3 Golden Rules of Finishing a Weekend DIY, According to Serial DIYers

published Aug 3, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Couple carrying lumber to build raised garden beds in backyard
Credit: Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

Want more DIY tips, tricks, and inspiration? Check out more stories featuring the 2023 Apartment Therapy DIY Collective. This content is presented in partnership with The Home Depot; it was created independently by our editorial team.

Working five days in a row is a cause for letting loose and celebrating on the weekend — even if your two days off stray from the traditional Saturday/Sunday combo. But while you’re pondering getting away from it all, you may also feel the pressure of having a few home projects looming on the horizon.

Whether your to-do list includes staining the back deck or refurbishing a piece of furniture, it can often feel like you never have time to squeeze in an entire during the span of just two days. Sometimes it’s easy to wonder if it’s even possible. The answer is yes, if you follow a bit of advice from the experts — that is, experienced DIYers who are no stranger to completing projects in a race against the clock.

“I love a tight deadline (like a weekend!) to help me accomplish more than I otherwise would,” says Colleen Pastoor of Lemon Thistle. Here, Pastoor and four other DIYers weigh in on how they make weekend projects work. Behold: The three golden rules of actually finishing a weekend DIY in the span of a weekend.

Credit: Carli Alves
Carli Alves recently completed a bifold closet door makeover that required a pivot or two in the process.

Golden rule #1: Plan ahead of time.

Although our experts divulged plenty of great tips, the overarching favorite was formulating a plan before getting started. Creating a roadmap of what you envision and how to get there is vital to a successful weekend DIY. “I take time to plan and dream up exactly what that project will look like, what materials I’ll need, and what skills or trades I’ll need to learn or hire out,” says Pastoor. 

Outlining the DIY can also help determine the cost and budget. Pastoor adds, “I price out my materials and even order things ahead of time, so it’s all waiting for me when I get started on my project.” Although you’re accomplishing the task in two days, you can maximize time by creating a master plan during work breaks and shopping for supplies on a weeknight so that you’re ready to go on Saturday morning.

Kristen Stadsvold of Simply DIY Home also thinks preparation is critical — especially when analyzing your stash of supplies. “Making a list of all your materials and the tools that you need and gathering them beforehand will ensure that you don’t waste time trying to find that lost measuring tape,” she advises. Assessing necessities for completing a task can prevent the frustration of making multiple trips to the supply store. 

Another sage piece of advice is to allow yourself to bend the rules if problems arise. “Be flexible and open to change, adjusting your plans if needed,” advises Carli Alves of Made by Carli, who is a member of Apartment Therapy’s DIY Collective in partnership with the Home Depot. Alves notes that flexibility helps overcome obstacles, so take a breath and think of an easy solution if anything unexpected happens.

One of Dagenais’s most recent projects was building a plywood home bar for his basement — just one part of a larger basement redo.

Golden rule #2: Break larger projects down into smaller ones.

Sometimes, what seems like a quick DIY can become overwhelming if you underestimate the time and effort it will take. “From my experience, everything in DIY generally takes twice as long and costs twice as much from what I initially think it’s going to,” reveals Marcel Dagenais, the creator behind Brew City Builds and a member of Apartment Therapy’s DIY Collective in partnership with The Home Depot. “Set attainable goals that will allow you to complete what you set out to do,” he advises.

Dagenais also stresses that you should still be able to enjoy a bit of downtime on your days off, so the weekend might not be the time to overachieve. If you’re ready for a significant overhaul, break the larger DIY into smaller, workable chunks.

Pastoor agrees that most projects will break down into bite-sized pieces that you can easily check off your to-do list. “Maybe finish the flooring in the kitchen instead of the whole main floor,” she suggests. Completing a small task will offer a feeling of accomplishment and instant gratification to fuel future home DIYs — especially if you do more than you thought was feasible. “That’s just momentum for the next weekend project,” she adds.

Carrie Waller made a big impact at home with just a single-wall project.

Golden rule #3: Remember that small changes can have a big impact.

A successful weekend DIY project doesn’t have to be something you labor over for 48 hours. Instead, it can be a small yet noticeable change that makes you feel a sense of pride. Carrie Waller of Dream Green DIY suggests using peel-and-stick wallpaper to transform one wall or swapping out lighting. “Never underestimate the power of a light fixture upgrade,” she says. “Changing a dated light out for a modern version can seriously change the look and feel of a room.” Depending on the fixture you select, updating lighting is manageable and easy on the budget.

Choosing a simple project also affords time for relaxation in addition to finishing that pesky home design project. “Consider taking on smaller projects like painting a feature wall in a room to start, rather than a full-on room redo in such a short timeframe,” advises Dagenais. “I always have to remind myself to only bite off as much as I can chew, regardless of all the things I want to do.” Even if you want to be more ambitious, starting with one viable redo can give you a sense of accomplishment without the feeling of being overwhelmed.