The biggest DIY project I ever tackled was re-roofing a house — all 3,000 sq. ft. of it.
Fifteen years later, I still apply the lessons I learned that summer to my current projects.
I hope my “Top 4 Rules of DIY” will help you to work safely and avoid pitfalls.
1. Safety first. This never felt so true as when I was squatting at the corner of the roof with a squirrel’s-eye view of my yard — and nothing between me and the ground.
Extension cords and compressor cables lay all around.
A heavy tool belt was wrapped around my waist, and a razor-sharp knife was in my hand.
At times I felt like I was a contestant on a DIY survival show.
My basic safety precautions included cleats to prevent slipping, a hat and sunscreen, plenty of water, and vigilance.
A fall arrest system (aka – harness and ropes) is also important to include when you’re working on a roof.
Depending on your project, you may be able to forgo the cleats and hat, but vigilance is always essential.
Read all assembly and instruction manuals, and take all of the recommended precautions.
If you rent equipment that doesn’t come with an owner’s manual, find out the make and model beforehand so you can read the manual online.
2. Plan carefully. The bigger the project, the more planning it requires.
Carefully consider what tools, materials and services you’ll need.
For my roofing project, I needed a compressor, nail guns, ladders, ladder jacks, roof jacks, long extension cords, knives, replacement blades, various types of flashing, roofing cement, gloves, tarps, and the list goes on.
You don’t want to waste time and energy at the start of every day or during lunch breaks by driving to the home center for something you forgot or ran out of.
If you need a permit, get it well ahead of time.
The same goes for scheduling deliveries of materials and Dumpsters and for reserving equipment from rental stores.
Think about logistics, too.
For example, it was important to have the shingles dropped in an accessible spot before the Dumpster was delivered and blocked the way.
3. Recruit good help. Reroofing is not a one-person job — three turned out to be an ideal number of workers.
For painting and floor refinishing, I find that two is better (especially when the second person is my wife).
If you’re hiring help, look for people with the necessary skills.
For my roofing job, I was fortunate to find a 20-year-old who had some carpentry experience and was planning a career as a kitchen contractor.
Workers with strong backs were essential for this job: A single bundle of premium-grade shingles can weigh 80 pounds, and it must be carried up a ladder (unless you rent a portable shingle conveyor).
My 3,000 square-foot job required 90 bundles.
In addition, be sure to choose helpers who are cautious.
Careless workers are a danger not only to themselves but to others as well, and accidents cost money.
Dropping a circular saw from the roof can total the saw and smash a patio table, setting you back several hundred dollars.
4. Invest wisely. Saving money on labor allows you to buy better supplies and materials than you might otherwise be unable to afford.
For my roof, I purchased the best asphalt architectural shingles available.
They were heavy and came with a 35-year warranty. I expect
I also splurged on eave-flashing membrane at every eave and valley, so I’ve never needed to worry about ice dams.