You may know that DIY stands for do-it-yourself, but what else do you know about the bourgeoning world of DIY?

DIY aka Do-It-Yourself

The acronym “DIY” is virtually everywhere, particularly as internet tutorials garner wider appeal than ever before. The internet has ensued the age of information sharing, encouraging the virtual transfer of skills. This bodes well for those of us who are handy, crafty, or otherwise creatively-inclined. In this guide, we break down do-it-yourself: what it is, how it’s evolved, and some best practices to observe before undertaking your next project.

Photo by Jazmin Quaynor

Breaking it down: What is DIY 

The “DIY” label gets attached to a wide array of projects. From painting your walls to dying your hair to making your own candles, the ways in which you can DIY are limitless. In spite of this wide scope, the general definition of do-it-yourself is straight-forward. DIY refers to any project that can be completed without direct help from an expert. Thanks to countless virtual resources, in the form of blog posts, YouTube tutorials, and comprehensive networks, such as DIY Network and wikiHow, hiring a professional to do particular tasks is no longer the status quo.

A brief history of DIY

1931 copy of the Handyman's Handbook
Photo by Nanas Cottage House

Do-it-yourself arts and crafting projects can be traced back as far as the Victorian age. In 1931, C.T. Schaefer published The Handy Man’s Handbook, the first known how-to book on home maintenance. By the 1950s, the concept of DIY had come into common usage, as wartime loomed and those not joining the service began taking home improvement projects into their own hands. By the 1960s, publications such as Popular Science and Popular Mechanics had introduced the notion of DIY to their readerships and DIY-centric books and TV shows were beginning to emerge. 

The modern maker movement

Today, the internet and developing technology have rendered the world of DIY expansive, with platforms such as Pinterest and Etsy dedicated to sharing inspiration and innovation from all over the world. This aspect of community building engenders collaboration between a wide variety of makers and maker hopefuls. These budding DIY networks stand to offset the emphasis on mass-produced products and corporatized services, as makers push each other to invent, build, and innovate.

Etsy poses a prime example of how DIY is shifting conventions and propelling the maker movement. Take a task such as home staging, which is regarded as a professional service. A quick search on Etsy yields pages of home staging resourcesranging from ‘how to’ guides to decorative booksgeared at those who’d prefer to get the job done themselves. As ideas and inspiration are shared, the maker movement progresses.

DIY best practices

For every successful DIY, there are countless DIY fails. To ensure you fall into the former group, here are some things to consider before you start your next project.

Start small

If you’re new to DIY or new to a particular kind of DIY (for example, home improvement), you can build your confidence and develop your skills with small projects and grow from there. Once you have a handle on modest projects, you can take on more complex projects using the skills and knowledge you’ve gained from your previous projects.

Types of small DIY projects

    • Painting
    • Upholstery Refurbishing
    • Wood and Furniture Refinishing
    • Wallpapering
    • Surface Renewal
    • Plant Incorporation

Consult more than one tutorial

To ensure you’ll get the best results possible from your project, make sure you know the best way to get the job done. This will require research. Tutorials can come in the form of videos, image-heavy infographics, and written instructions, so knowing how you tend to learn best is half the battle. Once you’ve found an instructable that works best for you and your skill level, you’ll know if there’s anything you need to buy or prepare before you get started.

Avoid substitutions and shortcuts

Though it can be tempting to substitute materials based on what you have on hand, keep in mind that the tutorial recommends certain materials for a reason. Being precise could be the difference between a successful DIY and a DIY fail.

Research comments and reviews

If you encounter problems at any stage of your project, you can consult the comments or reviews section if there is one. Better yet: consult the comments and reviews before you start the project so that you know what the common pitfalls are and if it’s possible to avoid them altogether.

Take it slow and account for drawbacks

Most tutorials will include a timeframe in which you can expect your project to be finished, but it’s important to note that timeframe is dependant on a variety of factors, including the skill level of the DIY-er and whether or not it’s a first-time-attempt. If there are steps in your DIY that will require on-the-spot learning, your project might end up being more time-consuming than you initially thought. Take it slow, be patient with yourself, and try not to rush.

Consider personal safety

Whether you’re taking on a crafting project or painting an accent wall, there’s likely some risk involved. Consulting reviews will tell you where others ran into risk factors, but it’s your own responsibility to assess your project and make sure you’ve taken the necessary safety precautions. This could include anything from using protective gear to keeping a first aid kit handy, depending on the nature of the project. 

To DIY or not to DIY

Even if the internet is brimming with DIY methods to get a particular job done, some projects transcend a general skill level. It’s important to be able to decipher when a tricky project requires perseverance and when it might benefit from a professional tradesman. Below, we break down some projects that make for successful DIYs and others that are better left to a professional.

DIY: cosmetic home improvement projects.

  • Cosmetic changes don’t need permitting approval and are typically easy to undo if you’re not happy with the end result.
  • A wide range of projects classify as cosmetic renovations, including painting projects, tile installation, landscaping work, and plasterwork.

GO PRO: complex home improvement projects.

  • While it may be tempting to cut costs and take on home improvement projects yourself, projects that involve demolition, structural repairs, and major gas, plumbing, or electric work should be left to the professionals. 
  • Projects that are better left to the professionals include hardwood floor refinishing, kitchen and bathroom plumbing, and structural wall replacement.

Getting your DIY project started with Vishion

Whether you are painting an accent wall or renovating your entire home, Vishion can help. DIYers can use the app to explore color palettes, create an inspiration board, and find fabric, wallpaper, furniture, or art to match