Watch words for do-it-yourselfer: looks, cost, energy; Do a project right the first time

You have the time off, the money to do the job, and you're all set to begin. Soon you'll start adding a new deck to the house, divide a large room, finish the basement, insulate the attic, refinish the kitchen cabinets, repaper and paint, or a host of other home-improvement projects that just beg to be done.

Sure, it'll be easy, you keep telling yourself.


If professional home-improvement people could leave one bit of advice to the beginner handyman --or woman -- around the house, it's "be professional." In other words, do the job as well as you can and make sure it looks good -- in other words, professional-- when it's done.

"In our job of inspecting homes we find that so many of the do-it-yourself jobs by homeowners are done so poorly that instead of adding value to the house, they often take away from the value of the house," asserts Kenneth Austin, chairman of HomeMaster of America of Bound Brook, N.J., a home-inspection firm that's been in the business 11 years and now operates in seven states.

"If you're going to do the job, do it so it looks professional," urges Mr. Austin. "That way you'll get value out of it when you sell the house."

Simply, if the job is badly done, "it could cost you money when it comes time to sell the house," says Mr. Austin.

So, if you're going to do a home-improvement job this year, do your homework first and learn how to do the job, what the specifications are, what materials you'll have to buy, whether financing is readily available and how much it'll cost, and how long it might reasonably take you to complete the task.

Ask yourself: "Do I have the time and the patience to do the job well?"

Don't do 90 percent of a job but do 100 percent, Mr. Austin suggests. "The last 10 percent are the finishing touches and they too often suffer in the average do-it-yourself job," he adds.

How to pick up the necessary skills? It's not to hard, if you have any latent do-it-yourself ability at all.

For one thing, there are many do-it-yourself home centers all over the country where you can pick up a lot of pointers on home-improvement projects. Often there are clinics that may be conducted by representatives of the manufacturers of some of the materials you may need for the job, anyway.You not only get the know-how you need, but the company gets the order. It's good business for everyone.

This is a good way to learn, say do-it-yourself specialists.

Then there are numerous publications which take you, step by step, through some of the most intricate jobs that you might imagine. Hanging a door isn't much of a challenge for a professional, but for the do-it-yourselfer it could be a job of monstrous proportions.

How many budding do-it-yourselfers have stripped down the kitchen cabinets, only to discover later on that the total job was far more than they had bargained for? Simply, they run out of enthusiasm and the job suffers.

An excellent home-repair book series is put out by Time-Life Books. The books are done with excellent graphics, thus taking the home-repair beginner on a pictorial journey from beginning to end of the job he may want to do.

Another series is put out by Popular Science magazine and there are others.

Family Handyman magazine, a Webb publication out of St. Paul, Minn., comes out 10 times a year with nemerous ideas on how to improve the livability of your home. It costs $9.95 a year for the 10 issues.

Also, talk with people -- friends, neighbors, people you work with. "Learn from other people's mistakes," suggests Mr. Austin.

Simply, people like to talk about their do-it-yourself projects, even if they didn't work out the way they had anticipated in the beginning.

So "get the word first," and then plunge into the job with zest.

In 1980 US homeowners undertook an estimated 147.6 million home-improvement projects, 101.4 million of which were do-it-yourself. The home-renovation market is expanding at the rate of about 14 to 16 percent a year.

According to a survey by Market Facts Inc. and Home Center magazine, 85 percent of all single-family homeowners are willing to take their chances on doing the job themselves or turning to a member of the household to do it. Too, 34 percent spent a higher percentage of their take-home pay on home improvement in 1980 than they did in 1979.

Last year, consumers put more than $31 billion into home improvements, with almost $9.5 billion coming from the ranks of the do-it-yourselfers.

The trend for 1981 is -- you guessed it -- up.

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