Home built in 1955 + limited budget = necessity to figure it out on your own.
I am not a contractor. I am a young parent in an older house who is learning that home-repair waits for no one.
I have been forced to graduate from caretaking (changing light bulbs and mowing the lawn) to maintenance (augering a drain and installing slate tile over a Schluter membrane).
This is NOT a how-to article for specific projects, but rather a list of a few helpful steps and philosophies which will help Moms and Dads more experienced in changing diapers than changing toilets manage their sanity as they learn to keep their houses from collapsing.
1. Manage Your Time & Others' Expectations:
Multiply by 400% the time you feel you need to complete a job. Changing a toilet is easy, as long as it comes out perfectly, and doesn't take any tiles with it.
It's like recipes in a cookbook which advertise "30 Minute Supper!", but fail to mention the hour it will take you chop the vegetables and peel the potatoes.
Be prepared to announce: "I'll have a go at this, but it may not get done today."
That's why some marriages do last forever; owning a house keeps you separate, and busy.
2. Get Everyone Out of the House (or at least occupied somewhere else):
Ever see "The Amityville Horror"?
When the priest walks into the sewing room full of flies (really, rent it), he hears a voice whisper "Get Out!". He assumes it's a demon. But if you look carefully at the room, it is clear it is in dire need of repair. Maybe the flies were just calking the window.
Working in peace will not only put less pressure on you, but leave you free of those pesky wandering eyes and suggestions which can break your concentration and increase frustration.
Before replacing and repairing, there is usually destroying and removing. If you have to deconstruct something, remember where to put it back! Use a digital camera to document as you go (or to illustrate the problem to the guy at the hardware store). As you remove layers, when replacing a sink faucet for instance, put the part you remove first closest to you, and work outwards. There is nothing more frustrating than knowing it all fit together half-an-hour ago, and now there are parts leftover.
4. Get More than One Opinion Before Beginning (and Don't Necessarily Trust Either of Them):
Here's what happened to me: I wanted to install new tiles on my kitchen floor (waaaayyy above my level of expertise). The 'expert' at the hardware store insisted I use two layers of plywood as a base. This would have raised my kitchen floor nearly a full inch above the rest of the main level of the house. The guy at the tile store recommended a Schluter membrane - no plywood needed.
Why had the hardware store guy not made this suggestion? They don't sell the stuff, i.e. there was no money to be made.
5. YouTube Videos are Life Savers:
Installing the floor seemed an impossible task. The tile guy monologued over the counter step-by-step instructions for installation, but at midnight, alone in my unfinished kitchen, nothing was going right. It really was exaserating. It was then I stumbled into the world of DIY videos on YouTube. These friendly, experience guys demonstrated how to properly do the job.
I could pause them, rewind them, and examine them full screen. Seeing it done made a world of difference.
6. When Possible, Include the Kids:
Yes, this completely contradicts #2. But it's better to have a kid hammering at a junky piece of plywood than hanging off your shoulders while you're trying to cut drywall.
I've discovered that a cordless drill - with the bit removed - along with a cardboard box or some Styrofoam can easily translate into an hour or more of fun.
When all else fails...take up gardening.