DIY Dos and Don'ts with Brett Tutor

brett tutorHome renovation shows are huge right now. Everyday folks like interior designers, real estate agents, general contractors and carpenters now grace the pages of celeb gossip magazines. So TLC thought it was time to reboot their O.G. reno show, Trading Spaces. We talked with Brett Tutor, the show’s carpenter, ahead of the series premiere on April 7 (and his March 2-4 appearance at the Jacksonville Home and Patio Show) about how to tackle a DIY home project—and how not to.

What are some of the worst DIY jobs you’ve had to fix?

I was a home inspector for eight years. I’ve seen everything from people putting shingles on backwards to putting in insulation wrong. A lot of electrical stuff, people try to do it themselves. They’ll only have those two-prong outlets, and they’ll just buy three-prong covers for them, instead of running the ground wire.

Homeowners try to do decks themselves, too. You can’t have wood touching the soil. It needs to be in concrete, but they don’t know. When it comes to anything regarding safety, especially if you have kiddos, have a professional take care of that. Or have an electrical friend come over and double-check.

Yikes. Okay, what are some things people can and totally should do themselves?

I think people underestimate what they’re able to do themselves. I’ve seen a lot of people with zero experience get on YouTube and watch some videos, then say, “I’ll order some new countertops and put them in myself,” or “I’ll learn how to put in this backsplash myself,” and it looks really good.

Try things that don’t have huge consequences. If you mess up on upholstering, that’s okay, just go buy some more fabric. I’d never upholstered before and on the show, I was like, “Whoa, I can do that!” It’s just fabric and a stapler.

What are the things first-timers should know about tackling a home renovation?

The one thing that gets people into trouble is they don’t realize how long things take. A construction company will have a big crew. Doing something yourself will take a lot longer. You’ll lay some material and you’ll have to go back to the hardware store.

Also, a lot of people don’t understand how much these materials cost. They’ll say, “I’ve got $10,000, can you remodel my kitchen?” No.

The truth is with a lot of the TV shows, you have these actor types. When the camera stops, they leave and they get a bunch of construction people to come in and do the job. Our stuff is 100 percent real. If we don’t make it in time, or go over budget, that’s cool. It will make good TV. I think that’s what Trading Spaces will be all about. You see people on TV who design a beautiful home with a $200,000 budget, but it takes a lot of talent to build something beautiful on $2,000. We want people to think, “I can totally do that.” Trading Spaces kinda created this genre. Authenticity never goes out of style.

Do you have any tips for people who want to try a home project but are afraid of ruining everything?

Don’t start with a kitchen or bath remodel. You’re going to make mistakes. Start small. Start with building a dog house. You go to the hardware store, you’ll learn a bit about the lumber, how much a sheet of plywood costs. This is exterior paint, that is interior paint. You buy shingles for the dog house, and now you know how much shingles cost. You build a foundation, you build a little roof—it’s a good place to start. And now you have something the whole family can enjoy.