Getting Started with a DIY Project

Today’s renovation shows have bred the idea that renovating is easy and accessible to everyone. Some projects can be with enough practice, confidence and determination, but knowing how much to take on can be tricky for first time renovators. It is difficult to know the full extent or cost of a project when you are just starting out, even when it’s something small. 

Our backyard was sloping in toward the house and needed to be completely regraded. We removed the brick that covered the back, regraded and installed a french drain to keep water flowing away from the house.

We always take pride in telling people that we did the work on our projects and it is usually followed by a comment about how they wish they had the experience to do it themselves. But to be honest, most of our projects are a first for us too. Whether it’s renovating a kitchen or building an outdoor bench, a lot of it is trial and error the first time – fueled by just enough confidence to set forth on a vision without fully knowing how it’ll turn out. Some things may have to be redone, rethought, reengineered, or recycled into a completely different project, but that’s part of the fun.

Before embarking on one of these projects on your own, there’s a few questions that you need to ask yourself:

  1. Is the time and money put into a project expendable enough that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if it all had to be scrapped half-way through?
  2. Are you mildly confident that the new skill sets learned off of YouTube or blog posts will work eventually?
  3. Is the project very difficult, but worth trying to save money?

If the answer to these three questions is yes, you’re probably ready to give your project a try on your own first! 

After regrading, we laid the brick back down and added pebbles to the side of the yard to make the space more dynamic.

As always, the first place you want to start is with your budget. How much will this project cost you and (hopefully) save in the long run? You can begin this by starting a comprehensive list of materials – maybe overbudgeting a little in case you need to go back to a home improvement store more than once. You’ll also want to estimate how much it may cost if you have to call in a professional to finish the job if it is something essential to the home. You can redo built-in shelves as many times as you want, but if your shower is out of commission for a few days, it’s going to become an emergency situation FAST! 

In addition to compiling a resource material list and budget, it’s also important to develop a timeline on the project, especially if it’s something that might cause an inconvenience to your daily life. Some projects can be done at a leisurely pace in the backyard, basement, or a non-essential room, but others can create a big inconvenience on your day-to-day activities. Creating a timeline for your project will ensure that more essential projects are completed on a reasonable timeline and motivate you to stay on task. 

From there, it’s all about trial and error until you find your way. We lovingly refer to most of our projects as just messing around because that’s usually all it is. A lot of these larger projects are  new to us, requiring new tools and skill sets for each project and not fully knowing what the final product will be. You can start with a picture in your head, but after getting into it, the project might evolve into something else. Not being afraid to get your hands dirty and getting out of your comfort zone is important to any home DIY’er.  Start with smaller projects to build up core skills, like using a drill or getting familiar with saws and work your way up. If you haven’t used a saw before, you probably don’t want to rip up your floors to install hardwood, complete a couple of pieces of furniture or shelves first and work your way up.

Our finished entertaining space in the backyard!

Sweat equity not only makes financial sense, it also builds pride. DIY is incredibly rewarding and something even those with no renovation. experience should try. Start by wading into the shallow section, not diving off the deep end.

What was your first DIY project or what do you want to start with next? We’d love to hear what you’re working on!

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