10 smart tips for a stress-free DIY reno

Itching to tackle a home improvement project? Follow these expert tips to ensure DIY success.

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Photo, Angus McRitchie.

1. Create a plan

While most before-and-after projects appear quick and easy to complete at first glance, there’s often more elbow grease required than meets the eye. It’s helpful to do a little online research prior to rolling up your sleeves and seek out how-to videos or step-by-step tutorials that will help you create a DIY plan and nail every step.

2. Get advice from a pro

If you’re planning to tackle a home improvement project yourself, it’s always helpful to get a professional opinion first to ensure a successful end result. For example, calling in a designer for a consultation or hiring a home inspector can provide unique insight and help you foresee potential issues in your own home. For insurance and liability purposes, it’s also important to find out if licensed trade professionals and permits are required to complete the work so that you are protected should something not go according to plan.

3. Determine your budget

One of the motivating factors for many DIY-ers is the potential to save money by flexing a little do-it-yourself muscle rather than hiring a pro. Although sweat equity may be free, it’s still important to create a realistic estimate of required materials and compile a complete project budget. The last thing any homeowner wants is to run out of motivation or money part way through.  At the end of the day, your time is valuable too, and some grueling or more specialized tasks may be well worth your investment in dollars to hire a pro rather than your investment of blood, sweat and tears.


Related: 10 tips to survive a reno


4. Estimate your time

Regardless of how big or small a project is, most DIY-ers fail to create realistic timelines to complete the work. It’s important to sit down before you begin a project and write out every step in sequence, then make a list of materials and costs associated with each step, and finally apply an estimate of time to each phase of the project. You often hear about adding 10 to 20 percent for material overages … well, it’s also helpful to add 10 to 20 percent more time to a project than what was originally estimated to account for bumps along the way. Accounting for things like dry time for paint is important to keeping your project on schedule. After all, there’s nothing worse than a project taking longer than you expected and then leaving it incomplete.

5. Safety first

Having safety gear on-hand and taking extra precautions to protect yourself and your home from a potential DIY disaster is more important than the actual home improvement project itself. Invest in appropriate personal safeguards such as goggles, work gloves, a hard hat and steel toe boots, depending on the project, and avoid wearing baggy clothing that could get caught in power tools and moving parts. When it comes to your work environment, make sure your surroundings are clutter-free and valuables are packed away and protected. Remember, a clean workspace is a safe workspace!

6. Don’t skimp on the prep work

The anticipation of refreshing kitchen cabinets with a new coat of paint can make it tempting to skimp on the ever important steps of sanding and priming, but keep in mind that the prep work is arguably 90 percent of the DIY battle. Using prep essentials, such as the proper grit of sand paper and high quality primers to ensure optimal paint adhesion, will ensure that the end results will be successful and long-lasting.


Related: 5 ways to keep your neighbours happy during a reno


7. Pick the right product for the job

Whether you’re painting a basement bathroom or a backyard shed, it’s important to investigate and invest in the products and finishes that are designed for the environment that they will be going. There’s a product out there for every situation and substrate — you just need to ensure that you choose the best one for your specific job. And when in doubt, seek advice and recommendations from your local home improvement store experts.

8. Have the right tools on hand

Knowledge and experience will certainly help with any do-it-yourself project, but one of the main factors to ensuring a quality end result is using the proper tools. There is a big difference between a piece of wood cut with a hand saw vs. using a compound double-bevel mitre saw. Many home improvement centres now offer tool rental options for “weekend warrior” projects, but for longer do-it-yourself renovations, consider investing to own. Purchasing quality hand and power tools can actually save DIY-ers a lot of time to complete a project, can minimize material damages, therefore saving money and frustration.

9. Practice makes perfect

If you’re treading into new DIY waters with a project or skill that you’ve never tried before, it’s important to take the time to practice first with scrap materials before you attempt to complete the finished product. Whether you’re learning how to cut crown moulding bevels with scrap wood, or testing out a faux finish treatment on a sample board, it’s helpful to perfect your technique prior to diving in to avoid costly mistakes and wasted resources.

10. Know your limit, DIY within it!

If you’re not 100 percent confident about using power tools or going up a ladder, then don’t! Accidents happen when people are nervous or intimidated by an unfamiliar or uncomfortable task. Luckily, there are many local workshops offered at home improvement centres that can help DIY-ers gain the hands-on experience and knowledge to successfully execute their next DIY project with confidence.

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