Your guest bathroom has been a little worse for the wear since you bought your house three years ago. Given your tight budget, you know the dated flooring and fixtures could look great with a little DIY work. The problem? You have no idea where to begin and you lack the skills.
Watch a video. It’s been helpful for Joel Moss, a licensed associate real estate broker with Warburg Realty in New York City.
Moss didn’t consider herself particularly handy before deciding to take on a few projects around her house in upstate New York. With the help of YouTube, Pinterest and the occasional Google search for more information, she’s been able to take on a number of design-focused projects throughout her house, including sewing bench cushions, hanging shelves on a brick wall and creating a horseshoe pit in the backyard.
With the help of online tutorials, the cushions in particular were "Ten times better than I would be able to do on my own," Moss says.
Home improvement TV shows may be great for inspiration, but when it comes to transforming yourself into the home renovation do-it-yourself guru you want to be, turn to the internet. For the added benefit of visual instruction, YouTube has become the go-to source for many DIYers.
Video tutorials make sense in a world where people can access information from any location via their phone, explains Chris Zeisler, master technician and technical service supervisor for RepairClinic.com, an online marketplace for appliance and repair parts and equipment. The site also has an extensive expert video collection that provides users with instructions for home repairs and replacing appliance parts, as well as explanations on how systems work.
"There's nothing better than watching a five-minute video and seeing if it's something I can do," Zeisler says.
Video tutorials have also worked for David Claffey, who owns a house in Clear Lake, California. He's taken on a few projects, from revamping his home's landscaping to changing out electrical outlets. The latter project took not just one video tutorial but multiple viewings after Claffey removed the original outlet wall plate to discover a different setup than the first video showed.
"I had to learn why they were different, and how to splice the wires so I didn't burn down my house," he says, noting his house remains intact and the new outlets work perfectly.
Claffey, who works in communications, has expanded his skills as well, taking on more ambitious projects as time goes on.
The beauty of using online videos to help you tackle home repairs and renovations is that you can search for specific projects. Both Moss and Claffey say they first decide what they want to attempt at home, then search for an instructional video that shows them how to do it.
This brings a lot of people to RepairClinic.com’s videos as well. “They’ll kind of land in the middle of the process,” says Zeisler, who adds that users then tend to explore the site to gather more information to help them tackle other components of the project.
Thus far, Moss has remained focused on design-related upgrades in her house, which is also what she recommends to many of her clients who are planning to sell their homes and need to make fixes to get it ready for the market. It's important to ensure more skill-intensive jobs are done correctly by professionals, she says.
Her most ambitious project so far has been replacing the floor of her gazebo with concrete, which is still a work in progress. “If I mess it up, I’m the only person that’s going to see it,” she says.
That ability to test your own skills and forgo the help of a professional can be beneficial, Zeisler says, since you don't have to shell out money for expensive hourly rates or take time off work to be home while contractors are present. “That’s just a plus for the homeowner,” he says.
But just because you watched the start of one YouTube video about how to patch a hole in your roof doesn’t mean you should climb a ladder and start hacking away. Follow this guidance to help make your DIY project with online guidance a success.
Watch the entire video first. It’s common to watch the first few steps of a remodel project and think you’re ready to dive in, but even if the entire video is 20 minutes, watch the whole thing before you get started. You'll need to know what tools and materials to buy ahead of time and fully understand the scope of the project.
You also want to be sure you're able to complete each step. For a future project, Claffey is considering building a boat dock, but he'll first do a significant amount of research on “the skill required to do it, and is it something that I’m capable of?” he explains.
Watch it again. To succeed, you'll want to feel comfortable with each step and anticipate what comes next. To do that, watch every video multiple times. Claffey jokes that he watches a DIY video around 300 times before he begins, and he recommends looking for videos with narrated instruction. While the tutorials set to music can have good visuals, "you can kind of pick up things, but if you miss a step, it's hard to figure out what you missed," he says.
Cross-reference everything. The way one video approaches a particular technique may differ from another, and you can figure out the best method by watching both. Moss says she’ll watch a video – often more than one – and then also cross-reference those instructions with a tutorial, article or blog she finds on Pinterest or a DIY site.
“Any time I’ve been slightly confused about something, I just look at a different video,” she says.
Know where to draw the line. If a mistake on your part could cause water damage, a fire or cost a lot of money to have a professional fix, you may want to rethink taking on the project. Beyond minor work like his outlet upgrade, Claffey notes electrical and plumbing make him particularly nervous, and he’s also likely to hold off on drilling holes into a finished product.
“I don’t want to cause more damage than whatever value this [project] would add,” Claffey says.
Take cost into account. When you’re looking to take on a project that’s more elective than necessary, such as an upgrade or design job, make sure you’re factoring in the cost of materials, tools needed and time required.
Claffey says he’s found new appreciation for the bits and pieces of wood he’s able to save after taking on enough projects that require him to buy more. “I’m so surprised at how expensive wood is … every scrap piece of wood is [now] priceless to me,” he says.
You’ll be surprised by how much it may cost to buy new tile, grout and tools, for example, even before you’ve spent backbreaking hours laying tile yourself. If the project doesn’t feel like a hobby you’re doing by choice, it may not be worth the trouble.
Stock up for your next DIY project.
If you're always finding new home improvement projects to take on, you're not alone. In a 2015 study of 500 do-it-yourselfers by Venveo, a digital marketing agency and parent company of DIYConsumer.com, 58 percent of respondents said they do a DIY project either because it's a simple project or they find the work fun, while another 39 percent said they want to save money. Regardless of your reason for taking on a DIY project, you need to be prepared with the right tools. Read on for tools every DIYer should have to tackle home improvement, maintenance and crafting tasks. We've included a price range for each tool, based on current prices at various home improvement retailers like Home Depot and Lowe's, to help you plan your purchases.The basics
These DIY and maintenance must-haves help set you up for success. They're simple tools that are fairly inexpensive yet key to ensuring your safety, avoiding damage or making mistakes while you work.The internet
Especially if you're new to DIY projects, take advantage of the free resources available online to help you figure out the best way to build something, make a repair or master regular maintenance you've never done before. "The information is the power," says Chris Zeisler, master technician and technical service supervisor for RepairClinic.com, an online marketplace for appliance and repair parts and equipment. Zeisler recommends watching tutorials and informational videos on YouTube or advice sites like RepairClinic.com to get a better understanding of what you need to do. If you're still nervous about the job after watching tutorials, consult a professional.
Cost: Nothing beyond the cost of your Wi-Fi or mobile data plan.Safety glasses
Regardless of skill level, eye protection is a necessary part of any project you take on. Safety glasses are particularly important when doing tasks that can create debris, like sawing, drilling, spraying paint or using a sealant.
Cost: As cheap as $1.50, or you can go all out and get prescription safety glasses, which can put you back a few hundred dollars.Tape measure
The saying goes, "Measure twice, cut once." So naturally, you need to be able to measure when it comes to cutting wood for a bookshelf, framing your artwork or simply figuring out what size couch you need for the living room.
Cost: Less than $10.Level
Keep your home from looking like a college dorm room and use a level to hang any wall decor. A level is also an important tool when building or repairing anything that's supposed to have a flat surface – a DIY nightstand isn't quite as nice if your glass of water keeps sliding off a slanted tabletop.
Cost: Free phone apps are available, or you check out torpedo, beam or laser levels ranging from $4 to $30.Drop cloth
Whether you're painting, sawing, drilling or gluing, keep your floor or driveway from getting damaged by placing a drop cloth beneath your workspace.
Cost: Use an old bedsheet for free, or invest in a canvas or plastic drop cloth for $7 to $10.Wood glue and other adhesives
Wood glue and other adhesives
Plenty of DIY projects and repair scenarios can be strengthened with a little extra sealant. For wood projects, use wood glue to back up screws and nails. When wood isn't the material you're working with, a super glue or all-surface construction adhesive can help get the job done.
Cost: Depending on the type of adhesive, expect to pay $3 to $12.Stud finder
If you're hanging a picture frame or shelf, a stud finder allows you to find the best possible place to anchor a nail or screw – without worrying whether it will fall off the wall later. When you're cutting a hole in the drywall, the same stud finder will help ensure you don't cut through an important part of the structure of your house. Studs in residential buildings are typically wood, but a stud finder using magnetism often still works by locating the nails in the stud. More sophisticated stud finders will detect the differences in density along the wall.
Cost: Depending on type, it will cost between $10 and $50.Ladder
A 12-foot ladder isn't necessary if you're an apartment dweller who relies on the property manager for most maintenance issues, but a short stepladder can always help you reach the top shelf in the kitchen or get a better angle while hanging wall decor. In a house, a taller ladder can come in handy for cleaning out your home's gutters, as well as reaching high-up spots while painting, cleaning or decorating inside.
Cost: Depending on height and stability, a ladder will cost anywhere from $40 to $1,000.Hand tools
You don't need construction experience to use these household tools skillfully. These simple tools are an important part of being able to make small, straightforward repairs at home, whether you live in an apartment, condo or house.Clamp
In DIY scenarios where the wood glue comes in handy, you'll typically want a clamp to help serve as additional security while the adhesive dries. Clamps also help hold wood and other materials together or in place while you're sawing, drilling or sanding and need help keeping the materials steady. You can opt for a simple C-clamp or bar clamp, which will suffice in relatively simple projects.
Cost: Expect to pay between $3 and $20, based on the size and type of clamp.Screwdriver
Securing a dresser to the wall or finally putting that Ikea coffee table together will likely see you reaching for a screwdriver. Screws vary in shape and size, so Zeisler recommends checking out a set of screwdrivers with interchangeable screwheads to keep the number of screwdrivers you own down, while still having access to the Phillips head, flat head, Allen wrench (hexagon), Torx drive (star) or Robertson (square).
Cost: Either invest in a set of screwdrivers with different heads or get a multibit screwdriver, which both run from about $7 to $30.Wrenches and ratchets
Wrenches and ratchets
Whether you're tightening a bolt on your bed frame or building a deck in your backyard, a wrench or ratchet and socket set is a must-have. Like with a screwdriver, Zeisler recommends checking out investing in a set to help reduce the total number of wrenches you need, and ensure you have the tool for every possible scenario. "You can get more than one thing and more than one component," he says. "Instead of having seven or eight combination wrenches, you can get one particular tool that has a combination of all those on one assembly."
Cost: Sets of wrenches with additional adjustability typically cost around $20. Ratchet and socket sets typically start at about $15.Claw hammer
A hammer almost seems too simple a tool to have, but you'll find yourself needing one quite often, whether it's to hang a calendar on the wall, construct a birdhouse or repair siding on your house. A claw hammer is often the recommended go-to for DIY projects because the backside of the tool also allows you to pull out nails as needed.
Cost: Depending on the brand, expect to pay $5 to $40.Pliers
You may need help pulling something apart or holding it in place while you apply an adhesive – and pliers are an effective tool in both cases. Some pliers are specially designed to help cut or strip wire as well, which helps if your project requires some basic electrical work. In such cases, always have the power turned off and call a licensed electrician if you're not sure what you're doing.
Cost: Pliers range from $9 to $40.Utility knife
You could be opening a package you got in the mail or cutting dowel rods that don't quite require a saw, but having a utility knife specifically for home improvement purposes means you don't have to ruin your kitchen knives to complete simple projects.
Cost: Utility knives range from $5 to $45.Handsaw
For a bigger cutting project, have a handsaw ready. This is one tool you want to have your safety glasses on hand for, along with gloves to protect your hands. Before getting started, mark the wood or material you're cutting with a pencil and straightedge to ensure you cut along a straight line.
Cost: Handsaws run between $9 and $25, so there’s no need to break the bank.Power tools
For some projects, you need a bit of additional power behind it. Enter the motorized tool. "If you're going to be in an apartment or condo where it's going to be smaller projects, I don't think power tools are going to come into play," Zeisler says. "But if you’re a homeowner, you've invested in a mortgage [and] you're in the home, you're probably going to want to start getting familiar with some of that."Drill
As you get into more skilled DIY projects, you'll likely need to use a drill to put holes in wood, masonry, plastic or other materials. Different drill bits are used for different scenarios, and most good DIY tutorials will tell you which one to use for setting screws or creating a clean hole. Like with a saw, always use eye protection.
Cost: Cordless power drills run between $50 and $130.Sander
When building a bookshelf or giving your current one a makeover, sanding is a key step before the staining or painting phase. A sander takes a painting or staining project from time-consuming to convenient. Many DIY bloggers recommend a 5-inch orbital sander, as it's relatively easy to handle.
Cost: A sander will likely cost between $40 and $70.Nail gun
When your DIY skills are more advanced, a nail gun might be the tool to help you up your game. Like with a sander, a nail gun makes the time-consuming process of hammering nails happen in a fraction of the time, though it requires a certain level of caution and some more money. There are also different types of nail guns for the project at hand – flooring, roofing and building furniture all use different types of nails, for example. Some of the more sophisticated nail guns require an air compressor, which may come with the tool or need to be purchased separately.
Cost: Expect to pay $80 to $650 or more, depending on the type of nail gun you select.Circular saw
If you're looking to build furniture or upcycle some key pieces, many DIY tutorials call for a circular saw to cut larger amounts of wood. The circular saw is recommended as the more basic option and is less expensive than a table saw – not to mention, it'll take up less room in your garage.
Cost: As low as $39 or as high as $500.Read More
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She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.
Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.