Sunday Morning Construction

Why do those pesky ‘small’ fix-it or remodel jobs turn out to be so:

And HOW, oh HOW do we, weekend DIYers, make them easier?

5 common sense DIY tips to balance the ‘home repair project’ scale.

  • Read the directions
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help
  • Proper tools
  • YouTube Videos are your friend
  • Take pictures

As a serious do-it-all fixer, I’ve learned — through my share of mistakes — a few keys lessons that make installing . . . repairing . . . replacing . . . new construction a bit easier.

1) Read the directions.

Follow Directions

And I do mean ALL the directions. Don’t skip to what you think concerns you. Read them all. Especially, the WARNING section. If the directions say, wear PROTECTIVE anything — do it.

I use plastic BBQ gloves for a lot of my painting and refinishing jobs. They’re CHEAP and the come in boxes of 500. Who cares if you strip off the pair every time you change sections of the project? Super useful if you’re using that expandable insulator mixture. Comes in a can. Spray in the opening and then it expands. OH – word of warning – USE a very small amount of this mixture. It really, truly expands. READ the directions.


2) Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Your neighborhood hardware store

Find a hardware store (NOT a supercenter) and ask for insight. Want to refinish a piece of furniture? Then go to the experts and ask for them to talk you through the basics. These experts will save you MASS amounts of time, frustration and expense. I have three different hardware stores, depending on my project, that I’ll visit before starting, and I’ve been handling repairs for a number of years. But products change – there’s always something new on the market. Maybe better. Maybe not. But the experts will know if those new products for my PROJECT are worth the investment. Finding the right hardware store has been key for me, and those are the smaller stores.


3) Proper tools.

If you’re just starting out your remodeling/refinishing/repairing project this can get expensive. (Again, asking the experts WHICH tools are a must can be a tremendous cost savings.) Purchasing tools and supplies will be a must. A multi-head screw driver is an excellent investment and hugely helpful when you’re stuck under the kitchen cabinet and suddenly realize that it’s not a flat-head screw, but a Phillips head. One quick flip on the multi-head screw driver and you’re back in business. Don’t skimp on your paint brushes. Trust me, picking out the wayward bristles from your finished painting project is NO fun. But you can save money on the Cheap-O drop clothes. .99C at loads of stores. Spread out, use, and discard. Unless you’re a professional, the Cheap-O versions are fine. If sanding, buy multiple grits. You must step down the sanding project from roughest grit to lightest grit in order to assure a smooth finish and no ‘divots’ in your sanding job. (Ask the experts.)


4) YouTube (online formats, Webinar, Podcast) Videos are your friend.

Recently, I purchased a new refrigerator. I paid for delivery, but as I wasn’t eliminating the old, it needed to be moved. Into the garage – easy, right? Not so much. It was too wide and hauling it out the backdoor and a sizable threshold seemed like a bad plan. Then it was how to make big fridge fit through small door. Answer: take the fridge doors off. Wait, still not so easy. Water & ice maker in door and they were connected . . . WHERE? In came the YouTube videos. Which I watched no less than 10 times. Yep, because that lovely water hose didn’t quite disassemble in the 1-2-3 fashion that the instructions promised. Nonetheless, brawn eventually won out and the old fridge is now in the garage, and the new is in place. YouTube videos . . . yep, watch them. And if the first one doesn’t make sense or is leaving out steps, check out another then another if necessary until you find an explanation video that makes sense. Or you realize that this project is outside your wheelhouse and need to call in the professional.


5) Finally, take pictures as you go.

  • a) you’ll want to document your success. Yes, you will. When completed, you’ll want to post the ‘Ta-Da’ moment. It’s worth celebrating.
  • b) if you’re repairing – that normally entails taking the original apart – then you’ll want to remember exactly how it CAME apart.
  • c) if you get so far into the project and need to visit the hardware store again, those pictures of the progress can be hugely helpful to the experts to advise you.

Not every project in your home should be a DIY. Experts exist for a reason. There’s no shame in turning over a project to an outside source. But there’s no shame in wading into the DIY world and handling ‘fix-it’ projects on your own.

Happy repairing/refurbishing/refinishing!

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