YOU HAVE A LOT THAT NEEDS DOING BUT YOU DON'T KNOW...
- Where to start
- How much it'll cost
- How to do it
- How you'll fit it in with work and family life
- Motivation and Momentum
I don't know how much you have to do, I also don't know what state your house is currently in. But I do know a few good ways to get started. Read on and if you work through these exercises, I promise you'll feel better for it, with a clearer understanding of where to start.
It turns out the plaster throughout my whole house needs replacing, my front lawn is getting churned up because I need to extend my drive, I need to build a two storey extension so my growing kids don't have to share bedrooms.... None of this stresses me out too much.... Why? Because I have a plan!
WHERE TO START (PRIORITISING YOUR DIY)
What to do first?
Chances are, there's more than one job you need to do. The difficulty is knowing where to start.
Sit down with your other half and write a DIY jobs list of all the things you need to do in your home. You don't have to go into too much detail, keep it broad, here's a very small extract from my list (I wish it was this short), which serves as a good example:
- Redecorate lounge
- New fireplace (with log burner)
- Drop a flu down the chimney (for the log burner)
When you do your DIY jobs list, you'll need to shuffle the items round a bit as you work out the best order. Writing the list on your computer will help with editing later on.
Don't worry about the order of the list for now, just write all the jobs down.
Get the jobs in the right order...
With my home, there were certain things that needed doing before other things. Take my lounge for example, I knew there was little point in doing that up before doing the fireplace because doing a fireplace is really dirty work. I also knew that I needed to drop the flu down the chimney before doing the fireplace, so that came first.
You also need to think about other priorities when organising your DIY jobs list. For example, getting that log burner in before winter, or building that shed to free up space in the garage so that you have room for deliveries.
There are a million different reasons why you would want to do things in a certain order. That's why it's important to sit down with other household members, to ensure everyone's priorities are taken into account.
Now, arrange your list into some sort of order.
Break down the first job...
Pick the first job on your list, then break it down into it's smaller tasks.
Just do this with the first job, that's all you need to do for now. When the first job is finished, only then go onto the next job. This helps to keep things simple for you, plus there's something off-putting when you look at all the jobs in one go, it'll only make you worry.
Take my earlier example of putting a flu down the chimney. Lets not kid ourselves here, it's not just "putting a flu down a chimney" is it? Here's a breakdown of the task:
- What do building regulations require?
- Can I do it/am I allowed to do it myself?
- What parts do I need?
- Have I got the right tools for the job?
- Purchase the parts at the best price possible.
- Speak to my local Hire Station to check their availability of a roof ladder.
- Plan when I'm going to do it, check weather forecast. I don't fancy strutting my funky stuff on my roof in a force 5 gale! I also want to do it during the week, when I know the local builders merchants are open should I need any impromptu materials (as it turned out, I did need a few bits that I hadn't previously thought of). Allow more time than you think it'll take. I was dropping a flu down a chimney, surely it couldn't take more than a few hours... WRONG! It took from 730am to 430pm, and that was just getting the liner down, the next day I had to put a new chimney pot on, cut the top of the flu liner, then attach a cowling to that, which took another half a day.
- As the day of the job approaches, research different methods to drop a liner down a chimney. I did this because I knew it would be an incredibly awkward task to do, so I was keen to learn a number of techniques so I could adopt the easiest one.
- Get it done!
The above example is just one part (dropping a flu down a chimney) of a larger job (building a fireplace with a log burner), so it's easy to see how demanding a job can be.
One thing I have learned about DIY is this - it always takes longer than originally thought and it's usually a pain in the backside! But when it is done, it's incredibly rewarding and saves a ridiculous amount of money (if done correctly).
HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?
This is a difficult one to answer as each project is different. The good news is that it'll cost you a lot less if you:
- Do it yourself
- Do it right
- Are willing to shop around and spend some time getting good prices from suppliers
To break down the three points above:
1 - Do it yourself - This is a no brainer. If you do it yourself, it's obviously going to cost a lot less than if you paid someone to do it. Good tradesmen are expensive these days and, to be fair, rightly so.
DIY means that your only cost is in the materials and tools. The best way I can help you get an idea of the cost is via my monthly spending reports. You may find that my projects are similar to yours, in which case these reports will help.
The best way you can work out the costs is by meticulous planning. For example, my shelf wall was planned in advance of ordering the materials. I didn't just buy a load of wood and screws and make it up as I went along. I have a whole section on the design of the shelf wall. From this I was able to accurately estimate the cost.
Estimating the cost of a DIY project is useful for two main reasons:
- It tells you whether you have the funds to go ahead with the project.
- It tells you if it's worth it - If the project you want to do costs £thousands, but you'll get little benefit, is it worth it? Will the money be better spent on something else that will give more benefit?
2 - Do it right - Your time on this planet is probably the most valuable commodity you'll ever have, don't waste it. If you construct something that is going to fail at some point soon, that's a pretty wasteful use of your time. A good rule of thumb with DIY is that for a little bit of extra time spent making sure it's done right gives twice the robustness and longevity. So, take your time, plan your project, take pride in your work and produce something that you feel good about.
3 - Don't get ripped off - Here's a good example - I got 6 quotes for my solid granite hearth that I installed in my fireplace. The prices ranged from £550 - £950. I didn't automatically go for the cheapest, because the cheapest price is usually cheap for a reason - lower quality, poorer customer service etc. However, I researched the company who provided the cheapest quote. In the world of online ratings and reviews, this is easy to do. It turned out that the company who'd provided the cheapest quote actually had really good reviews. There was a solid chunk of positive feedback, so I went for them.... I wasn't disappointing either, which reminds me I still need to leave them a good review....
Also, don't be afraid to ask for some money off, worst case is they'd just say no.
HOW DO I DO THAT DIY TASK?
I hear you! DIY usually involves a multidisciplined approach using a number of tools and materials. It can be a minefield. Just the tools alone can be numerous. I built a very simple sledge and the tools and materials for that came to about 30 different items! Not to mention the different techniques of using those tools.
Obviously, the answer I'll give for this one is to check out my How-to's, hopefully one of those matches, or is similar to your own DIY project.
If not, then research what it is you need to do and plan ahead. With research, it's not the case of "the more the better", because the internet's a pretty big place and I'm sure you could just keep on going and never get anything done, this is called analysis paralysis and it can be the killer of all progress! Take this example - If I wanted to build a hammock I'd Google this:
This shows 32.7 million results. The average web page is around 200 words long, and the average person reads about 225 words per minute. It would take me over 55 years to flick through this lot, with no sleep or showers! Pretty smelly stuff.
Therefore, it's about getting the balance right and doing the research logically to avoid wasting time, take the following steps in this order. This is my process by the way, for all my DIY and for everything I've put on this website:
- Are you allowed to do it - There's no point spending time researching how to redirect your incoming gas main pipe if you're not legally allowed to do it.
- Research until you're 25% sure you know what you're doing, just enough so that you have the gist of what the project is about, what tools are required, that sort of thing. But not so much that you know exactly how to do it. Then, think about the following:
- Are you physically able to do this? If not, firstly research if there are any other methods of achieving the same results that make the task more suited to your abilities. Or, look at hiring someone to do it, not necessarily all of the DIY task, maybe just the bits you can't do.
- Do you want to do it? If you don't want to do it, don't bother, spend your time with the family instead and pay someone to do it.
- Is the juice worth the squeeze? In other words, does the benefit outweigh the effort?
- If you answered yes to the above three points, go a bit deeper with the research until you're about 75% sure you know what you're doing,
- For the remaining 25%, research this whilst you're carrying out the task, or just improvise.
HOW DO I FIND THE TIME FOR DIY?
Easy really, make time, just get on with it.
So how do you go about making time? It's all about priorities, sacrificing stuff to make time for DIY. In a lot of people's case, the sacrifice comes in the form of not watching TV in the evenings/weekends. Let's be honest here and look at the facts, here's the average time that people watch TV each day for a few regions:
- Europe - 3hrs 45 minutes - that's over 26 hours a week!
- North America - Nearly 5 hours - that's 35 hours a week!
Don't get me wrong, I like a bit of TV from time to time, but this much TV, really?! If you watch this much, even half the amount, just imagine for a moment how much you could get done if you replaced it with something more constructive.
DIY doesn't even have to be tiring or hard work. Just last night my wife and I spent 2 hours painting a room together. I put some tunes on, we chatted the whole time, I had a couple of beers and the room was painted. It was an evening very well spent, and we had a really good time.
Other things that could be sacrificed are:
- Sleep - I'm not advising you spend prolonged periods of time depriving yourself of sleep, that would be unwise. But I find a couple of late nights, sometimes 1-2am in the morning, can be sorted with a good nights sleep. With this pattern, I find that I don't get too tired when I do stop up late, it works for me.
- Cooking - Still get the pan out and cook, by all means, just don't choose dishes that take a lot of time to prepare, cook and clean up afterwards. One of my favorite quick dinners is stir fry - quick, very healthy, cheap and with some Soy Sauce and sesame seeds it's pretty tasty. Washing up consists of your plate, cutlery and a wok, that's it!
- Holidays - This one is a bit controversial because in many people's minds, a holiday seems to be a right these days, rather than a privilege. It's good to spend time with the family, granted, but save some annual leave for getting those jobs done. Create a home that will make your family want to stay.
Those are the major things, let me know if you can think of any yourself by the way.
The minor things that you could sacrifice are things like your lunch break. I'm not saying you should rush home in your lunch break, put on an overall, chisel out some plasterboard and get back to work within 45 minutes. What I am saying is to spend the break wisely and do any of the following:
- Research the next DIY task you want to do, how to do it etc.
- Shop around for tools/materials
- Hop onto Google pictures or Pinterest and get some inspiration
- Schedule in the next DIY task.
You get the point, all stuff you can do in front of a computer.
MOTIVATION AND MOMENTUM
I’ve put momentum in the title for this piece because it goes hand-in-hand with motivation. Motivation is key to starting any DIY project, big or small, and it’s momentum that keeps it going to the end.
I’ve done up two houses, and I’m now on my third. As I get older (I am still only 35), energy to keep going is in shorter supply. On my first house, I was at it every night until 1am, would get to bed for 2am, up for work at 7am, and repeat every weeknight topped off with both Saturday and Sunday. I wouldn’t advise this course of action to anyone, what I’m saying is I could do it back then (when I was 27), but couldn’t these days.
These days my drive has dwindled and the most DIY I can muster is usually a couple of hours on a couple of week nights, and both days in the weekend. To be fair, I have other interests now, such as this blog and more involvement with my kids.
Sometimes, when faced with a huge amount of tasks to do around the house, it can feel a little daunting. There are too many distractions that seem too inviting to ignore, such as television. And these distractions lead to excuses, such as “I’ll start the project next week, after I’ve caught up on Game of Thrones. You get the point.
The hardest part is getting started, a familiar story with writers. And the same answer to this problem always comes back to – “just start, it doesn’t matter how or where, but just start”
I know what you might be thinking – How can I start if I don’t know where to start. I’ll tell you how.
If you’re not sure where to start, go through the process of getting your tools ready. Not your tool box that has all the tools in it, but just the specific tools for the job. This is a great exercise.
By thinking about what tools you need for the job, you’re also thinking about the process you’ll go through to get the job complete. One way of getting all the tools ready is to run through the process of building that DIY project, in sequential order. Imagine yourself carrying out the job, here’s an example:
- I’m going to put up a picture on a wall, so I will:
- Get the picture and decide on its location with the missus, one person will need to hold the picture up whilst the other checks it looks good, use a pencil to make it’s position, say a mark where the top middle of the frame will be.
- Grab a tape measure, measure down from the top of the frame to the fixing point, make that mark on the wall. This is where the tac will be nailed into the wall.
- Grab a hammer and a tac, hit said tac into the wall.
- Hang the picture frame, make tweaks until it looks level.
Immediately, we have a clear picture in our mind of:
- What tools we need
- The sequential process to complete the job
- If we need help from others (my wife in this case)
- Roughly how long it’ll take
When you can understand a project in this much detail, it suddenly seems less daunting, and because of this, motivation kicks in and you’ll (hopefully) want to crack on.
As for momentum, it’s important to keep going at a pace. If you’ve been following me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, you’ll probably realise that I often jump onto the next job before completing the last, not good for momentum. However, that’s because my priorities change. For example, at the time of writing I still need to complete the installation of my log burner, but have come off that to do some decking in my garden. This is because it’s early summer and we’d like the decking finished asap so we have time to enjoy it before the Autumn. Breaking up jobs like this can lead to a load of unfinished jobs, which can feel like you’re not getting anywhere and can break up the momentum.
If you think you’ll struggle to work this way, I recommend only going to the next job once the first one is finished. That way, you’ll see results quickly and the satisfaction you get from this will drive you forward to the next job.
One other way that I find helps whilst working on the job is music, I like to bash out the tunes while I’m working away.
Now then, stop reading and crack on!
Ready to find out more?
Ok, so you now know what to do, have a quick glance at my resources page before you get cracking. Trust me, they are guaranteed to help you make your DIY journey much easier.