September 23, 2009

When you need to contact the professionals: DIY jobs you should never attempt on your own

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Many homeowners and some long-term renters enjoy getting involved with the upkeep of their house and putting their own personal touches into the design and decor. There are all kinds of do-it-yourself home improvement projects that can help personalize your home and create a feeling of satisfaction at having successfully used your own resources, and probably having saved some money in the process. Just flipping through a few home design magazines or taking a trip down to home improvement supply stores can help give you all kinds of ideas for both small and more involved projects that will only require a little bit of your spare time, a lot of creative energy, a few basic materials and tools, and some useful recycling ideas to help turn your old junk into new and improved housewares.

Start inside your home – surely you have an old lampshade that you would love to replace, some broken screens that have been pulled out of windows, a few walls that could use a fresh coats of paint, and a chair that was new in the 1970s that is destined for the trash. All of these are excellent raw materials that can be updated so that instead of purchasing new items, you can personalize your old ones.

Start by removing the old lampshade from the shade frame. Detach the seam and lay the shade out flat over a spread out piece of sheer fabric. Trace the outline of the shade and then cut the shape out of the fabric, leaving an extra half inch the whole way around. Now drape the fabric around the lampshade frame and use fabric glue to attach the extra half inch up around the edge of the frame and to the fabric inside. Glue down the seam and allow the glue to set. Now you have a lovely recycled lampshade that is just as good as new.

Staple the broken or torn window screens to empty wooden picture frames, using the sections that are still intact. Hang these small frames on the wall in your bedroom or closet to hang earrings on, helping you stay organized.

As for the walls, run down to the paint store and describe what you would like to do to the customer service reps. They will likely be able to help you select the right paint, primer, and rolls or brushes for the type of wall and style of painting you want. Head home, throw down a drop cloth to catch spills and splatters, and start in on the walls yourself. The paint will cost you next to nothing compared to what you would pay to have professional painters do the job, and painting walls is actually fun!

Detach the upholstery from your old worn chair and trace the shapes of the removed pieces of fabric onto new, bright, heavy upholstery material. Use a staple gun to attach the fabric into place on the underside of the chair, along the wooden frame. Sew a cushion cover from the same upholstery and enjoy your pretty updated chair.

Outdoors, you may want to attack your gardens if they’ve been neglected. Calling a gardener is always an option, but you can probably do many of the things yourself that you would pay them to do. Plant colorful rows of flowers along the front of the house, and try potting a few trees in large ceramic or cement planters that you can move around as you wish, altering the appearance of your house, or pulling them inside during the frosty months.

Some projects may require the help of an extra set of hands, especially when your assistant has prior experience with the task. Driveway potholes are a nuisance and are fairly unavoidable, especially after a cold winter, and the cost of hiring someone to fix them could be extremely high. Pick up some asphalt patching material and give it a go yourself, with the help of a friend who can speed up the process. All you have to do is clean out the pothole, dampen it with some water, and fill with the asphalt patch. Pound down the material and toss some sawdust over the patch while it dries. Easy enough, right?

Some home projects, though, require certain skills and tools that aren’t easy to come by and require more than just common sense. This is a case where it is important to know how hard to try, and when to give in and call up the professionals.

For example, unless you have some experience with pipes and gas lines, major plumbing problems and heating issues will probably require a pro, as will malfunctioning electrical systems. Replacing the roof to your home or changing the siding is best left to professionals, as is the installation of an in-ground pool. If your basement floods, you ought to consider bringing in a clean-up & basement waterproofing team that will be able to help you salvage your affected possessions and dry things up in a fraction of the time it would take you alone. Should you decide to add a new deck onto the house, your best bet is to either call up the whole neighborhood (ideally with a contractor or two thrown in there) to raise the deck, or to call over to someone who specializes in exterior construction and can help you design it, then take over the work from there.

The number of handymen available in any given area is astounding, but calling up just anyone in the phone book could easily lead to getting into business with someone who isn’t licensed or insured, or may scam you, or simply just do a poor job. Sidestep this unfortunate situation by talking with friends about what you have in mind to see if someone can refer you to their contacts with that specialty. If no one can point you in a direction, think about calling up a referral agency, that can match up qualified professionals with those who require the corresponding services.

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