For those of you who have caught the DIY bug, you know the thrill that comes with fixing a leaky faucet. You know the pride you feel when you can have friends over for drinks out back on your newly laid brick patio. You also know that with every DIY victory there comes a learning curve. The challenge with DIY projects is that unless you are experienced or have training, you run the risk of doing it incorrectly or creating a bigger problem than the one you started with. Even my dad, who is very skilled in construction, judges the difficulty of a project by how many trips he has to make to Home Depot before he can finish it.
So a few weeks ago, when I saw an online request from a reporter who needed information for an article about DIY projects around the home, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned from my vantage point as an architect, home owner and fellow DIY-er.
Her query: “We’re looking for DIY tips when it comes to making repairs around the house. Tips can be in any category, as long as it is something that a handyman might do. For instance, tips can include plumbing, electrical, renovations, maintenance and more. Please include education, certifications, experience and other relevant background information.”
As I thought about and wrote my response, I realized the information would make an excellent blog post. The following is my answer to this reporter’s query:
“As a licensed architect and licensed interior designer in Dallas, I have practiced in architecture for over 14 years. Along with my two partners in our firm, HPD Architecture, LLC, we see numerous good and bad DIY projects that either enhance or harm the value of a home. My tips are to focus on those that are to enhance the value of the home and make it easier for the next homeowner to either use your improvement or undo the improvement without creating a bigger problem.
1. Building codes are there for a reason – if it is more than a simple cosmetic fix; if it involves electrical work, doors, windows (fire safety and exiting the home), appliances that use gas, etc., then please get a licensed and insured professional to do the repair or improvement correctly.
2. Don’t just cover up the material that’s there with a new material without removing the existing material first – this goes for roofing, flooring, bathtubs, countertops, wallpaper, etc.
3. If you are taking out a wall or creating a new opening in a load bearing wall – call a structural engineer or architect to make sure it’s done right. Even if it is a “simple fix” and what you are doing is adequate to support the weight above, you will sleep better knowing your roof won’t cave in on you in the middle of the night. I’ve seen contractors fail at the installation of new beams. The beams were sized correctly by an engineer and even the steel brackets were called out and shown on the drawings, but the contractor did not install them correctly. To the untrained eye, they looked secure, but were not, and it created a very unsafe situation.
4. Be afraid of water. We spend a good amount of time detailing our drawings with the sole purpose of keeping out water – around skylights, chimneys, windows, door thresholds, behind brick veneer exteriors, etc.
5. Plan your home improvement project with easy maintenance and repair in mind. Eventually you may want to change the wiring to that new flat panel tv on the wall. Did you put foam insulation in the wall making it difficult to run wires or access the back of the tv? Or did you think ahead and run conduit in the wall to make it easy to move wires exactly where they need to go? Another example, you may want to get rid of the big pull down attic stair in your hall way, but when it comes time to replace or service the air conditioning unit in the attic, how will you get it out and how will you get a new one in?
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or if I can be of further assistance to your article.”
While ultimately we did not connect with the reporter to contribute to her article, we know there are a lot of DIY-ers out there who cannot resist row after row of paint chips or shelves full of plumbing valves and fixtures. Just be sure to plan ahead and remember, one of the best tools you can have in your tool belt is a list of qualified professionals to call before you make too many trips to Home Depot.
Laura Davis is a registered architect and interior designer in the state of Texas and Colorado, and a founding member of hpd architecture + interiors. Laura extensive experience includes residential as well as commercial and retail projects. She also has a particular interest in restoration, holding a certificate in Historic Preservation. She is energized by the character of older homes and the stories of those who have lived there. Responding to the needs of the current owner, while also honoring the personality of the original home is a delicate process to be enjoyed.