Doing the Unknown and Overcoming your Lack of Experience

Recently after a widespread freeze in Texas and the south, there were reports of people getting hurt with DIY repairs. Here is a procedure I wrote to help me in building a small home that helped me and I hope will help someone else caught in a situation where they are trying to do something they don’t have much experience in. I think it will apply to doing emergency repairs. I used this for jobs I was researching and planning where I had no concept of what problems were possible and thus how to avoid them.

  • Break a big complicated job into functional areas (brainstorm):
  • How will it look Architecturally?
  • Does it need to be engineered? What are the issues for safety and reliability? What are the forces that will put the materials at risk of degradation, fire, rot, or failure due to insufficient strength?
  • Sketch it. Determine the types of materials and size.
  • Research any technical issue that pops into your mind on the web.
  • Perhaps attempt to build with a reversible contingency plan in mind if you need to take it down and modify it if it does not work out.
  • Preplan how you could improve your work after the fact – have a pre-planned way in mind to strengthen it if it’s not strong enough or add a better finish to it later.
  • Get consultant input if your task is critical, risky, or complex (this after you know enough to rapidly absorb what the consultant may tell you).
  • Write out a draft instruction from digested technical information. Think of it as a prototype procedure and try it out.
  • For multitasking jobs have one person focus on a certain set of issues, such as the directions. Remember the value of a supervisor (detail vs overall picture). My daughter and I developed this working relationship. She is better at math and details than I.
  • Do a prototype, possibly even two, then mass produce your work when your comfort level is high.
  • Perhaps design and fabricate a piece of support equipment to help you do a task tradesman would do from years of experience. As an example, I used a heavy-duty paper cutter to cut my asphalt shingles. It was quicker, consistent, and safer to operate than a razor knife.