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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
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:
http://www.construction-resource.com/construction-calculator.php. (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
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