DIY Tips from an Experienced Weekend Warrior

DIY weekend warriorBy Jess Ulrich

I’m meticulous, fearless and cheap – the perfect trifecta of traits for any DIY weekend warrior. When my husband and I purchased our first home in 2004, we knew we wanted to take on some projects. The condo’s carpets were old and musty; the bathrooms adorned with laminate, cracking tile and dirty grout; and a walk through our kitchen transported us back in time 20 years. While the 1980s are filled with fond memories of our youth, the decade is certainly not known for its timeless kitchen décor. Six months after we moved in, we had a serious plumbing leak in the downstairs bathroom. This marked the beginning of our adventures into the unknown, wild world of do-it-yourself (DIY) projects.

Ten years and two homes later, we’ve learned quite a bit about home improvements. Much of our learning has been trial by fire. Surprise projects came up out of nowhere and we researched as we went. We’ve gutted a bathroom and a half; laid tile and flooring; switched fixtures, faucets and paint colors; refaced cabinets; and replaced doors. If you’re a budding weekend warrior thinking about embarking on your own home improvement adventure, here are a few tips for surviving DIY.

Do Your Homework

The Internet and the library supported the majority of our DIY initiatives over the past decade. Doing your homework can save you the frustration of having to redo things because you got overconfident and winged it. Trust me, do-it-yourself projects take long enough when you do everything right. The last thing you want to do is make mistakes and increase the time you need to invest.

As with anything else, some sources of information are more reliable than others. It’s good practice to learn from well-respected home improvement publications, rather than explore random contractor forums where everyone has a different opinion on the right way to do something. Learning and planning ahead of time will take some of the pain out of renovations.

Be Patient With Each Other

A typical DIY project in our home goes something like this: We start the day with unbridled optimism and several hours later we’re covered in drywall dust and wondering what the heck happened. Depending on the project, this pattern may repeat itself for days. Home improvement projects are stressful. There will be times where every inch of your home will be blanketed in dust and you’ll feel like you’re at the end of your rope. You may or may not be able to use your stove, take a shower or find your wedding band in the rubble because you took it off when you were prying tile up off the subfloor.

One of the most important things we’ve learned through tackling many projects is to be patient with each other. I’m only half-kidding when I say that a month-long hardwood floor installation almost destroyed our marriage. During frustrating moments, keep in mind that you’re both working toward a common goal and the project will eventually end. You may butt heads and lose your temper, but try not to go to bed angry. Instead, remember that even though you may each approach a job a little differently, the end result will be something you built together.

Be Realistic With Your Time Frame

You aren’t a professional contractor and this isn’t home improvement television. In all likelihood, your major kitchen renovation won’t be completed within a week’s time. Lower your expectations because most do-it-yourself projects take at least three times as long as originally planned. Understanding this will help you preserve your sanity. Just because you want something done quickly doesn’t mean that it will get done quickly. Get some benchmarks from other DIYers or professionals, and then adjust based on your own level of experience.

Overestimate Costs and Know Your Limits

You’ve discovered some century-old wiring after opening up a wall or you accidentally cracked a pipe during demolition. Despite careful planning and your best efforts, there are times you will need to call in the pros – and the pros are expensive. Make sure you have a cushion in your budget in case you get in over your head with a DIY project. Personally, we’re not comfortable doing any major electrical work. It’s better to work with someone who knows what they’re doing than accidentally shock ourselves or burn the house down.

Renovating your home is exciting and rewarding. Nothing feels better than finishing a project and appreciating your handiwork. Home renovations can also be stressful, messy and dangerous. The key to surviving a DIY project is doing your homework, being patient with your partner, and understanding that home improvements are time consuming and expensive. And always remember: It’s OK to ask for help if you get overwhelmed.

About Jess Ullrich
Jess Ullrich is a professional writer and experienced DIYer. In her spare time, she enjoys tackling home improvement projects, researching and writing about real estate, and spending time with her family. Her work can be found at

Note: This is a guest post; the views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Redfin.