Planning a DIY house project

Step one: Plan out your project. Step one: Plan out your project. Photo Credit: iStock

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Many DIY projects go off the rails because the person doing the project dives right into doing without planning. No matter what kind of DIY project you take on, whether it is a craft or a total bathroom redo, there are six essential steps to ensuring that it stays on track:

1. Take time to properly plan the project

There is a big difference between tearing a picture from a magazine and having a project blueprint. It's easy and fun to spend time poring over magazines, books and online articles, and researching what you want your project to look like when it's done. But far too many people stop there. Once you have a clear image of the goal, it is time to map out each of the specific work steps you need to take to complete the project. Be as specific as possible. Then, divide each item on the list into one of three areas: foundational work, core work and finishing work. Finally, map out a project schedule and budget. You should literally schedule appointments with yourself for working on each stage.

2. Strategize before going to the store

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Waiting until you're at the home goods or home improvement store can lead to spending significantly more than you need to, and you might waste time because you'll inevitably forget a critical item. Instead, make a thorough list of materials and tools you need to complete the project before you even leave the house. You can start a list using what comes to mind right away, but be sure to eventually use the project plan you created in the first step as a way to identify all of the tools and materials you need. Then, set your egg timer for 30 minutes and research where to find each of the items on your list. Check prices among retailers and see if you can find coupons or discounts for what you need. Are you on or under budget? If not, determine what has to change.

3. When you go to buy the items, enlist help

If you live with someone, consider dividing up the list by retailers and splitting up the errands. If you live with more than one person who can help, even better. It's a great way to speed things up and to ensure that everyone you live with has some pride of ownership in the finished project.

4. Be open to learning new skills

That could be anything from grouting tile to stitching a quilt piece together. Before you begin, identify what things you will need to learn and at what stage you will need to learn them. Then, search for relevant "how-to" tutorials and have them at the ready.

5. Follow your project plan carefully

There's always a surge of excitement once you begin, but you don't want to cut corners in haste or forget something that's critical. That's just the kind of thing that happens with alarming frequency if you're flying blind.

6. Don't get bogged down in the final stages

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This is where a lot of projects get derailed and procrastination can set in. Avoid this by keeping those appointments you set in the planning stage and by identifying key milestones for this phase. If you get off track and are feeling overwhelmed, set an egg timer for 30 minutes each day after you come home from work and make consistent progress. Celebrate every milestone you complete. If you encounter a problem that throws you for a loop, head online to see if you can find answers. If you don't trust what you read, call in an expert for opinion and direction. Yes, it will probably cost you, but it's better to be safe than sorry.

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