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DIY could be more costly and risky than DIFM

Back in the days of my home-show appearances, attendees would often ask me the same kind of question—“Do you think I could renovate my own bathroom (kitchen, bedroom…)?” To which I would always answer, “Do you know how to replace a light switch?” That would always make them chuckle.

“But they make it look so easy on TV!” Then I would chuckle.

I’ve always taken issue with DIY shows that film home improvement projects like cooking shows. “Ta-dah,” the perfect dish comes out of the oven. Meanwhile it was pre-prepped, pre-baked, and “swap outs” (a TV term) are given for folks to actually taste.

I made a point on my show “Toolbelt Diva” to say things like, “It would be a miracle if you get this door to fit perfectly in the frame on the first try”—letting the audience know that tweaking, re-cutting, multiple trips back to the hardware store, etc. are normal.

Here’s the reality of reality programming—a half-hour show is actually 22 minutes of content; how much of that should include real-life frustrations, mistakes, and monotony rather than actual how-to steps of the project?

Circling back to my cheeky response to eager DIYers, in home improvement, like life, you need to know how to crawl before you walk, and walk before you run.

If you don’t know the basics of plumbing, wiring, etc., how are you supposed to renovate an entire bathroom?

Sure, there are YouTube videos on how to fix just about anything. But in real-life, snafus happen.

Take a faucet replacement: step one, shut the water from the valve. What’s this? The shut-off valve is leaking like a sieve in the off position? Now what?

An unexpected shut-off valve replacement project.

Did you know you’ll likely need to shut off water to the entire house to replace that valve, and won’t be able to turn it back on until it’s plugged or replaced?

My less than gung-ho response comes from the reality of Murphy’s Law— anything that can go wrong, will, and oh so often does. So, the question is, will you be prepared when your project goes sideways?

Obviously, I’m a DIY devotee and have spent decades of my life encouraging people, especially women, get the job done themselves. My cold open to every episode was, “Hey ladies, do you have any lingering projects around the house that you can’t seem to get done?

Well, I’m here to tell you, you don’t have to wait anymore. Because with the right attitude and proper tools, you can do it yourself!”

So, should you DIY or DIFM (Do-It-For-Me)? Here are some points to help you decide.Start small and see how you do. Try tiling a table-top first, then say, a backsplash, before you take on an entire floor. If a project well exceeds your comfort, experience or skill set, call a pro.

Before getting started, learn the dangers and basic safety measures within the realm of the project. According to homeowner insurance provider, Clearsurance, more than 290,000 U.S. homeowners went to the ER in 2020 due to DIY accidents, with over 25,000 admitted to the hospital.

One must also consider risks to the home from projects gone wrong, like flood or fire.

If you don’t feel that you can safely and effectively carry out a project, don’t risk it. Keep in mind that in an effort to save money by doing it yourself, you could end up digging yourself into a ditch, costing you more money to get out of than if you hired a pro in the first place.

Make sure to check if your project requires a permit. For an extensive list check www.bcnv.org for “Work That Does Not Require a Building Permit.”

Also, be aware that your insurance company may deny a claim if damage to your home occurred as a result of work not properly permitted or performed by a licensed contractor.

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