Where to Draw the Line on DIY Projects?
Whether you’ve installed a pagoda bursting with flowery vines or added architectural interest to a room with wainscoting panels, one of the most gratifying aspects of home ownership is a successfully completed renovation.
DIY projects can be complex, but you can make millions of little changes that make a bold statement. Consider dressing bar stools and outdoor lounge chairs in fresh textiles, swapping out the hardware on interior doors in favor of a more contemporary finish, updating the pulls and handles in your kitchen, or revamping the garage with efficient storage and shelving options. Just rearranging furniture and adding an area rug and lighting can bring new life to a room.
Fortunately, for bigger projects, home improvement stores sell countless kits for everything from molding trim packages to pre-cut and ready-to-assemble gazebos. These three-dimensional puzzles can certainly up your home improvement game, but the key is to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter. Shortcuts are never a solution but a problem waiting to happen.
Here’s a look at popular DIY projects along with some cautionary tales:
Painting. Color is transformative. You can establish an accent wall in a contrasting color and treat it to an attractive arrangement of artwork. Give any room a lift by concealing a neutral beige with a vibrant blue. You can overhaul a room’s ambiance with just a couple gallons of paint and some sweat equity. Although an affordable solution, painting takes patience and preparation.
Before you begin, spackle and sand the nail holes while making certain all surfaces are free of dust and dirt. Use an exceptionally good quality tape to shield woodwork. When you have all your materials assembled and drop cloths in place, you are ready to begin your weekend of painting first thing, fresh in the morning!
Although paint projects are relatively inexpensive ventures, you need the right tools. Do not skimp on rollers or brushes. It’s essential to buy the right ones for your wall type, for the paint, and for the scope of the job. Also, a coat of primer goes a long way toward a high-quality outcome. It allows the coats of paint to glide on smoothly and gives you the true color you envisioned. While you don’t need a license to paint, you will find that engaging a pro makes quick work of a laborious task.
Floors. Whether you are tiling over old linoleum or ripping out existing tile in favor of new, a solid foundation is everything. Without a smooth and even sub-floor, tiles will eventually crack, and you’ll wind up with more of a mess than you had to begin with.
For hardwoods, if you want to strip away the old finish to reveal bare floors to prep for new stain, you will quickly find that sanding floors is a big challenge with even bigger consequences.
On the face of it, it looks as easy as vacuuming, but it’s not. Stripping floors takes a level and steady hand to maintain a light and consistent touch. Any hesitation will cause the machine to create dips in the wood for an inconsistently leveled floor. Then what do you do? You can’t cover it up. You’d need to remove and replace the planks or even take the entire floor out to start from scratch.
Wood floors are a coveted amenity, but they can be destroyed in seconds in the absence of expertise.
Walls. Swinging that big sledgehammer looks like a lot of fun when you want to open up your kitchen. The caveat here is that you never know what you are uncovering…until you do. From plumbing lines to electrical conduits, you could easily unearth elements of your home’s critical systems. HGTV programs make it all look so easy, but those homeowners are typically working under the direction of a general contractor. Even though they may find a surprise or two, they’ve got the resources they need to bail them out of trouble.
Another issue with demolishing walls is the distinct possibility you could unknowingly tamper with a load bearing one; a wall that is supporting your second floor or your roof. A disastrous proposition.
In the case of the expansion of your kitchen, you may want to turn your talents to building a center island or tiling the backsplash, but this kind of demo is always best left to the professionals. You may think you are saving money with this DIY, but you could wind up spending much more than you anticipated.
Pipes and Plumbing. Here too, you can get a false sense of security after watching a few YouTube videos. Changing out washers is a lot different than welding pipes and potentially putting your home in danger of undetected leaks that lead to mold.
Things may start out well, but it’s easy to get to a point of no return after you hit a snag or cause a flood in your master bath.
Like any undertaking for which you aren’t trained, you may be saving on the hourly rate, but the fix is an expensive proposition.
Electrical. Installing a new dimmer switch or a light fixture are common DIY projects, but just like taking down a wall, you never know what you are uncovering when you mess with electrical wiring.
You might make a good start but won’t know how to recover if, for example, you find some old, cloth-covered insulation.
Furthermore, if you are not a licensed electrician, you don’t know what permits to pull or the codes to ensure your installation adheres to safety compliance. So, you’re playing with fire on several fronts. You could hurt yourself and put your home at risk.
Sheetrock. This skill appears deceptively simple, but it is not. You can ruin the integrity of your walls with a clumsy tape and spackle job. Although you may be able to use a textured paint technique to camouflage imperfections, all that extra work could have been avoided with an impeccable sheetrock installation.
If you wish to cultivate this proficiency, you might want to attempt sheetrocking the inside of a closet first, but understand beyond that, taping and spackling is a tedious job that takes a good deal of time and expertise.
The great news is that it’s not incredibly expensive to engage a pro to deliver a flawless finish in no time.
Windows and Skylights. This is a skill requiring expert prep and measurement along with the certainty of a perfect seal to keep the elements on the right side of the glass. Additionally, even the most minor gaps will throw your energy efficiency out the window. (Literally!) It’s not only the installation you need be concerned about. If you want new windows you can do a good deal of damage to your home while removing the existing ones.
Regarding skylights, cutting into your roof to bring in some natural light is a great idea, but we all know the costs of new roofs and their repairs. You don’t want to tempt fate by taking a saw to the primary protection for your home. It’s not worth risking for some potential DIY satisfaction.
How to DIY
Your best solution for any home improvement is a hybrid one; a concerted effort between you and licensed and insured contractors to do what they do best. You can still earn the pride of accomplishment but can rely on experts to get your project off to a safe and solid start, protecting your biggest investment.
With any project, just follow a step by step approach:
- Research Pinterest or Architectural Digest to get design ideas.
- Make your wish list.
- Take stock of your abilities and what you need to outsource.
- Get comprehensive estimates in writing to do the demo, wiring, and/or sheet rocking.
- Narrow your contractor choices and make your selection.
- Visit MyFloridaLicense.com to confirm the contractor’s license is in good standing.
- Determine the best communication method and the plan so you know what to expect, when.
- Let the renovation begin!
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