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How to avoid common DIY disasters

Doing it yourself can be satisfying, but for many novice DIYers home repairs can be fraught with pitfalls. If you’re looking to tackle a big project in the near future, here are some common mistakes to avoid.

Not setting a realistic schedule: Too often people have unrealistic expectations about how long a project will take. Often projects end up being bigger than you originally envision, and if you don’t plan for these sorts of contingencies, you could end up living in a never-ending construction site. Even small projects can fall victim to the problem of unrealistic scheduling. Setting aside a single day to repaint the living room, for instance, can cause problems if you find out too late that your chosen paint color requires a coat of primer underneath, doubling the time it takes to do the job.

Not lining up all your materials before you start: Nothing sends a project spiraling out of control like failing to have everything on hand when you start a project. Do-it-yourselfers could save themselves a ton of headaches, and added trips to the hardware store, by making a list of materials and checking it twice. But it often an an all-too-common scenario emerges: A supplier promises that the new bathroom tiles will be in next week so an eager DIYer looking to get a jump on the project starts ripping out the old floor. Then the supplier calls to say the delivery date has shifted, or that the wrong tiles have arrived, and now you’re stuck with a torn up bathroom floor for the next four weeks. Prevent your next project from becoming a DIY nightmare by having everything you need on hand from day one.  

Overlooking the permits: Many DIYers think that a project is so small enough that it doesn’t need a permit. Or they fear that a new addition might bump up their property taxes, so they don’t bother filing the right paperwork with the city. But not getting the right documentation for your addition can cause your house to fail a building inspection someday when you’re looking to move, causing the the potential sale to fall through. Avoid trouble down the road and get the proper permits for the job before you start.  

DIY work that you shouldn’t do yourself: If you’re not a licensed electrician, you probably should attempt to do complex electrical work. And the same goes for other tasks that legally require a licensed technician. Sure, you might have great DIY skills and maybe you can get the job done nearly as well as a pro can, but taking on this sort of work can come back to haunt you later. A bungled job can lead to an electrical fire or roof collapsing, and, depending on your homeowners insurance, problems caused by unlicensed work might not be covered, leaving your out-of-pocket to do the repairs. A big part of being a successful DIYer is knowing when to call in a professional.

Not turning to the Internet: There was a time — let’s call it the DIY dark ages — when when tackling a task was a mixture of luck and foolishness and the end result was somewhere between disaster and mediocrity. But those days are long behind us. Even simple tasks, like painting, can benefit from the experience of others. YouTube is the DIYers best friend and offers tons of videos on basic DIY tips, complete renovation walkthrough and tool reviews. Instructables is another great resource, a site where people share step-by-step guides to projects they have undertaken. So not matter what the project, make sure you do your research, get on a few DIY message board to ask advice and watch a few videos first.