I am a huge fan of DIY projects. I believe people should service their cars themselves, do their own taxes and maintain their homes themselves. If a project goes South then I'd rather come out more informed. It's not like contractors never screw up.

I built fenced my backyard in Seattle myself. I wish I could say the quality was good, or even okay. The person who bought my house probably curses me for it :). That said, I learned three important lessons that improved all my future projects :-

1. Acquire right tools: For the Seattle fence I should've bought or rented proper tools. Instead I used whatever I had available, which was very little. As a result things did not fit properly, weren't balanced etc. etc. I will never start a major project without first acquiring all tools necessary to do the project and learning how to use them all.

2. Take your time, plan well: This is another typical DIY mistake. Often DIY projects mean you learn as you go. You must allow yourself that learning time. There's nothing wrong with pausing or even going back to fix something. It would have been wiser for me to walk through the project in my head first, listing all potential issues and mitigating them through planning before I started.

3. Recognize when you need help: I did the entire project on my own. Holding posts balanced without any help can be tricky. This is a two-part lesson :-
3a. Recognize when you need a helper. People may have installed drywalls by themselves, but it sure as heck helps to have a helper holding the other end.
3b. Recognize when you're in over your head. Even when you do a project by yourself, there might be aspects where it is better to hire someone.

I did learn my lessons and after that all my projects went amazingly well because of these. In Seattle when I had to enlarge the driveway I knew not to attempt it myself.

Here are some recent projects I have done:

I installed garage door openers on both garage doors. The openers work well, are balanced and wired properly. Pre-planning helped me recognize I wanted different controls for both, layed out the wiring and overall, gave it a professional feel.

This is when I ran an HDMI wire from inside the wall. I know people who've done this by cutting part of their drywall out, which isn't the right approach. I bought a fishing tape (research and right tool) and fished the wire from behind the wall. It was more challenging because this is an exterior wall with a lot of insulation.

And of course, I mounted the TV up. Notice no cables? It's all magic :)

Installing this ventillation fan was a multi-step process. I first did electrical stuff. Then I put it up, but you could see the wire going to it. Then (days later) I moved the electrical wire to inside the wall where you cannot see it, and I patched the wall. Then (days later) I painted the wall. Again, (days later) I took it down again to put an elbow inside so the fumes etc. go straight outside the house. Now instead of my house smelling (stinking?) like desi food, the street does.

And of course, how can I possibly forget ceiling speakers. I wired the back ones myself. Basically cut the ceiling, put the speaker inside, connect wires ... etc. etc. etc. The surround sound is amazing, especially when playing games. Now when playing Gears of War 2, I can hear aliens sneaking up from behind me, so just by hearing footsteps behind I can turn around and shoot. Without this surround sound I'd be killed.

I haven't painted the grills yet, that's on my todo list :-

Because of these, I know that my next project (finishing the basement) will go well. I am not doing the whole basement at once (doing just my office), but I have planned the entire basement, including plumbing and electrical. I have figured out when to get help (for taping and mudding to get smooth walls) and have researched and acquired right tools. I've spent money on books to figure everything out and have researched all options. Lets see how it will go.

Here's my future basement layout. What do you think (click to see the whole image)?