I like to think that I’ve got some pretty good DIY skills. After all, I’ve been working with tools for most of my life.
That’s why, when I recently renovated my kitchen, I did most of it myself. However, there were some things that were either illegal (electrical and plumbing) for me to carry out in my local area, or the job was simply too difficult (tiling an uneven floor) for me to get a quality finish. So, I got some high-quality tradesmen in.
Whenever a tradesman or a contractor comes to my house, I hang around like a bad smell to watch what they’re doing. I love watching people who are really good at their job. (Sorry tradies, I know you hate this!)
Over this time, I realized a few things about what these professionals do. Firstly, what they’re doing isn’t rocket science! Most of it is the same cutting, screwing, and drilling we learned in grade school. But they still end up doing it to a much higher standard than most people.
It turns out there are some other major differences between professionals and your average DIYer. Noticing these differences and applying them to my own work has improved the quality of my work to no end. Thinking and behaving like a professional will help you improve your DIY skills.
1) Prepare Properly for Better DIY Skills.
Trade professionals rarely get to a job site and start bashing away immediately. Instead, they take the time to think through what they need to do, and they get their tools ready. Instead of running back and forth to their truck, they save themselves time by getting all of their tools ready at the start of the day
Understanding this has made a big difference in my efficiency when doing jobs around my house or farm. In the past, I would dive right into the first job and then run back and forth to the tool shed for whatever bits and pieces I needed for the next step. Prepare properly, and you’ll be more efficient with your time.
2) Use the Correct Tools
I’ve lost track of the number of times that I’ve gone to do a job without the proper tools and had to improvise. Like the day I decided to use a wood-cutting disc on my angle grinder to build a console instead of getting a new jigsaw. Sure, the wood got cut in the end. And so did all the tendons in my index finger! Two surgeries later, my finger still doesn’t bend or straighten properly. And the console turned out so bad it was unusable.
Or perhaps you’ve tried using the spirit level on your phone instead of buying a new one. Maybe you lost your hammer, so you had to bash in a nail with a pair of pliers. Your favorite tape measure broke so you had to measure with a piece of string. Or maybe your wheelbarrow got a flat tire, so you had to cart dirt in your wheelie bin (This actually works okay!)
(In my part of the world, when something works but it looks pretty rough, we say it looks a bit agricultural. That’s because farmers are actually notoriously bad DIYers. Sure, they manage to fix things just fine. But the end result looks horrible!)
We’ve all been there and had to improvise with what we’ve got to get the job done. But trade professionals don’t do that. Just get the right tools and do the job right.
3) Maintain your tools
When was the last time you sharpened your mower blade? Or replaced the blade on your jigsaw or miter saw? How blunt are your drill bits?
Tools, like any other piece of machinery, need to be maintained to get the best results. Saw blades are replaceable parts that don’t last forever, and some bulkier bits of gear need to be regularly cleaned and greased. Tradesmen and contractors understand their tools and what pays the bills. Your tools will look after you if you look after them.
4) Take regular breaks
It’s frustrating when you’re paying a professional to do a job for you, and they down tools every few hours for a break. Sometimes it feels like they’re doing more resting than work! But, having regular breaks is essential to ensure a job well done
It’s easy to get into the zone when you’re working on a project. I often find myself going hour after hour when I’m building or fixing something, stopping only to get a drink or head to the bathroom. But with continued focus comes mental fatigue, and with mental fatigue comes mistakes.
Give yourself a break every few hours. Sit down, enjoy a coffee, and switch off for a little while. You’ll be way less likely to make stupid errors!
5) Maintain a clean working environment
When you’ve got a big day of work ahead, often the last thing on your mind is trying to keep clean. If you’re anything like me, a day on the tools results in you covered in everything from blood to grease, sweat, grass, dust, dirt, slime, oil, and paint
Sometimes this is okay, like when you’re renovating a potager garden or doing something under the house. But when you’re working in or near the house, it’s vital to maintain a clean working environment. When painting or plastering, dirty hands can add hours of cleaning work to an already tedious job. Little droplets of paint can be stomped all the way through the house, and flecks of plaster compound can get stuck in the carpet. Dirt and oil end up on your clothes, which always ends up getting something else dirty.
When my tiler was doing my house, he carried a bucket of water and a sponge wherever he went. He was constantly wiping his hands and his tools so that everything was clean. For him, any residue adhesive on his hands or tools could impact the finished product.
Maintaining a clean working environment can be as simple as having a bucket of water and a rag with you and wiping your hands regularly. Keeping a clean working environment will mean less time cleaning up big messes, and more time creating your masterpiece.
6) Pack up before you’re exhausted
As the workday is wearing on, it can be tempting to push yourself to exhaustion.
DON’T DO IT!
This time of day is the danger zone because it is where mistakes are made. And if you manage to avoid any mistakes, the last thing you’ll want to do is tidy up your tools and workspace properly. That means, when you resume your work the following day, your workspace will be cluttered, and your tools will be lying around all over the place.
Think about how early professional tradespeople finish up at the end of the day. Again, this can be a major source of frustration for the homeowner who just wants the work to get done. But it’s a really smart move for the trade professional to do this. Packing up before they’re exhausted means that they have the mental energy to tidy up their tools and workspace; allowing them to arrive at a fresh, clean worksite the following day.
You could either set yourself a time that you’re going to stop working and start tidying up. Or, you can just monitor how you’re feeling throughout the day. Once you begin to feel yourself slowing down, drop the tools and start packing up. You’ll be glad about it the next day!
Trade professionals have created work habits for themselves to ensure that they get quality results every time. Sometimes, these habits can be a source of frustration for us impatient homeowners. But instead of getting frustrated, why not try to learn from them and improve our own DIY skills at the same time?
If you’re up for a laugh, check out “Why do tradies…”.