Kristine Ham had always dreamed of buying an old Queenslander home.
When she did in 2019, she was forced to do a lot of the inside work herself.
“After we bought our first house we were so broke, as most people are. And there was a lot that I wanted to do to the house,” the Townsville-based Kristine says.
“But there were a lot of critical things that ate up our renovation budget that weren’t on my wishlist, like plumbing and electrical.”
There was no money left for doing up the inside spaces, like painting, panelling and cabinetry.
“I had to work out how to do that myself or it would probably take us years to do those things,” Kristine says.
Since then, Kristine has learnt to make and install furniture with affordable materials and power drills — skills she didn’t have before.
She’s also documented her progress on Instagram and offers tips she’s learnt along the way.
Working four days at a childcare centre and raising three young kids of her own, DIY is something Kristine’s had to fit into her ‘free time’. But it hasn’t felt like work.
“It’s something I’ve discovered throughout this journey that I didn’t really know before, was how much I love it,” Kristine says.
“It stills my mind when I’m using my hands to create something. And it’s kind of a rush that I don’t really get from anything else.
“I just really, really enjoy the process. Probably more so than the end result. It’s just the actual painting or creating, the repetitiveness of doing things with your hands.”
That end result and seeing her home transform by her hand, is still no less fulfilling.
“You look back at it and get a sense of pride,” Kristine says.
“I did that and I feel good about that.”
Getting into DIY
Kristine is fortunate to have her dad teach her most of what she knows: “He’s from that generation that knows how to fix things.”
The first project tackled was the laundry, followed by the kitchen.
“Dad got me to use a circular saw and a drill and a drop saw and all these practical things,” Kristine says.
“The circular saw was probably my scariest tool back then.
“Once I mastered that it kind of opened up a whole lot of possibilities. I tried a jigsaw, a drop saw.”
Kristine admits she’s still terrified of angle grinders and won’t go near them.
When getting set up, Kristine suggests investing in a mid-range starter kit with the basics.
“For $400 to $500 you can get a kit with the main tools you’d need: the drill, the jigsaw, the sanders, all that kind of stuff,” Kristine says.
“I don’t use a ridiculously expensive brand. For what I’m doing the mid-range is perfect.”
Kristine recommends looking for one with a battery pack included.
“Then if you buy more tools without the battery it’s more affordable to do it that way,” she says.
Open to mistakes
It’s been three years of learning for Kristine, with plenty of mistakes made along the way.
“My dad says every time ‘measure twice, cut once’. And I’ve very much made that mistake,” she says.
“I’ve ruined complete boards of timber and had to start again which is devastating.”
It’s important to practice before embarking on your actual project, especially with power tools.
“You sort of need to know how much pressure to put on, even just how to hold the tool properly so that it goes in the direction that you want it to go in.”
Different places to learn
While Kristine is lucky to have her dad around, there are other places to learn the basics of DIY.
Sydney resident Kaz was keen to give her 23-year-old Chatswood unit a face lift when she upskilled a couple of years ago.
“I’ve kind of always been a bit handy because I’ve lived on my own for a long time,” Kaz says.
“I wasn’t a stranger to picking up the drill but I had no idea how to make anything.
“I couldn’t find tradesmen that would do small jobs … So [DIY] became a bit of a necessity.”
She found a woodworking course for women nearby and signed up.
“I can watch YouTube videos till the cows come home and I can pick up so much but that face-to-face learning is invaluable,” Kaz says.
She’s gradually expanded her power tool collection and taken on a number of projects, starting with decorative shelving and progressing to pull out pantry cupboards and draw dividers for her bedroom.
A lot of it is made from recycled materials or free finds online which help to keep costs down.
Giving it a go
Some projects are harder than others: “Sometimes I go: ‘I have no idea what I’m doing. Why am I doing this?’ and then I go ‘take a step back, be calm, you can do this’,” Kaz says.
“Back yourself. So often as women we think we have to know everything 100 per cent before we do it.”
“Just have a go. It doesn’t have to be perfect.”
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