The noise of a squeaky door or the sight of a worn set of kitchen cabinets may spark visions of a beautifully completed do-it-yourself project.

But people who become inspired by binge-watching a season’s worth of “Fixer Upper” may also be daunted by the selection of hand saws at the local Home Depot.

So before you jump in to a DIY home repair or improvement project, it’s a wise idea to do your homework first, according to local experts.

“I would say that the majority of people coming into it are going to underestimate the effort and skill it takes to do some of the projects,” said Bob Samson, owner of the local franchise of Handyman Matters in Lexington.


It’s important for a do-it-yourselfer to know when to take on a project — and when to call in a professional. Some projects, like drywall repair, can be fairly tricky for a beginner, he said.

A “very common call” to Samson’s company is from customers who need help finishing a DIY project. Often, they have gotten in over their heads.

“If you honestly think you’re going to do it, give yourself a good checkup to make sure you have the skills,” Samson recommended.

So how do you get those skills? Start with the basics, like learning about the tools needed to do a job.

Shawn Young, owner of Ames & Young Inc. in Webster, teaches continuing education classes in home repair at Keefe Vocational Technical High School in Framingham.

Students are introduced to power tools, such as drills and saws, and the proper way to use them. Projects range from making a simple outdoor flower box to cutting door and window trim with a miter saw, he said.

“Not only do they get a taste of the different materials that we are cutting, but they also see . . . how the saw is operating,” he said.


Personal protection is “always your number one concern” when using power tools, Young said. Make sure you wear gloves, along with eye and ear protection, and be aware of your surroundings.

“Have a good understanding of the tool you are using and be sure it’s appropriate for the job,” he said. “Take your time to develop your skills. Build your confidence and understand what your limitations are.”

Online instructional videos are also very helpful in learning how to operate power tools, he added.

Homeowners can learn a lot by researching on the Internet, agreed Erik Anderson, owner of Anderson Painting and Household Services in Quincy. “If there is something I don’t know how to do, I look on YouTube,” he said.

One project that is suitable for a beginner is painting a bedroom, according to Anderson. An inexperienced do-it-yourselfer can do the work in two or three days.

But there’s a right way to do it.

Invest in a good brush, handle extensions for rollers, and liners for paint trays and buckets to make cleanup easier.

“You don’t want to cut corners,” he said.

Cover the floor and surfaces that shouldn’t be painted with something like plastic sheeting, and start from the ceiling and work down, painting the trims, walls, and finally baseboards, he said. If there is a crack in a wall, joint compound can be used to fill it.

It’s worth the effort to go slow and carefully, he said.


“You can definitely get things done quickly if you want to, but it will not look good,” Anderson said. “You should put in the extra time.”

Best of all? No power tools are required.

“Have a good understanding of the tool you are using,’’ said Young, “and be sure it’s appropriate for the job. Take your time to develop your skills.’’
“Have a good understanding of the tool you are using,’’ said Young, “and be sure it’s appropriate for the job. Take your time to develop your skills.’’ David L Ryan/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.