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Did It Myself—Almost

Kyle McIntosh, 2:01 pm ET

OVER THE PAST decade, my wife and I have hired others to handle most home improvement projects. It all came down to a lack of time: We had two young children and demanding jobs in the corporate world. But thanks to my recent switch to teaching, I have more free time, so I decided to tackle a few projects this summer. Here are three things I learned:

  1. Painting is possible. For more than a year, my daughter has been asking to update her room’s color to something other than the “moonlight yellow” she’s had since birth. We didn’t know much about painting, so we took to the internet and found an instructive 10-minute video. After three days of prepping and painting, my daughter’s “filmy green” room looks good. I estimate we saved $300 by doing it ourselves.
  2. Check for unused supplies. Before heading to the home improvement store, I checked with three neighbors to see if they had painting materials we could use. All three had unused supplies, so we got a running start with ample brushes, rollers and drop cloths. That saved us at least $50.
  3. Doors are tough. While painting was doable, replacing an exterior door proved difficult. I made an error in placing the original door order. The measurements were only off by a quarter of an inch. Still, I needed to call a handyman to rework the door width. On top of that, while online videos make hanging a door look easy, the weight was such that I couldn’t do it on my own. Result? The handyman ended up hanging the door after he made the width adjustment. While the combined cost of the door and the handyman was reasonable, it would have been more efficient to have him handle it from the start.

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Roboticus Aquarius
Roboticus Aquarius
1 month ago

Home Depot is my happy place. I work on a PC all day, and doing something with my hands is wonderful. However, it is time consuming, and while most DIY is simple, it’s frustrating if nobody has shown you how to do it. Youtube is great for this.

Last edited 1 month ago by Roboticus Aquarius
parkslope
parkslope
1 month ago

I’ve painted at least 20 rooms in the houses I’ve owned as well as doing many other repairs. When I was young I did it mainly for financial reasons but I have long since transitioned to doing it primarily because it is something I enjoy and it gives me a sense of accomplishment.

Your experience with the door highlights the importance of making sure you know your limits as well as what could go wrong with a project. This is important with many home repairs, especially plumbing and electrical work. I am currently working on a renovation of our basement with a handyman who is doing most of the work.

Rick Connor
Rick Connor
1 month ago

fun article Kyle. For me the fun of serious DIY is figuring out how things work. There’s lots of ways to learn skills, but you have to want to take the time to learn. If that isn’t your thing, hire a pro. Same with financial planning. I know so many smart, well educated folks who have no interest in developing the knowledge and skills a good FP has. If it’s not you thing, a find a competent , trustworthy Planner who will treat your financial life with care and empathy.

jerry pinkard
jerry pinkard
1 month ago

The key to DIY is determining what you can do and what you want to do. DIY internet videos are often very misleading. Windows and door are hard and require a skilled carpenter to replace. I have always done our painting, yardwork, minor repairs, light plumbing and electrical and other handyman tasks. One thing I hate to do is hang wallpaper. Thank goodness it is out of style.

kristinehayes2014
kristinehayes2014
2 months ago

I’m guessing you saved more than $300 if you painted and prepped the room yourself. Did you get an estimate from a painter? Around here, a one room job would probably be $1500. And you’d likely have to wait 2-3 months to get the job done since almost are the painters have too much work to do and not enough employees.

Kyle Mcintosh
Kyle Mcintosh
1 month ago

I didn’t get an estimate, but did ballpark it based on some other work we’d had done recently. I easily could have underestimated. The wait is a big thing especially because my 11 year old wanted it done ASAP (lack of patience is a family trait) – we recently had an awning painted outside of our place (I used that $ to ballpark what a room would have cost for labor) and we waited a solid two months to have it done.

Richard Quinn
Richard Quinn
2 months ago

You saved $300, but you lost three days. I know many people enjoy DIY, but I get a chill just walking into a Home Depot. I tried to paint a small test spot on the outside of our house this afternoon before we have it painted- I dropped the brush on my shoe.

Kyle Mcintosh
Kyle Mcintosh
1 month ago
Reply to  Richard Quinn

I lost three days, but given my recent shift to teaching the opportunity cost of my time is not too high :). There was also alot of value/satisfaction in doing it myself and having my kids get some experience with this sort of project.

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