Growing up in rural Virginia in a family of modest means I learned early that if I or my family needed something our alternatives were doing without, finding a way to make it on our own, and in rare instances coming up with the money to buy it. While some may have viewed our circumstances as being poor, I look back on them as some of the best education one could have. Lessons that came from experiences and not from formal instruction included frugality, creative thinking and problem solving, manual dexterity and self-confidence.
Too many homeowners have not had the benefits of my early education. Something breaks, and the household comes to a stop while figuring out how to get it replaced or repaired. Give it a try fixing it yourself. You’ll gain the confidence that if others can resolve the situation so can you.
There are many ways that you can figure out how to do home improvements and repairs. Go to YouTube and type in what you are trying to do: install drywall, adjust a door, change a faucet washer, etc. For most any topic you will find many short videos by amateurs and professionals. Download to your phone the one that is easiest to follow as you undertake your project. The more experienced clerks at some hardware and building supply stores can offer good advice.
There are several websites and internet-based services that can put you in touch with local handy-persons who contract to do small and major projects around your home. Investigate what it is that you want done and engage in the details of the project to be an informed consumer less likely to be ripped off in prices or quality of work.
Check in your neighborhood especially if your homes are built by the same builder. A repair or change you want to make has probably been addressed by your neighbors. Learn from their experiences and solicit their advice on repairpersons.
Make your home improvement a family affair. You will gain respect from other family members. You can show off all you learned in your childhood or in shop class if it was offered while you were in school. Everyone can take ownership of the new addition or the increased efficiencies or the attractiveness that you put together as a team.
If you are going to undertake a project that involves plumbing or electricity, make sure you know code requirements. Some work by law must be done by certified professionals. Also check to see if your insurance addresses personal home improvements.
You can do more than you realize, and you get the satisfaction from the finished product. If you feel that those you contracted with did not do a good job, contact the Fairfax County Consumer Affairs Office at 703-222-8435 or the Virginia Consumer Affairs Division in the Attorney General’s Office at 800-552-9963.
I am available for free advice, Kenplum@aol.com. I always enjoy sharing stories of growing up and doing our own work or my latest adventures in DIM—doing it myself.