Lessons in Home Improvement
Home improvement can be really fun and it can be really frustrating. I've definitely done a few projects that I've had to do over but in the end, it's been worth it. I've learned a lot along the way and figure I'd share with you so that you can learn from my mistakes!
Prep Prep Prep!
I can't emphasize this enough, good preparation will mean the difference between a fun home improvement project and a pull-your-hair-out-swear-a-lot-and-maybe-get-divorced project. The first step for any project should be research. Can you do it yourself? What kind of materials do you need? Do you need a professional? Is it going to cost a lot of money? It goes on and on. If you're doing a project yourself, preparation might include learning a new skill and then practicing the skill before you try it on your house. YouTube is great for this. It might include physical preparation like cleaning walls, caulking and spackling before you paint. It might be measuring multiple times to make sure you get the right supplies for the job. No matter what project you're about to embark on, take the time to properly plan it out first. You will be very happy that you did.
You can't do it all
Not even the best contractor can do everything when it comes to home improvement. When you're thinking about a project that needs doing. Figure out whether it would be best left to an expert. If your answer is "yes but I don't have the money," then save up or figure out whether there are manageable parts of the project you could do yourself to save you money. Don't embark on a project that is way above your head because in the best case, you'll end up spending more money on your mistakes and in the worst case, you might flood your house or set it on fire.
There are very few projects that I've done or that I've had professionals do on my house that have come out exactly as I pictured. As someone who has a touch of the OCD, this has been difficult for me. Over the years, I've learned to accept this and embrace a wabi sabi attitude towards home improvement projects. I've also found that sometimes when things go sideways on a project, it's an opportunity to improvise. Like my pop says "sometimes you gotta use the wrong tool for the right job."
When I bought my house, I was so excited to do work on it, that I started about 8 different projects at once. I ended up with a half bath that was unusable and kitchen floor that was half tiled for six months. It's taken a while, but these days I try to just tackle one or two things at a time. This rule can also apply to using contractors. It can a lot of wrangling finding and scheduling good contractors but it's worthwhile to get at least three quotes for any job. You will save big if you do so.
Don't go it alone
There are plenty of projects you can do on your own, but if you embark on a monster project alone, it can go wonky pretty fast and in the worst case, you could get hurt. Find yourself a project buddy! I have a friend who my neighbors used to call "Crash Bang" because whenever she came over we would do projects (and make lots of noise). Most folks who own houses and aren't heirs to great fortunes need help with projects. Find friends who need help with their projects and take turns helping each other out.
I hope this helps you the next time you're thinking of doing a project on your house or apartment. My mistakes can be your lesson.