We all have those pesky honey-do lists of home repairs and projects that never seem to get done. As a husband and father of three, I’ve seen my share of leaky faucets, squeaky doors, and overgrown lawns that need taming. But after doing my own home repairs and renovations for over 15 years, I’ve picked up some tricks that help me breeze through my list in no time.
In this article, I’ll share 10 of my best tips to help you work faster and smarter as a DIY handyman. With some planning and know-how, you can easily cut your handyman time in half!
Tip 1: Organize and Prioritize Your List
When you’re staring down a long list of repairs and todos, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But taking a few minutes to organize and prioritize your list makes a huge difference.
I like to go through my list and identify which projects are most urgent or important. A leaky pipe needs addressing ASAP, while caulking the windows can wait. I also group similar tasks together, like saving all the electrical work for one day and plumbing tasks for another.
Knocking out the urgent repairs first helps give you momentum to power through the rest of the list. I love the sense of accomplishment from checking those important fixes off my list!
Tip 2: Have All Your Tools and Supplies Ready to Go
Nothing wastes time like having to stop what you’re doing to hunt for a tool or make multiple trips to the hardware store. Before starting any project, I gather all the tools, materials, hardware, and safety gear I’ll need and stage them nearby.
For example, if I’m installing some new shelving in the garage, I’ll collect my cordless drill, stud finder, shelf brackets, level, tape measure, and whatever else the project calls for. Even laying out the drill bits and screws ahead of time in the order I’ll use them is a pro move.
Investing in quality tools like DeWalt or Milwaukee power tools also speeds up jobs and makes your workday far more enjoyable. Good tools are a handyman’s best friend!
Tip 3: Set Aside Large Blocks of Uninterrupted Time
Trying to fit in home repairs in 30 minute increments here and there is usually not very effective. It’s much better to carve out 2-3 hour blocks of uninterrupted time (or even full weekend days) for your DIY projects.
Why? Because every time you stop and start a task, you waste time getting back into the rhythm and focus. Setting up your tools and workspace again also eats up valuable minutes.
When I know I’ve got a large block of time, I can really dial in and make significant headway on more involved repairs. I get into a zone and optimize the full time to work efficiently. My wife sometimes has to pull me away for dinner!
Tip 4: Handle All Prep Work First
I often see DIYers make the mistake of rushing into a project without doing upfront prep work. Taking 15-30 mins to clean and clear the workspace, gather tools, take measurements, and handle any safety prep will save you hours down the road.
For example, replacing old kitchen cabinets goes much faster if you remove all shelf contents first instead of working around dusty plates and glasses. Sanding floors is quicker after clearing the room of furniture instead of constantly moving pieces.
Get your measurements, materials, and safety gear squared away before diving into demolition or construction. The prep stage is the foundation for an efficient work flow later.
Tip 5: Create Detailed Plans and Layouts
For bigger projects like building a deck, I’ve learned not to just start swinging a hammer right away. Spending time to draft detailed plans and layouts prevents costly mistakes down the road.
I use graph paper to draw rough plans to scale, mapping out measurements for the frame, steps, railings, and more. For decks, I lay the footprint on the ground with sticks and string to visualize the shape and flow.
Sure, it takes time upfront, but it saves so many headaches compared to just freestyling it. I can also take my layouts to the building department for permits to avoid any delays.
Tip 6: Learn DIY Fixes Before Calling a Pro
Many homeowners are quick to call a plumber, electrician or other tradesman for repairs that seem complicated but can be DIY. Learning which tasks you can safely take on vs. those best left to the pros will maximize your productivity.
For instance, I take care of minor electrical like installing a replacement light fixture, outlet or switch myself. But for new wiring or electrical panel work, I call my licensed electrician.
Same goes for basic plumbing repairs like unclogging drains, fixing drips or replacing a shut-off valve under a sink vs. needing a pro for repiping the whole house. Know your limits!
Tip 7: Multitask on Related Tasks
While focus is good, certain tasks allow for multitasking to save time. If I’m doing a bathroom remodel, I’ll often be tiling the floor while a coat of fresh paint dries on the walls, for example.
Or if I’m painting exterior trim, I’ll also prep and paint any ornamental fences, railings or lattice work needing fresh coats at the same time. Same goes for cleaning gutters while on the ladder washing second-story windows.
Look for efficiencies like that where you can double up on similar tasks in one area. Just don’t compromise quality or safety!
Tip 8: Use Specialty Tools for Speed
Upgrading my basic toolset with specialty tools has really paid off in time savings. A perfect example is getting a laser level which allows me to work much faster than with old bubble levels.
Whether it’s hanging curtain rods, installing chair rail molding, or framing a wall addition, that laser line ensures everything is perfectly level and aligned. And the time saving adds up over dozens of home projects.
Other great specialty tools are oscillating multi-tools for detailed cutting jobs or power nailers when building fences or decks. Invest in tools that improve your productivity.
Tip 9: Practice and Perfect Common Handyman Skills
Just like playing an instrument or shooting free throws, your skills improve and speed up the more you practice key handyman tasks. Muscle memory is huge.
So anytime I’m doing something like laying tile, hanging drywall, driving screws, soldering pipes or staining wood, I focus on doing it perfectly. The more times I do it, the faster and more precise I become.
I like to practice new skills on sample boards first before tackling real jobs. Take pride in honing your craftsmanship and speed will follow.
Tip 10: Enlist a Helper for Four-Hand Tasks
For bigger jobs or those that truly require four hands, don’t go it alone. Recruiting a helper (or two) makes so many tasks safer and faster. And it’s more fun with company!
Have one person hold materials/tools at the ready while the other works. Or team up to lift heavy beams, sheets of plywood or appliances. An extra set of hands also speeds up cleanup and hauling away debris after projects.
Bribe neighbors, kids or friends with pizza and beer! My brother and I make an efficient DIY team and play music to pass the time.
With some smart planning and efficiency tricks, you really can cut your DIY time dramatically. Stop procrastinating and follow these handyman hacks for crossing every project off your honey-do list in half the time. Let me know in the comments any other time-saving tips I might have missed! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a long list calling my name. Happy wrenching!