About 15 or so years ago, I had zero do-it-yourself (DIY) skills. I was just a white collar guy working as a computer programmer at the headquarters of a major retailer. My hands were soft and callous-free. This all changed shortly after I purchased my first home.
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The No-Show Plumber
Right after I moved into that first house, I noticed that the water in one of the showers dripped. No matter how hard I cranked on the handle, it wouldn’t stop. I had no idea what to do, so I called some plumbers from the phone book (remember phone books?). The few plumbers who returned my call never bothered to show up. I consulted a friend who recommended someone who actually did show up. After looking at the issue, the plumber said he’d be back the next day to fix it. Great!
Except it wasn’t so great, as the guy never showed up.
Frustrated, I decided to tackle the issue myself. I knew how to turn the water off, so did that first. I gathered some random tools from the garage and started taking the fixture apart. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it came apart easily and that there was no rocket science involved; it only needed a new cartridge. I bought one from a plumbing supply store and put the fixture back together. To my amazement, it worked perfectly.
The plumber called a week later, telling me he got “backed up and could be over tomorrow.” I told him that I no longer required his services and relished the $100+ I saved doing it myself.
Tile and Cabinets and Electricity, Oh My!
This same bathroom had a floor that was so ugly, it scared small children and household pets. After the success I had with plumbing, I decided to give tile setting a try. I checked out books from the library and carefully read the instructions on the bags of thinset (tile adhesive) and mortar. Again, the job turned out really great. I was on my way.
It was at this time that I started to try all sorts of other projects. In a home we were flipping, we completely gutted the kitchen down to the studs. I learned how to hang/finish drywall and install cabinetry. The home had issues with electricity, so I fixed much of that. I hung five ceiling fans and replaced lots of other outdated lighting.
I’m in the middle of a project right now. I plumbed the entire addition (two bathrooms, both supply and waste lines). I also built a shower, including a custom pan. Both of these tasks were new to me, but the projects turned out great and I passed inspection the first time with praise from the inspector.
Things don’t always go perfectly. I’ve lost a couple fingernails (ouch!) and am all too familiar with puncture wounds (shout out to the tetanus shot!). However, the money and aggravation I save from doing the work myself makes it well worth it. I’ve saved well over $100,000 with my DIY skills over the several house flips. I’m also a popular guy with the neighbors!
I encourage folks to attempt projects almost every day. They usually respond with something along the lines of, “I could never do that” or “I just don’t have any skill with my hands.”
Fifteen years ago, I didn’t have any skills either. The only difference between them and me is a desire to try. Take your time, check out books from your local library and scour the internet. YouTube videos are especially helpful. When the time comes to attempt your first project, read the instructions, take a deep breath and take your time. It’s OK to be nervous. I was too when I set that first tile. However, I have all the confidence in the world that you can do it!
Thank You, Mr. No-Show Plumber
I admit that I was really angry when that first plumber was a no-show. I’m sure that half of the reason (OK, probably more than half) I attempted that first fix myself was just to spite him. I have no idea where that plumber is today, but if I ran into him, I’d thank him. He set me on a path to become the DIY hero I am today.
We’ve since flipped many homes, netting hundreds of thousands of dollars of profit in the process. It’s been hard work, but we’re on course to retire in our 40s because of it. And it all started with one leaky faucet and an unreliable plumber 15 years ago.
What projects have you learned to DIY? What would you like to learn?
Let us know all about your DIY success (and fails!) in the comments section below.