Trust me when I say that I am not a technically inclined person. I’m not one of those guys who has a talent for taking things apart and putting them back together. Some people have it naturally, and for that, I’m jealous. But I am not completely inept. And since I know I can save money with DIY projects, I’ve pushed myself to find ones that I can handle. Here are 5 DIY projects that I have successfully completed with positive results. If I can do it, I promise you can too:
1. Computer Repairs and Upgrades
If you told me 5 years ago that I would have to replace a hard drive in both a laptop and desktop computer, and add memory as well, I would have thought you were smoking something. If I have learned anything at all, it is that there are quite a few fixes that you can do internally to your system that are not only easy, but also nothing to fear.
How to do it:
My laptop hard disk replacement was the first computer “repair” job I ever did. I found a website that showed me where the disk cartridge was, unscrewed it, pulled it out, and replaced it. Afterward, I reinstalled the operating system, and voila! Just like a brand new system! The desktop hard disk was almost the exact same process.
Adding RAM was a different story. To be honest, it scared me. Luckily for me, there are a number of tutorials online that walked me through the process. It was actually very easy. You pretty much just plug in a new or additional card and you’re on your way.
Tutorial sites for computer repairs:
Bleeping Computer (great forums for questions you may have)
Potential Savings: $25-65 Dollars
I decided to call a local repair shop and see how much they would charge to replace a hard drive and upgrade memory if I were to provide the necessary parts. My quotes? $25 dollars (and two days without computer use) for the hard drive replacement, which includes re-installation of the operating system, and $40 dollars (also two days without my system) for the memory upgrade. I think I got a pretty good deal considering my computers are still running smoothly!
2. Changing the Oil in Your Car
Have you ever changed your own oil? Changed a tire? Replaced windshield wipers? These are things every car owner should know how to do. Over the years, with the help of others, I have picked up a few tips and tricks to take care of my vehicle. If you ask me, knowing how to change your oil is the most important one of all.
How to do it:
The oil change is simple. First, find your oil pan and drain the oil by removing the bolt at the bottom of the pan (be sure to catch the old oil for recycling). Reattach the bolt when flow has stopped. Second, remove the old oil filter. This filter will be recycled with your old oil, as you need a new oil filter on every change. You may need a special wrench for this step. Third, get the new filter and lubricate the gasket that attaches to the vehicle with new oil. Fourth, fill your new filter with the new oil (roughly 2/3 full), lube the rubber gasket on the filter, and screw it into the vehicle. Fifth, refill the engine oil and check the level using the dipstick. The optimum fill level is indicated on the dipstick. If you have to do this little by little to avoid overfilling, that is just fine.
Tutorial sites for vehicle repairs:
Note: When searching for “how to” on vehicles, use your vehicle model specifically to get the best tutorials.
Potential Savings: $5-15/visit for an oil change
I can get a new oil filter and 5 quarts of oil for less than $25 dollars. The least expensive oil change shop near my house charges $29.99 (with coupon). While they do include everything for a standard oil change (oil, new filter, and labor), it does not include all of the many “up-sell” products they push on you when you get your oil changed. That $30 dollars at the shop can easily rise to over $100 when if you let them persuade you into extra purchases, which are often unnecessary and can definitely be found for less money elsewhere.
Windshield wipers, tire changes, and other necessary vehicle maintenance items are also easy, quick, and painless DIY projects. Savings vary greatly, but there’s no doubt they can be significant.
3. Interior House Painting
We have painted our kitchen, living room and one bathroom. First, I must warn you, this is not a quick job. There is a lot of prep work necessary to get good results when painting. This is probably why professionals charge what they do to paint your house.
How to do it:
Pick out the colors you want. This is the only fun part of the painting process. Get all the necessary equipment, which can vary depending on the job, and prep the rooms to be painted. Tape all borders, move all furniture and fixtures, and make sure the wall is primed before applying paint. When everything is in place, cover every single millimeter of the wall and repeat. You want solid and flawless coverage, so use plenty of lighting and double check everything before packing everything up.
Tutorial sites for interior painting:
The Learning Channel
This Old House
Potential Savings: Hundreds
Again, this will vary greatly from job to job. Our living room is combined with a small dining area, so the measurements come in at about 18×12. For a room this size, hiring a contractor would cost $300-$550. Our total cost for paint and all necessary supplies came in at just under $200 about two years ago when we painted.
4. Caulking Your Tub or Sink
A well used shower will likely need new caulking every couple of years. This job is a complete pain in the you know what, but the level of difficulty is pretty low.
How to do it:
First, carefully remove ALL existing caulk. Clean the area meticulously. You may need Goo Gone or a similar cleaner to get rid of all of the caulk and junk that builds up in the area. With your new caulk, which costs only a few dollars, cover the entire border and smooth over with your finger to create a seal that is impenetrable to water. When complete, you may want to go over it a second time to make sure there are no missed areas. When complete, let dry. This may take up to a few days, so if you do not have a spare shower, make arrangements to clean yourself elsewhere (or be prepared to be very smelly).
Tutorial sites for caulking:
Potential Savings: Only a few bucks
Okay, this project will not save you a whole lot, since you can get someone to do it for as little as $25. But the satisfaction of a job well done still means something, right? A bathtub-sized tube of caulk can be found for less than $5, so even if you butcher this job when you try it yourself, you can always hire someone without having invested much money already. My advice? Try it yourself!
5. Hardwood Floors
About 6 years ago, my mom decided that the carpet in her family room just had to go. After careful deliberation, she decided on hardwood floors, which are one of the best home flooring ideas.
How to do it:
Although there will be a bit of cutting involved (for sides and corners), most floors are made up of panels that either glue together easily, or click together. My mom used the click-together flooring. This type of flooring can be installed with a couple days of work. For more how-to specifics, see the tutorials. It is much easier to explain with pictures:
Tutorial sites for hardwood floors:
Potential Savings: Hundreds or thousands
If you end up doing more than one room, you could be saving thousands. My mom’s overall price tag came in at just over $500. When compared to the estimates of $1150-$1400 that she got at the hardware store, this represents huge savings. In addition to the massive potential savings, this project, more than any other listed here, can actually make you money since it is a great investment. If you were to put your house on the market with pristine wood flooring, it could add thousands to the sale price.
With all of the resources available for DIY projects, there is almost nothing that cannot be done. In fact, while researching this post, I got ideas for quite a few new projects that I will likely undertake in the near future. Step-by-step guides and videos make most projects seem simple, especially when you compare them to books or schematics that were necessary prior to the Internet.
You may have noticed that there are no plumbing or electrical DIY projects here (unless you consider caulking a plumbing job). This is simply a personal choice, as I do not like to fuss with electricity at all because my grandfather was electrocuted and plumbing is just not something I enjoy at all. That said, these jobs are pretty easy too and you may even have fun doing them!
Have you had any experiences with any of these DIY projects that went well (or were a disaster)? Any DIY project ideas that you’d like to add to the list?