DIR-DIY: 7 Simple Rules for DIY

(Do It Right … Do It Yourself)

By Jeanne Romano

I’m the youngest of three girls. I’m not sure if my dad taught me how to do “things” around the house because I was his last chance for a boy or I was the only one who constantly asked him questions like, “What’s the difference between a Phillips head and a flathead screwdriver?” Either way I’ve always been happy that my father took the time to infuse me with the passion to do it myself.

I would love to say that Pops taught me the correct way to do things, unfortunately he was one of those dads who didn’t read instructions, made things fit when they didn’t, had left overscrews and duct taped the unintentional gap or two.

As an adult I learned the hard way how to do things right (don’t ask) and now I’m thrilled to be able to work on my own home. It’s a real money saver, it’s lots of fun and I love when I can say, “I did it myself.”

So, let me share a little of what I’ve learned with a few simple rules for any DIY project:

  1. The scope:
    1. Did you bite off more than you can chew? Make sure to choose a project to match your abilities.
    2. If this is your first toe in the water I strongly suggest you take it slow and small. For example, if you’ve never painted walls, pick one small wall. Once you complete that one if it went well and you feel encouraged to move on… move to a larger area and paint away!
    3. Give yourself plenty of time. Try not to leave this to a Friday before someone is coming visit on Saturday or Sunday. If you’re a cook, you often try recipes before serving it to guests. Same should apply to DIY projects.
    4. Weekend projects are often a good idea. Block out the whole weekend. Involve kids, friends and/or your spouse. It can be really fun. One caution though; if you involve your children please supervise and make sure everyone knows their job and how to succeed.
  2. The budget:
    1. One of the main reasons to do something yourself is to save money.
    2. Shop around for professionals and get quotes. Your goal becomes clear; beat their number.
    3. Remember to include the cost of your time as well as ALL supplies.
  3. Instructions:
    1. We’re so lucky to live in a time where instructions are merely a click away. Your project will most likely be online somewhere.
    2. Most products, like paint, varnishes, stains and finishes, as well as all tools come with a full set of instructions. Read them.
    3. Instructions are especially important when it comes to ventilation and drying time. Many of the newer products are safe and green – however all manufacturers are required to spell out the hazards (if any) on both their labels and in any available literature. You can find this online on sometimes, in an attached pamphlet or in the box if there is one.
    4. Believe me, you’ll end up spending more time and money correcting your errors if you take short cuts or are impatient when it comes to manufacturer directives.
  4. Select the right tool for the job:
    1. Even something as seemingly simple as choosing the correct brush for the texture of your surface and product you want to apply to the surface.
    2. We often spend more money than we should because we apply the “overkill” approach to our project; we get sucked into the more expensive, bigger or a designer name. It’s rarely necessary. Get what you need and get out of the store!
  5. What’s the worst that could happen?
    1. This is one of my constant mantras. If you look at your project with the knowledge that you can always change your mind or return it to its prior state, or if all else fail get someone to help you – you’ll approach your endeavor with confidence.
  6. Magazines and photos:
    1. Like bringing a picture of a haircut to your hairdresser, it’s a good idea to gather photos and examples of items, color and design that speak to you. You may need to adjust certain things to fit your budget and space, however it’s often easier to have a visual in your head.
  7. Opinions:
    1. Like everything else, your friends and family will have opinions. Careful. There’s nothing wrong with involving others, especially those who have done this before. Just make sure your project stays within your vision and you actually do it yourself!

Just make sure you’ve done your homework, that you carve out enough time and have enough money to finish the job. It feels so good to be able to point to something and say, “I fixed, painted or replaced that myself.”

By the way, the difference between a Phillips head and flathead screwdriver is the Phillips head has a crisscross tip that fits into the screw head and a flathead has a single edge for single slot screws.