This past Saturday, I had my kids playhouse moved from our old house to our new one. The playhouse paint didn’t match our new house, so I spent some time today painting it. I also repaired a few shingles that were damaged during the move. Oh, and I also installed a small window-unit air conditioner, so the kids can play in the house and be comfortable.
I have a list, a mile long, of home improvement projects. I want to build shelves for the shed. I really want to build a potting bench for the back porch – and I still need to do something about landscaping our backyard. So many projects – so little time – and so little money!
I’ve noticed, as I’ve tackled various projects, that almost everything I want to do ends up costing more – sometimes a little more, sometimes a lot more – than I expected. I am, however, getting a bit better at predicting costs, because I’ve learned to look for the “hidden costs” associated with home improvements.
Fasteners – Bolts, Screws, Nails
It never fails. I need to attach (fill in the blank) to (fill in the blank) but I don’t have the right fastener for the job. Whether it’s a $3 box of nails or a $50 box of specialty bolts, it’s imperative that fasteners be included when calculating the cost of any home improvement. (Also, it also important that you buy the correct type of fastener for the job. I cannot count the number of times I’ve purchased 2 inch nails, only to have to return to the store and buy 3 inch nails. You would think I would learn – measure first!)
Finishes – Paints, Primers, Stains
Quality, long-lasting paint is rather expensive. When working on a project, it’s very easy to forget, or under-estimate, the amount of paint that a project might require. On the flip side, it’s also easy to buy too much paint, for fear that you might run out! Think about your finishes before you begin your project, and don’t wait until you’re standing in the paint isle. (Side note – When you complete a project, hang on to any unused paint. You never know when you’ll need it for touch-ups.)
Measurements – Level, Square, Plumb
What’s the old saying? Measure twice, cut once? I say, measure twice, write it down, measure again, then cut. There’s nothing worse than cutting a board to 43 inches long, only to find out that I really needed the board to be 44 inches. Material costs can quickly skyrocket if care is not taken when measuring and cutting. Haste makes waste! (This is the old-time-sayings portion of the blog post!)
Tools – Blades, Extension Cords, Batteries
If you’re going to learn how to “do it yourself”, you’re going to need some tools. Tools have associated costs – blades, extra batteries, drill bits – for which one must account. When working on a DIY project, it’s important to factor the cost of any tools I might need to buy, rent, or borrow. The right tool might cost more upfront, but will save you time (and probably money) in the long-run. Oh, it’s also important to be able to “power” any “power tools” – and that means quality extension cords. (Have you ever heard someone call an extension cord a “drop cord”? I’m trying to determine if this is a term from the South, a term that folks who live in rural areas use, or if it’s universal, and lots of folks use it. Leave a comment and let me know!)
I’ll be honest – I know just enough about home improvement to take care of “basic jobs”. If I’m not comfortable tackling a particular task, I’ll call an expert. I’d rather pay someone who knows what he is doing – and avoid making even-more-expensive mistakes. This is especially true when dealing with projects involving electricity, plumbing, or structural work.
I actually enjoy doing projects around the house. With a little planning – and lots of learning from past mistakes – I’m getting better at estimating the real cost of home improvements. Now, time to check the honey-do-list and see what’s on the schedule for Saturday!
One last thought - This article is intended to focus on “do it yourself” type home improvements. Obviously, if I were planning a major project, like adding an addition to the house or installing a swimming pool, there would be tons of other costs to consider. For now, I’m just dealing with stuff like painting a play house, building a flower box, or adding a lean-to to a shed. Baby steps…