Patience, enthusiasm key with DIY

DIY expert Stan Scott says anyone can DIY as long as they set their mind to it. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
DIY expert Stan Scott says anyone can DIY as long as they set their mind to it. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Feel like picking up a hammer or a screwdriver? Matthew Littlewood gets some tips from Mitre 10 DIY expert Stan Scott.

Stan Scott thinks anyone can DIY; they just need the patience and the enthusiasm.

The veteran builder, who works as a consultant for hardware store Mitre 10, said he had an interest in making things from a young age.

"It all started with woodwork class at secondary school; we had to make a coffin.

"It turned out pretty well. I guess that was my start into DIY," Mr Scott said.

Mr Scott takes the lead on many of Mitre 10’s Helping Hands projects too, designing and building meaningful spaces for schools, sports clubs, charities and community groups all over New Zealand.

He said the idea of DIY was probably hard-wired into the national psyche.

"It really has stemmed from our isolation from the rest of the world. We were the last country in the world to get materials, so we had to make do with what we had, and teach ourselves how to use materials.

"You didn’t have to be a tradesman to know this stuff, you just asked your Uncle Harry or whoever.

"But nowadays it’s also about saving money with the increasing cost of things."

There was always a sense of satisfaction when completing a job, Mr Scott said.

"I got a job out of school building nail boxes at a nail factory, and I got paid for it. It was very basic, but for me it was hugely rewarding.

"But my mother’s house was probably the testing pad for everything; once I learned how to lay bricks my mother had a brick path."

Before you even began a project, you had to start with enthusiasm for the idea, he said.

"If you’re thinking about doing something, it shows you are interested in the idea, and that’s a great start.

"Begin with something small which doesn’t require too many tools.

"It could be a planter box, or a macrocarpa bench seat."

People needed to analyse the specifications of the material, Mr Scott said.

"It doesn’t matter what you’re building, whether it’s a deck or you’re re-gibbing a room, try to utilise the length of the timber, so you don’t have too many offcuts.

"You need to make sure everything is square. It doesn’t matter whether you’re building a multimillion-dollar house, or a 2m-long garden bed, the principles are the same. You’re measuring your diagonals to ensure things are square, always make sure things are level and straight, and concentrate on that perfect corner."

He encouraged people to allow themselves time, regardless of the project’s size.

"For example, if it’s building a deck for summer, anyone can do this, but it’s about seeking expert advice and breaking it down into compartments.

"It could be broken down into four or five stages. The first weekend could be marking out the piles, and dig the hole, and having all the materials dropped off; the second weekend could be putting the piles in the hole, for instance.

"That way you’re not rushing and less likely to make a mistake."

He kept "just about everything" in his toolbox, Mr Scott said.

"When you’re starting out, make sure you buy good-quality hand tools. Buy a quality hammer that’s going to last you a lifetime.

"Don’t just get something that’s cheap," Mr Scott said.

"Get yourself a good sharp hand saw, and only use it for cutting timber.

"Between a multi-tool and a reciprocating saw, those two things can do an awful lot of work for you, especially on renovations."

Mr Scott also advised people to accept mistakes would be made along the way.

"When I was training on my apprenticeship, my nickname was Stan ‘do it the hard way’ Scott," he said.

"It’s not a stuff-up until you can’t fix it. Just learn from your mistakes."

Mr Scott now trains apprentices, and said he was careful not to "fly off the handle" if something went wrong.

"There’s no point in just getting angry. That’s not going to solve the problem. I make mistakes all the time, and almost always it’s down to rushing a job and not thinking it through."