3 DIY Projects That Saved Us Thousands This Year

DIY projects and tools

diy-projects2016 has been the year of the DIY projects. And for a fella like me who recognizes that not all men are equipped with handyman skills (like myself) and would prefer to outsource such tasks to more qualified persons, these jobs were a bit stretching, to say the least.

I certainly did not go gung-ho into these projects, but was quite deliberate, summoning the courage to act, saying a prayer and then getting in touch with my inner Bob Vila.

I do have to admit though – after getting a couple of these projects under my belt – I did start to feel a bit more confident. But, none of these tasks were easy and required my full attention.

To other thrifty guys (and women!) who are also in my shoes, I can honestly say that if I've been able to accomplish some of these DIY projects, then please take comfort and know that you can forge ahead too. Through it all, I've learned there are others out there who are willing to lend a hand, offer advice and fail with you. Plus (when all else fails) there are some great Youtube videos out there to get you out of a jam!

It's no secret folks can save quite a bit of money by doing it yourself rather than paying an expert. This year alone, I figured we saved a couple thousand dollars by doing it ourselves on these projects alone.

Here's a look at what we tackled this year.

DIY #1: Bathroom drywall and fixture replacement

Probably the biggest DIY project I took on this year was one that I started earlier this spring. It involved ripping out a large chunk of drywall in the bathroom and resetting a fixture that I had (poorly) attached when we first moved in.

This DIY shouldn't have been as big as it ended up being. But when I first took out a smaller piece of drywall, I noticed something of greater concern: mold.

Mold in the insulation
Mold in the insulation

This required that I open up the wall even wider and take out larger chunks of drywall. Then I had to take out as much of the infected insulation as possible and replace it.

Needless to say, I learned a bit about insulation in the process and about all I ever wanted to know about drywall.

Biggest take aways from this job

  • Drywall comes in different sizes. It used to be thicker in older homes – now many use a thinner drywall for most walls.
  • In moisture prone areas like the bathroom, you'll need moisture resistant drywall. Sometimes it is called green board. Check with the assistant at the store to be sure.
  • Mudding isn't as easy as it looks. Being an artist, I thought I'd have it made with this job – but it is probably one of the hardest things to pull off well in remodeling. I now marvel at walls where I see no seams. It's truly a work of art. The trick I found is to do very fine layers, one at a time on top of each other. Nice trowels are helpful too.
Drywall fixed
Drywall fixed

Savings: I'm gonna estimate that it'd probably cost me anywhere from $750-1,500 to get this done by a pro.

DIY #2: Install an over-the-stove microwave

One of the more stressful and frustrating DIY projects I took on this year was to install an over-the-range microwave oven at our rental home. Because this job required some heavy lifting and I knew I would need the emotional support / encouragement, I asked my good friend Dave to join me. He was a godsend in many ways.

Most of these jobs I had some great trepidation before embarking on – but this one, I felt fairly confident we could tackle in no time. I'd actually helped another friend of mine put his in months before – so I felt like I was prepared and ready for battle.

Of course, you can / shouldn't be too sure of yourself when it comes to DIY. And such was the case with this install. We actually read all the directions and had mounted the microwave and thought we were done. Then I opened the door on it – and it jiggled a little. The alignment was off – and so we finally decided to unmount and it and try again.

It was frustrating – but I certainly didn't want this thing falling down on our renters when they were cooking. After some stressful moments (while the renters were home, mind you), we finally got it secured and all systems were go.

What I learned

  • It pays to have a friend on-hand helping with some bigger DIY jobs. Figuratively and literally in this case. Dave found a less-expensive microwave at one of the stores we were at that helped save some coins.
  • Read directions. As a “creative, free-thinker” of sorts, I tend to think on my own a bit too much and fail to read directions. Not anymore. I've hit my head against the walls enough and have finally seen the light. 
  • Do it right. I sometimes will do things if they are “good enough”. But with home improvement projects, it really makes sense to do things right, upfront. I wouldn't have needed to do the bathroom DIY if I had installed the fixture right, the first time around.

Savings: I'd estimate it could cost me $250-500 to get someone out to install one of these bad boys.

DIY #3: Garage door opener

One of my final projects that I completed this year probably elicited the most fear in me. There's just something about messing with garage door openers that I felt that I could never negotiate with.

She's scarier than she looks
She's less scarier than she looks

And, I was hoping to do this with another chap as well. But, one afternoon while at the hardware store and our garage door opener acting up yet again – I finally pulled the chord on a new one and made the purchase. I don't know if it was the thing sitting in the garage afterwards – but it was beckoning me to put it up—taunting me, really.

So, I went for it.

Following proper DIY procedure and lessons I had learned from previous jobs this year, I laid every thing out of the box on the garage floor and dove into the directions. I also viewed several Youtube videos just to get a sense for what I was/had gotten myself into. I was filled with naive confidence after these “experts” made it look so easy.

Laying out the contents of the new garage door opener
Laying out the contents of the new garage door opener

Fortunately, none of my fears were realized and it went better than I had expected. I think one of the reasons was the product itself. The Chamberlain opener that I had purchased really had excellent directions and the product performed flawlessly out-of-the-box with little know-how. Another bonus was I didn't have to touch the springs (which can be a real difficult task if new to garage door opener installs).

On a related note, here's how you can easily change the code on your garage door opener.

A few takeaways

  • Prep is key. One of my area for improvements is preparation. Knowing this was gonna be such a new DIY project for me, I really loaded up on the Youtube instructional videos and was thorough about the directions.
  • Buy a good product. After talking with the hardware store associate, they relayed the Chamberlain is probably one of the better openers out there. While it cost a little more than another brand, I went for it and am glad I did. I'm learning more and more – sometimes it's better to pay more for quality than less and suffer in the short-term.
  • Get help. I bypassed getting help on this install – but later regretted it as I was trying to hold up a large metal rod from the ceiling and an old garage door opener. This is one of those jobs I'd say to get a bud and have him assist. IF you do go it alone, use a ladder for balancing.

Savings: I'd say it could have been $500-1,000 to get this installed by a professional.

Any DIY projects you completed this year that you are more proud of and saved you money?

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  1. My husband recently replaced our garage door opener too. He also chose Chamberlain. While my husband has many many wonderful qualities being handy is Not one of them but he completed this project perfectly. It did take about three days because he would complete it after work and around kids sports so we parked in our driveway but it was nice out and not a big deal. He also needed our kids, aged 11 and 10, to help hold things a couple of times. Overall I think it was fairly painless and saved us money.
    Another small project my husband completed that I love is a key pad deadbolt on our front door. I’m home during the day but I love that my kids can come in and out without being responsible for a key.
    I’m hoping these small projects build his confidence to tackle a new deck railing on our home and new flooring at our cabin in the spring!

    • Bless him! There should be a support group for men like this who tackle these projects. :) I feel like I lose several lbs. from the anxiety / stress – haha. Great idea on the deadbolt!

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