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You mow your own lawn, you clean your own gutters, and you’ve triumphed over IKEA assembly instructions. But it’s a long road from these basic do-it-yourself tasks to remodeling a bathroom or building a home addition. Planning your do-it-yourself project requires a realistic inventory of your skills, budget, and time.

Start With the End

Visualize what you want the results of your project to look like. If you’re building floor-to-ceiling bookshelves or adding chair rails to the breakfast nook walls, think about the color, style, and material. Perhaps you are repairing or replacing tile in the tub surround or on the kitchen floor. Once you have a clear picture of what you’re going for, you can make your plan.

Define Your Budget

Do-it-yourselfers have many motivations, from creative expression to the satisfaction of proving they can tackle and complete the job. However, the primary reason most homeowners take on DIY projects is to save money. Make a budget for your project and stick to it.

Your budget should consider more than just the cost of materials; there’s the value of your time, too. If you’ll be working on your project while also holding down a full-time job, estimate how many hours it will take you to complete the project. Then multiply those hours by the value of your time—the hourly value of your pay. Add that to the cost of the project because that’s the value of your labor. On top of that, there’s the time you lose that you could be using to do other things. Each hour you spend on your project is an hour you don’t spend with your kids, on your other hobbies, or by relaxing over the weekend before you must go back to work at your day job.

Research and Make Lists

Before you pick up a sledgehammer, saw, or screwdriver, do some research about the steps involved in your project. Be realistic about your skills—a project requiring plumbing, carpentry, and electrical work may cause you to think twice about doing it yourself. It may cost you less in the long run to have a pro come in first, instead of calling one to fix mistakes you made when you got in over your head. If YouTube and This Old House videos of projects like yours make your head spin, take a step back and reconsider.

Make a list of everything you’ll need for your project. Examples include:

  • Materials, including prices and availability
  • Tools, including which tools you’ll needfor each stage of the job
  • Skills (including those required skills you may not possess)
  • Safety precautions and equipment
  • Schedule, including when you’ll work on the project, what gets done first, and when you expect to finish
  • What could go wrong, including extra materials you may need to correct mistakes

Pandemic precautions have caused a lot of people to take a long hard look at their home and head for the big-box home supply store. Essential services like electrical and plumbing are taken up with responding to emergencies, and home stores may be sold out of some of the supplies you need. Factor these things into any plan for a do-it-yourself project—it may be a challenge to schedule help from a pro until restrictions may safely be eased.

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.