Beware the Fixer Upper: 5 Signs DIY is Not in Your DNA

Home improvement

It’s easy to get inspired by home improvement TV shows. You could feel so empowered that you’d buy a home that needs renovations from top to bottom with the belief that you’ll make it grand again. Unfortunately, that fixer upper might still need repairs in 5 years or even longer.

Watch enough episodes of Property Brothers and you might be inspired to buy your own fixer upper. How hard can it really be to update a kitchen, rewire a bathroom and install a new hardwood floor?

Fixer-uppers can save you money on the front end. Sometimes, they’re an outright steal. Just remember that the bathroom renovation that you’d love to tackle might take weeks, months or longer if DIY isn’t really in your DNA. Here are 5 signs that you’d be happier with a home that’s move-in ready.

#1: Power Tools are Confusing

Power tools can make a lot of DIY jobs easier. They can also send you to the E.R., ruin a whole batch of materials or break down a week after you buy them.

You can buy new tools after you buy the house. Your favorite Big Box store is brimming with colorful choices that have interesting names and big price tags. Without a working knowledge of compound miter saws, hammer-action drills and pneumatic nailers, there’s a steep learning curve ahead.

How to solve it: Learn your way around power tools before you take on a new project and spend the extra money for good quality. Lowe’s has a power tools buying guide to get you started.

#2: You Aren’t Especially Great with Math

Most DIY projects come with lots of measurements, calculations, facts and figures. One-quarter inch might not seem like much. With home improvement, it’s sometimes enough to ruin a whole project.

One wrong measurement can misalign wood flooring, skew crown molding and make your new kitchen cabinets look more like a rollercoaster than a sleek, built-in system. If math isn’t your strong suit, you might use more materials than you really need and get a less-than-perfect result.

How to solve it: There’s a lot of truth built into the old saying, “measure twice, cut once.” Use a calculator, invest in precise measuring tools, and always follow installation directions. Most importantly, don’t work in a hurry. Also, pick up a copy of Reader’s Digest New Complete Do it Yourself Manual. It’s practically the DIY Bible.

Home improvement

Don’t be afraid to consult with professionals, even if you ultimately do the work on your own.

#3: You’ve Never Worked With Electrical Wiring

Maybe you’ve hooked up a stereo or rewired a lamp. Home wiring is a lot different, and it takes special knowledge. Lots of fixer-upper homes need a wiring upgrade, but it’s a job that’s often left for the pros.

Wiring mistakes aren’t cosmetic; they can start a fire inside a wall, and it might not happen for weeks or months after you move in. You need knowledge about proper wiring gauge, load centers, circuits, breakers, GFCI and AFCI protection and much more. Check out Old House Online’s rewiring tips to get an idea about the scope of work.

How to solve it: If you’re determined to rewire your new house, the safest approach is to do the work and have it thoroughly checked out by your local electrical inspector before you hook it up. The best and safest bet is always to hire an electrician to do the work.

#4: Who Needs Permits, Anyway?

It’s your house, so you can start any DIY project that you like, right? Not so fast. Many home improvement projects require a building, plumbing or electrical permit before the work begins. That applies to indoor projects that the building inspector can’t see if they drive down your street.

Permits can get costly if you need one for every job, but they protect you and your neighbors. In many jurisdictions, local inspectors have the power to issue a fine and enforce the removal of new, unpermitted work. Imaging building a deck and then taking it apart board by board.

How to solve it: Contact your building inspector, code enforcer or community development office to ask about permits. In some cases, they may require professional work. In others, they may allow DIY work as long as it’s inspected before they sign off.

Home improvement

The time it takes to read and follow instructions can save time and money in the long run.

#5: You’re in a Hurry

It bears repeating: the projects you see on Property Brothers and Rehab Addict take much longer to complete than what’s suggested on TV. They often require a hefty bank account and some excellent materials and supply connections, as well.

It’s possible to install a new tile kitchen floor in a day. If you’ve never installed tile, chances are you’ll get crooked grout lines for your trouble. Rushed work leads to mistakes, especially if you’re learning as you go.

How to solve it: Adjust your timeframe expectations or hire a pro.

DIY isn’t in everyone’s DNA. It’s easy to get in over your head and spend more money than you would for a home that’s ready to move in. That doesn’t mean you can’t buy a home that needs a lot of work. Just remember that for every beautiful project, professional contractors log many hours to get it done.

A certified home inspector can help prepare you for the work that lies ahead. Your inspection report will reveal hidden defects such as corroded water supply lines that need replacement before you can install a new bathtub or bad wiring that isn’t safe.

Are you in the market for a little DIY? Hire an Inspector can help. We’ll find a professional home inspector near you.