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.
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