Home Repair Lessons From Mom

Loretta Jane

Some people learned the basics of home repair by holding the flashlight for their dads. Others (like your humble author) learned it while holding the flashlight for their moms. Don't think that DIY home repair is only done by Harry Homeowners. Harriet Homeowner can get in on the action too, and might even be better at it, if only society and her own insecurity would get out of the way.

Dealing with Contractors

Dealing with contractors as a woman can be difficult. Whether you're looking for a decent roofer in Alabama or a water heater company in Tujunga, you need to check more than price and quality. You also need to check whether those contractors will listen and actually do what you ask them to do without first checking with the man of the house. Know what you want, know how much it will cost and don't accept any substitutes without good reason.

Doing it Yourself

Sometimes, if you want a job done right, you're going to have to do it yourself. This is especially valuable for stay-at-home parents, who might get tired of listening to that leaky faucet while the other spouse is at work. It's often faster and usually cheaper to do it yourself. Especially for small jobs, there's no reason to wait for someone else to do it or pay extra for a professional, as long as you have a little know-how and the right tool for the job.

The Right Tool

In addition to "Eureka!" Archimedes said: "give me a long enough lever and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world." With the right tools, you can do pretty much everything, no matter what your natural talents are. Keep in mind that bigger is not always better. A smaller power drill is just as effective as a larger one, and it won't throw out your elbow.

Overbuilding vs Staging

One of the best things about DIY is that you have precise knowledge and control over both the understructure and the appearance. A contractor might not know that your three children like to hang off the end of that shelf, and fail to put in enough bracing to support the extra weight. A contractor also won't know that this piece of "brick wall" is just for show and there's no need to make it real brick. You, on the other hand, know what needs to be overbuilt and what can just be staging.

Measure Twice

"Measure twice, cut once" is a carpenter's adage to live by. It doesn't just apply to cutting wood, either. If you're buying furniture for a space, measure the space twice before you decide what size to buy. If you're trying to fir a shelving unit into a small space, make sure you're getting it small enough to fit in without having to brute force it into place.

Brute Force is Overrated

You may think that men are more suited to construction because of greater physical strength, but brute force is highly overrated. If you have to brute force something into place, it's not the right size. You risk breaking it or doing damage to the house. If you're lifting something heavy, you should be lifting with your legs and not your back anyway. When it comes to leg strength, there's very little difference between men and women.

Knowing Limits

However, you should be careful to know your limits. Sometimes you do need help, not just with heavy lifting but with certain jobs. Jobs that involve lots of training should probably be done by professionals. Rewiring a house is not a DIY job, for a whole host of reasons. Know when to call for help and what to do yourself.

DIY has no gender. Anyone can be a do-it-yourself-er, and frankly, every homeowner should have at least a few DIY tricks up their sleeves. So pick up the hammer, and don't forget the measuring tape. You've got work to do.