DIY is all the rage. In part this is due to property prices which, despite the recent stabilisation, have forced many buyers to purchase renovator’s dreams. The trend is also being fuelled by television series such as Backyard Blitz, Changing Rooms and The Block which have encouraged home-owners to attempt tasks they would previously have paid a professional to carry out.

In essence there’s nothing wrong with having a go. It could be a way to save money as well as achieve a sense of satisfaction from having put in the hours and labour yourself. But beware. Mistakes can be very costly indeed.

The secret to successful DIY is getting good advice. A friend of mine decided to tile her own home herself. She experimented on the laundry first and went on to do her bathroom with results equal to those of any professional tiler. This success was due to the advice and practice she received through taking a course, as well as putting in many more hours than a professional would. In her case it was well worth the effort, but if she’d approached the job with no advice and no experience the story might have been very different.

The potential for costly and dangerous DIY disasters is vast. Failure to install correct damp-proofing in a bathroom, for example, might cause structural damage to walls, peeling paint, damage to furniture and floor coverings as well as spread of mould. Installing a timber deck without consulting an engineer or builder might result in the timber succumbing to termites, structural failure and even personal injury.

A good place to start if you’re considering a project is the product literature supplied by the manufacturers of almost all building materials. Data sheets set out installation techniques, types of glues, screws etc. to use and compatibility with other building systems as well as whom to turn to for help. The large hardware store chains also run courses on basic DIY projects as does the College of Advanced Education.

The other issue to consider is the impact that projects might have on the value of your home. Installing a snazzy brick wood-fired pizza oven in your backyard may seem like a great idea to you now but is it really going to add value to your property? If you’re considering making this kind of improvement it’s a good idea to make it easily reversible. There’s nothing quite so unappealing to a prospective buyer than the idea of having to jackhammer up two tonnes of someone else’s lifestyle dream.

Last but not least, check whether you need to submit a development application to your local council. This is usually the case for external works such as new doors and windows, garages, carports, sheds and decks.

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