I have to admit, finishing your basement, renovating the kitchen, or tearing out and replacing your bathroom isn’t as easy as we make it look on TV. Without commercials, I only have about 21 minutes to tell a story, throw in a few tips and tricks, and show you the finished product. That’s not a lot of time, which means it’s impossible for me to show you all of the preparation, detailed progress of the work being completed, or the inevitable unforeseen issues that pop up and need to be addressed. When you factor in all of the knowledge and experience required to complete a major renovation project, it’s no surprise that our casting call email is always overflowing with applications from novice DIYers. Everyone has to start somewhere, and everyone has a different level of skill and experience. The key to successfully completing a project around the house is to determine your level of skill and start small.
Even if you’re never picked up a hammer, with a little research (and a good set of instructions) there are projects you can tackle around the house that not only add value to your home, but also start laying a foundation of experience that will only grow with time. While you should never underestimate the value of a professional painter, painting is definitely something that most people can do if they prepare properly and take their time. There are a lot of gadgets and gizmos out there that promise to make painting your entire house simple, flawless and quick. There are even more people who’ve purchased those products that will tell you they don’t work flawlessly outside of the laboratory. The trick to painting is preparation and patience. Before you even think of opening the paint can, remove everything from the walls, use drop cloths on the floors to protect them, fill any holes or imperfections, prime any patches or unpainted areas, and tape up door hardware or other items you want to protect. Get yourself a good angled brush that you can clean and reuse, and a roller handle with a thick arm (cheap brushes shed bristles and cheap roller handles bend and flex too much).
If you plan on doing a fair amount of painting, get yourself a paint caddy (large disposable coffee cups also work great) for cutting in — that’s the detail work around the ceiling, corners and next to trim, etc. Take your time painting the line between the wall and ceiling, and use the angle of the brush to direct paint exactly where you want it. After cutting in, it’s time to rock and roll. Always roll towards the arm of the roller; that eases up the pressure on the wall on the trailing edge, which helps reduce lines in your paint. If you’re walls are already primed or painted, two coats should do the trick. I recently tried out some new primer and paint in one, a few companies make these now, and I’m in love. That’s one less step for this Man. If you are planning to update your kitchen but don’t want to get in too deep, installing or updating a backsplash is a job that most people with basic experience on the tools can handle themselves. Again, the key to a great looking result is preparation. If you have tiles on the wall already, you’ll want to remove them before getting started. Because tiles are adhered with thinset or mastic, you’re most likely going to cause some damage to the surface of the wall — in most cases I will usually remove the drywall or plaster along with the tiles and replace it with a new smooth piece.
The smoother your wall is before you begin to tile, the easier it will be to tile. When you’ve decided on the type of tile you’re going to use, layout is the next step. Lay the tiles out on the countertop, complete with spacers, and ensure you will have at least 50 per cent of a tile remaining on the sides and in corners; small cut strips of tile in a very visible location don’t look great, so hide them behind the fridge if possible! To adhere tiles to the wall, we typically use thinset (cement based mortar) or mastic (glue). Thinset can be dusty and messy and requires a proper mix to perform properly. Mastic is the way to go for a simple weekend project — open the bucket, and you’re ready to go. For most small wall tiles, you’ll need a 3/16-inch V-notch trowel and a margin trowel for getting mastic out of the bucket and onto the wall. To cut tiles, buy or rent a small wetsaw. Snap cutters are great for larger tiles, but can be frustrating on small tiles until you have a few tiles under your snapping belt.
After you’ve determined your layout, start in the corner and work your way out. Small spacers or wedges will help maintain straight grout lines. Be sure to leave some space between the countertop and tiles for caulking (grout will typically crack due to movement in the countertop). When spreading mastic on the wall, don’t spread more of an area than you’ll be able to tile in 10 to 15 minutes, or it will start to form a crust that won’t stick well to the tiles. Be sure to turn off the breaker for all of the wall outlets so you don’t get shocked and when cutting tile around outlet boxes, remove the screws and be sure to extend the tiles behind the plug tabs or your faceplates won’t be flush. Of course there are many other projects a novice can tackle around the house including wallpaper, adding trim details, flooring . . . the list is endless. Painting and backsplashes (or other small tile projects) are relatively easy weekend jobs that have high visual impact, and can be accomplished with limited experience, a little research, a bit of preparation and a healthy dose of patience. Hopefully there are a few helpful tips in there if you end up with a paint brush or backsplash tile in your hand this weekend. Have fun!
Bryan Baeumler is host of HGTV’s “House of Bryan”, “Disaster DIY” and “Leave it to Bryan”. He continues to do construction work in Burlington and area with Baeumler Construction, a custom home builder. Bryan has also recently launched Baeumler Approved, an association of pre-screened quality contractors, trades and services for homeowners visit www.baeumlerapproved.com to find pre-screened contractors and tradespeople.