Do It Yourself Lessons Roundup

May 10, 2011

How did you spend your Mother’s Day weekend?  Our’s was consumed by putting together our kid’s new playset.  We spent all day Saturday and Sunday putting it up and then I had to take a day off work on Monday to get it finished.

We had considered hiring someone to assemble the playset for us but decided to go the “do it yourself” route – here are a few lessons I learned.

1) Buy in Bulk

The playset has a big sandbox so I called around Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Wal-Mart to price sandbox sand.  Lowe’s was the cheapest but they were out and Wal-Mart was the most expensive.  We needed almost 1000 lbs of sand, which would have cost us about $100 after tax at Home Depot.  Instead we picked it up ourselves from a local landscaping company for only $18.83.

2) Shop Around Online

My wife did the research and found a highly rated Gorilla swingset that seemed to best fit what we were looking for.  Then she shopped around online and found a website selling it for a few hundred dollars lower than anywhere else – no sales tax and free shipping.  Just make sure it’s a legitimate site before giving up your credit card.

3) Read Reviews

We knew from reading reviews on various sites online that the two biggest complaints about this playset were that it was difficult to assemble and that not all the parts were shipped with the playset.

Based on this we had it delivered three weeks before installing it, leaving enough time for me to go through all the parts and make sure everything was there.  Fortunately we weren’t missing any parts but if we had been we allowed enough time to call the manufacturer and have them shipped out before the installation weekend.  We didn’t want to get 2/3 of the way into the project and find out we were missing a critical part.

We also knew from the reviews that aligning the four main posts and setting up the t-nuts were the biggest challenges – ones that could cause a lot of re-work once we were deep into installation if we didn’t get them right up front.

4) Plan Out Your Steps

The installation instructions were pretty good but it’s tough to communicate everything you need to be aware of for a step in a one page diagram.   It pays to go over the diagram twice, once to understand it, and twice to make sure you interpreted it correctly.

It takes a little longer but if you plan out each step and think it through it can save you alot of re-work and frustration.

5) Don’t Always Do It Yourself

I was lucky enough to have my father-in-law helping me the entire time.  I’m not a great handyman so if I’d have done it myself it would have taken weeks and I’m sure it wouldn’t be put together quite right.  It was certainly a team effort, my mother-in-law helped watch the kids and my parents stopped by for a while to help – and it still took us 3 days.

As I mentioned earlier, we had considered hiring a local contractor to install it for us – and without the help of my father-in-law I imagine I would have.  A quick search on Angies List for swingset installation brought up a list of 8 companies that install playsets.  I probably would have gotten bids from the 3 highest rated companies and gone with one of them. 

If you are thinking of a DIY project, just be aware of what you’re getting yourself into and think about who you can ask for help that might have the experience and/or tools you’ll need.

After spending the extended weekend offline, I’m getting caught up on some of the personal finance articles I’d missed over the last week.  Check some of these out.


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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8 Responses to Do It Yourself Lessons Roundup

  • Amanda L Grossman

    Hello Ben! Thanks for the roundup.

    Unfortunately, my husband’s grandmother passed away on Mother’s Day. We’ve been traveling for the last several days for the funeral and are now home and settling in.

    • Ben

      That’s a sad time any day but even a little more sad on Mother’s Day. Sorry to hear about her death, I’m sure you’ll miss her.

  • Crystal

    Great roundup! Thanks for including me!

  • Daniel

    Thanks for the mention!

  • The Wealth Artisan

    Hi Ben,

    Thanks for the mention and a great roundup! One of the most important things you mention is to not always do it yourself. No one can know everything, and it’s important to not try to know everything.

    Not only will you potentially sacrifice quality, but you may also sacrifice safety depending on the project. It’s OK if you don’t know how to do something, hire someone or ask for help and use it as on-the-job-training.

    Youtube can’t teach you everything.


    • Ben

      Funny that you mention Youtube, I was thinking that Gorilla should make video tutorials of assembling their most popular playsets and publish them on Youtube.

      But I agree, for some things there’s no substitute for experience and expertise


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