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Ask Brian: Getting the Most from DIY in 2021

By Brian Kline | February 23, 2021

Ask Brian is a weekly column by Real Estate Expert Brian Kline. If you have questions on real estate investing, DIY, home buying/selling, or other housing inquiries please email your questions to [email protected].

Question from Tony in NY: Hi Brian. I enjoy having plans and making lists for almost everything I need to do (call me weird if you want to). I think it has big benefits including keeping my suburban home in good repair. I have a seasonal list of regular maintenance that I stay on top of. A big benefit I get from keeping up the maintenance is more time on the weekends for other projects and I’ve completed several improvements during the 12 years I’ve been in my home. I wrote a long list back in January about what I want to do in 2021 (mostly overcoming coronavirus boredom). The Christmas decorations were put away right after the New Year, my wife took care of a few Valentine-related tasks, and she has plans for St. Patrick’s Day. I haven’t done much of anything the last several weeks and I’m starting to feel like a bum. My 2021 “to do” list has a line that simply says “DIY projects.” I’m itching to get started with something but don’t seem to have any good ideas for this year. How about helping me out with a few ideas?

Answer: Hello Tony. It sounds like you and I have something in common with the lists and planning projects. But from my father, I learned that there are planners and then there are PLANNERS. It sounds like your 2021 list of DIY projects is the small letter version of planning. I think we can fix that. For instance, what I learned from dad is that instead of a list that says, “store Christmas decorations on January 2,” his list had details like “repack Christmas tree ornaments in original containers to store in the attic and take the bare tree to the curb.” Another line said to pack mom’s Santa Clauses on the attic shelf and wrap breakable decorations in bubble wrap before storing. I think you get the idea. Dad’s lists were very detailed so that nothing was missed and you can be sure everything had its storage place.

Tony, I’m suggesting you do something similar for a DIY project of your choice. For instance, if you’ve always wanted a built-in BBQ on your patio, go visit the store and select the model you want to install. You don’t even need to buy it right away. With the brand and model number, you should be able to find the installation instructions and requirements online. You can begin your planning and list-making from that. With a detailed list, you can purchase the ancillary materials when you have the funds and when they are on sale. The requirements will probably look something like this:

  • BBQ brand and model
  • Natural gas or propane household system with ½-inch black or local code pipe (need 30-feet of pipe, “T,” 90-degree elbow, and 2-inch nipple). A propane cylinder is optional with an approved adaptor.
  • Exhaust hood larger than the 18” X 32” grill surface to vent from the semi-enclosed structure.
  • Countertop opening for the unit must have venting to allow inflow of air (minimum of 2 per side with a minimum of 10 square inches of free area).
  • The grill includes an electrical power supply box for the rotisserie, ignitor, and halogen lights that require 120 VAC with 15 amp minimum (need 25 feet of conduit, GFCI grounded 3-wire receptacle, and outdoor connectors).

Tony, building a list from the instructions not only tells you what else you’ll need but also gives you a solid idea of the installation skills and tools that you’ll need for the job. However, the built-in BBQ instructions probably only tell you that it has to be installed in a non-combustible location. That means you need to write another list for the counter where BBQ will be installed. That should probably be built from something like brick or stone that will require mortar tools and skills. You’re going to want a granite countertop and that will require making a cutout where the BBQ fits in with proper spacing.

The permanent BBQ is just an example of what you can do this year. Use the same planning and list building for any other significant project like:

  • Build a home theater.
  • A home office.
  • A home bar.
  • Specialize your garage for building a hot rod, a custom motorcycle, or restoring a classic car.
  • A home distillery or home brewery.
  • Upgrading to a smart home.
  • Ask your wife, she’s sure to add projects to your 2021 DIY list.

This is the type of detailed planning and list writing that my dad taught me. It has served me well and gave me the confidence to take on projects that I otherwise would have shied away from.

What do you suggest for getting the most from DIY this year? Please add comments.

Our weekly Ask Brian column welcomes questions from readers of all experience levels with residential real estate. Please email your questions or inquiries to [email protected].

Brian Kline has been investing in real estate for more than 30 years and writing about real estate investing for seven years with articles listed on Yahoo Finance, Benzinga, and uRBN. Brian is a regular contributor at Realty Biz News
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