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People will try to tell you you can’t do a certain project, or you need tons of cash on hand to tackle minor projects — it’s one of my biggest beefs.  Perhaps they mean well, but the problem is that folks less pigheaded than the average Toolmonger might actually listen and not attempt small household repairs.  The simple fact:  You can do a lot of projects yourself, without thirty years experience or thousands of dollars to throw at ’em.

This picture by ghb624 sums up the attitude I’m talking about:  Just get it done.  That’s often all it takes.  In this case, ghb had a leak in his roof, but instead of whining and crying about what to do or wondering how much it would cost, he got up on the roof and fixed it.

You’ll notice there’s no fanfare, no spectators in the photo with him — that’s how DIY is.  Some call it thankless work;  we call it getting it done.  And once you’ve got a few tools and a few projects under your belt, you may find that fixing a sink or replacing a toilet isn’t as scary as it used to be.

Whether you’re a rank amateur or seasoned veteran, try and tackle that window that won’t shut, or install the new garage door opener yourself.  Though you’ll want to leave some projects to the pros — AC unit repair, for instance — you can pull off most of ’em without the hired guns.


11 Responses to Editorial: Getting It Done

  1. James B says:

    Hell yeah brother.

    So many times somebody asks for help online, only to be told “you need to hire a professional” or “that won’t work”. Well, the steering shaft extension and strut tower spacers I welded with a 110v welder didn’t break. If your AC system already leaked all the refrigerant, why do you need to pay somebody to recover it? I put brakes on the cars and they still stop. I ran my own wiring and didn’t burn down the house. The trailer I welded pulled across most of the US, up some rough switchbacks, and off the side of a bank, without cracking under the load. My sawmill sawed some boards. The boat I built out of plywood didn’t sink in the middle of the lake. And the list goes on.

    But the professional electrician I hired left a big ass hole in my wall. The professional drywall guy covered over an hvac vent. The mechanic left the cotter pin off my lower tie rod, didn’t tighten the bolt, and left me in a ditch when I lost steering. The other mechanic forgot to put the bolts on my transmission crossmember and just left one in halfway and finger tight. The network installer just stapled cat-5 on my drywall. The HVAC guys took about 30 hours to figure out how to wire a humidifier to an air handler they installed. Get the picture?

    The professional services I can’t complain about are the Lawn Doctor, the Window Genie, and they guy building my cabin in NC. They all do it right.

    I’m sure there are good mechanics, electricians, plumbers, and maybe even network installers out there, but it is hit and miss. I’ll keep spending twice as much and taking twice as long, and doing it myself.

  2. BC says:

    You said it James, I’ll only add one thing:

    There’s nothing more satisfying to a Toolmonger-style DIYer than patting yourself on the back at the end of the project. I’ll take that feeling any day, when I step back on Sunday afternoon, cold beer in hand, and admire my work. I don’t need anyone else to tell me it’s good; good or bad, by god, it’s mine.

  3. toolaremia says:

    But sometimes you have to be careful about how a DIY’er “get’s it done“.

    That whole series is eye-opening. There are five sets in the series.

  4. kdp says:

    It’s all about self preservation, self reliance and self confidence. Your most valuable tool is your mindset.

    There’s a great satisfaction in knowing that you can build or fix most anything, in sizing up a challenge and formulating a mental list of tools and materials, in joyfull approach to unfamilar terrain.

  5. Joe says:

    Hell yeah, indeed! Though my customers consider me a pro (I hope), I started as a DIYer when I was a boy, it’s still what drives me, and it’s still who I am. Too many “pros” can’t see past the way it’s always been done, so it kills their creativity and when they run into problems they can’t see the simple, non-traditional solution. I’m often told I’m nuts when I say I’m going to do “X” when everybody else would choose “Y”, but I sure do like it when “X” turned out to be the better solution, and often cheaper or faster to boot. Go with your gut (but double-check everything you can to CYA)!

  6. Frank Townend says:

    “If you want it done right, do it yourself.”

  7. olderty says:

    I got one too:

    “If you do something right, it’s as if you did nothing at all.”

    Sounds harsh, but it’s easy to do a project fast and easy. Say you’re doing drywall, if you take your time to make sure the wall looks straight, people won’t notice because it’s supposed to be straight. If you do it wrong everyone notices.

  8. roger says:

    I am all for DIY, but informed DIY please. When it comes to electrical, plumbing, and heating BE INFORMED. Get a book, go online, ask ten thousand dumb questions. Maybe even get a pro to do your design and then install it yourself. An electrical project, or hot water heater, or an addition that you built yourself and know you did the right way is the most satisfying feeling in the world.
    On the other hand, I make fifty percent of my living fixing stupid stuff that wasn’t done right in the first place. And generally if whoever did it the first time had done a little research before they picked up a hammer or a wrench I wouldn’t be correcting their mistakes. (On the other hand it is a good living:)
    There is good information available for any project you want to tackle. Amazon.com for DIY books. There are rental videos and DVD’s that demo practically any project you care to name. There are online forums (Such as the ones run by Fine Homebuilding) that can help answer specific questions you might have. A good hardware guy is always worth his weight in gold. Google and Yahoo searchs can be very helpful.
    Do it yourself, do it right, it’ll change your life.

  9. Zathrus says:

    @toolaremia — actually, there’s 12 or 13 “sets” in that series. They keep adding one every couple months.

    And note that it’s impossible to tell if the handiwork is “DIY” or from a so-called “pro” unless the homeowner claims proud ownership of the evidence themselves (such as with the hidden electrical box in the latest series).

    I’ve seen plenty of crap work from someone who was a DIYer and didn’t know wtf they were doing. I’ve seen just as much from “pros” that didn’t know either.

    As others have said, if you’re going to DIY then learn how to do it RIGHT the first time (and cut yourself some slack because you’re not going to get true pro results the first time around either). If you’re going to hire someone out then make sure they know what they’re doing (hint — references REALLY are important).

  10. BC says:

    I agree with the DO IT RIGHT crowd, to a point. A big part of DIYing (and the after-the-fact satisfaction) is the knowledge you gain through the process.

    I’ve got a lot of respect for the guy who may not have all the knowledge or skills, but who does his homework and puts forth his best effort — even though it may not be perfect. You know why? Because I’ve been there.

    The DIYer I don’t have any respect for is the old fart who owned my house before me, and thought that it would be a great idea to wire a sub panel through the two main lines, before the main breaker… and then decided to splice a 240v line to the dryer with nothing but clamps and electrical tape.

  11. Joe says:

    Good DIY-my used Mazda that the previous owner did EVERY scheduled bit of maintenance and kept a extremely detailed log. I’m replacing the timing belt right now, and he did a better job putting in the water pump than a lot of shopwork that I’ve seen–no snot all over the place, no rounded off fasteners. And I’ve seen his shop, there’s not much more than basic wrenches and screwdrivers in there.

    BAD DIY-my 35+ yr. old Volvo that every time I work on an area I haven’t touched before, the first tools I grab are my taps because I know I’m going to find a SAE threaded bolt jammed into a metric hole, or worse! I was doing some concrete work last summer and my wife had my truck so the Volvo was parked out front–this guy pulls up, starts up a conversation, then tells me, proudly, that he used to do all of the work for the previous owner of the car! I think my response was something like, “Is that so . . .” with a nice smile.

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