Measure twice, cut once.” And you know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever cut anything to length only to realize that you measured at 18 ¼ instead of 18 3/4 . Bang. Your money is down the drain. So, always, always err on the side of making something a bit too long. It’s much easier to cut down than build up. So, remember. Measure twice, cut once on anything from drywall to plumbing pipes and crown molding.
Mistake #6 – Duct tape for life
In my short DIY career, I’ve done the occasional plumbing repair with duct tape. It’s handy stuff. But it’s not a repair, it merely buys you a little time. If you’re walking out of the door to catch a flight for your two weeks in Hawaii, duct tape could very well save your bacon. But it’s NOT permanent. It WILL leak, as sure as night follows day. So, get it fixed as soon as you possibly can. And if plumbing is not your thing, get a pro to do it. Water damage can cost thousands and thousands of dollars in repairs.
Mistake #7 - Rushing the prep work before painting
When I first started painting my house, I jumped straight in. Yippee. But I spent more time cleaning up my many mistakes, spills, drips, runs and shoddy lines than I did painting. Do yourself a favor, do the prep. Clean your walls, patch up holes with good filler, and use a good painter’s tape for windows, doors, ceiling lines and anything else that you don’t want paint on. Lay down a good quality tarp that you can use again, and set a primer on oil-based paint or dark walls you’re painting a lighter color. You’ll thank yourself later.
Mistake #8 – Any paint will do
Sorry, it won’t. You don’t want a flat paint on anything other than a ceiling (put it in a kid’s room and watch what happens when you try scrubbing off the crayon and marker pen). Go for eggshell or satin finishes on interior walls, they can resist a lot of washing. Exterior paint is clearly marked and weatherproof. And for your deck, use a linseed-oil-based stain. Unlike clear sealers (which don’t block UV rays) the linseed stains drive the pigment deep into the wood and preserve it.
Mistake #9 – What could possibly go wrong?
How about everything? Safety is essential when working on any DIY project and even if you look like a dope, you need to wear the right equipment. Safety goggles are vital when you operate power tools, and hard hats are equally as important when working under scaffolding. If you’re painting or using harsh chemicals, open a window or two to keep the area well ventilated. If you’re a big fan of those baggy carpenter jeans and old, loose t-shirts, you may want to re-think them. Loose clothing can get caught up in power tools and machinery and the results are none too pretty. Of course, wear a good pair of gloves for carrying wood, metal, rock or anything else sharp or abrasive. If you’re in the basement, follow the safety rules regarding spiders and other dangerous critters (here in Colorado, Black Widows and Brown Recluses love basements…and one bite can do major damage).
Mistake #10 – A little knowledge is a dangerous thing
A lot of folks just dive right in on home projects. They’ve seen a Bob Villa show or two, they rented a book from the library and they think they’re good to go. That is until the new addition collapses under their feet. Don’t start on your own projects by yourself, and don’t start big. If you know someone who happens to be good at this stuff, tag along. They’ll be happy for the extra pair of hands on their own project and you’re getting valuable experience. Places like Lowes and The Home Depot offer workshops. Take them, they’re fun and educational. And when you eventually do start you own little remodeling project, listen to the voice of reason. If you really don’t feel 100% sure about what you’re doing, step back. You don’t want to knock through a supporting wall and end up in traction.
So, those are the big 10, in my humble opinion. I’m sure many of you have more tips, please feel free to post them here.