So you want to be a DIY master? I like your enthusiasm. However, as satisfying as it is to roll up those sleeves and put on that sexy tool belt, DIY is not all sunshine and rainbows. In fact, there are a lot of things you won’t find out until you’re knee deep in broken screws, bloody bandaids, and a lifetime of DIY remorse.
You might be surprised to learn the cold hard truths behind all those shiny home improvement hosts telling you just how “easy” DIY is. All you need is 3 nails, 2 planks of wood, and 1 “can-do attitude”, right?
I’d like to make sure you’re not going in blind, so I’m going to give you the low-down on what they don’t tell you about home DIY.
Safety comes first… and it’s going to cost you
It seems to be generally accepted that DIY is the “cheap” way to go when it comes to fixing up home projects. While that might be the case if you’re replacing an old shower head, be prepared to cough up the pennies if you’re planning on something even slightly more labour intensive.
What a lot of people don’t tell you when it comes to home DIY projects is that the cost of the project is one thing, and then there’s everything else that comes along with it. And Safety is that everything. Want to do your own mulching? Great. Make sure you get some heavy duty gloves, protective eye gear, and noise cancelling ear muffs unless you want to go deaf, blind, and lose a hand for the joy of creating a small pile of condensed plant matter.
Want to spray paint Timmy’s go-kart? Peachy. Just pick yourself up 500 drop sheets, a plastic cover-all suit, eyewear, shoe coverings, and a gas mask, then you’re ready to roll. At least the spray paint was on special though, right?
I think you get the idea. DIY might seem cheap at first but you can’t be too careful and safety is absolutely paramount. Because as happy as Timmy might be with his new paint job, it’ll be hard to keep up with him after ingesting all those paint fumes.
Down for some upcycling?
Speaking of spray paint, if you’re in one of those creative moods and get an urge to repurpose some old furniture, then spray painting can be one of the easiest ways to do just that. Sorry did I say the “easiest”?
What I really meant was, start preparing weeks in advance because you’ll need to acquire a small warehouse full of protective sheeting for the floor, the walls, the ceiling, you, everything within wafting radius, and probably the front yard, back yard, and your neighbour’s dog.
While you’re at it, you should probably buy a high-end barometer and learn some ancient indigenous methods to determine which way the wind is blowing, and then watch as the paint finds its way into all the spaces you forgot to cover.
Some things just ain’t worth it
Honestly, I could write a small novel on the amount of DIY projects I’d advise against you undertaking simply due to the fact that they will just be far more time, money, and effort than they’re worth. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to discourage you from being a master of your own domestic DIY destiny, but I also don’t want you forking out $3,000 on equipment, losing a finger, and getting a divorce over something that Barry the builder would do in half a day at a third of the cost.
For instance, tree removal. Stay away from any and/or all of the trees on your surrounding property. If you’re not planning on a new skylight (i.e. hole in the roof), do not attempt to cut down any large trees that could very easily result in said skylight.
Upholstering? Forget about it. Do not believe in yourself. You can’t do it. Heck, maybe you can, but do you really want to find out? People pursue careers in upholstery for a legitimate reason… it takes a short lifetime to get good at it. So, either take your ageing armchair to get professionally upholstered, or join your local Zen meditation group and learn to let go. Say goodbye to that chair and move on with your life. Believe me, it’s not worth the DIY madness.
There is no such thing as ‘light sanding’…
How many times have you read or watched a DIY tutorial that just casually mentions you’ll need to do some ‘light sanding’ before putting on a nice coat of paint? These people are lying to you. ‘Light sanding’ is an oxymoron, because unless you’re actually Arnold Schwarzenegger, be prepared to do some hardcore, back breaking, sweat-dripping work.
You’ll also want to go on yet another trip to the hardware store to stock up on a year’s supply of sand paper because, in all likelihood, one sheet is not going to be enough to get that cubby house ready for little Jenny’s birthday. Also, you might want to make sure that you leave a good few months to get that project done if you’re going to do it all by hand, otherwise you can always get Jenny a box of tissues for her birthday to wipe away those tears of disappointment. Save yourself the hassle and either buy an electric sander, or just buy the pre-built cubby house as is. Jenny will still love you either way. Especially if you don’t get RSI from sanding.
Times flies when you’re having fun… but you won’t be
One of the biggest factors that anyone conveniently forgets to mention about home DIY projects is that they take a really. long. time. Obviously it’s going depend on the size of the project, but as a rule of thumb, take the amount of time you think it’s going to take, then quadruple that, and add 4 unplanned trips to Bunnings.
No matter how motivated you are you fix that hole in the wall, you’ll more than likely forget where you put the paint scraper, realise you bought the wrong tape, and then remember that you ran out of plaster. Don’t beat yourself up, you’re only human. The truth of the matter is that these tasks are not “quick fixes”. A job well done takes time, and if you don’t expect to spend the best part of your Sunday mixing up gyprock and driving to Bunnings 7 times in a row, then you might want to find someone else willing to do it for a small fee.
But hey, you can always a make a day of it! Who doesn’t love a good trip to Bunnings? Even if you only managed to restock the plaster and buy the right tape, it was all worth it just for those sweet, sweet snags. Even if the onion was on the bottom…
Mike Heathcote is the founder of Building Masters Inspections and a veteran builder with decades of experience. Utilising his industry knowledge, Mike and his team of experienced Builders provide an Inspection Service offering expert opinion on the true condition of buildings, including estimated repair costs, helping home buyers find their perfect property, Melbourne wide.