Here’s a quick tip for anyone trying to finish up a DIY project quickly:
Step One: Open up your wallet.
Congratulations! You’re finished.
On television and social media, DIY projects look so easy. And they are, if you’re an expert. However, unless your last name is Gaines, or you’re Ben Uyeda, the best-case scenario for most DIY projects is loss of money and time. The worst is a trip to the hospital.
For the most part, people are entirely unrealistic when it comes to all aspects of DIY. A major kitchen renovation cannot be completed in a weekend or two. Refinishing a flea market find is not as easy as baking a cake from a box. So, really what are we all trying to prove here?
Putting The Ramshackle In Ramshackle Glam
As the creator of Ramshackle Glam, Jordan Reid has felt the pressure to present Instagram perfect DIY projects. Many years ago, she was asked by a prominent crafting company to make a piece of jewelry and along with a step-by-step tutorial.
There was just one big problem. “The sum total of my experience making jewelry was the string friendship bracelets I’d sold in the lobby of my parents’ building for two dollars a pop when I was eight,” she tells me.
But Reid made it work. “I whipped up a passably cute multi-strand leather-and-silver bracelet, photographed it, and posted the how-to on my site anyway, figuring hey, this is clearly an if I can do it, anyone can, moment.”
But despite the pressure of social media, Reid stresses that she’s always tried to present herself as, “a person who’s kind of okay at stuff like cooking, decor, and DIY, and who’s up for trying new projects, even if those projects fail.”
However, when she begins to compare herself to the rest of social media, like most people, Reid doesn’t end up feeling good about herself. “Whenever I’ve done that, I’ve immediately noticed everything I’m doing wrong— from the fact that I don’t wander around with perfectly beach-waved hair to the fact that my photographic skills are only meh.”
Reid has ultimately learned to make peace with her DIY skills or lack thereof, “My projects usually look like normal-person projects, which is extremely not the norm these days,” she says.
Trying to remain true to herself and her audience is more important than creating that perfect aesthetic. “It’s important for me to resist the pull to be something other than what I am because if I try to be one of these women, I think I’d lose the whole point of what I’m trying to say.”
So the blogger chooses projects she can complete “semi from scratch.” This is probably the most realistic approach for everyone, but sometimes these lessons must be learned the hard way.
Even Simple Projects Can Go Horribly Wrong
Hanging curtains is easy, right? Not exactly. When Latasha James wanted to jazz up her apartment’s boring blinds, she thought installing curtains would be a great idea. “I looked up some DIYs online and decided to buy brackets, tape, and a curtain rod to attach the curtains onto my concrete ceiling,” she says.
James even documented what she thought at the time was a DIY success story on YouTube. For a few days, her apartment looked great, until she came home to her partner frantically running around with paper towels. “I looked up and noticed bright red wine spilling all over our floor. We had a little bar cart that sat right below the curtains. The curtains fell down—brackets and all, knocking wine bottles down and breaking them.”
Luckily her flooring was laminate so they were able to clean up the mess before there were any negative consequences. But not everyone is so lucky.
Leave Cleaning To The Experts
Philadelphia publicist Allison Weiss Brady is never shy about hiring help, but sometimes help is unavailable. When her daughters had a sleepover, one of their guests left a red popsicle on the white carpet overnight.
“It was a Saturday and the carpet cleaner didn’t open until Monday, so I tried sparkling water, soap, and then pondered the suggestion that I trim the carpet fibers to get rid of the stain. I didn’t cut it.”
Her efforts didn’t cut it either. When the carpet cleaner arrived the following Monday, it was too late because the stain was already set it. “So now a gymnastics tumbling mat sits on top of that red stain. We figure we’ll re-carpet it when we become empty nesters,” she says.
Perhaps she should have found a professional with better availability.
The Wrong Siding
Art therapist Elyse Adelberg-Miller and her husband Steve are homeowners on Long Island, New York. A decade ago, they noticed a small number of shingles (approximately half a wall’s worth) needed replacing. The project seemed easy enough, so they went to a big box store for supplies and some direction.
“As we were stapling the black paper we heard a ton of buzzing,” Adelberg-Miller shares. “We had bees in the wall. Needless to say, I ran, screamed and we had to hire an exterminator and contractor. I would not go into my backyard for weeks. I wanted to move!”
But the incident turned out to be a timely break. “Apparently because the shingles were from the 1940s, pieces broke off and the bees found their way in. They were carpenter bees. The exterminator said it was lucky we found them because they could have made their way through the interior wall and into the house.”
So, when it came time to re-side the entire home several years ago, the Millers hired professionals. “But I stayed very clear of the house when it was done. The kids and I stayed at my parents for a few days,” she says.
Everyone Has Limits
There are plenty of people who are skilled when it comes to DIY, they’re called contractors, craftspeople and artisans. But while Mike Smith (whose name has been changed) is far handier than most people, he has a desk job. So when his master bathroom needed some upgrades, he naturally went the DIY route. Most aspects of the project went incredibly well. He installed a new tub, marble tiles and fixtures perfectly. All of the work truly looked professional.
Then Smith hit a snag when attempting some minor demolition that was just above his skill level. He ended up exposing a pipe in the wall that was covered in white insulation, which may or may not have been hazardous. While nothing bad happened, it could have ended in disaster for someone with a heavier hand.
Want to burn through cash on your home renovation projects quickly? It’s easy to do yourself. According to a survey of more than 1000 homeowners conducted by Clovered, 85.2% went the DIY route to save money.
There are times when this is a logical choice. For example, the same survey showed the DIY price of unclogging a toilet drain is $5. A professional can charge anywhere from $85-$520. Most people can figure out how to use a plunger or snake a drain with minimal risk.
But for the most part, DIY is a lose-lose situation. According to the same data, installing a kitchen sink yourself can cost approximately $200. But a professional installation runs just $99. The best-case scenario here is losing $100. The worst-case is flooding your entire home.
Then there’s the risk of hurting yourself. The survey revealed the most common DIY injuries are accidentally cutting the skin with a tool, hitting yourself with a hammer, and tripping over materials. None of these is an ideal way to end a productive afternoon.
Furthermore, according to the CDC, more than half a million people are treated for ladder-related injuries every year. Clearly, there’s a reason why they’ve established March as National Ladder Safty Month. While not all of these injuries are due to DIY projects, it’s a startling statistic to keep in mind.
Logic is key. If you’re putting your home on the market and you’ve never painted before, it’s probably not the ideal time to learn. But you don’t need to consult a professional to choose the paint or buy supplies. Your local paint store should suffice.
Then use a service such as Thumbtack to find quotes from local professionals. Thumbtack verifies licensing (which is a must for electrical, plumbing and demolition projects) as well as provides ranking, reviews, availability, etc. You can also request a quote. They have professionals for every type of home improvement project from electricians, to tile installation, gardening, plumbing and more.
The key is to find a happy medium. While many people feel intimidated to ask for help, streamlining the process with some assistance can prevent major problems and stress.
You can also use professionals to help with particular aspects of a DIY project. For example, if you find a great dining table at a local flea market you’d love to re-paint, it’s probably best to leave the sanding to someone who knows how to use a power tool. When ready to show it off to your guests or on social media, you can still be proud of your semi-DIY project. You will have saved cash, time and potentially a trip to the ER. You’ll be the only person who knows the difference.