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3 reasons why anyone can DIY (and save thousands)

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By Penny Pryor

The many home and renovating shows that flood our television screens on a nightly basis seem to send the message that anyone can do almost anything. They make it look easy. Sometimes they make it look so easy that we think it must be impossible. That it’s all the people not in the shot that have really turned the falling down house into a homeowners dream in just a week.

That might be true, but that’s no reason to be put off. I’ve just spent a week off building a retaining wall. I reckon I’ve saved at least $5,000, based on how much it cost me to get someone to build something very similar before I moved in. 

A few people laughed at me when I told them what I was doing but this is what I ended up with: 

And here are three reasons to ignore the doubters of your DIY project.

1) It’s not that hard

Sure, it’s not that easy either, but a lot of the jobs you probably need done around the home, like painting and the simple construction work involved in building a retaining wall or garden bed, basically just require hard work. It can be hard physical work but that doesn't mean it’s beyond you. 

We’ve all got at least one or two relatives or friends that we can call on, or bribe with a case of beer, to do some heavy lifting when we need them. You might also be surprised by how quickly you will be able to get things done. Many of these things don’t take that long. My Dad and I  got the wall done in three solid days. 

2) You will save money

Materials for my wall cost about $650. I did also spend a little bit extra on hiring a bobcat and an augur to dig the post holes, which saved a lot of time, but all up I’ve spent just over $1000. 

The very similar retaining wall at the front of my place cost well over $7000, which means I’ve saved at least $5,000 and overpaid for the first wall!

I know it’s not everybody’s idea of a holiday but there’s also the added saving of not spending my time off on a trip (although I will be looking forward to some time off to do that later in the year).

Another great money saver is painting. Quotes for painting a whole house can run into tens of thousands of dollars. But if you buy paint on sale, you can get large tins for under $200, which means most of that quoted cost will go into your pocket.

3) You will learn a new skill

Of course, you need to do some research before you embark on major projects, but there is so much information online these days, and free workshops put on by local hardware stores, that you should be able to find enough information to get you started. Check council regulations too. You're not allowed to build a retaining wall higher than 1 metre without council approval, for example.

A handyman father, who is also a retired engineer, was my biggest help last week but learning by doing really works and I’m pretty confident I would be able to build another wall if I ever need to. 

Builders always say measure twice and cut once. But mistakes can be fixed, and don’t be put off if the nail bends, the wood splits or the paint drips. You’ve probably learnt something valuable in the process and no project is ever perfect, as long as it does what you need it to do. 

If you liked this article you'll love the Switzer Super Report, our newsletter and website for trustees of self-managed super funds. Click here for a FREE trial and to hear more of Penny's expert commentary and advice.

Follow Penny Pryor on Twitter @money_pennyp

Published: Monday, March 30, 2015

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