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REAL ESTATE TIPS: Be careful when tackling DIY projects

One of my readers asked me to write about do-it-yourself projects. I love getting requests like this so today that’s what we are going to talk about. I can pretty much sum it up in one sentence: Be careful.

Wayne and Stark counties are blessed with a lot of fabulous teachers. We knew this before mid-March. But in the last two months, I think that we know it on an entirely different level. “School” at our house has not been super enjoyable. I had visions of family bonding over the table doing schoolwork. Four kids on four chromebooks with two parents teaching them. Andy and I both have bachelor’s degrees in education and 23 years of public school teaching between us. What could possibly go wrong? A lot.

There was no family bonding around the table. We have one chrome book and borrowed two from the school. So my high school son is in the Ohio State Room (our basement family room) doing his homework rather than participating in family bonding around the table. Their assignments are all different (as they should be since their grade spread is eight years) so teaching them as a group was not the perfection I had expected. I presumed that our family school bonding time would be two hours around the table. It was not. Some of the boys were done in 30 minutes. Others took hours. And then there was the whining coming from our youngest son. He had to write seven sentences in his journal. I thought the idea was great! Obviously I love writing so I wanted all of us to keep a journal. I did and I am on page 107. But my husband vetoed that. So here we are trying to get sentences out of Gavin. His read like this: “I woke up. I got up. I ate cereal.” Getting him to write any more was a nightmare to the point that one day I was in tears over it. My son who loves learning was not enjoying the book work at the Ryder school. Teaching second grade is not my specialty.

The same thing rings true for doctors. I know nothing about medical stuff. At all. However, with four wrestlers in the house, I am getting pretty good at recognizing skin diseases. So when we were in Maryland for a family vacation, I was fairly sure that my son had impetigo in his hair. I asked my smart sister. Like 36-on-her-ACT-the-first-time-she-took-it sister. My sister who has MD after her name. My sister who is an anesthesologist. She assured me that this was not impetigo. She was wrong. When we got home, we took him to the doctor. This is not a negative reflection on my sister, although I thoroughly enjoy sharing the story about how I was right in this case and she was wrong! It is about specialization and experience. Which brings me back to DIY. While my sister is a doctor, her specialty is anesthesia. I taught junior high for five years but can’t handle schooling my own second grader. People are specialists for a reason. If you think that you can do something, you might be able to. And you might not. That is what I want to share on the DIY column.

Watching a YouTube video on how to install flooring doesn’t mean that your install job will be as good for someone who does it for a living. Owning the nicest drill out there doesn’t mean that you should install new trim in your house. Sometimes a home inspection reveals which houses are owned by “weekend warriors.” Sometimes it is easy to see with your eyes. Trim work is one that I can catch almost every time.

So how do you know if you should tackle a DIY project? I don’t know the answer to this but I have some general thoughts. If you have to watch a YouTube video on how to do a project, it’s probably a no. Don’t watch a 30-minute video and then decide to rent a backhoe and do an exterior waterproofing on your basement. If you have experience of some kind, it is probably a yes. My father-in-law has helped us with lots of projects involving moving dirt at our home. He is also a retired excavator from Wenger’s Excavating. Put him on a backhoe and there is nothing he can’t do. If your dad was a plumber and you helped him for years growing up, you can probably be confident doing some plumbing projects in your home because you have the experience of watching and helping dad, even if you have a completely unrelated day job like attorney.

There is something empowering about doing a project with your own hands and brain. I have seen so many people do a lot of DIY projects at their homes — and successfully. Some do it because they are truly skilled and talented. Some do it to save money. If you are a money saver DIY person with no experience just make sure that you know enough about what you are doing so that you are actually saving money long term. If you have to hire someone down the road to fix what you didn’t do quite right, you really didn’t save any money to start with.

At the end of the day, we all just want a house that we can be proud of and more money coming into our bank account than going out.  If you stick to DIY projects that you know beyond a shadow of a doubt you can do successfully and save some money, go for it. But if there is any doubt, you might want to consider turning it over to someone who has the training that you don’t quite have yet. I hope that you have a blessed week!

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