If you know what you’re doing, DIY home repairs can improve your living space while saving you money. Repairing things yourself can also be a more environmentally-friendly alternative to hiring a pro. You can source sustainable materials, complete the project with an eye to reducing or eliminating waste and control the resources and energy that go into the work.
If you’re just learning how to repair things yourself, of course, there’s a much greater chance that your repair work will be more frustration than fun. If you’re at the start of your home repair journey, though, don’t despair! These tips will help you make your DIY endeavours affordable, eco-conscious and most importantly, successful.
Tips for Eco-Friendly DIY Home Repairs
1. Don’t Buy New Materials
Regardless of the material you’re looking for, there’s an excellent chance you can find it without having to buy new. You can check your local listings for materials that are left over from someone else’s larger job or post a wanted ad on a social media marketplace detailing what you’re looking for. People are often happy to have you take extra materials away so they don’t have to pay dump fees.
If you’re lucky enough to live close to an architectural salvage or a charity shop that takes reclaimed building supplies, you’re likely to find everything from plumbing fixtures to shingles and to walk away with a working item that has no additional carbon footprint attached.
2. Join or Start a Community Tool Bank
The saying “the right tool for the job” keeps getting handed down, generation after generation, because it keeps being true. Having the right tool can save you hours of labour, not to mention frustration. Working with the right tools also minimizes the risk that you’ll damage or waste the material (and the tools) you’re working with.
That said, few people own every tool they require for every job they attempt. And if you’re new to repair work, your toolbox is likely to be pretty light. Rather than purchase new tools every time you need them, join a local community tool bank or library. You’ll be able to take out tools, often for just a small fee, without buying a bunch of products that you’ll only use once or twice.
If there’s no community tool bank in your area, consider starting one with your friends or neighbours. If you pool your resources, you might find that between you, you have a respectable list of tools that are often sitting idle.
3. Create a Network for Opened Products
Lending and borrowing tools lets you and your community do more with less. The same can also be true for all the products you need to finish your DIY home repairs.
Think about the number of tubes of caulk, containers of drywall compound and bottles of glue that we buy when we only really need a tiny bit of them. These substances are almost invariably packaged in non-recyclable plastic, and are often less eco-friendly than we want, simply because there isn’t a readily available green alternative yet.
Then we use small amounts of these compounds and let the rest sit on shelves, where they’re likely to dry out and become unusable. Instead of letting it go to waste, or assuming that you’ll use it “one day” (you won’t – if you don’t already have a specific day in mind, you will not use it), offer it to friends, family or neighbours. Then if there’s something you need, ask if someone has some sitting in their garages somewhere. If you can build a sharing network, you can save a lot of money and keep a lot of harmful waste out of the landfill.
4. Inspect Regularly
Inspecting everything regularly is an important part of owning a home. From roof to basement, you must check for leaks and cracks after seasonal changes since that is the time for potential damage. Exterior walls and internal walls should be checked for cracks and moisture to avoid a bigger problem on the horizon. If your floors are tiled, you must check them for cracks the same way you check for walls after seasonal changes since they are likely to have similar issues.
Even trimming bushes and overhanging branches is part of the repair process as it prevents damage to walls and roofs. Make sure to keep your house clear of all possible problems, be it inside or outside.
Regular inspection will allow you to catch issues early on while they are still easy to repair. If you catch issues early, you’re likely to need fewer materials and supplies than you would need to address a full-blown repair job.
5. Know What You Can and Cannot Repair
If there’s serious repair work to be done, like damage to your built-up roof or a problem with your septic system, it is highly likely that you might need to call a professional repairperson. Trying to repair something that is out of your scope and requires professional attention might be a waste of your time and energy and might pose a threat to your safety and the people around you. It’s essential that you be safe and understand the limits of your competence regarding DIY repairs.
If you’ve started to reach out and build some community around things like tools and materials, though, you might find someone knowledgeable to barter with. Bartering can be a productive economic component of a sustainable community, where the professionals who work on your home are the most local you can get. You might not have home repair skills to trade, but if you’re good with computers, like to babysit or garden or if you cook something well, there’s lots of opportunity to connect with pros who don’t have to drive a long way to get to you.
6. Be Prepared with Natural or Zero VOC Paint
The mark of an excellent repairperson is their ability to leave the repaired area looking like nothing had ever happened to it. A high bar to reach, and not an easy one: doing repairs on your own often leaves dents and scratches around the house. These can be scuffs and scrapes, holes that have been plastered over and cracked walls that have been filled.
To put the finishing touches on your DIY home repairs, have some paint on hand to smooth everything over once you’re done. Natural or zero VOC paints are your greenest option here; they don’t contain the harmful chemicals of conventional paints and won’t pose health hazards to your family.