One of today's biggest challenge is finding enough time to do everything on our to do lists. This means homeowners have to prioritize and it's natural to start with tasks you like doing, ones you can complete quickly and ones that can't be ignored because everyone sees it every day. The reality is not every homeowner inherits the handyman genes, meaning every homeowner shouldn't try a lot of do-it-yourself projects.
That's why it's important to pick projects, ones you can do safely, and delegate other routine home maintenance and repairs to a handyman or other specialty contractors. It might be fun tackling projects as new homeowners, learning through trial and error. But trust me, you'll soon discover your do-it-yourself strengths and weaknesses.
Picking the Right Homeowner Do-It-Yourself Projects
So here are simple recommendations for which handywoman chores you want to learn to do yourself, and when it makes more sense to hire a handyman or specialty contractor.
- Will you reuse the do-it-yourself skills you need to learn, over and over, for as long as you own a house? That's because new skills involve more than watching a few videos. You need practice in order to get really good at things … which is why I never learned to mud drywall.
- Are you able to invest in quality tools that you can hold comfortably, e.g. not too heavy, and/or use safely? This is because tools are built for a man's hands, grip and arm strength which can be challenging for most women.
- Can you complete the do-it-yourself projects in 4 to 8 hours, so they don't drag on for weeks? That's because life happens and living with projects half done will discourage you from tackling future home maintenance, repair and decorating projects which you and your home need.
- For larger projects, can you live without that room for the number of weekends you'll need to complete the job? For example, when my handyman business remodeled bathrooms, we had to promise that the new shower/bathtub would be available within 24 hours.
- Do you have the skills and physical fitness to handle these projects safely? For example, young people might find it easy to work on a ladder but this ability drops with age. When I owned my handyman business, we had to build too many wheel chair ramps for homeowners who fell off ladders … and you don't want to hear more.
Outdoor Do-It-Yourself Safety Tips
Working outdoors has both plus and minuses. You're able to enjoy the fresh air but you may put yourself into awkward positions that aren't comfortable, and therefore aren't safe. When you're young and agile with good balance, you may be comfortable working from a ladder. But older people get into trouble doing things they might have done for many years, but they're no longer capable of working safely from a ladder.
My handyman business got multiple calls to finish jobs after the homeowner got hurt. One accident came over Thanksgiving weekend from the wife, who needed a wheelchair ramp built in 3 days so she could take her husband to his first doctor appointment. In his mid'60s, the man fell from a ladder and was lucky the chain saw he was using to trim tree branches, didn't touch him as they both fell to the ground.
- Stay off the roof unless you've worked on a roof in the past. You don't have the instincts to work safely and it's easy to make mistakes and/or damage the roof further.
- Practice ladder safety or let someone else take care of cleaning gutters, trimming tree branches, fixing roofing problems, etc. The American Ladder Institute offers more complete ladder safety tips.
- Take time to learn how to use tools correctly and follow all manufacturer safety instructions.
- Don't operate power tools without their safety guards and don't buy tools without them.
- Use the correct blades (different for soft and hard woods, composites, concrete, etc.) for power tools or they can cause accidents.
- Always unplug power tools when you leave the work area.
- Keep kids and pets away from the work area. With young children have someone on hand to supervise them to avoid getting distracted.
Indoor Do-It-Yourself Safety Tips
Indoors you don't have as many issues with height and ladders (well I do need a ladder for 9 ft ceilings). Many homeowners used to call my handyman business to paint their stairwells and/or exceptionally high ceilings requiring scaffolding to paint. That's a smart move as my technicians work off ladders every week, so it's second nature for them.
Many of the outdoor, do-it-yourself safety recommendations apply equally indoors. Additional safety tips include:
- Plan projects so you're able to cleanup the work site each night, one that is safe for family members. When necessary, place safety tape around areas you want people to stay out of.
- Unplug and put tools away or at least out of reach of children, when not being used.
- Read labels, follow directions and handle chemicals with care while stored in your home, and where/how you dispose of leftover materials.
- Use drop cloths and other safety equipment to minimize debris from do-it-yourself repairs. And this isn't easy, especially with airborne debris like drywall dust when you're spackling and sanding walls in prep for painting.
Tina's Top DIY Skills & Projects
For those curious about my favorite do-it-yourself skills and projects, I wanted to share a bit more of my story. For more than 30 years my role was helper, working with my husband who grew up learning a wide range of handyman skills from his father.
When I started my handyman business it took about six months until I could “speak” the lingo, and another year until I truly grasped concepts and understood how a house is built (still learning). One of my super powers is disassembling projects and developing detailed and incredibly accurate estimates … which are reflected in my articles.
Now that I'm happily divorced, I'm focusing on the skills I want to develop as my challenge is being a perfectionist and lacking the patience to practice, practice, practice … yup, that's me.
- Demo is a favorite of mine as it insures a project gets done and my need for perfect results involves sweeping up the mess.
- Caulking is easy and if you mess up, you can easily redo things so it works with my need to be perfect.
- Painting is something I've done for years. Fortunately I've learned enough tricks to stay out of trouble since losing my security deposit for the green stripe I painted across my living room wall (gosh, these painted stripes are finally popular).
- For years I've dreamed about owning a compound mitre saw. Finally I've decided to use one of the walls in my front hallway to experiment with wood trim designs … so watch for more fun photos, videos and more about my journey.