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Questions to Ask Before Starting a DIY Home Improvement Project

A do-it-yourself (DIY) home improvement project can be a successful adventure or a costly nightmare. It’s a fact that most people don’t know where to begin even for a minor home improvement venture. Answering the questions below will help you get started on your home improvement project and covers points you might have overlooked.

Planning a Do-it-Yourself (DIY) Home Project

Saving money is the primary reason why homeowners take on DIY projects. Careless planning can quickly devour a home improvement project budget, so it’s important to do a thorough amount of homework before getting started. Account for every cost no matter how small, including (but not limited to) door hinges, nails, screws and all the other seemingly little expenses that can quickly add up.

Our first questions cover cost issues as well as some other basics:

  • Do I have a written plan (including a rough sketch) on paper to show others (hardware store employees, electrician or other help) what I have in mind?
  • Have I thought through, to the best of my knowledge, every detail and every step involved in the project? Have I researched any detail(s) that I am not sure of?
  • Do I need a building permit to carry out the project?
  • Do different phases of the job require inspection to meet building code requirements?
  • How much money do I have to budget for my home project? (Will I need a loan to cover the cost of materials and will it cover at least a portion of any unforeseen costs?)
  • What kind of time frame do I have to complete the job? Compare your answer to: How long will it take me to complete the project, considering I have little or no experience at this sort of thing?
  • Do I have the skills needed to complete the job from start to finish (or the extra money to pay a professional should I get into a jam)?
  • Will I need extra workers (laborers) to help carry out some of the heavier work?
  • Are there any gas lines I need to watch out for or other utilities? (Get a utility worker to check for underground pipes and lines before you start digging!)

Take Advantage of Workshops for DIY Home Improvement Projects

There’s money to be saved in DIY projects, but only if you know what you’re doing. Larger home supply stores often provide free, valuable “how-to workshops” for do-it-yourself enthusiasts. It’s a good idea to attend how-to workshops to learn all you can about your home improvement project.

There’s bound to be some little detail specific to your situation that’s not mentioned in the books. Attending a help session can show you the full realm of installation steps – including unforeseen troubleshooting tips. Attending a workshop can also give you more confidence.

Get All the Facts Regarding Your Home Improvement Project Before Purchasing Materials

A trip to a major home improvement center will give you the chance to see everything you’ll need for your project all in one spot. Don’t buy your materials just yet; you’ll want to take your information home and tweak your final plans. Adding materials prices as you browse will also give you a good indication of what your project will cost.

As you browse the home supply center, keep in mind these five money-saving tips. The tips will get you more for your money and will keep dollars in your pocket after the job is done:

  1. Try to buy all your project materials from one store. It’ll make it easier to get help should you run into a jam and have to call the store for advice. Mixing brands and “rigging” things with incompatible parts can be costly in the long run.
  2. High-grade alternative materials can look like the real thing and be just as durable. Do you want granite counter-tops in your remodeled kitchen, but can’t afford the cost? Then consider an excellent look-alike for a fraction of the money.
  3. Recycle any old materials that can be reused in your new project.
  4. Invest in water-saving and energy-saving materials, green products and energy-efficient appliances to lower monthly utility bills.
  5. Calculate materials carefully, particularly wallpaper, ornamental decor, paneling, carpeting, floor tiles and room tiles. Dye lots and styles can vary slightly from one shipment to the next. You don’t want to have to go back to the store for more product because you didn’t buy enough the first time around.

Plan on a Few Extra Costs for DYI Home Projects

Unless you’re using a kit with all the pieces provided, or you’ve had prior experience with the job at hand, you’re probably going to have to make at least one extra trip to the home center. And too, you can’t always anticipate things that could go wrong. Here are some guidelines and questions that could involve unforeseen costs:

  • Painting a room and refinishing furniture are two common projects for home project DIYers. Don’t forget ceiling and trim paint if needed. For wallpaper, add glue and cutting tools to the budget. Sandpaper, stripper, paint thinner, primer, brushes and furniture covers are other costs to consider.
  • What power tools will I need? Can I rent certain tools to save money?
  • Am I prepared to handle unexpected problems like rotting sub-flooring, carpenter ants or termite damage? How about uneven walls and/or a substandard foundation?
  • Did I include delivery costs and any fees accrued in the budget?
  • Did I add safety goggles, sturdy gloves, ear plugs or any other safety equipment to the list of mandatory supplies?
  • Don’t forget to consider the proximity of trees if adding a room or setting up a building such as a shed, garage or other free-standing structure. Consider your property line when adding on or building, too.
  • Have a list of emergency contacts (electrician, plumber, utilities) should you need it.
  • I’m going to need a professional to do some of the work. Is the person/company fully insured and a highly-rated member of the Better Business Bureau (BBB)?

DIY projects can save money, but only if you have a handle on every aspect. Take your plans, measurements and a drawing of what you want to accomplish to your favorite home supply store. Ask an onsite clerk or professional for help on any project steps that are unclear. The extra effort to do the job right comes with a great reward. The end result will be a satisfying accomplishment that will last for years to come.

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