Home Tips & Tricks

The Do’s and Don’ts of DIY Home Improvement

posted by Hannah August 15, 2017 0 comments

Unless you’re living under a rock (and not a roof), you’ve probably had a run-in with the DIY (Do It Yourself) craze. The name in itself really says it all. By tacking “DIY” in front of what was once a seemingly impossible task, you take on the persona of a skilled craftsman with an equally impressive eye for trendy design.

Trust me, I’ve been there. A few years ago, HGTV convinced me that a few cans of spray paint and glittery fabric glue would transform my outdated décor from drab to fab. In the end, the fruits of my glorious labor best showed on my 40 pound mutt. Covered in bright blue spray paint, a patch of glitter dried and stuck to his back fur—he had earlier found it acceptable to waltz outside and disturb my hodgepodge of a drying mess.

And, stars of these home renovation shows continue to stay relevant, especially for their impeccable staging abilities. Sadly, only this time, we aren’t talking about the perfect staging of the showrooms but the staging of the show itself. Which is why we’re doing the dirty work. After consulting the experts, we’re setting out to set the record straight, providing a behind-the-scenes look of the do’s and don’ts of home improvement.

DIY Do: Embrace Nature

As fall breezes start to drop summer temperatures, so do your trees’ leaves. And, with these perfect seasonal temperatures, it’s the perfect time to wipe off that dusty ol’ rake and get to work.

Did we mention also raking in the benefits of increasing your home’s value?

Even if you aren’t planning to sell your house today, low-maintenance landscaping saves you money now. And while you’re out there, why not add some curb appeal to your home and plant a couple of shrubs or colorful plants? Just make sure, when shopping at a local garden center, you make sure you’re choosing those native to your region.

Or, if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, plant a tree. More specifically, choose one that provides shade. Not only will mature trees make your home more desirable but a fully grown, properly placed tree can cut your cooling costs by as much as 40 percent.

Mature landscaping is also good for the environment, providing a necessary habitat for wildlife while adding valuable curb appeal to your home.

Just make sure to finish the job. You don’t want to create a habitat better equipped for a zoo exhibit. The good news is that taming your jungle is an easy fix. For a few hundred dollars, hire a lawn service company to trim your lawn and shape your hedges.

Pro tip: Choose plants that are drought tolerant. They require less water and maintenance. Meaning, more savings and green in your wallet.

DIY Don’t: Deface Nature

Drop the axe Paul Bunyan. If a large tree is beckoning for you to cut down, it’s best to let the professional lumberjacks handle it.

For one, depending on where you reside, you could be breaking the law. Some states have rules and regulations requiring permits or special permissions for felling trees. This is typically either for preservation reasons or in accordance with city ordinances.

Not to mention you are putting your own safety at risk. Cutting down trees, or even removing branches requires climbing and working with dangerous tools from a high distance off the ground. This is a disaster waiting to happen, and definitely something better left to trained professionals.

Instead, leave large tree removal to a certified arborist that’s familiar with city ordinances. Make sure they carry loads of liability insurance to deal with the potentially more difficult hazards or accidents. For example, if the tree falls accidentally falls in a not-so-pleasant manner.

DIY Do: Pretty Your Walls

A picture might paint a thousand words, but paint could bring a thousand dollars into the picture. Freshly painted rooms look clean and updated— and that spells added value up to $5,000-plus.

A recent Zillow study shows selecting the right paint color is one of the many factors that may affect a home selling faster or for more money.

Want to liven up the kitchen area? Choose an active, warm color, such as yellow. How about calm into the bedroom? Go with a passive color, such as blue, green or purple. Or, garner “ews and aws” from family, friends and other house guests as soon as they step through the front door? Freshen up a high-traffic area, such as the living room with an earthy neutral, such as cool gray. Leave the white for the ceiling. It’ll add height to lower ceilings.

Of course preparation is 95 percent of a successful job.

First, you’ll want to fill any holes or cracks with drywall compound, then sand the dried patches smooth. Most importantly: don’t skip the primer. A coat of primer will seal the surface, provide durability and create a solid bond for the paint to adhere. Finally, tape and protect anything you don’t want covered in paint, and you’re ready to go.

Pro tip: Satin finish is easier to clean than flat finish, and paint that resists stain and mildew is best for a bathroom.

DIY Don’t: Destroy Your Walls

General rule of thumb: If your renovations involve removal, don’t hit the wall. Sure, expanding a living space to an open floor plan seems as simple as needing a sledgehammer and some pent-up stress.

But think twice before getting to swinging. Some cities require permits if the wall in question is structural/load-bearing. Not leaving it to the experts could mean seriously damaging your home (not to mention yourself). Sure, there are ways to identify if it does carry additional weight besides its own. Even so, unless you built your home from the ground up, you risk the chance of coming in contact with pipes or electrical wires.

And did we mention exposing yourself and others to toxic, poisonous chemicals?

Seventy-five percent of homes built before 1978 may contain lead-based paint. This is a serious problem for even the most experienced of professionals. Anytime you cut into surfaces with lead paint you risk creating hazardous lead dust.

The same goes for rooms, such as the attic or basement that contain insulation. Owning an older home could mean running the risk of contamination with the toxic substance asbestos. Not the numerous laws in place to regulate the removal of both of these substances.

So, what’s the solution? It’s better to call a qualified specialist than to risk your life to save a few bucks.

DIY Do: Lighten Up your Home

Natural light can make a home lighter and brighter. It can even improve your health and make your home look larger.

It’s no wonder new research reveals natural light is a “must have” feature for a decent amount of people looking for a family home. Good news? It only requires minor interior updates.

Choose decor with reflective surfaces, including metallic, glass or mirrored. It will not only help diffuse light, but also add stylish touches throughout the home. Or, consider replacing thick curtains with easy-open modern blinds. This will allow light to flood in, giving your home an additional boost.

Polish shiny surfaces in your kitchen and bathroom units. This will reflect light filtering into the room. Or, simply by decluttering your open-plan areas, you’ll make spaces look brighter and bigger.

DIY Don’t: Ignite Your Home

When it comes to undertaking a seemingly simple project requiring electrical work, don’t take it lightly.

Statistics alone show nearly 400 electrocutions happen in the United States each year. And, approximately 15 percent of these directly relate to consumer products. Wiring hazards, including damaged or exposed wiring and household wiring, accounted for nearly 14 percent of these deaths.

And, just because you’ve successfully tackled a “simple DIY” project, such as replacing or adding a new light fixture, doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Often, it takes a skilled expert to determine if the light fixture requires a higher wattage than the wiring can handle. If overlooked, it poses a seriously dangerous fire hazard, as the bulb’s heat can melt sockets or insulation wiring itself.

Fire departments in the United States report an estimated 360,900 residential building fires each year. More specifically, causing an estimated 2,495 deaths, 13,250 injuries and $7 billion in property losses. The leading cause of the largest fires was electrical malfunction.

This is why many cities require permits prior to any type of electric work. If you don’t obtain the proper permits or have it installed by a professional, the insurance company has grounds to deny your claim in the chance of a house fire—and faulty wiring is one of the leading causes of residential fires.

Pro tip: If you claim to know nearly 98 percent about a simple rewiring, it’s that 2 percent that puts not only yourself, but those around you, at risk.

DIY Do: Plan Ahead

Whether you choose to make improvements to your home’s décor or upgrading and replacing outdated features and appliances—just doing a little bit of both will pay off. Start with a small project per month to gauge the longevity of your motivation.

For bigger projects, make sure to carefully research and plan before the initial project begins. Find out the rules and regulations for building permits. The last thing anyone wants is to rip up their brand new, beautiful porch deck before enjoying the fruits of their labor.

The best way to ensure a successful start to finish is by using a realistic approach. Take time to ponder your own comfort, motivation, time, money and skill. Make a list of needs versus wants. When in doubt: if you can fork up the dough, hire a pro. 

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