Do your DIY right

Money's tight and many people are honing their DIY home improvement skills in order to save - but they need to be cautious when taking on major projects.

"Homebuyers looking for a bargain are increasingly willing to consider properties 'in need of TLC' and prepared to do all the renovation work themselves, but they need to know about the risks," says Dr Piet Botha, chairman of the Nationlink estate agency group.

"This is an instance in which it is much better to learn from the mistakes of others than from your own, and the first and biggest one to avoid is buying in the wrong location."

"Just because a property is cheap and does not require too much fixing up does not make it the right home to buy. You have to think about reselling one day and even your best renovation efforts are not going to make it a desirable residence if it is up against a freeway, under a flight path or behind the city dump."

It is also a mistake to go ahead without the proper zoning or approved building plans, he notes. "In the first place, it's against the law and you could be compelled to stop work or knock down what you've built. In the second, you again need to think about the situation when you come to resell one day and it is bound to come out that you changed the use of the property or added on to it without permission."

The next question you have to ask yourself, Botha says, is whether you are really qualified to tackle all the jobs you have in mind. "If you're afraid of heights, for example, you should seriously consider hiring someone else to repair the roof. When it comes to electrical work and plumbing, you will need to call in the experts.

"And some jobs, like hanging ceilings, do just need more than one person, so you should at least budget to hire some additional labour."

And talking of that, he says, under-budgeting is another frequent mistake made by DIY enthusiasts. "The saying goes that you should estimate the cost of your project and then triple that figure, but that's not really necessary. What you should do is itemize all the material you will need, including mundane items such as nails, masking tape and sandpaper as they all add up, then allow at least 15% of that cost for waste and add another 30% for price increases, especially if you're not buying all your materials at once."

If you shop around, you may of course be able to save by buying some of your materials "on promotion" but you should always buy the best quality products you can afford. "It is another mistake to try to do more by buying cheap materials, as they will inevitably show more wear and quickly become shabby. If you are going to the trouble of doing the work yourself, you want it to stay done - and looking good."


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