Before you DIY, do your research

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Saving money by doing home repair projects yourself sounds pretty tempting. And it all looks so easy on TV! But beware: Household jobs have a way of taking on a life of their own. So whether the plan is to fix a leaky sink or remodel the whole kitchen, first check out these tips on how to DIY the right way.

Read up

Know all the steps before you start. That might mean reading articles, watching how-to videos, or even signing up for a class to learn the basics — or learn that you’re getting in over your head.

“Part of taking a class is possibly at the end saying, ‘This isn’t for me,’” says Stacey Hendricks, head of the education committee at the West Philly Tool Library, which lends tools so you don’t have to break the bank buying new ones.

Even if you decide not to DIY, Hendricks adds, once you’ve done the research you’ll know the right questions to ask when choosing a contractor.

Start small
“People have to be realistic about the amount of time and work it’s going to take,” Hendricks cautions. He suggests testing your skills and speed with a small project. If the goal is to install hardwood floors, for example, try building a wooden shelf: “If you wind up with cut fingers and rickety shelves, you might want to hire someone for those floors.”

Try teamwork

Some contractors are happy to guide homeowners through a project, for a fee, and pitch in only for the parts that call for a professional. Because, hey, some money is better than no money.

“I’ll talk them through it on the phone, or go over and show them how to fix it themselves,” says contractor Brian Hastings, who offers “DIY consultation services” and also posts home repair and remodeling tips on his website, PhillyDIY.com.

“It’s the least amount of money,” he says, “but instead of not getting the job at all because the customer can’t afford to pay for the whole thing, it’s better to work with the customer.”


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