questionswhat have you learned whilst doing homeā€¦


When you're a homeowner, it never ends.


I learned this one last week by watching a professional. There was a leak behind the fridge at the connection for the fridge water line. Plumber checks it, then cuts a small portion of wall to get a look, needs to cut a bigger piece of wall. Realizes leak is over head not in the wall so he heads to the attic. Follows overhead waterline through the insulation; as I a stand below I hear a geyser erupt and I hear a plumber quickly scooting across the attic to ladder and I note that the drip of water that was coming down the wall is not a constant stream, then I watch as he races past for the water cut off out in the front yard. I seems that when he was following the pipe overhead his movement of the pipe cause the small hole to rupture into the geyser I heard down below.


@narfcake: I said those exact words to a first time home owner last week. Along with when you have the time, you usually don't have the money, when you have the money you normally don't have the time.


Make sure you have LOTS of patience and a third more money than you think you'll need. The easier something looks, the less likely it will be.
Remodeling/home repair will take you twice as long as your original estimate to complete.
Make sure your relationship with your significant other is in good shape, because halfway in the middle of things, you might be wanting to hammer something other than nails with your hammer. The constant stress of everything being in a state of kablooey can really take a toll on you both mentally and physically. I never would've have guessed something that doesn't seem like a big deal really can be.


1)Don't be afraid to ask for help
2)Make sure you have the right tools for the job
3)Know what you "CAN" & "CAN'T" do
4)And know when to hire someone

With that being said don't be afraid to try things yourself. I wasn't sure about redoing my entire bathroom minus tub by myself. I surprised myself along with my wife and many others. Just took longer then expected. I used youtube and books for references and they were a huge help.


@dw1771: I can definitely vouch on the money part.... but sometimes, diversions can really screw that up.


have more than the required number of parts on hand--you will need extras
be flexable--it is a learn as you go experience regardless of how often you have done it before
plan more time--it's not going to be as easy as you hoped it would be
ask questions--others don't mind sharing their thoughts, & listening if you have questions
make it easier to work on next time--you will probably have to work on it again
when working up on a roof--take extra tools or have to climb up & down a dozen extra times
let somone know how often to do a life check--laying in the yard for 10 minutes is better than 10 hours after falling off the roof
the right tool is the one that you have not the one that you might get someday
that tool sale for the better grade pliers/wrench/drill are worth taking advantage of
always use safety glass when your eyes might need them even if they are uncomfy
always use non electrical tools when working with water
always tell your significant other how much you appreciate them


@moosezilla: that's quite a list. I especially like the last one :)


The internet can be your friend, yet it can be your enemy as well. Check reviews and act accordingly.


tags for posterity:


I learned that I need to make more money so I can HIRE someone to do repairs!


Super-glue is the best band-aid.


That you get better and faster service if you memorize the names of the people in the paint department at Home Depot. I've been back 3 times in the last month and it works like a charm. The painting, not so much.


Know your limitations, learn when to call in reinforcements.
My name is Havocsback, and I can't drywall.


@havocsback: I'm still learning to do that part well; mud and tape, no problem except in speed. Texturing ... that is my biggest pitfall.


If you plan on starting a project, expect to spend a lot more than you originally planned.

Take your time and do things right the first time and you'll save money and time in the long run.

Every update done before yours was done wrong. Plan to spend a day correcting previous mistakes before even getting to start your new project.

Don't forget to enjoy doing the project. If you can't enjoy it, then you're doing it wrong.

If you're working on plumbing lines, buy three times the amount of fittings as you think you'll need. You can always return what's left over and the extras will come in handy when you realize you didn't plan on getting enough (that part really sucks at 2am when all the hardware stores are closed).


I've learned that I really, really, really, really, really, really hate plumbing.


@woadwarrior: painting is my bane. Plumbing, as with most other things on here, I've just accepted is going to take me a lot longer than planned.


Don't f*ck with electrical or plumbing. If you do, know the quickest path to the main water and power shutoffs at all times.


Murphy's Law applies. I can picture Mr. Murphy giggling hysterically.
Needs more money and time than planned.
Finding good reliable help is nearly impossible.
Ambition is in short supply.


A GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlet is the ghost in your electrical system. If you have power receptacles that suddenly stop working, check every GFCI in your house. And don't overlook the ones in the garage and on the exterior... I just about threw myself in front of a truck trying to determine why multiple plugs in several rooms suddenly stopped working.
A couple of helpful websites with forums that hold a wealth of information and are frequented by licensed professional contractors, electricians, and plumbers;


Double your money est. Triple your time est.and pray for the best!!!!!!!!!!!


I have numbered all my fuse box switches. Went all over the house and noted what circuit (plugin outlet) was for which switch. With this information I created 2 spread sheets, one ordered by room, the other ordered by switch. What I learned was this was not a waste of time.

When the power is off. Make it a rule NO ONE is allowed to turn on the power without clear instructions that are repeated back to you.. (this rule was a modified from NO ONE TOUCH THE FUSE BOX WHEN I AM WORKING ON IT!!! that was combined with a padlock on the fuse box, but things relaxed a bit)

Me, please turn the power on.
Assistant, would you like me to turn the power back on?
Me, yes turn the power on.
I keep the partly melted screw driver as a reminder of what happens when someone thinks they heard "turn the power on".


Electrical is easy. Plumbing, not so much.

Drywall is way easier to work with than plaster.

100 year old houses have really old plumbing, wiring etc. Be prepared for stuff that you are not capable of dealing with on your own.

When building a built in bookshelf, don't assume the walls in your house are at perfect 90 degree angles.


@yessahh: I got over both electrical and plumbing aspects rather quickly, seeing how my inspection report included the words "scorched receptacle" and "active water leak".

@caffeine_dude: Ditto. Two of the earliest things I bought was a non-contact voltage detector and a circuit breaker finder so I could map out all the electrical in the house. Made future work waaaay easier!

@rustybender: Soldering copper, I'm still not so good at. I'm getting much more adept at PEX, however. And yeah, I've given up the optimism of perfectly perpendicular walls too.


@narfcake: Soldering copper piping is an artform... I equate it to golf. If you only do it on occasion, it's very frustrating.
The largest problem I have encountered when soldering copper is that ALL of the standing water must be removed from the pipe, especially when using a propane torch. Otherwise you will just keep heating and heating the pipe and never get hot enough. The solder will melt but won't flow into the fitting and create a watertight seal. A MAPP torch runs hotter than propane and will get the pipe hot enough (when water is present) but careful you don't overheat the flux (causing it to flash) or the copper (causing it to melt/warp.)
One final rule when using either gas, HOTTER IS NOT NECESSARILY BETTER. Bring the pipe up to temperature slowly and you will eliminate 95% of all soldering problems.


I learned that in an old house, if you start with one thing (change out the toilet) you can end up with several more steps (redo the bathroom due to the rotted floor.) Be prepared to have a small job morph into something you will need to spend more time on.
And saying I told you so is not always the best thing. Internalize!


@caffeine_dude: I also recommend wearing latex gloves when handling electrical wiring. They reduce the chance of jolting yourself by touch something that is still on. I learned that lesson working with a ceiling fan :)


lots of good points here.

While I am not a professionally liscensed contractor, I have worked on many houses and have done sub contract work for different people. It is important to note that the average contractor learns alot from each job that they do. A trade school gives you knowledge, a lot of basics, but hands on experience is priceless. If you do some plumbing, painting, electrical at your house, you get experience, you learn from it, then you progress. I have seen professionals throw their tools at problems before, so harry the homeowner shouldn't feel bad about it.

My personal experience laying flooring: Everything was going as planned, but it was taking forever. I talked to everyone I knew, and they all said that is a small job - 2-3 days. Well, 2 full 12 hr day weekends and every night after work for 4-6 hours and I wasn't done. Turns out the pros underestimated the job length, I had them come up when I was almost done. Said it was a 2 man job for a couple of days.


@moosezilla: when working up on a roof--take extra tools or have to climb up & down a dozen extra times
let somone know how often to do a life check--laying in the yard for 10 minutes is better than 10 hours after falling off the roof
the right tool is the one that you have not the one that you might get someday

this made me laugh, too true.


Know your limitations. I've put in new ceiling fans, fixed wall outlets, and installed new sink fixtures; but the new roof, windows and furnace were done by professionals.

Right tools for the job. After I bought my house, I was very unhappy to find that the previous owners had resealed leaks in the heating ducts with duct tape. Duct tape has a thousand uses, but, ironically, is terrible for sealing ducts. It took hours to get the old tape off (while using a full array of scrapers and invective) and just minutes to reseal with metal tape.

Animals and home improvement don't mix. 18 feet up a ladder with a bucket of paint. Step carefully backwards down a rung and have your foot land on a cat. Not good for paint, painter, or cat. Especially the cat, who hated getting a scrub bath to remove paint.


Oh man, I could write a book. In the middle of remodeling the kitchen (tearing down walls, new floor, refinishing cabinets, installing/building an island, painting, new hardware, replacing 2x chandeliers).
Nothing will go according to plan and while it's expected that the big stuff will have problems, when it takes half a week to install a toe kick because of reasons, that's when you start pulling your hair.
You are terrible at estimating time, make sure you disclose this sickness to your spouse before beginning.
Write stuff down, draw pictures. The previous owners were clearly high when they installed those three way switches and because of the extra time (see above) there is little chance you will remember what wire goes where next week.


@narfcake: I knew that was you posting on one of those home-improvement forums.

j5 j5

Save yourself some time, go out and buy the proper tools.

This weekend I was running some additional Cat5-e Drops in my house, and didn't have the proper drill bit to get through the 2x4s and didn't have a fishing pole to run the wire down the wall. Spent almost all day trying to do it with what I had. I finally broke down and ran to lowes to get the necessary items. Took me 30 minutes after that.

Also, wear a respirator when working around insulation, otherwise you're lungs will hate you.


1) No decent home project ever takes just one trip to the hardware store.

2) You will discover that you need a part just after the hardware stores have closed for the evening.

3) Start your projects early in the day so that the store has many open hours for you to make those many trips and to avoid #2.


1) Figure out your budget, then add 20% for the real cost.
2) Keep a short list of things you want to do. Before you can add another, get the top one done.
3) Friends that own pickup trucks appreciate pizza, beer, and topping their tank off.
4) You are going to hit snags. It's going to happen, just roll with the punches.
5) Turn off the water when doing plumbing, turn off the breaker when doing electrical.
6) Take your time and do it right. I've seen some really botched DIY jobs due to which I can only assume is rushing.
7) It's ok to admit defeat before you make a serious error. If you get in over your head, try to find a friend that can do it and teach you, otherwise call in a professional.
7.5) If you have to hire, do what you can to reduce labor costs (ie remove old carpet so the layer's don't have to).

I got pretty lucky. My dad is quite handy and has many of the tools I've needed and my brother does electrical work. So far, I've had to only hire out the laying of carpet.


Thank you all, this is very good therapy for me. I have been getting very, very angry at myself for my recent house purchase ("how could I missed [fill in the blank], this place is totally [deleted expletive] up.) Nice to see that I'm not the only one in that situation.

Some things I have learned:

The hardest part of any electrical job is closing everything back up, and getting the fixtures on the wall/ceiling.
Plumbing is harder than it looks.
Builders are complete jerks. They cut corners everywhere they can, and leave the homeowner to pick up the mess.

This more recent house has Accor supply valves. This is a plastic valve with an integrated cheap supply hose. They leak, and are damned near impossible to get off (forget what you have seen on the internet, they don't just come off by counterclockwise rotation). And they were so cheap in construction (see above) I can't just cut them off.


Most of the people in my family work in some sort of field of construction so I know how to do alot of things myself or atleast I can get help if I don't.

A word of advice on hiring various construction/home improvement people:
-The smaller construction companies usually charge more but in my experience they do much better work. Mom and pop type self employed builders get a lot of their business through their reputation and are far more afraid of building code citations than larger companies.


@wilfbrim: Oh the number of times I've cursed Prior Owners/ Builders/ Deck builders/ Landscapers/ Irrigation people....
Currently on my 5th house, and it's a bit of a curse. The more you know, the more you see wrong.
Or you have jerk friends/relatives who take pleasure pointing out your home's deficiencies.

I take the approach of:
Does it need to be done quickly?
Are there custom tools that can't be rented and exceed the savings of DIY?
Are there code issues at stake?
Then hire it out.
Personally, I don't do electrical past installing fixtures, or any plumbing involving waste (past fixtures and clog remediation), or structural framing.

j5 j5

Having been a single mom home owner for about 10 years, I learned to do everything. Most of the things I have learned are above. I will add that if you organize tools and parts BEFORE starting a job, it makes it easier to do, and also ensures you have what you think need before you start.
Also, plan on having parts for 2 steps back. For instance, changing faucet, make sure you buy/have extra pipe and fittings in the correct size. Electrical: extra breakers, outlets and wire on hand makes repairs go faster. This doesn't mean you won't have to make that extra trip to the hardware store. It just means that trip will be less costly.

Oh, last thing if you took something apart: Those 2 screws REALLY do need to be there. They weren't "extras".


@j5: What gave @narfcake away? Was it the vapor barrier made of shirt.woot bags or the shirts used to repair... everything?


@neuropsychosocial: I personally believe he is using them as insulation, or maybe window treatments.


@neuropsychosocial: Not that I posted such over at C-D, but the reuse of shirt.Woot shipping bags is NOT a lie. At my GF's house, an @apelad design bag was used as a vapor barrier under the hole we filled with concrete.

While no one will find any shirts stuffed in the walls, I do use shirts as towels, blankets, floormats, pillows, and doggie slobber napkins.

@okham: No on both counts.