Conquering my D.I.Y. fears

Heidi was scared to death when she bought her first drill.

“I thought I was going to lose a hand,” she said.

A lot of women feel the same way about tools, probably because of that little voice in the back of our heads telling us that we can’t do it. That little voice that then becomes big and booming when the guys at the home improvement stores say, “Maybe you should hire someone. Let me show you to our contracting department.”

Having just bought her first home, Heidi was too financially strapped to hire the recommended contractors. She decided to take on the projects on her own and pushed out of her comfort zone a little more each time.

By thinking of D.I.Y. as a learning process, Heidi took a stab at bigger and more involved projects over time. She remembers the first time she hung crown molding in her home, and how the threat of death that comes with a nail gun had her on a ladder pounding in each little nail for days on end. The second time she hung crown molding, she rented a nail gun and was done in a day.

“Tools are scary, but they can also be your best friend,” she said. “Power tools let you do anything the biggest, burliest contractor can do.”

Here are some of Heidi’s favorites:

1. The Power Drill

“My introduction to the drill came when I worked on my kitchen cabinets,” she said. “After sanding, repainting and adding molding to the cabinets, I made holes with my drill and used it to attach new knobs. It was a little intimidating – it is shaped like a gun, you know – but after one hole, I was using it like an old pro.”

2. The Power Sander

“A lot of women are really into refinishing furniture, but you can’t get started without a sander,” said Heidi. “You do not want to sand by hand if you don’t have to. It’s just not worth it.”

3. The Reciprocating Saw

“This tool still scares me because you can cut through some pretty major stuff with it, like studs, wallboard and paneling,” she said. “But if you really think about it, it’s just like a carving knife. If you’ve carved a turkey, you can use a reciprocating saw. The saw shakes a little more than the turkey carver, but it’s just about the same thing.”

4. The Power Stapler

“I’m meeting more and more women who are interested in upholstering—myself included,” Heidi said. “What’s great about a power stapler is that it sinks the staples deeper than you’re going to be able to do it by hand, and it will enable you to have more cushion on whatever you’re upholstering. When you use a manual stapler or even a staple gun, your hand starts hurting pretty quickly and the staples never go in the right way.”

5. The Power Nailer

“The first time I put up crown molding, I used a regular hammer and nails. The second time, I used one of these puppies,” she said. “I did it in a third of the time, and it came out gorgeous. Also, because it sinks the nails in deeper, they are easier to hide.”

6. The Compound Miter Saw

“A compound miter saw is really the thing that helps you finish off a room,” said Heidi. “With it, you can create all the extra added touches like crown molding, baseboard molding and chair rail molding.”

For home improvement help that speaks your language, check out BeJane, a community where eager do-it-herselfers connect, share advice and empower one another to tackle home improvement projects—no husbands necessary.

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