Please Don’t Try This at Home

My husband and I just bought another house, and so this week, I'd like to talk about home renovations.

Yes, I'm sure you too have heard the siren call of the hammer, the paintbrush, the adjustable wrench. The advertisements and the project books all make it look pretty easy. But, if you're looking at a home renovation project our advice is: don't.

Why? Because in our combined years of home repair, we've come to believe one thing: most do-it-yourselfers shouldn't.

I'm not sure why so many DIY projects go so badly wrong. Do people run out of money? Do they run out of patience?Or do they simply run out of health insurance after their eighth trip to emergency?

Whatever the case may be, I'm sure all the homeowners out there will recognize the back stories behind the following helpful tips:

Paint is Not Your Friend: Drop for drop, paint has about 568x the sticking power of glue. This means that the next time you try to open the window, the door, or the shutters you just painted, you'll need a one inch chisel and a sledgehammer. Or possibly a power saw.

The Circuitous Route: Light switches that shut off power sockets instead of overhead lights are generally not considered to be helpful.

No Joist: Unless your goal is to make visitors very nervous about using your bathroom, and thus not spend much time there, cutting through the floor joist to install a toilet is a bad plan. (See also: Wobbly Seats)

Strip Show: Painting over wallpaper, which has been put up over paint, which has been put up over two layers of wallpaper, which has been put up over paint, which has been put up over stucco, which has… well, let's just say it can reduce room size by about 30 square feet.

Stick: Three inch nails are usually not required to tack down carpet.

Stuck: Neither are three million staples.

Ventilation: Pushing the air conditioner through the bug screen in the window tends to defeat the purpose of a bug screen, what with the big, gaping hole and all.

Road Ends Here: Eventually, someone, someday will move that refrigerator, couch or radiator that you didn't paint behind.

Gray Matter: Yes it's cheap. Sure, it's easy to mix. No, cement should not be used to patch large holes in plaster walls. (See also, Sagging Walls, Spidering Cracks, and Surprises Behind Wallpaper).

Whack-A-Hole: It's always best to check any surface you plan to nail something to for, well, actual surface. For example, if you insist on using three inch nails, make sure that your walls aren't two inches thick.

Blow a Fuse: An electrical panel should always be carefully and clearly labelled as to what fuse is for what circuit. “The Light” and “Far Plug” do not constitute clear labels.

Unregistered: When doing duct work, you can make sure your home is heated efficiently by making sure that the ducting actually connects to your registers. This prevents all the hot air from, say, escaping into the basement, venting directly outdoors, or steaming up the floor joists. Also, keeping registers clear of things like: 3.2 million pieces of Lego, large quantities of breakfast cereal, coffee cups and enough cat hair to knit kittens is a good policy.

Lights and… No Action: Light switches that have no apparent connection to any light fixture (or wall socket) in the house aren't very useful. However, it can provide hours of amusement if you move to the house next door and watch the new owners flip the switches on and off while looking at all the lights suspiciously.

Where There's Smoke: Smoke alarms are one of the few things that most people can install by themselves without getting into to much trouble. Unless you count putting them directly over the stove in the kitchen. Or in the steamy bathroom.

So, if you're all thumbs when it comes to plumbs, or think that a screwdriver is something you drink, consider calling in a contractor. Your home will thank you for it. And so will your spouse. And your realtor. And your home buyers. And…

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