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8 Great DIY Home Improvement Rules

With more than 75 years of hard-core DIY experience under their belts, TFH editors share their best rules for your next improvement project.

FH_121111_002_DIYERS_01-2Family Handyman
With so much DIY expertise and experience here at The Family Handyman, our editors decided to write down their top tips for how to get the best results from your home improvement projects. From plumbing to drywall, our editors weigh in with their favorite hints for DIYers.

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Start with level, plumb and flat walls

Add new studs beside the old studs

Old walls are often crooked and out of plumb. One good method to fix the problem is to add new studs alongside the old ones, making sure the new ones are plumb and aligned. You’ll be glad you did when it comes time to install cabinets and trim.

Be positive the power’s off

Always check before doing electrical work

When you’re doing electrical work, don’t assume that because you flicked a switch or flipped a circuit breaker the power is off— always double-check. Buy a noncontact voltage tester and check all the wires in the box before you do any work—or plan on some melted dental work!

Keep a beater chisel in your tool belt

It’s a four-in-one tool

Aside from a hammer, a “beater” chisel is the most useful tool to carry in your tool belt. It’s a scraper, a pry bar and a putty knife all in one. Sometimes you can even use it as a chisel for crude work.

Buy extra plumbing parts

Buy more than you need to save extra trips

No matter how carefully you plan, it seems like you always need another elbow or extra length of pipe. Save yourself a trip to the store and buy extra the first time. Then return what you don’t use.

Beware of drywall dust

Confine the dust no matter what

No matter how small your drywall job, take the time to carefully confine the dust. While the actual sanding might only take you about 10 minutes, cleaning the fine layer of dust from everything in sight will take you the rest of the afternoon.

Plan around the weather

Anticipate how weather will affect a project

Learn a lesson from one TFH editor who poured a garage slab late one fall day. It was cool outside, and he didn’t realize how long the concrete would take to set up. He didn’t finish troweling until about 2 a.m.

Leave ‘reveals’ on windows and doors

Don’t try to get the trim flush with jambs

Leave a space (reveal) alongside moldings. It’ll give you a little fudge factor and looks better than trying to get trim flush with jambs.

Have a tarp for roof tear-offs

Anticipate bad weather to prevent leaks

What will you do if you tear off the shingles and a storm pops up? At least if you have a plastic tarp that’s large enough to cover the roof, you’ll have a fighting chance of keeping your house dry.