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Please Note: gapfilla.com was started in England by Australians, and is now being
converted over to the Australian environment, so while the British flag appears at
the top of the page, that page has not yet been converted. When it has ...
... it gets an Aussie flag! Oi! Oi! Oi!

Going About DIY

The Mark of a competent builder
is how well they overcome the problems they encounter
whilst carrying out the work!

Most projects include some problems, ranging from shortage of materials, through ignored approvals, changed regulations and onto poor workmanship, neglect or unforeseen obstacles, such as rotted structural work, non-standard sizes and superseded materials, to name but a few.

If this occurs to you, don't get frustrated, get even. Solve the problem and move on.

Over the course of our time, we have seen diy'ers and professionals alike give up and walk off the job. To a diy'er this causes time delays - to a builder or tradesman it leads to a decline in business and possibly cessation of business.

Successful builders, and diy'ers, are those that can see and resolve the problem(s).

Quick Find

Can You Do It?

We at Gapfilla reckon that everyone can do some, if not all of a project.

Non-structural projects are generally safer to carry out, by definition that nothing should be falling down or need supporting, and are a great way to develop your skills. These projects include stud walls, some doorways, bathroom and kitchen refits, painting, flooring and tiling to name a few.

If you're getting into structural stuff, its necessary to have a better understanding of the skills and standards of work required - better to start with the easier stuff.

The two things to bear in mind are:

  1. Firstly, follow the Gapfilla 'plan, design & install' model. If you put the hard yards in at the beginning, planning through the project, then the design and install phases not ony unfold more easily, but you will be better prepared to handle unforeseen problems.
  2. Secondly, do not be afraid to farm out the bits you cannot do, or are not allowed to. For example, Gapfilla has operated as a Master Builder (in England) but still farmed out all the wet plastering because it was a skill we couldn't master. Likewise you need to farm out gas, electrical and plumbing works in many cases. Your value add in this situation continues to be the project management - otherwise referred to as 'being the builder'.

Remember that many diy'ers achieve a broader range of skills, and a better understanding of the inter-relatedness of tasks, than many tradespeople. And don't think that your output will necessarily be lesser than a qualified tradey - many customers are less than happy at the final product of their hired help.

That's not to say that we wouldn't put money on a tradey to get the job finished first and well, but don't ever discount the great standard of work often delivered by diy'ers, albeit with less requirement to finish on time, on budget.

Are You Allowed To Do It?

This is a most important point to observe. You do need approvals for many exterior and interior building projects, and you need to consult your local council early in the planning phase. Councils, in both the UK and Australia, are generally very helpful and supportive of diy'ers and builders, so long as you don't try to push the boundaries or get them to do the design for you.

Don't assume you are allowed to remove a wall without first checking the scope of your plans with the local building regulations staff at the council. They will also identify regulations you need to comply with in your new works.

The provision of gas, water and electrical services is strictly managed in Uk and Australia, so to be on the safe side, check with the Council or specific authorities. The internet is a good starting point , but if you don't understand it, don't assume it. It may come back and bite you!

Systemic Inefficiency

Love that term. We referred earlier to professional tradespeople, and what separates them from the diy'er is their efficiency and organisation, and their focus to 'on time, on budget'. Builders know that costs can surge astronomically due to time blowouts, changes of scope and mistakes. That is a part of their value add - the management of those issues.

What can also impact but is less often recognised is inefficiency. A builder will visit the supplier in the morning, load up and work all day with those materials, plus others delivered throughout the course of the day.

To manage your time and costs, plan your activities thoughtfully:

  • a second trip to the hardware store doubles the time and petrol costs.
  • carrying materials in the family car can scratch and damage it.
  • hiring a trailer twice doubles the cost of one trip
  • delivery is often cost competitive to trailer hire (and time)
  • cars are not designed to carry 500Kg of bricks in the boot - trust us on that one
  • as part of your design, develop a materials list that facilitates order and delivery
  • plan lenths so that you are not left with long offcuts or unused sheets
  • have somwhere dry to store your mortar mixes, timbers and tools
  • and the big one - measure twice, cut once!

The builder who doesn't recognise the need for efficiency generally ends up working for other builders.

Tools & Equipment

Think these through early. If you are going to need particular tools time and time again, then buy them early and look after them. If you foresee sporadic needs for expensive items, then develop a relationship at the local hire centre and become a good, reliable customer, by booking the equipment in advance, looking after it and returning it clean. If you do break it, tell them.

Focus on the right tool for the job. We all know a screwdriver works as a chisel, but buy a chisel anyway.

On the matter of blades and consumables, buy often and use them in good condition. Blunt handsaws will kill your strength and blunt discs will kill your power tools. Furthermore you will not get square, clean cuts. Sharp tools are not even comparable to blunt ones.

Materials

These will be set by building regs, your plan and your design but the best advice we can give is to shop around (by phone, remembering that idea of systemic efficiency) and be sure to bulk up the order to cover all the parts required icluding edgings sealants, strips, fixings etc. If you look at our backyard shed project, the mouldings and ancillary panels were the longest, the most awkward to shift and the most expensive. Purchasing them separately would have hit our back pocket very hard; double the delivery charges at least, plus reduced leverage for discount on both orders.

For those of you in England, our experience is that you should get good discounts if you look around; sadly for Australians, its much harder to get competitive pricing.

Skills

This is probably the most important bit of diy'ing. You will need to learn new skills, a matter which this site strives to address, and you can achieve this by:

  • reading up on this site (or others)
  • enrolling in a tafe course or similar
  • getting a friend to help
  • simple hard minded practice

All work well, and the more skilled you become, the easier it is to branch into other skills, but our strongest advice is focus on efficiency. Without it one tends to end up faffing around, losing focus and failing to complete the job.

Finally, we like this light hearted quote from a builder we know:

We might be slow, but by heck we're rough!

Over to you.

Please be advised: gapfilla.com does not purport to be an expert in all facets of diy, but has significant experience in almost all of the topics covered on this site. We suggest that all persons take adequate care in the translation and application of this content to their projects, particularly as projects rarely encounter identical issues and constraints. If in doubt, we suggest you seek advice from a professional tradesperson or advisor. All material copyright gapfilla.com 2005-13