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Planning Your DIY Project

By Alan Woodbridge

Ready to start your first serious DIY project? Read through the checklist below to make sure you are well prepared to start - and finish! - the job:

1. Do an overview of the project, making sure that you understand all its requirements. Sometimes imagining that you have been hired to do the job may help you take a better perspective on what it will take to complete the task.

2. Be realistic about your expectations. If you are just a beginning DIYer, consider completing a few small projects (like putting up shelves or fixing a garden fence) before attempting a major one. Ideally, for your first big DIY project you should select an area where it will least affect your lifestyle if left unfinished - for example, your basement or outdoors. Don't attempt replumbing the house as your first project!

3. Know where to seek help if needed. Your sources might include DIY books and magazines, relevant web sites, and DIY-savvy friends and relatives. If you are about to venture into a completely new territory, you might find it helpful to hire a professional for a few hours and try to learn the essential techniques from them.

4. Make a list of materials you need - and buy them all BEFORE you start the project. This will minimize the need for frustrating runs to the store, allowing you to completely focus on the job.

There are many online tools available for estimating the quantity of materials (like paint or tiles) that you need for a project - make use of those to save time. Some useful online estimators can be found here: (It is also a good time saving idea to add about 10% to your calculated material requirements to allow for waste.)

5. Make a realistic budget. Remember to budget for little things such as nails, screws, hinges etc. The little things, when combined, tend to add up to significant amounts that are often overlooked during the planning stage.

6. Make a schedule. Be sure to allow for unexpected delays or having to redo parts of the project. If you project is based outdoors, don't forget to take weather conditions into account. Consider how possible interruptions in the project are likely to affect your daily routines, and plan accordingly. For example, if your place has only one bathroom, you would want to finish any bathroom renovation project as quickly as possible.

As with material estimators, there are time estimates available online and in printed sources on how long it takes to complete certain tasks. Again, adding 10% to the suggested time requirement may save you unnecessary frustration.

Remember that every project is unique. Think where you are most likely to encounter problems, and allow extra time for figuring out solutions. Some problems are fixed pretty quickly - it is figuring out how to do it that can be time consuming.

7. Know what motivates you best and have a strategy on how to stay motivated. It is important to understand what motivational strategy works best for you, and use it consistently. Have a clear goal in mind all the time while you are on the project. Asking yourself two simple questions - "what will happen if I do?" and "what will happen if I don't?"- is one effective motivational technique. This is especially true in the case of DIY, where your actions or lack thereof are likely to have immediate - and tangible - results.

8. Last but not least - don't beat yourself when something does not go according to plan, especially if you are just starting out. This includes bad time estimates that tend to be the number one cause of frustration in DIYers. Remember that no job is exactly the same no matter how many times you do it, so you cannot possibly plan for everything. That said, your estimating and project management skills should improve over time.

Alan Woodbridge writes about DIY projects, home improvement, and personal motivation. He is a member of the team that runs

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About the Author
MSM is a Practicing Planning Agent & building design team offering Architectural Services to their clients specialising in residential development.  The views & opinions expressed here are personal ones based on relevant life experiences.  These views & opinions are not intended to be actioned or copied by others.

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