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Do You Have DIY Envy?

Filed Under: Tools, Essential Skills, Know-How

We asked ordinary people: "If you could master any one DIY skill, what would it be?" Here are their wish lists. See any of your secret desires on there?

Many of us flinch when it comes to electrical work. Some of us just don't have a knack for tinkering with plumbing. And then there are those of us who can't paint within the lines to save our lives.

DIY, do it yourself, home improvementsCorbis

As for me? I'm pretty good around the house. But whenever I watch a Food Network chef, I wish I had the confidence to whip together simple, delicious dinners and reinvent leftovers without needing to follow recipes all the time. I'm addicted to Project Runway, partly because I wish I could be a master of my sewing machine. And HGTV always makes me wish I could be as effortlessly handy as a career carpenter -- and stare down a table saw without fear.

I thought, if I have DIY envy, so must others -- even those who seem to have total confidence. Here's how some ordinary people responded to the question:

If you could master one DIY skill, what would it would be?"

masonry, bricks, cementGetty Images

-- "I've always wanted to be able to do masonry. When I was about 15 years old, I gathered stepping stones from a local creek and built a path up to an outbuilding at my family home. I was amazed at how much work it took to just gather the stones and get them back to my home. It was a simple project, but the path is still there today. So when I had a couple of weeks off this summer, I went to The Home Depot and loaded up on stone pavers. But then I chickened out on fixing my broken back stoop.The strangest part? As I was digging through a few years ago, I found that my dad's side of the family were stone masons when they came over from Norway in the early 1900's." -- Tobi

Editor's note: Check out Eric Stromer's video tutorial on how to
lay those stone pavers, Tobi!

table lampGetty Images

-- "I wish I could learn to rewire a favorite lamp properly. I tried changing the cord inside, following instructions, and still saw sparks coming out from the socket. I'm scared of starting a fire, so the lamp remains unplugged." -- Ellen

Editor's note: Ellen, our friends over at Apartment Therapy DC can show you how to wire that lamp!

floor tilesGetty Images

-- " I wish I knew how to retile a bathroom or kitchen. When I moved into my dream apartment last summer, my husband and I were able to spruce up the boring white walls with vibrant colors and decorate the apartment with fun furnishings. However, the kitchen and bathroom floors left something to be desired. Neither my husband nor I have ever tiled anything. Growing up, I remember my Dad building most of our house and tiling floors with ease -- but I was too busy playing outside to ever learn! If I had the confidence to retile, I would love to spruce up our drab white tiles (which get dirty quickly) with some brightly colored ones, or even a mix-and-match pattern." -- Katie

Editor's note: Fear not, Katie. Here's how to get started
installing tile.

painting wallsCorbis

-- "We've taken on the challenge of decorating the baby's room despite lack of skills, time, experience, money and space. Painting has been the most daunting of tasks. We finally have a place that we can paint as we wish. So why doesn't it get done? The concept seems simple to me: buy paint, buy brushes and rollers. Apply to wall. Stand back and admire while sipping a cold beer. So here come the skills that I wish I were good at: Preparing the wall and the roller technique. If someone could just hand me a paint-soaked roller and let me just go at it, that would be fun. But there is a lot of time and effort required prior to applying the actual paint [and I don't have the skill or patience]. As for rolling on the paint, I tried doing big patches, small patches, zig-zags, vertical-then-horizontal strokes, and it still took me more than four coats to get to an acceptable level. Then I began wondering if it was the paint -- or if it was me. So I wish I knew all of these answers [intuitively]. I want to know that when I set out to start this process that I am doing it the best way anyone knows how and be confident that the results will be exceptional, if not perfect. That's all I want. Is that too much to ask?" -- Doug

Editor's note: Doug, it takes some practice but you can
prime those walls with help from our friends at ShelterPop, and paint the walls with this tutorial by our buddies at This Old House.

drillGetty Images

-- "I would like all the basic handyman skills: proficient use of power drill, level, screw gun, and I would like to know about the butterflies and how wall anchors work. And I'd like it if my IKEA shelves didn't shake." -- Ayla

Editor's note: Here's everything you need to know about cordless drills, Ayla. Our friends at Natural Handyman will tell you all about wall anchors.

caring for garden, watering lawnCorbis

-- "I'd want to know how to groom and maintain my backyard in San Francisco weather. The sun has been so infrequent during the longest months of the year that I'm at a loss for how to keep my plants alive. I've even moved most of them into pots, just to attempt to bring them out from behind the shrubs and trees shading their precious light. And they have so little natural water in the summer. Is there a way to conserve while I water the grass every morning?, I wonder. Is there a way to build a barrier beneath the turf to make sure I'm feeding our plants and not our neighbors' plants?" -- Trevor

Editor's note: We've got you covered, Trevor. Here's how to
save energy by using landscaping tricks, how to fertilize your garden with household scraps, five shortcuts to a perfect lawn, and how to remove grass burns -- just to get you started!


-- "It would have to be fine woodworking. I would want to make furniture (small pieces to start, like end tables) out of cast-off materials including busted up old furniture, even if it's a totally different sort of furniture piece. I hate to see things just get tossed out and wasted. So many times, I see people have thrown out hardwood futon frames or some such thing. And I think. [if only] I could do something with those decent, already finished lengths of wood. I could make picture frames, tables, bookcases...all sorts of things." -- Edd

Editor's note: Edd, fine working is a bit out of our realm at the moment. But you know what website can help you start learning? You guessed it: Fine Woodworking. It's a fine publication.

rewire electrical outletGetty Images

-- "I would love to know the basics of wiring and rewiring electrical outlets. Since moving into our first house two years ago, I've have discovered and/or caused several fried outlets. The broken outlets that bother me the most are in the back of the house and above our porch. In a perfect world, I would be able to create a better outdoor ambiance with lighting. I envision splurging for small, lovely globe lights and placing them in the trees around our deck. In addition, I would repair the pair of broken flood lights, which are ancient and you can't redirect them or the fixture will break. I'd replace them with motion-sensor lights at a lower/more pleasant wattage. I'd also love to [have the confidence] to install dimmers." -- Erin

Editor's note: Erin, you've got to be careful with a job like this. Check out this
YouTube video on installing electrical outlets.

-- "If I could do one thing related to home improvement, I would like to know how to repair holes in drywall. (I'm not talking about nail holes, but larger holes that require inserting new drywall.) I've had numerous instances where repairs have required cutting a hole in drywall, and the repairman (plumber, electrician) correct the problem but leave a hole in the drywall that requires me to call a handyman to repair it. I suspect with proper instruction, I would be capable of repairing the drywall myself, and at considerable less expense and hassle than calling a handyman." -- Ali

Editor's note: Ali, here's a video on how to repair a hole in drywall (courtesy of pro Eric Stromer), and step-by-step photo gallery too.

Readers : Tell us which DIY skill you wish you had -- and we'll do our best to help make your dream a reality!

  • SHCToolsElizabeth

    Great article to share. Sears Blue Tool Crew loves to hear DIY success stories! Be sure to check out our DIY videos for extra guidence: and connect with us on Twitter @BlueToolCrew or Facebook www.facebookcom/searsbluetoolcrew. We look forward to hearing more from all DIYers! - SHCToolsElizabeth

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