What to Know Before Starting a DIY Home Improvement Project

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Handy homeowners dream of adding value to their homes and saving money by using their skills to perform repairs and create enhancements to their houses. Outcomes often aren’t exactly what these enthusiasts had in mind. Here’s what to know before starting a DIY home improvement project.

Know Whether You Need a Permit

Any kind of work that involves more than minor repairs will likely require plans and a permit. Doing work off-permit can cost you down the line, with fines and even lawsuits when a buyer discovers the improvised improvements. Upgrading electrical systems, replacing plumbing fixtures, and relocating walls are the kinds of things that local housing and zoning boards regulate with building codes that require permits and inspections, for everyone’s safety.

Know the Limits of Your Skills

Electricians, plumbers, and carpenters undergo years of training and apprenticeship to learn their trade. The ability to install a light fixture doesn’t make you an electrician, and measuring and cutting plywood isn’t enough to call yourself a carpenter. Emergency rooms see far too many ladder-related injuries, so if you have a problem with heights, you might want to think twice about spending days on an extension ladder, scraping and painting. If you are working on an older home, you may encounter hazards like lead paint and asbestos that require professional remediation. Don’t even think about hoisting a sledgehammer if you can’t identify a load-bearing wall or a weakened joist. Your project will become extra costly if the upstairs bathroom tub ends up on your downstairs living room floor.

Know the Difference Between Television and Reality

It looks so easy on television. A run-down dump of a house blossoms into a sleek, spacious showplace in what seems like a few days. The fact is that the work takes much longer than it seems in a final, edited television program. If you look closely, you may even notice the seasons changing in the background, and you can count the army of different professionals trooping through the home, often on the program producer’s dime. Your project will take longer and probably cost more than you think. Make a detailed plan and budget for both time and materials before you begin your project.

Know Whether You Have the Right Tools

A few screwdrivers, a wrench, and a hammer—what more could you possibly need? Specialized tools exist for all kinds of repair and renovation jobs from demo to drywall to cutting tile. Even if you already own a nail gun and know how to use it without impaling yourself, think about things like whether you know the difference between cleats and staples to fasten flooring, what kind of fasteners you should use to attach decorative molding, and the proper way to secure roofing materials.

The most important thing to know before starting a DIY home improvement project is when to ask for help. Forging ahead into unknown territory can sap your patience, drain your bank account, and ruin your results. Don’t pay for renovations twice. There is no shame in calling in a professional for the parts of the job that are beyond you. A more beautiful and more valuable home may depend on you swallowing your pride and stepping aside.

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