What if you’re in the middle of a project and it all goes south? As they say, “s**t happens”, and anyone who has ever tackled a home improvement project knows this to be true. I don’t care if you’re a twenty-five year construction veteran or a brand new do-it-yourselfer. Parts don’t fit, pipes break, measurements don’t add up – you just can’t anticipate everything!

I remember once having to open up a wall in the kitchen of a 75 year old house to install a through-the-wall air conditioning unit. Three walls of the room were tiled floor to ceiling – authentic old subway tile (metal lath, thick mud tile with real crackle finish from age) – beautiful and not something I was about to cut through. The remaining wall had crank-out casement windows, not suitable for installing window AC units. The only space to install the through-the-wall unit was a spot high on the wall above the stove.

Freakin’ great! Now what?! I put a gaping hole in the wall of person’s house and have no clue how to get around the pipe!

Knowing that the stove was gas, I wasn’t concerned about a gas line being in the way of my cut because logically, the line would run from the basement (where in enters the house) and up to the kitchen near the bottom of the wall where the stove would be… well out of the way of where I needed to open the wall. What I didn’t realize was that there was another gas line running above the kitchen to a second kitchen in an upstairs apartment. Do you see where this story is going?

Sure enough, I made my cuts and took out the section of wall only to find a length of black pipe (specifically for gas) smack dab in the middle of where I needed access for the opening for the unit. Freakin’ great! Now what?! I put a gaping hole in the wall of person’s house and have no clue how to get around the pipe!

After a unloading a mouthful of profanities that would make a truck driver blush, I took a deep breath, and I realized I had better start using my mind instead of losing it. Once I calmed myself down, the answer was obvious – I had to re-pipe the gas line in that particular section to go up and around the space I needed to clear, like a detour. It added a lot more work and time to the project, but the point is, I got it done.

Home Repair Help

Sharon Stone once said in an interview with Larry King, “It’s not how you fall, it’s how you get up.” Words to live by! I add to that and say, “It’s not about the breaking, it’s about the fixing – and that goes for all things in life.”

You should know going into a DIY project that when problems arise, it isn’t your fault. Accept that it’s the nature of the beast, and remember – the absolute best possible tool you can arm yourself with to handle any crisis is the right attitude.

If you ever get caught up the ole creek on a DIY project, keep a positive attitude AND keep the following tips in mind, so you won’t be stuck there without a paddle.

  • Repair SnafuWhat ever you do, don’t feed into insecurities and run crying, “You were right! I can’t do it myself!” to your father/boyfriend/husband.
  • Panicking is a waste of time. If you run into a problem you can’t solve, calm down and call in a professional – have the name and number of a one handy in case you get in over your head.
  • Familiarize yourself with all the tools, parts, and safety measures before getting started on your project. Also, know time elements (dry-time, cure time, etc.) and what systems or utilities would need to be shutdown during the project (i.e. when water needs to be shut-off to the entire house when changing a shut-off valve).
  • Be patient with yourself. If Rome wasn’t built in a day, your closet organizer may not be either.
  • Work methodically and neatly so if you get stuck, you’ll know exactly where you are in the project.
  • Step back and take a break if you hit a rough spot – sometimes that’s all it takes to come up with a fresh solution.

Set yourself up for success by being informed about your project, equipped with the right tools, and prepared with a realistic budget and time frame for its completion.

Norma sig

Got A DIY Question? Ask-The-Expert!

If you have a DIY home repair, maintenance or improvement question for Norma, now is your chance to ask-the-expert and have her answer. Your burning question may just be the “star” of an upcoming Fix-It Friday column.

Add your question to the comments section below or email it to Women You Should Know.


Fix-It Friday is an exclusive Women You Should Know® editorial series authored by seasoned veteran of home improvement, Norma Vally, the former host of Discovery Home Channel’s series “Toolbelt Diva” and a show on Sirius Satellite Radio by the same name. The weekly column is designed to inspire women – weekend warriors, aspiring handywomen, and even seasoned DIYers – to take on home repairs and maintenance projects with confidence and gusto.