How to Get Better at Home DIY

You could pay a contractor thousands of dollars to install new kitchen cabinets, tile your floors and paint your walls, or you could pay just a couple hundred dollars and do the job yourself.

If you don’t have a high budget for home renovations, DIY makes clear financial sense.

Unfortunately, not everyone is well-equipped to perform tasks around the home, and often, going into a job without experience or knowledge is a good way to make costly mistakes that impact the final look and function of your home. It is possible to improve your DIY skills even while you complete home renovation projects — and here’s how.

Have a Knowledgeable, Experienced Mentor

Malcolm Gladwell popularized the myth that if you spend 10,000 hours doing something, you’ll become a master — but that’s not the whole story. There is a difference between mindless attempts and concerted, deliberate practice, and that difference typically revolved around having an experienced and knowledgeable coach.

Especially when it comes to something as expensive and dangerous as home DIY, having a mentor on hand could save you from spending way too much time, energy and money on your project. A mentor doesn’t have to be a paid contractor; you might lean on a family member, like a handy uncle, a friend, a neighbor or even a staff member at your local hardware store. You might use different mentors for different projects, changing coaches as you require different kinds of expertise. They also don’t have to be on-hand for every step of the project, but they should be available for planning and questions as you progress.

By leaning on someone with more knowledge and experience, you will increase your DIY skill. In fact, you might eventually serve as a mentor for someone else, which helps you develop and solidify your skill.

Own the Right Tools for the Job

A painter is never going to reach the ranks of Rembrandt or Picasso if she doesn’t have brushes — and you are never going to finish your home DIY projects properly if you don’t have the right tools. In some cases, you can work with what you have on hand, but for many steps of most major renovations, you need specific instruments, like power tools.

Before you start buying whatever tools you see, you should talk to your mentor about the equipment you will need for the job ahead. Then, you should compare costs and research reviews of available options. Often, brands like Milwaukee tools have outstanding reputations for quality, longevity and customer service, and you can find them at your local hardware store, too.

Plan, Review and Plan Again


Few projects succeed when they aren’t founded on preparation. Smaller projects might only need a day or so of planning, but if you are considering a major change to your home — like a remodel, an addition or something similarly big — you might need to take weeks or months to plan.

Again, you need to take time to talk over your ideas with your mentor to ensure both of you understand what steps to take and in what order. You should also understand how much the project will cost, so you won’t experience delays due to lack of funds. Finally, you should make a timeline for your project, so you understand how long each step should take.

It’s true that almost every element of your plan will likely shift as you work through the project, but if you continue to refer to your plans, you will stay on track. Finishing your project is key to gaining all the skills associated with the project, so you can’t stop short of the absolute end. Even when you grow tired of the project or frustrated by a pernicious problem, you need to stay committed — that’s how you learn and improve.

Know What You Simply Cannot Do

Finally, even those with a lifetime of home DIY experience know that there are things they cannot accomplish on their own. Some jobs require extensive equipment; others require licenses and permits that you, as an amateur, cannot obtain. If your mentor(s) decide that a certain project is outside your current abilities, you should respect that decision and look for a qualified, trustworthy professional to take over.

Home DIY is a budget-savvy, fun and rewarding way to add value to your real estate investment, and improving your DIY skills is far from impossible. As long as you have someone to guide you, tools, preparation and plenty of patience, you can accomplish almost any project.

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