Do-It-Yourself: 10 Guidelines for Successful Home Improvement


There are two approaches to home improvement: DIY and PAP. If you're of the DIY (do-it-yourself) persuasion, you roll up your sleeves and tackle the job your self. You know you cars save money, control the schedule, learn new skills and add your own personal touches. But you may be more of a PAP (point-and-pay) person. You call the electrician or plumber, point out the problem, then pay a pro to do the work.

The truth is, most homeowners alternate between these two approaches—and that's just fine. Some feel comfortable with a router but run at the sight of a drip ping faucet. Others may feel confident installing a new light fixture but cringe at the thought of hanging a new exterior door.

Regardless of your approach, knowing more about the steps, tools, materials and pitfalls will help your projects go more smoothly. And know-how is what this book is all about.

10 Guidelines for Successful Home Improvement

1. Be realistic. Most manuals, TV shows and books present projects and repairs in a perfect-world scenario. But we live in an imperfect world where bolts stick and floors aren't level. Things may very well take longer, cost more and use more materials than you expect.

2. Be safe. Wear hearing, eye and breathing protection to save yourself from injury and years of misery.

3. Invest in the best tools you can afford to buy (or rent). You'll work faster, safer and with more enjoyment.

4. Know when to stop. Figure out the logical stopping points and then stop. Most accidents happen when people get tired.

5. Measure twice, cut once. You'll save tons of time and material.

6. Be prepared. There's no such thing as one trip to the hardware store. Buy extra and return what you don't use. Before you take it apart, take a picture of it.

7. Remember the big picture. What you do at point A may affect point B. For example, if you insulate your attic, make certain you don't block the roof vents.

8. It's OK to ask directions. Really.

9. Think like a drop of water. Water in the wrong place—whether from a broken pipe, condensation or rain—causes more problems than anything else.

10. Finish the job. If you don't install that last piece of molding while your tools are out, the project may go on forever.


Planning

Most projects and repairs are done twice: first in your head or on paper, next with a wrench or saw in your hand. Don't shortchange the first part of the process. Whether it's ordering the right amount of lumber for your deck or plotting out your bathroom remodeling project so your family isn't without water for three days, planning can make or break a home improvement project. This first step takes a little extra time up front, but in the end you'll experience fewer hassles and more peace of mind.

The best time to gather information, determine a game plan, arrange for outside help and round up your tools and materials is before the dust flies. Think ahead.

Project planning... It doesn't matter whether you plan your project using graph paper, computer software or life-size models, as shown here—just make sure you plan. Project planning... It doesn't matter whether you plan your project using graph paper, computer software or life-size models, as shown here—just make sure you plan.

Updated: Wednesday, September 12, 2007 2:55 PST