How much DIY can you do? 5 rules for getting it right

I don’t know how many thousand questions I’ve been asked about DIY, but the most common theme, somewhat unsurprisingly, is about the nuts and bolts of how do to a specific DIY job. When I reply with a carefully considered answer, the assumed DIY ability of the individual soon becomes apparent as they either lap up every instruction I give them with confident abandon, or, their eyes begin to glaze over as if I’ve started speaking an obscure Russian dialect. Not always, but commonly there is an unusual paradox here in that the person who apparently takes on board every instruction with ease, proceeds with the work and manages to successfully devalue their house, whilst the more apprehensive person does a fantastic job, and realises that maybe some things aren’t as tricky as they look or sound. Herein lies the issue, as DIY can often punish the confident fanatic, and reward the more apprehensive enthusiast even though it can take them an age to do the job.

 

I think the solution therefore lies in finding the middle ground between too much confidence and too much caution. If you don’t carefully consider the job in hand, and plough straight in, then you do risk making a complete hash of things, but if you don’t get stuck in at some stage, the job will never get done. So do the research, do the reading, and ask the people who are in the know.

After that, I would try keeping to the following five rules.

1. Keep safe

Manufacturers provide guidelines for how to use their tools and materials for a reason. Always read them. If I pick up a new tool, even if its something familiar to me, I always read the specific guidelines just in case there’s a different feature that I’m not aware of. Similarly follow the guidelines on material packaging, and use the recommended safety gear.

2. Know your limits

Again, this really relates to safety as you should never attempt a job that compromises either your safety or that of other people. For example, never touch gas fittings (you’re not allowed to anyway), and if you want to do some electrical work you must follow all the rules and regulations. (See Part P of the Building Regulations). Also if you want to attempt a job such as plastering for example, begin small with inside a cupboard for example- don’t expect to be plastering houses after simply reading a few instructions. Jobs like this require serious practise, and you need to build up skills over time. If you start small and do it well, the bigger jobs will naturally follow.

3. You can’t do it all

I’ve tried most things, and I’ve found that there are some jobs I’m good at and enjoy, some I’m good at but don’t enjoy, some I’ll do if I have to, some that I’m good at but too slow, and some where I’ll never get the ‘knack’ however much I try. So if you want to be a good all-rounder, try and specialise in a few areas and be aware of the know-how for the other stuff as this will help you plan the correct order of work and stand you in good stead when you need to employ professional help.

4. Make a plan

There are unfinished jobs across the land because of poor planning. Don’t start a job unless you know how it can be finished, whether that requires you to finish it, or someone else. This also links in with keeping to a budget as it’s no good starting something that you can’t afford to finish. So read up, decide exactly what you’re going to do, make an order of work, and see if you’ve got the money, being sure to build in a small contingency fund for unforeseen problems. Do this with everything but the very smallest jobs as until you write things down, you often misjudge exactly how much time, skill, and money is involved.

5. Buy the best quality you can afford

It really does make a difference buying quality. If you buy cheap tools you make doing the job more difficult, and if you buy cheap materials, things break, need more coats, don’t last as long, are more difficult to use, and are therefore counter productive. There are exceptions, but that’ll be a subject for a future post! We’ve all got to work within a budget, but working with good kit and materials will generally benefit the finished product.

More soon – hope this has given you a good start.

Best,

Julian

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