It seems so simple. First you pick up the sledgehammer, then you smash a giant hole in your wall, and then, through some cursory skills you’ve gleaned from a TV reno show or the Internet, your home magically becomes ready for its close-up. Except, this is real life. There isn’t some star wipe that’ll flash before your family room, leaving behind the perfect insulation job or electrical grade repairs. More often than not, DIY-ers jump into it because they’re over-confident.
Rob Koci, editor-in-chief of Canadian Contractor and expert on the new DIY show Blood, Sweat and Tools (debuts April 13 at 10 P.M. ET on Discovery) knows this scenario well, and he comes with a truth bomb for an eager Mr. and Mrs. amateur fix-it: “Someone dropped it into their head that it’s easy. One of the challenges since 1995, when the big box stores came in, was the message we’ve received that it’s easy,” Koci tells us. “Just go ahead and do it [is the message]. I appreciate the sentiment – you probably could do it, but do the research first.”
The First Mistake
We’re part of a generation that is constantly told we can do anything, and be anything. This is good – you should open your mind to possibility, but you should also be smart about it. Just because you want to be a doctor, doesn’t mean you’ll be a doctor. And just because you think you can rewire your family home’s electrical, doesn’t mean you could or should. “The original confidence is from smart marketing,” says Koci. “Price points are higher at stores, so it’s better for them to sell directly to home owners. Marketing isn’t horrible, but it’s the middle step. [DIY-ers] don’t do enough research.”
The Second Mistake
Confidence leads to pride. If you say you can do something, you’re more likely to try and try again until you’ve squished a square peg through a round hole. “You absolutely can’t jump into plumbing or electrical,” stresses Koci. “The one I’ve heard most of is plumbing. S–t runs downhill, that’s it. But the challenge is with regulations and electrical, unless you’ve done the homework.”
He reiterates the homework part because it’s one of the biggest things lacking in people attempting home renos and repairs. There’s often eagerness without the know-how, and that can lead to serious problems. Like, fires, for example. No one wants a fire, so don’t make the kindling. Seems simple, right?
Koci recommends asking questions, and just asking for help. Pick the brain of everyone you know, and someone will know someone who can help. And if, by some great miracle, they do not, call up a contractor and ask for free advice. Contractors are so often viewed as greedy and shady, that people don’t ask for anything. Koci says 99 per cent of the contractors he knows–and has worked with–would be happy to offer their expertise free of charge. Making you happy is called courting, and being wanted is a good thing.
If you’re guilty of the first two mistakes, there’s a good chance you’re not safe from this one either: having personality. Having one isn’t the problem, but not knowing what your personal touches can mean for resell is. For example, say you really love the movie Studio 54, and you really want to recreate the club in your basement. It’s something that’s important to you, so you spend the money and make the changes. When it comes time to sell, if someone doesn’t get it or doesn’t want it, they’ll ask you to change it pre-sale or they’ll ask for a price reduction. Your personal touch could cost you a whole new reno, or a loss on the value of your home. There isn’t always going to be a saint looking to take in a slightly used home with too much of someone else’s personality.
Either be like Koci, and make personal changes because you’re going to “die in [your] house,” or be very aware that you can have your vision, but it won’t always be someone else’s.
Cosmetic changes are huge for resell, says Koci. “Even making muffins and serving coffee can make a difference,” he says. But while it’s important to make your home look good, some of the biggest wastes of money from homeowners doing it themselves are in the finishing details. “Finishing is really difficult. It takes training and precision – it’s very visual and you see it always,” he adds. By finishing, he’s talking of tile, trim, wainscoting and floors. Things you could theoretically do on your own, but they’re also super difficult to get right. If you’re cutting tile, you need to make sure patterns line up, and the same goes for flooring and decorative trim.
If you don’t have the eye for it, or the patience, Koci says the scenario goes something like this: “The wife or partner says ‘dude, this is awful,’ and then they bring in a professional.”
Sound familiar? Well, the truth of the matter is, you can do shoddy work and live with the consequences (ugly trim), but some things don’t “grow on you,” like moisture collected from poorly installed insulation that rots your home’s insides, or a fire from poor electrical that incinerates your handsome abode.
So, yeah, ask questions, talk to someone who really knows and study hard. If you’re gonna DIY, don’t be a DIY dumb dumb. Happy reno-ing!