6 DIY Skills Every Homeowner Must Know, According to Reddit

published Oct 19, 2022
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2 people, one on a ladder, painting the walls of a house white. The ceiling is exposed wood. There is a window letting in daylight and trees are outside
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Buying a home for the first time can feel like you’ve finally crossed the finish line of an ordinarily long and complicated process. And while this is a major accomplishment, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s nothing but rest and relaxation from here on out. 

The truth is, homeownership can sometimes feel like an endless marathon of projects: replacing lights, uncovering leaks, painting walls, and everything in between. After all, there’s no longer a landlord who can take care of these things for you. It all depends on what you know, or perhaps more accurately, what you’re able to learn. 

Reddit user u/KBoogieBoi recently posted about moving into a new family home in the Home Improvement subreddit, but as someone who has always had a landlord, u/KBoogieBoi doesn’t have much home improvement knowledge. “Our house was built in the 1960s, so it needs some work,” this user writes. “We got estimates to improve certain areas of the house, but we found it too pricey. At this point, I want to take the responsibility of improving our home and be proud of it…Any tips?” 

This question got hundreds of responses, and while specific projects were rarely mentioned, larger recommendations were provided — and they’re wise words for any homeowner to keep in mind. These are the six skills they think a newbie should know, from where to acquire skills to when to purchase tools. 

Turn to YouTube to Learn Just About Anything

It shouldn’t be surprising that many users said to go on YouTube and watch videos that detail how to go about common home improvement tasks. “Watch This Old House first, then any other contractor [videos] you can find,” says user u/gasfarmah. “TOH does a ludicrously good job of [giving] you the brass tacks of the job, for almost any job.” 

Others noted that it’s best to watch more than one video before starting any work, of course, and to practice safety measures regardless of whether or not the pro in the video is using them. Besides YouTube, one user said that checking the website of the manufacturer who made your product should be enlightening, too. There are often specific how-to videos to watch there!

Not a visual learner? It may be time for a library card. User u/SM1955 says, “And don’t forget books! Sometimes for me, having diagrams or still photos is better than video.”

Start Small and Build From There

Start with small projects and get comfortable with the process, which will help both improve your skills and build your confidence — and not to mention, you’ll lower the chances of hurting yourself, or needing a professional to come and fix your mess. 

User u/[deleted] says, “Don’t tear down walls at first. Rather, replace that light switch. Install a new faucet. Ask a handy friend what are big and what are small jobs, if you don’t know. A big job is a lot of small jobs, all at once. So if you don’t gain familiarity with the small stuff first (like faucets and outlets), the big things will be way too big, you won’t have the proper tools, and [you’ll] be easily overwhelmed. Like, replacing a dishwasher: small job. Installing a new dishwasher where there wasn’t one before: much bigger job.”

Another user, u/thegreatdaneoc, says that one way to go about “starting small” is by cataloging the fixes your home requires. “Start by making a list of everything that…you need to work on, repair, improve, whatever. And then start to work on the first item on your list. If you’re unsure of how to do it, then start to research the task and figure out [which] tools you need to invest in. If something is too difficult for you, then maybe hold off until you can afford a contractor to fix it.”

Credit: Funky Junk

Be Honest When You Can’t Do Something Yourself

While a lot of pride can come from doing home projects yourself, know when to draw the line and hire a professional. User u/coolzero20 says, “Carefully think through the complexity of each step [and the] ramifications for messing it up. For example, when I remodeled my first bathroom, I did the demo entirely myself. Then, I looked at the skill it was gonna take to pour a custom shower pan and hired that piece out. Messing up a shower pan is a big pain in the neck. You gotta rip it out and start over. Yuck. $500 found me a local guy who pours shower pans for a living. That’s what he does 40-plus hours a week. I knew he would do it right and I’d never worry about it again.”

In the meantime, this user also recommends researching how the project should be accomplished. Even if you’re not doing the work on your own, it helps to know if the person you hired is doing things correctly, as far as you can tell. 

Ask for Help From Your Local Hardware Store

If you’d like to get to know your community from a homeowner’s perspective, and you happen to be in need of DIY skills, user u/scomperpotamus advises taking a visit to your local hardware store. “If there’s a smaller hardware store by you, they can be lovely and [can] get so excited when new homeowners want to fix things themselves. Ours used to give us all the tools, tell us what to do, and [ask us] to come back and report [on] how it went!”

User u/Dingo_The_Baker has a similar idea: “Find the neighborhood retired guy and make friends with him. Not only does he know how to do everything, he probably has all the tools and would love to teach someone how to use them. I’ve become that guy in my neighborhood.”

Keep Your Space Clean, and Find Out How to Properly Trash Stuff

Proper preparation is key to success, and these DIYers recommend getting items like drop cloths, rags, and painter’s tape to ensure that your belongings are protected from the “during” of your before-and-after project. But one user u/Ecstatic_Victory1784 brings up something you might not have considered for messier undertakings: “Find out the cheapest way to get rid of large amounts of debris. For example, my city offers some ‘large trash’ pickup days where I can get rid of tons of stuff at once.”

Only Splurge on Tools You’ll Use Again and Again

No one likes paying for things that end up collecting dust, and that applies to the tools you need to keep your home in working order. That’s why user u/barbarian818 has this tip: “A rule of thumb when buying tools: If you know you’re only going to use it once or twice, by all means, buy the cheap tool. If it’s something you will use repeatedly, buy the best quality you can.” It’s a good idea to rent big items from box stores — like oversized fans and floor strippers — and to build your toolbox over time. As you get started, you’ll only need a few!