Should You Try and Do this Yourself?

This is a really tricky issue and I don’t want to hurt your feelings but billions of $$$$   of stuff gets screwed up each year by homeowners

  • taking bad advice-
  • misunderstanding good advice-
  • misinterpreting imprecise advice

and, in the guise of saving money, break things that cost much more money that what they planned to save.The key to successful do-it-yourself projects is being modest about your abilities and doing small projects well- projects that do no harm if it turns into a do-it-twice project.

You know your skill set. If you have experience at something- well great, go for it. Understand the value of your own time, and make sure you are getting paid through your savings, or make sure you are having fun. Remember projects are always more fun on paper. They only turn into work when the tools and wrecking bars come out.

Be very wary, if you are teaching yourself a new skill from videos, or books, or infographics. Remember this is a bit like thinking you can easily learn to play the violin by watching Yo-Yo Ma. Expertise can make a task look effortless.

Always Understand the Risk Involved in Your Project

There are projects that look simple, but to get them right requires special tools and training. There are projects that if you screw them up you are screwed. Plumbing is a great fit here. Pressure line breaks spray water. Drain lines leak and create conditions for mold. Do know what you are doing here, or do not start.

With any DIY project, be aware of the worst thing that can go wrong and assess what you do from here. Books and vivid pictures and videos- even can misconstrue what do do, if you have never done it before.  DIY projects are too much like watching the saxaphone player. It looks so easy that I could do that….  beware.

I offer up my best advice for you. I reserve the right to fix and append these as I get smarter. Your success with any project is determined by your luck and experience and ambition. This is abstract  advice here- not intended for any particular actual project you undertake. You are on your own.

Do You Have Your Heart Set on Building Your Own House or remodeling your own house?

Well, you will get lots of suggestions on how to do it. People are happy to sell you books and encyclopedias. All kinds of video are made by people selling caulking- selling special repair tools or repair processes, you can even find great videos on specialty repair products- some are great, some not so great… but you have to assess all of those yourself.

Volunteer and learn some new skills from someone who knows what they are doing.

A great way to learn new skills like this is to volunteer your services to organizations that help paint and fix up houses, or help people build houses. It is always nice to have extra hands around, and really good carpenters and masons all started from picking up their first hand tool,

Here are a list of organizations where you can volunteer.

There are other organizations around, all you have to do is look about. It is easy to watch something done right with two eyes and ears in the real world than through the pages of a book- although both work together.  Feel free to add a comment below to add another organization here. Volunteering  is a good for all of us.

 Here is a random list of projects – Some of these you can to try – others I suggest  just leave alone.

 Seal up the attic access hole in the ceiling– this project is interesting yet nothing more complex that measured cuts and cutting straight. You even get to use the caulking gun. Best part if you mess up- nothing has been cut open or disassembled. This would be a great way to test your ability to think ahead and solve problems that come up. How to Insulate and Air-Seal Pull-Down Attic Access Doors 

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  Everywhere you look someone is encouraging you to take up a caulk gun and seal some air leaks. this needs to be tested… Allison says try this… but clearly just making a best case… get a HERS audit…

short excerpt:

It is easier to find leaks in your home when it is cold out because we can sense cold air easier than warm air. Wet down a wash cloth and use it to keep the back of your hand moist. Start at one corner of your home’s exterior wall (from the inside of your house) and feel around any penetration in the wall. This is done by waving the back of your hand near anything that looks like it has any possibility of leaking air

Am I just a cranky old fart, or is this silliness? I will answer my chosen half of this question. It is silliness.

There are a variety of reasons why you get so much encouragement to start caulking air leaks.

It is  easy BS that creates traffic around websites. You see this crap everywhere passed off as a useful tip to  save energy.

It sells caulking guns and caulking. No one knows the billions of dollars pocketed by big box stores tells apochrophal tales of intrepid folk undertaking all kinds of do-it-yourself projects. Now one talks about the graveyards of crap in garages from abandoned projects.

Others talk about this just enough hoping you get discouraged and call in the professionals. The government websites do this- talk about do it yourself projects, and then mix in  so much of the complexity and the attractiveness of calling  in a professional that it just appears  to be a setup to ge you by creating an appetite for saving energy. So of how restaurants fire up the grill and stink up the neighborhood to make people hungry. I know for a fact that Kentucky Fried Chicken does this….

There are good reasons not to get out the caulking gun.

There are a lot of holes in houses that drain water but can look like something that needs a bead of caulking. Many years a go, in the old Seattle Coliseu- the roof leaked during an NBA game. That is when the Supersonics were in Seattle. Well, the leak made the news, and so the next day I happened to see a local TV crew on top of the Seattle Coliseum roof, with a repair guy and his caulk gun caulking stuff that is never intended to be caulked- but I guess when the coliseum roof leaks it is time for magical solutions? No, never, leave the caulk gun at the big box store…

The critical leaks are not accessible to you and your caulk gun. You need to know the inner working of structure and know where to look for the big issues and have the tools and equipment and the materials for the job, and your big box grade materials are not the answer.

All right, I am finished. Oh, and good caulking is really messy and hard to get off your hands…

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Attics can be treacherous but they also contain a treasure trove of energy wasting mishaps and screw-ups and built in design issues- that if you find, and if you solve, will help you put money in your kittie each month rather than pay the electricity trolls. There is a treasure map for exploring the attic here. 

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 Do not try and clean up or cover up a mold problem without some perspective.

Mold is really serious, evn more so, if you have sensitive human beings in your household. Plus you have a moisture problem if you have mold. Moisture issues must be dealt with first and from a home performance point of view. Then mold gets a foothold and has a  spore propagation form to protect the mold lifeform from the harsest of natural conditions. What your body really hates are mold spores.

It is suggested that you find the right professional to help assess the leaking air issue and permanently alleviate the conditions that allowed the mold to form. Then you can appraise the situation- and determine your next move. You have a wide range of options- from cleaning discrete areas properly yourself to calling in the pros.

There are mold spores everywhere, so this recommendation is tricky- but just like the tales told about dust mites- you can get a variety of “information” about mold  that is influenced by the opportunity for $$$. that is all I will say.

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Plumbing was always Dagwood Bumstead nemisis. Countless times Blondie had to put up with Bumstead messing up the plumbing. Imagine how much she could have used speed-dial or a smart phone.

There are many things not to touch in your plumbing. Do not touch anything that has to do with pressure lines.

What can you do around the plumbing?

Make sure all your faucet lines have water cutoff that work. So many homes, have cut off valves that worked- probably- once upon a time, but now do not turn off completely. Nearly completely is not good enough when the line breaks and it is streaming into the living space- small streaming maybe, but too much streaming.

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List of don’t ever do and don’t let anybody else… DO

Don’t nail into brick or mortar… ever. There are special fasteners for fastening to masonary and they do not use a hammer… oh maybe for a tap but that is all.

Don’t start caulking anything unless you know exactly what you are doing. I ramble on about this in the links above.

Do not start randomly patching stuff trying to solve a problem. All you are doing is confusing the expert who will come and understand what is happening unless you spread repair goo around and muck around and open up a long list of what is under that mess?

Don’t cover over real problems with patches or paint or tin… all kinds of problems only get workse by being covered up or ignored. There is little chance that you can cover something up and not have it come back and bit you in the butt.

Do not nail stuff to the house. capillary creates two wet surfaces and two wet surfaces are the start of all kinds of potential trouble.

Don’t bring your experience from farther north and think that it automatically makes sense in Texas. Gardening is totally different. Foundations need attention. Be careful around that pile of boards- not so many snakes in suburbia any more, but you might wake up a possum too and they need their rest.

Don’t build decks close to the ground, build decks on the ground – like a concrete slab. You do not need a possum or armadillo  hotel.

Long list of stuff missing here, but sort of inquire around what is happening on the ground before you bring great ideas into Texas… unless you are a liberal- we need more of those…

All right I got that off my chest. How has a suggestion?



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