Common DIY mistakes – know them, and avoid them

By Tom Phelan - ReminderNews
Featured - posted Thu., Feb. 27, 2014
- Contributed Photo

Over the years, I have done an unfathomable number of DIY projects, both large and small. Not all of them were perfect from “Day 1.” But I got better at it pretty quickly. It's not all about learning how to do something; It's as much about learning from your mistakes.
Based on my personal experience and observation of others, here are some of the most common mistakes DIY practitioners make. See how many you have mastered.

Not enough preparation – I really try to plan out all projects, small as well as large, before I get started. That includes working through it in my head, getting advice and information from various sources, acquiring a plan, measuring, and making a list of materials, supplies and tools. Every time I deviate from that strategy, I find myself spending more time on the project than I know it should take.

Measure once, cut once – There is no room for inaccuracy in almost any DIY effort. This includes calculating as well as just getting the right measurement device and using it correctly. This is particularly true in carpentry or woodworking projects, but you can just as easily make such a mistake doing an electrical or plumbing project, too. Repeat: Measure twice, cut once!

Failing to clean and prepare surfaces – Most people make this classic mistake in painting, staining and papering projects. Take the time to clean the surface you are improving, and repair any blemishes on it. Sometimes you need to sand a surface even after you have cleaned it so the paint or stain will adhere properly. Failure to remove stains on a wall or ceiling guarantees they will reappear on the freshly painted surface. Not using a tack cloth to remove sanding dust from a surface you are staining will yield a finish that looks unprofessional.

Tool failure – If you don't gather together all the necessary tools, you have not planned well. You will inevitably go to the store at least once to get what you really need. Gather from your own collection all the tools the project requires. If you don't already own them borrow, buy or rent them. Don't settle for inadequate tools. If you cannot afford to buy something rated “better” or “best,” acquire the right tool somehow. Buying cheap tools is always a mistake.

Unsafe practices – Get a safe ladder, and use it safely. Never stand on the top of a step ladder, nor prop a ladder up on one side. Always be sure both feet are securely planted on the ground or floor. Never stretch beyond your normal reach while you are on a ladder. Descend and move it where you can safely reach your work area.

Some activities are only done safely with a helper present. I try never to do electric work without someone else around who is aware of what I am doing. The same is true if you have to work from a ladder. Working alone oftentimes means you are asking for trouble.

Clean the area in which you are working, and remove clutter as you go. That includes tools, extension cords and material remnants.
Always wear the proper clothing and/or protective gear for the project at hand. That means long sleeve shirt and pants while working on fiberglass insulation, safety glasses around electric saws, drills, etc.

Substandard materials – If you have planned the job well, you will know the proper dimensions of the required materials. Using wood that is an eighth- or quarter-inch thinner than what the job or plan calls for is selling yourself short. Pay attention to lumber grades and dimensions, and don't use anything less than what is recommended. This holds true for metal and plastic materials as well.

How does your experience compare? I hope you are well beyond these basic mistakes by now, and well on your way to discovering others.

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