Saturday, 16 May 2009

Building Your DIY Confidence

Make it and mend it team member Anne has some personal tips for getting over your DIY inhibitions. She did.
Every journey starts with a single step and gaining DIY confidence is no exception. I used to be willing to give most small DIY projects a go. But then I met and fell in love with a man who had a whole range of DIY skills. I got lazy. Then, many year’s later, I got divorced.

I found that, along with the cat, I’d also acquired a certain reluctance to undertake anything that involved hammers or – even more daunting – power tools. Every picture hanging exercise conjured up images of water pipes punctured by errant drills, or me getting an instant perm as electricity from an exposed cable coursed through my body.

But it’s very hard to sign up to living creatively and sustainably, making and mending, repairing, restoring and remodelling if you don’t embrace the concept and the practice of DIY.

With a new life and a new home to deal with (plus the need to save money) I had to get back in the DIY saddle. Here are my top tips for gaining DIY confidence:

1. Safety first - You’ll feel a great deal more confident if you know you’ve taken adequate safety precautions before you begin.
Most homes now have RCD (Residual Current Device) fuse boxes. If you don’t know, go to your fuse box and check. An RCD quickly trips out the power when it detects the current flowing to earth (which is what happens when you nick an electric cable).
If you don’t have an RCD fuse box, attach an RCD adapter between the plug of the electric appliance you are using and the socket. >> You can buy one cheaply in our shop

Better still, don’t drill or nail through pipes and cable:
• spend few moments considering your drill point in the context of nearby plug sockets, taps etc
• buy yourself a metal, stud and voltage detector. These used to be worse than useless a few years ago but are now much more sensitive. Read and follow the instructions carefully. >> 3-in-1 metal, stud and voltage detector

And if you do burst a pipe (which you won’t) damage can be averted if you know where (and how) to turn off your water supply.

2. DIY is 10% perspiration and 90% preparation - Make sure you have the right tools. Tightening crosshead screws with the blade of a steak knife simply won’t do. The first step to DIY confidence is acquiring some (well made) tools and a box to put them in.

If you buy nothing else, invest in a screwdriver with interchangeable heads. I use a cordless electric one made by Bosch. >> You can buy it in the shop

3. Give yourself plenty of time - DIY projects are better undertaken on days off and begun in the morning. If you wake up and don’t feel like starting a task, consider putting it off until another day (unless this becomes a recurring theme).

4. Test and practice - DIY is not a too cold swimming pool. There is no advantage in holding your nose and plunging right in. Never used a sander before? Well, practice on an old plank, not that lovely wood floor. The same goes for filling, painting and varnishing. Try painting or varnishing a small patch of wall that doesn’t show before beginning in earnest.

5. DIY with a friend - Don’t choose anybody from your ‘dizzy’ or ‘panicky’ lists but have you got a friend who’s DIY competent or just plain sensible, who can mentally hold your hand for the first few projects? IMPORTANT: Don’t let them do the project for you. This is all about gaining confidence not passing the buck.

6. Remember, it’s only DIY – This is a really, really important point. Think about all the things you do do and feel perfectly at ease and confident about.
Can you ride a bike? That’s much tougher than plugging in an electric drill.
Can you make a stew? There are more things to remember when putting together a good casserole than you’ll ever face with most everyday DIY projects. If you hold down a job, care for a family, understand how to thread a sewing machine and sort your recycling, you’ve have all the transferable skills you need to be a DIYer.

Now pick up that screwdriver and fix something!

Send Anne an email
Anne says: “I’d love to hear how you became a DIYer. If you have a story to share you can contact me at”

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