Tips and Hints on Starting a DIY Project

Summary: Below you will find numerous DIY tips and hints on starting a DIY project and also other general items to think about. This list includes a wide range of items covering topics such as Safety, Materials, Cleaning and a great deal more.


Always a good idea to have a magnet in your tool box. Small screws and pins can easily be dropped but can be difficult to see on carpets etc. Pass over the area with a magnet.

Taking Notes

During most jobs you will need to take quite a few measurements and if you are anything like us you will be writing them on bits of timber and boxes of screws. It all gets a bit confusing and can even get lost on a larger job... Keep a small roll if masking tape in your pocket and write measurements etc on that. Tear off that measurement and stick it on the doorframe, window, toolbox etc near where you need it. Simple stuff like this that makes life so much easier.

Non Stick

If you are ever tiling in your bathroom, under no circumstances tile over wall paper.
The tiles need to be stuck to the wall and the adhesive will loosen the adhesion of the wallpaper to the wall. You will have loose tiles in no time. Similarly, when tiling over an existing floor surface, make absolutely sure the existing surface is stuck very fast indeed. If it is not, take it up.

Hot Tip

If, before you start your new project, you need to remove something that is screwed on, the screws may be tight. Sometimes heating the screws by applying a soldering iron to the head allows them to pull out a little easier.

Spare Bag

Any tradesman will tell you that, when working in confined spaces, tools (which have a mind of their own!) hide themselves after you have put them down!! Take an empty bag or box into the room with you and when you have finished with a tool you will be using more than once, put it in the bag. It would be nice to think that we are capable of putting each tool back where it belongs immediately after we have used it but it just does not happen !!!

Keeping Clean

Sometimes dust sheets are more trouble than they are worth. They hide tools, get snagged up in your feet and all the time are pulling away from the edges which are getting dirty as a result. Sometimes, whatever liquids you are using soak through the dustsheet and make a mess anyway. If you are involved in a messy project which may take some time, investigate the cost of placing some hardboard over the surface you are protecting. Hardboard is cheap, can be cut or sawn easily around door frames, fireplaces etc and the joints can be taped together. It gives you a solid surface to work on, does not fold under your feet and will accommodate a few paint spills without worry !

Hard to Reach Screws

If you have to get a screw into a tricky position, take a piece of masking tape and push the screw through it with the sticky side face up. Then insert the screwdriver blade into the screw slot and fold the masking tape up to stick the screw to the blade. The screw is then held in position on the driver and can be inserted upside down and at ant angle. If possible it is much easier to start the screw off, if you can make a small pilot hole somehow.

Extension Leads

What a pain they are when you are working! If its at all possible, work out where you will be using the power tools the most during your project and screw some cup hooks in the ceiling or top of frames etc. Obviously you do not want to make giant holes to fill later but some discreet placement will make it easy to loop over your leads and keep them out of the way.

Plastering Lumps

Always remember to add the plaster to the water and not the water to the plaster.

Spraying Paint

If you are ever tempted to spray paint the outside of your house or fences, rather than brush it (and it is so much quicker to do so) make absolutely sure you have put your car in the garage and have told the neighbours what you intend to do. Even with little or no breeze, paint particles can carry for quite a distance and this could cost you dearly !!

Working Above Your Head

Wherever possible try and arrange a platform to work on rather than just a step ladder. You do not need to be a builder to do this and scaffold boards can be hired very inexpensively at a tool hire shop. Even if it just having one board between two borrowed milk crates (with support in the middle if necessary) it makes the job so much easier than keep moving the steps around. Continuity makes also for a better finish. Take some time and think about it.

Tape Straight

A simple rule, but one so easily forgotten! When measuring between two points, keep the tape horizontal or vertical. If you measure at an angle the distance will be too great. This can involve much more work than is necessary.

Only Do It Once

If you have any doubt that the job you are about to start may need planning permission or be subject to building regulations, check with your local council or an architect. The council have the authority to make you pull your work down if it does not comply with the regulations....It's hard enough work as it is without doing it twice!

Setting Out

Setting out is the term applied to the measuring and marking done before work begins. It is important that you have a clear picture of what you would like to achieve before you start. Lines can be drawn on walls and string lines can be used to divide areas or show levels across an area. When digging or leveling ground, it is not practical to mark the ground you are about to dig, so we use "offset" or "profile" marking. This means placing a peg or mark in the exact position you would like to start and finish, then measuring away from that mark, say 1 metre, and placing a profile there. This profile can be used to measure back from at all times (B). Nails can be banged into the profiles which will allow you to string a line accurately between them, and using a tape and spirit level you can use your profiles as depth gauges as well (A). This is the professional way of setting out foundations, patios etc.

Setting out construction area

Setting out a construction area


Builders merchants are open to the public as well as the trade. If you have a lot of work to do and envisage spending a lot of money on materials, ask the manager of the local builders merchants if you can open an account. This will save you at least 10% of the cost and builders merchants are quite often cheaper than diy stores. The advice you will receive there is almost always far more accurate than that received in diy stores. We have countless questions relating to incorrect information given by unqualified salespeople at large diy outlets.

Make Sure You Know What You Want

Make sure you know what you are going to get

Make sure you know what you are going to get

Shopping List

Make a complete list of the materials you need and try 3 or 4 outlets for prices. It's staggering how much you can save on a large job by the variations in the price of materials.


Good idea to have gloves and goggles etc at hand before you start. Power and sharp tools are very dangerous things.


Estimates, know your stuff when employing professionals Find Reliable and Trustworthy builders by going through to the DIY Doctor HIPS area for more information

Twice I Have Cut This Wood And It Is Still Too Short

Whatever you are doing at home or in the garden remember this: MEASURE TWICE, CUT ONCE.

Tidy Head

Make lists. Sit down and go through the job in your mind, each operation, and what you will need to do it, tools and materials. Imagine yourself hanging upside down in the loft attaching the new indoor Ariel, screwdriver in your mouth, whoops, screws on the shelf in the garage!

It Is All In The Mind

If you have a huge job to do that you have been putting off for ever, painting the hall, stairs and landing, digging the garden, the longer you put it off the bigger it gets ?!
Divide it into sections, if its the garden, actually get some pegs and string line and section it off into areas, if its the hall, stairs and landing, lightly pencil areas on the walls. Make your mind up to do 3 sections this weekend, 3 next, etc etc. My bet is you will do more than you set out to do in one go and have it finished before you run out of tea!

Top Of The World

Does ladder work make you nervous? Take the risks away by nipping down to the diy store and buying a couple of 6 or 8mm steel screweyes. Work out where you are going to need the ladder, drill a hole in the wall about a foot from the ground, (make sure you do not drill at the same height as the damp proof course) fit a wall plug and screw in your screweyes. Tie the bottom rung of the ladder to this and you are as safe as houses. You can repeat the process for the top of the ladder as well fixing into the facia board if it’s easier. Squeeze some flexible, external sealant over the hole afterwards and you will be able to screw your screw eyes into it again if you should need to.
We recently surrounded a ladies house for her, every 1.50 metres, with holes and plugs so she could remove leaves from her gutter regularly.

How Do I Check If My Room Is Square

Checking angles and making sure your room is square

Check all angles and ensure that your room is square

Floor tiling, carpets, any number of things around the home require a degree of setting out. Remember a quarter of an inch out at one end of a 12 foot room, means about 2 inches out at the other end. It is important to start any appropriate projects with straight and square lines and it is very easy to accomplish. The method is called 3,4,5 and for the technically minded is based on Pythagoras's theorem which we won't go into now ! Suffice to say that if you measure along one wall 3 feet (or metres or any other unit), and along the other wall 4 of the same unit, the diagonal line in between the points should measure 5 units. If it does your walls are square, if it doesn't, you need to mark some points that are square to start your work.

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