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8-Tips-For-Being-The-Ultimate-DIY-Dad

8 Tips For Being The Ultimate DIY Dad

DIY novice, Pat Fitzpatrick, tells us how to fake being a handyman, once there are kids in your life. 

1. The Tools

The first tool you should get is an in-law who knows how to use a drill. (I’m not suggesting my brothers-in-law are tools; they’ve pretty much built half my house.) 

But having a person in the know means you have someone to call when your partner says you oversee fixing the roof. The fact it’s her brother you are calling could be seen as an embarrassment, so I tend to text him on the sly. 

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Watching my in-laws at work has taught me the most important thing about DIY. And that is I’ll never be any good at DIY. I lack patience and curiosity and I’m not great at anything that involves precision. That said, they see DIY prowess as virtue in my wife’s family, so I have been forced to learn the basics. Thanks to my in-laws, I can hang a shelf without drilling through an electric wire, nine times out of ten.  

2. The Basics

I actually have a toolbox. My in-laws call over sometimes, so they can point at it and laugh. It’s a good way to store the basics. These include:

  • A 36-piece screwdriver head set, including Phillips, flat and Allen key. I only ever use one of the Phillips heads, but having the set makes it look like I know what I’m doing.
  • 2 retractable tape measures, one for me and the other for the kids so I can distract them when I’m trying to measure a wall.
  • A small hammer, so I can hit myself on the thumb a few times a year.
  • A large spirit measure, for hanging cupboards in the bathroom wall. A small spirit measure for the kids, you’ll need the distraction.
  • An adjustable spanner to loosen nuts.
  • A pliers, because the adjustable spanner never works.
  • Four tools I bought in Aldi that I never use, mainly because I don’t know what they are supposed to do. 
  • A large collection of spare nuts and bolts from my flat pack assemblies. They’re not spare in the strictest sense of the word, but they were leftover when I got to the end of the instructions. Here’s hoping they weren’t essential.

3. A Guy for That

You can’t keep relying on your in-laws. Particularly if they look for a favour in return and you end up spending a weekend painting their wall. (It’s bad enough making a mess in your own place.) The key is to find a handyman who won’t charge the earth. Your gut instinct here is to find an ugly guy, so your wife won’t fall in love with him. That’s actually a mistake.

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The only way your partner will allow you to hire a guy rather than doing it yourself is if said guy could pass for Jaime Lannister, from Game of Thrones. Sounds like a job for Jaime says she, as you look forward to a weekend not painting the fence. We call it win-win in our place. 

4. Know the Drill

Our house is over 60 years old. The good thing about that is the walls aren’t made with a mixture of air, glue and unicorn hair. The bad thing is it can be very hard to drill a hole in an old brick wall. Those cheap, cordless drills you see on special offer are basically electric screwdrivers with delusions of grandeur. Nobody told me that, and I ended up spending 4 hours failing to put up TV brackets. The only thing I had to show for my work was a new curse that I invented. (Fuckelhamit. You can just about say it in front of your mother-in-law.)

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If you plan to drill a hole in brick or stone, you can get a hammer-action device starting for about €70. I bought one recently when planning to hang a curtain rail. The wrongly aligned holes are still in the wall at our place, if you want a look. While you’re here, you might like to buy a hammer-action drill, hardly ever used, following a ban by wife. (And I don’t blame her.)

5. Flatpack

There are two kinds of flat pack assembly – Before Child and After Child

Before Child Flatpack... is where you take three hours to put together a chest of drawers, even though it said 90 minutes on the box. 

After Child Flatpack... is where you try and sell your kids on the internet after one of them runs into the room where you are doing the assembly and kicks the box holding 12xM8 screws. 

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Here’s the bottom line. Flatpack assembly is stressful enough, without shouting “get out of the room” every five minutes and trying to finish the job with only 11 M8 screws. The only way to do this is to tell your partner to take the kids out for five hours minimum because you know how these things can over-run. That way you should get two hours of kids-free time at the end to admire your handy-work. Or just take a lie down. 

Don’t suggest that ‘Jaime Lannister’ might like to do it. Paying a gorgeous handyman to assemble a chest of drawers is the point where your status goes from ‘useless’ to ‘recently divorced.’

6. The Builder Provider’s Store

A DIY store like B&Q or Woodies is grand if you need a screwdriver, or a hammer, or a 3-D plastic sign that says, LOVE. After that, you’re onto the hard stuff. By which I mean a Builder Provider’s Store. It’s hard because of the men behind the counter. 

They have no time for DIY newbies. Going in there to ask for advice on a rawlplug is like trying to get the attention of a waiter in Paris using Junior Cert French. (If you don’t know what a rawlplug is, I wouldn’t even bother leaving the house.)

I always bring a DIY savvy in-law to translate when I go into these places. I wouldn’t recommend bringing ‘Jaime, because that would be too weird.  

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7. Electrics

There is a black patch on the wall of a rented house in Dublin. It’s like a memorial for the one and only time I tried to wire a plug. It’s funny how a loud bang and a burning smell would put you off touching electric wiring ever again. 

8. Plumbing

Here is the vital question. Do you know where the stop-cock is for the mains in your house?

  • A: Yes.
  • B: No
  • C: Is stop-cock not a form of contraception?

If you answered B or C, I would step away from plumbing completely. Even if you answered A, I would check my house insurance covers floods, before messing with running water. That might be the best advice I’ve given all week. 

Do you know a DIY Dad that could use Pat's advice? Make sure to share with the links below! 

About the Author

Pat Fitzpatrick lives in Cork city with his wife and two small kids. He gave up a decent job in I.T. in 2008 to head for the lucrative world of writing. So don't hire him as a life coach, investment advisor or anything to do with your career. His Sunday Independent newspaper columns have been entertaining Irish people through some tough times. Pat is a regular on the on the RTE Today show with Maura Derrane and Daithí O’Sé and pops up frequently on radio shows such as the Right Hook. All of this is a bit too much like hard work, so he has started writing novels which will hopefully fund an early retirement to a hammock in the back garden. His first novel, Keep Away from those Ferraris, is available online and in shops outlined here http://www.patfitzpatrick.ie/novels/. Pat’s kids are both under two, so if you don’t mind, he is now going for a quick lie down.

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