It’s the thought running through my head every time I find a piece of decor I’d love to put in my home. Could I make this myself or should I just buy it now? The curse of being a craft and DIY addict is strong. My initial response is always, I could totally make this! Sometimes the rational side of my brain takes a vacation. This has led me to more than one bad DIY decision. When I think about DIY projects, it’s like I enter a time warp. My expectations of the time needed always ends up being unrealistic. I seem to magically forget about everything else we have going on in our lives and think — oh, this will just take an afternoon or a few days… Almost always, I’m wrong.
So that you can avoid my plight, I’ve accumulated a list of things you should consider before your DIY decision. After all, we all live incredibly busy lives. For the most part we aren’t contractors who do this every day. It often takes a lot longer for us to do these projects than we think!
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Level of Expertise Required
I have this fatal flaw of believing I can learn to do anything. This has led to brief stints of learning everything from coding to holistic medical trends. Seriously, I’m a knowledge junkie. I just like to learn things. Unfortunately, that sometimes means I’m grossly unprepared for a lot of the projects I hope to tackle. Anthony reminds me all the time not to choke up on my hammer — a tool I first started using as a pre-teen! You’d think I’d know that one by now…
Anyways — with any project (especially when you’re just starting out), there’s bound to be a learning curve. I watch a TON of HGTV and DIY Network, but by no means am I on contractor level. I always do my homework before beginning a project. When we re-tiled the bathroom in my condo up in CT this past year, I learned a lot about choosing appropriate grout, spacers, and all kinds of tiling knowledge. I watched how the experts did it on my favorite shows. I wrote down every tip I heard. Still, the actual doing was SO much different. Knowing what I do now, I’d definitely never tile in the middle of winter again. Not being able to use a tile saw made our project so much harder than it needed to be.
Always take into account how much you’ll have to learn before you tackle a project. Learning takes time t00, and with our busy lives, it’s just not always feasible to do every project ourselves.
Measure, Measure, and Measure Again
You’ve heard me say before that measuring isn’t my strong suit. I measure things and then Anthony checks my measurement and ALWAYS finds flaw with it. While it doesn’t always matter, when you’re trying to make a recessed bookshelf, a quarter inch is A LOT to be off by. He saved us so much extra work by double checking my measurements and catching my mistake. I read in Lara Spencer’s Flea Market Fabulous* that she always keeps a list of dimensions at hand when she’s looking for pieces. That way, she doesn’t buy any unnecessarily large or small pieces. Pure genius, if you ask me. Of course, that requires taking accurate measurements in the first place, but that’s what I have Anthony for, right? 😛
I can’t express enough the importance of measuring. You wouldn’t believe how many headaches it prevents down the road. Since I use a bullet journal, a lot of my measurements end up in there. That way, I never have to worry about losing that little slip of paper (or the back of a receipt) that I wrote them on.
ALWAYS Hire Out When…
Okay, so there are some things I always hire out. Whenever there is major electrical, plumbing, or structural work, you can bet I’m on the phone to schedule appointments to get quotes. There are a few basics I’m comfortable with — and even more Anthony will do himself. I’ve actually gotten pretty good at switching out outlets. But, there are some things you just need a licensed professional for — like upgrading a panel.
Now, there are a lot more things we can do ourselves (even though neither of us is a contractor) because Anthony’s dad is a carpenter and works on construction jobs all the time. The man is a walking tank of knowledge when it comes to these things. He also knows a lot of people so if we have questions we always have someone to ask. Where this really comes in handy is when we have to hire someone to do work, but we want to make sure they’re giving us a fair deal (and that they actually know what they’re talking about). While we always get multiple quotes for big jobs, we do like to know we’re getting what we need and what we paid for. So, we always double check about things we aren’t familiar with.
In some ways, Anthony’s dad is our DIY saving grace. We both learn so much every time he comes to help us, and it’s really nice having family around. 🙂 We live a few hours away from our closest family members, so family time is always precious. Plus, we have the comfort of knowing if we have to hire out, we have an expert pair of eyes to let us know if anything was neglected or done improperly.
Cost of Materials vs. Cost of Pre-made
Nobody loves a thrifty DIY more than I do, so if I’m building something from scratch, I make sure that it’s going to save me some money. Otherwise, why am I taking the time to do it? With renovations, we do a lot of demo and small work ourselves to save money. But, when it comes to making furniture and other small projects, usually it will depend on the cost. A prime example is light fixtures. There are so many cool fixtures at thrift stores and salvage yards that just need a little paint and re-wiring to be brought back to life. Also, light fixtures can be one of the pricier items to buy, so it’s usually better to find something we can upcycle.
With furniture, it’s usually a toss up. Unless we can find something to repurpose or refinish at a thrift store, it usually ends up being more expensive (and more time-consuming) than we can afford. This makes it worth paying someone else to do it. That may change as our DIY skills expand, but I imagine there will always be things we decide to buy over building ourselves. I don’t know about you, but building a couch from scratch seems a little outside of my realm of possibility.
Even if you’re just looking for materials, it’s important to do some shopping around. Even if it’s just checking prices online between stores, this is a step you shouldn’t skip. Also, don’t write off your local thrift and salvage stores. You never know what gems you’ll find when you walk in. Try to see beyond the current condition and think about what kind of love it needs — a coat of paint, a new fabric seat, etc. Once you start looking at things this way, you’ll soon become as addicted to DIY as I am. 😉
Especially when you’re doing a big job, you want to save money everywhere you can. That’s why it’s so important to get multiple quotes for a contracting job. Quotes are free, so why not take advantage? By doing so, we’ve saved hundreds of dollars just on one job. Trust me, you can always use the extra cash in your contingency.
As any DIYer knows, there is more than one way to tackle a project. Maybe there’s a technique you haven’t learned that will make your project easier. I recently learned how to make a faux wood finish using paint and furniture wax* that literally takes a quarter of the time it took us to refinish our dining room set with stain and polyurethane. Granted, if you expect your surface to take a beating, poly is definitely a better way to go. Plus, sometimes it pays to put in the extra time to get the look you want.
In any case, if you’re worried about your expertise, time, or the cost of materials, try looking up alternate methods of completing your project. There are tons of awesome bloggers out there who have figured out some serious hacks. Utilize their expertise!
How Will It Fit In Your Space?
Part of the fun of creating a new space is fusing all your pieces together. Sometimes this happens all in one shot when you’re doing a big renovation. Other times, it’s little tweaks and updates along the way that really make a space. In either case, make sure to keep in mind how a finished project will fit into your space. I find it helpful to sketch out my ideas first and print pictures (or rip them from magazines) of my “ideal pieces.” This mini-vision board helps me figure out what I think I can feasibly do myself.
Color = Easiest DIY Decision & Easy to Change!
I have to admit, I do something a little weird when it comes to choosing a color palette in any room. I actually choose the paint color last. I do this partially because a lot of my tastes in wall color are neutral and light anyways. So, I focus most of my color decisions on fabrics and furniture. Then, I find a paint color that fits the rest of the room. I use a lot of grays on my walls. That way, the colors I choose for accent pillows and other pieces really pop and draw the eye.
The way I see it, there are three things in the room that are inexpensive to change: paint, wall decor, and small accessories like throw pillows and accents. These also tend to be the places where I put the majority of my color choices. After all, if I keep the main pieces timeless and neutral, I can update the look of my space by making small, inexpensive changes instead of costly, big ones. Paint, especially, is the easiest and most cost-effective change. So, I’m not really losing anything by choosing it last.
Just make sure that you’re choosing colors based on what inspires you and your family. If you’re looking for a calm, relaxing feel — choose colors that make you feel calm and relaxed. If you’re like me, you always take stock of how you feel in a room. Put those thoughts in a vault and use them later on when making your own design decisions!
Make Sure It’s Fun!
While it’s true that a lot of DIY projects take a little elbow grease, it should also be a fun way to express your own style and creativity. Sure,
sometimes ahem, often there are parts of projects that are a huge pain in the butt. However, the ability to hold that final project before you and say to yourself, “I made that,” is priceless. It adds personal touches to your home you can’t get with pre-made and pre-bought stuff. It adds a uniqueness and charm that no other home has because you made it with your own two hands. Usually, that outweighs the struggle it takes to get there.
As DIYers, we’re lucky. We get to try new things and create magic every time we DIY. We are the makers, the creatives, and the crafters who make home feel like home. So don’t forget to have fun with it. 😉
Most Importantly, Time
If I could spend my whole day crafting and working on projects, I would. Unfortunately, like most people, I have other responsibilities. I have bills to pay, which means I have to work. Plus, those chores aren’t going to do themselves (and boy do I know it!). When deciding to do a DIY project, the most important thing to consider is time. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How much time do I have to dedicate to this project each day?
- What other responsibilities do I need to think about while I’m working on this project?
- Do I need this done right away or can I work on it gradually?
- How much time should this project take me and do I have that time available?
Even if you have “all the time in the world” (Seriously, who does? And can we trade?), set a deadline. Otherwise, it may become one of those things on your round-to-it list that you find years later and think to yourself — hey, I meant to do this ages ago!
Well, that was a lot of information! I hope you learned something from this post. Please share your DIY Decision insights with me in the comments below, along with any questions or thoughts you might have. I’d love to hear what you think! 🙂
Don’t forget to come back to visit often, because this month we have a lot of organization projects on the list. Stay tuned!
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