Adopt DIY ‘best practices’ for your project

By Tom Phelan - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Wed., Jan. 16, 2013
- Contributed Photo

I began “fixing” things at a pretty young age. In some cases, they weren't broken to begin with, and they didn't work when I got finished with the “repair.” Let's just say I had an unfettered curiosity about how things worked.

What I have learned by trial and error, as well as from some good DIY mentors, is that there are some fundamentals of fixing anything that can be taught and practiced. When these are adopted as DIY "best practices," success - though not guaranteed - is considerably more likely. Applying these fundamentals over and over again will reduce your project time and make you the conquering hero in your own home.

First, be humble. Read the directions. Even though they may be poor translations by someone from a foreign land, they should give you some basic information, component lists and parts counts, and a sequence to follow. This not only works for new items, but if you also save all that paperwork in a binder or folder in your workshop, you will have it for reference when that item is no longer new.

Second, get ready. Find a bucket or a box in which to assemble all the tools and supplies you will need to work all the way through the project. Even if you have a "go-fer" to assist you, stopping to find an essential tool is a waste of time. The list might be short, or it could be quite long. The tools are just the basics. Include safety gear - gloves, goggles, face mask. You might also need drop cloths, extension cords, brushes, sandpaper, tape, more tape, something to write with and something to write on. Get it all together first, and have it near you.

You will need something to guide you. It may be the guide that came with whatever you are working on, but more than likely you will have to find your own reference materials. If your home store has a good selection of DIY and how-to books, that is a good place to start. Chances are, though, that you will need the contents of only a few pages, and won't want to spend $39.95 for a 400-page manual.

Searching the Internet for just the information you need can be very productive, but be ready to pick through a whole lot of incomplete and mediocre content. Bypass the YouTube videos. It's best to narrow your reference material search by starting with a manufacturer's site and using model and part or serial numbers for equipment. Magazines such as “The Family Handyman” offer online versions where you can search for solutions and projects related to your particular need. Look also at sites that offer replacement parts for whatever you are working on. The good ones have equipment breakdowns, parts lists, and many times offer troubleshooting applications to help you get things done quickly.

Once you have everything you need at your disposal and are ready to take on your fix-it project, begin by labeling the parts as you disassemble them. Make sure you have plenty of workspace, and lay the parts out in the order in which you removed them. Use plastic bags to hold small parts such as screws, nuts, washers, etc. As you re-assemble the project you can just work in the opposite direction.

If you are repairing an appliance, always tag each wire, sprocket, pulley and other such parts. If you have reference material that provides an assembly and wiring diagram, use that to identify parts labels. When there is no reference diagram, draw your own illustration and create your own codes. This makes it much easier to reconnect everything once you have solved the problem. You can accelerate this process by using a digital camera to take photos of the components before and during your work.

Finally, it's always a good idea to have another person near you while you are working. This is especially true if you are working on your household electrical system. If you are working from a ladder, your helper should be within view. And if you are working with power tools, the same is true.

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