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Considering a DIY project? Here’s how to sort out what’s doable.

(The Washington Post illustration; iStock)

Researching, planning and completing a do-it-yourself (DIY) project can bring a sense of accomplishment and offers a potential way to save time and money by avoiding hiring a professional. It’s also a pursuit many Americans have taken part in while spending more time at home over the past almost two years.

Some projects, such as switching out cabinet pulls or relining a shelf, are fit for novices and can take a couple of hours or — at most — a day. But many projects require a larger commitment of money, time and skill. How can you know whether a job is something you can handle yourself or whether it should be left to the experts? This collection of stories will help you decide.

DIY or destroy? Based on the home renovation depictions online and on television, it can seem as if most home projects can be done by any homeowner with a little money, motivation and elbow grease. But, as Sara Clemence writes, DIY can backfire. Besides spending more time and money than anticipated, homeowners can also get hurt or be left with something that looks worse than when they started. Read on to find out why some people call DIY “destroy it yourself” and why some projects are not suitable to tackle on your own.

Questions to ask yourself before starting: There are pros and cons to embarking on a DIY project: It feels good to complete a project by hand and to save money, but experts say some projects can become more complicated and expensive than they initially seemed. Daniel Bortz lays out some questions to ask yourself before starting a project. His list includes assessing the risks, determining how much time and money will be spent, asking whether building permits are required, questioning how complicated the project will be and determining your skill level.

Easy DIY: A first foray into DIY-land doesn’t have to be a massive, expensive project. Daniel Bortz compiled a list of projects (with instructions) that can be completed in one day and that don’t require too many tools. Easy DIYs include recaulking a bathtub or shower with a utility knife and caulk gun; installing a shower head with a wrench and plumber’s tape; creating an accent wall with pre-pasted wallpaper; and edging garden beds with a shovel, string and mulch. Read his story to find out more about the preparation and materials needed for these simple projects that can add much to a home.

Home maintenance to-do list: Your home has been working hard during the pandemic and has been pulling double duty as a space for both work and play; it’s bound to have been banged up in the process. Appliances probably saw more use than before, and rooms and furniture could use a refresh. Staff writer Jura Koncius asked experts, including a home inspector and a move-management expert, about which fixes to prioritize. They identified eight common issues and gave solutions for how to tackle them. The list includes repairing damaged screens with spline and a spline roller and using a drill to swap dated drawer and cabinet pulls.

DIY electrical projects: A reader asked Tim Carter, who writes the Ask the Builder column, whether they could install electrical wiring in their home. Carter points out that, although installing and hammering wires and electrical boxes isn’t physically hard, it’s difficult to safely install systems that are up to code. “You need to understand that if you decide to install electrical wire, you’re indeed playing with fire,” he writes. But even with this warning, he says that rewiring a house can be done by a novice with research, guidance from an electrician and common sense. He offers a compromise: Hire an electrician to handle the advanced stuff, and choose one who will allow you to complete the more novice tasks, such as nailing boxes and running cables between them. Read on for more about how Carter would approach this complex project.

More from The Home You Own

The Home You Own is here to help you make sense of the home you live in.

DIYs you can actually do yourself: Don’t be intimated by those home projects. Consider which renovations add the most value to your home (including the kitchen and bathroom), what you can actually get done in a weekend, and everything in between.

Your home + climate change: Whether you’re trying to prepare your home for an electric vehicle or want to start composting, we’re here to help you live more sustainably.

Plants and pets: Your furry friends and greenery add more life to your spaces. For your green thumb, find tips for saving money on houseplants and how to keep your plants alive longer. Pets can make a house a home, but stopping your cats from scratching the furniture isn’t always easy.

Keeping your home clean and organized: We breakdown the essential cleaning supplies you need, and point out the 11 germy spots that are often overlooked. Plus, hear hacks from professional organizers on maximizing counter space,

Maintaining your home: Necessary home maintenance can save your thousands in the long run. From gutter cleaning and preparing your fireplace for winter, to what to do if your basement floods.

Contact us: Looking to buy your first home? Do you have questions about home improvement or homeownership? We’re here to help with your next home project.

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