Unsolicited Advice: The ?OK I?m pissed so I?m going to DIY? Edition

Mar 20, 2013 7:21am

Over the weekend I received email with what may be the best subject line ever to ever come through my inbox…


Makes my little heart go pitty pat. Not because I want anyone to be pissed, mind you, but holy hell do I love that my life is one in which a person would send me this email.

I don’t know Melissa, but I know her story well. It’s my story too. It’s probably the story of a lot of people out there who felt at one point in time like they “couldn’t”–didn’t know enough, weren’t strong enough, didn’t have enough experience– but we’re just effing sick of feeling taken advantage of and not in control of problems that arose in their house.

In my experience the way to solve for this is to hit something with a hammer… either thing that’s broken, or the handyman who is screwing you over. (Protip: Choosing DIY over assault means less time in jail.)

So, I asked Melissa if I could share an excerpt from her email, and this is what she had to say:

I’m thinking I need more tools and more know-how. I’m so sick of relying on other people. So anyway when I spoke to my handyman on the phone on Thursday, he chose this morning at 9am to come by and do stuff from the list–but he didn’t show, and instead calls me at 10:30am and says he can’t come by! I have everything moved out of the way and ready for him to just BOOP BOOP BOOP and be done and get his money and leave.

Anyway so yeah so then I call someone else around noon-ish and they are on a job all day but will come by after work to assess. Long story short he and his partner give me a FREAKIN $300 estimate. I could do this stuff if I could only figure it out.

We’ve all been here at some point or another, right? With a long-ass list of things we’ve never done before staring us right in the face, telling us we can’t do it. And figuring out where to start is the hardest part, so let me give anyone who has ever been in this position a little unsolicited advice… here’s where you start: Believe in yourself.

This shit isn’t going to be easy, and I’m not going to tell you it will be. You’ll have to figure things out. You’ll get frustrated. Things will take longer than you thought… this is all a part of doing something you’ve never done before. Any time I start a “new” project, I hit a point at least once where I’m like, “Eff it, I can’t do this.” Then I walk away, calm down, and assess the “can’t”. Is it something I don’t understand? Is it something I think should be working but isn’t? Is it something I feel physically incapable of?

Feeling like you can’t do something throws up a big roadblock in front of all the things you know you actually can do. It takes practice to go from “I can’t lift this, I need someone to do it for me.” to “I can’t lift this, but I can slide a piece of cardboard under it and push it across the house.” (I’m looking at you, disproportionately heavy leather couch.) But once you get in that mindset, you can do anything.

So, that’s what I have to say about that. And this is what I have to say about some of the items on Melissa’s list of things to DIY… every project is different and I don’t have much to go off of, but these are some general steps I would take to get started on these projects.

Remove microwave(I’m assuming this is a microwave mounted above a stove or in a wall cabinet)

Recommended tools: Drill, voltmeter (for checking electric), wire snips, wire nuts, various screwdrivers

What I’d do:

    1. Start by googling the make and model of your microwave. There’s a good chance you can find the installation manual online which is a big help in determining if there are any panels, etc. that you need to remove to get access to what is holding it in place. Here’s an example that shows the basics:

    2. Shut off electric to the microwave at the breaker box (should be easy to tell when it’s off because the clock will go off).
    3. Start examining around the microwave for screws that look like they are bolting it too the wall– before you start removing them, you may want to brace the bottom of the microwave (if it’s floating) so that it doesn’t drop when you take them out. I’d stack up boxes or something within an inch or two of the bottom.
    4. Once you get it off the wall, there will be some kind of electrical connection. If you’re lucky there will be an outlet behind it and the microwave will just be plugged in. If it’s hardwired, the connection should be made with wire nuts that can be unscrewed to separate wires (you may have to cut wires… but this would be a last resort. If so, test them with the voltmeter before you snip.) Cap any exposed live wires with wire nuts before turning power back on. (If the microwave is on it’s own breaker and you’re not putting anything else there for the time being, I’d just leave it off.)
Check Dryer Hoses Figuring out how to reach a dryer vent is one of the great mysteries in the world. I usually wiggle the thing about a foot out from the wall, then contort myself into some advanced yoga position that allows half my body to wedge behind the dryer and just barely touch the vent with the tips of my fingers. Then I have to order up a crane to come haul me out. Recommended tools: Flashlight, screwdrivers, long dryer vent brush (like this) What I’d Do:
  1. Use all of your muscles and persuasive abilities to coax the dryer out from the wall. (Also, slipping cardboard under the feet sometimes helps.)
  2. Most vents are held on by pipe clamps that you either loosen by pinching the tabs of the clamp, or (if its the kind that has a screw) turning the screw counter-clockwise) Here are the the types of clamps I’ve seen most often:
    Unsolicited Advice: The ?OK I?m pissed so I?m going to DIY? Edition

    Unsolicited Advice: The ?OK I?m pissed so I?m going to DIY? Edition

  3. Once the vent is detached, use the vent brush (it’s bendy) to clean any lint out of the vent or the back of the dryer
  4. Reattach. (You will have at least one panic attack because you think you’re actually physically stuck upside-down behind the dryer at this point, followed by a surge of adrenaline and the ability to defy the laws of physics and heave yourself out. Not that I would know anything about that.)

Switch Showerheads

Recommended tools: Adjustable wrench (with some cardboard or paper towel to keep from scratching fixture), tefflon tape, possibly some liquid wrench if the existing showerhead sticks. What I’d do:
  1. Grip existing showerhead with wrench (if you’re not saving it you don’t have to worry about scracthing. Turn counterclockwise to unscrew. (You may need to spray it with a little liquid wrench, let it sit, then try it again, if it sticks) – This will be the hardest part if old showerheads are rusted on.
  2. Once it’s unscrewed you should see the elbow protruding from the wall with a threaded end. Wrap the end with teflon tape, then screw the new showerhead on and tighten with wrench (you may want to wrap it with a paper towel before clamping the wrench down so you don’t scratch it
  3. Test for leaks, tighten if needed
Resources: Check out this step-by-step guide from Home Depot for pics and a video. Uninstall Weight-Lift Bar Recommended tools: Drill, spackle or wood putty, spackle knife, touch up paint/stain What I’d do:
  1. Pretty sure these babies are just screwed into a wall or door frame. Unscrew it, sand down the hole, and then spackle it it.
Install Hook for Hanging Plant
Recommended Tools: Drill, drill bits, hook, anchor (alternatively: stud finder), what you need kind of depends on where you’re installing it (ceiling, wall, inside, outside.) What I’d do:
  1. Really the only thing you need to do is make sure you’re installing the hook in such a way that it will support the weight of whatever is hanging from it. Just screwing a hook into drywall will not acheive this, so you either need a drywall anchor, or do screw directly into a stud or other piece of wood framing. (For a hanging plant, an anchor should suffice, just don’t try swinging from the thing like Tarzan.)
  2. There are so many kinds of drywall anchors it’s crazy. I lean towards this type: Unsolicited Advice: The ?OK I?m pissed so I?m going to DIY? Edition

  3. They are self-drilling so you don’t need a drill bit, just stick the Philips head driver bit in the hole and screw this thing in flush with the wall/ ceiling, then screw the hook right in to it.
Install Door Knobs Recommended tools: Drill and various screwdrivers. Patience. Resources: I’ve actually posted step-by-step instructions about changing out door hardware a couple of different times here’s a look at installing exterior door hardware, and an article I wrote for Bobvila.com about installing interior hardware


Install Baseboards Recommended tools: Miter saw (if you don’t have one and are doing a bunch of baseboard, it’s worth renting one for a day, if not you can use a hand saw and miter box, but you will hate your life), coping saw (if you want to do it right), finish nailer (again, you can rent one with a compressor, but I prefer my cordless version), tape measure
Resources: You’ve really got to see pictures to do this right, here’s a step-by-step on coping and installing baseboards. Coping seems a little tricky at first, but I’m telling you, it’s the way to go if your house isn’t square.


Melissa, you totally got this. And now I’m going to take my own advice and go figure out how to turn this mess into an actual structurally sound chicken coop…



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