Stuff I have learned being a DIYer

I know everyone is dying to find out what we have been up to since we got back from Colorado. I’ve had some difficulties with my phone so picture taking is a bit more difficult. Ironically, Kat got herself a funky camera from her friend Bill, but we’re still figuring that one out. All of the pictures I took came out blurry, so we’ll need to do some more practice with that before we can start using the pictures it takes.

So my phone decided to spontaneously brick itself, with no warning whatsoever. All the service guys were quite baffled. It has now been sent away to Samsung for repair/replacement. Unfortunately, I had some pictures on it that I wanted to post, but alas, that will have to wait.

Instead, I decided to do another post about things I have learned doing all this building, both here on our land and in a large organized build like we did down in Colorado.

  1. Wear gloves: This sounds really simple, but it can be more difficult to maintain than you think. What you are doing and what kind of gloves you have lead to situations where you really want to pull them off. For some things that’s fine, like taking a measurement. However, if you are on the top of your roof framing, which just had perlins of 1×4 rough cut strips installed, keeping your gloves on can save you from some nasty splinters. I have seen people who virtually never wear gloves, even full time builders. Their hands aren’t in the greatest shape. Also, take the time to find some gloves that fit well and are appropriate to the job. Some of that is personal preference, as there are usually multiple options for each type of task. Finding ones that work well for you will pay you great dividends.
  2. Make a plan: By plan, I mean organize your tasks so you know what you are doing. It also helps to have drawings or sketches or some other type of reference to know what it is you are trying to do, but that isn’t always necessary. Staying organized throughout your day can help you from getting distracted by side projects, if you have more than one on the go, like we usually do.
  3. Take your time, especially if you are working alone: If you are working by yourself, you don’t have anyone else to check your work or to talk to about what it is you are trying to accomplish. It’s easy to make mistakes, and you will make some for sure. If you try to rush it, you will only make more mistakes.
  4. Expect mistakes, especially if you’re doing something for the first time: If you’ve never built anything, it’s not very likely you will do a perfect job the first time you try it. You will cut a piece of wood too short and have to take another piece to make it up. Sometimes, you may not have another piece. Some mistakes will cost you time, some will cost you money, some will cost you both. The worst ones are the ones that cause injuries. This is why it is also important to take your time (see point 3).
  5. Use the best tools you can get your hands on: By best I don’t mean most expensive. I mean most appropriate. I originally started working on the room for our composting toilet with a regular hammer and nails. Well, if you are trying to hold a level, hold a nail and use the hammer, this is really difficult without three hands. I bought a nailgun and that made everything so much easier. Yeah, it cost me $500+, but the time and aggravation I saved myself was more than worth it.
  6. Make use of friends’ help and advice, but don’t rely on it: If you have friends who have building experience, feel free to consult them and get their input. Sometimes they will also come and help you out, which is great. However, if you have a project that you can’t move forward without the help from others, it may end up being a project that never gets done. Friends and volunteers have their own schedules and projects and can’t be working on yours everyday. You will need to take some initiative and be prepared to make a few mistakes, but you need to stick with it or it won’t get done.
  7. Be willing to admit that a job may be too big for you alone: Sometimes you need something done that is completely out of your league, or you need it done quickly (like before winter arrives) and you know that if you try to do it yourself, it will take too long. In cases like these, it’s probably best to hire someone to do the job. Yes, that isn’t what a DIYer does, but you need to know your limits and when to call in the professionals. It will cost you more, as labour is not cheap, but it will get done on time and done well (generally speaking, there are always exceptions).
  8. Don’t ignore safety issues: I have seen people using a chainsaw standing on a roof beam wearing only sneakers. I have seen people working with concrete/mortar with their bare hands (cement burns, by the way, I know from experience). If you get into trouble and get inured, that will put a big hole in your schedule to getting whatever it is you are trying to accomplish, not to mention the pain of dealing with wounds.
  9. Work according to your own body: When you’re on a big build with 60+ people working on it, there will be many types of people, each with their own limitations. If you are pounding tires in the hot sun, this can wear you out really quickly, especially if hot sun isn’t your thing. If you come from a climate that has a lot of hot sun, then maybe you can handle yourself more easily than someone who doesn’t. The important part is don’t push yourself to exhaustion or pulled muscles or throw your back out of whack. It’s much better to work slower and keep going than to have to stop because you over did it. Just because someone else pounded six tires in one hour doesn’t mean you have to as well. The important thing is that you are making a contribution, not how much of one.
  10. Keep in mind the goal: Yeah, you may have to get up early, and you may be doing a lot of physical labour, but keep in mind what the ultimate goal is to help stay motivated. We can easily get discouraged by a difficult task we are working on at the time. Staying focused helps you get through those jobs that might seem monotonous. It’s a bit easier when it’s a project for yourself, but even then you can get discouraged if the job looks big and/or complicated. The end result will be well worth it.
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