I recently finished a home improvement project: I installed crown molding in our dining room.
Before I go on, let me tell you a little about my infatuation with "do it yourself" projects. I have no delusions of grandeur regarding my ability to take on complex tasks. I always overlook something important, and without fail the tasks take longer than expected. For some reason this does not stop me (although it should).
When my wife and I first moved in together I mentioned to my mom that I was installing curtain rods.
"Oh, you should get your Dad or your brother to help you," she advised me. Bah. Curtain rods are simple, any buffoon can manage a drill.
Then I learned what those little plastic drywall anchors are for...after I decided I didn't need them and the curtain rods fell down. Then I re-drilled (I strategically placed the mounting brackets so the rod and the curtains would cover the old holes). I used the plastic drywall anchors this time. I did not use a stud finder. Turns out you really don't need those things when your drilling/screwing into a stud. Lesson learned (mostly).
Next was the deck on the back of our old house. I didn't go into this one blind, I purchased plans off the Internet and solicited the help of my uncle, cousin, and brother-in-law, all of whom had more building experience than I did. They also had better tools. The weekend project went by without injury, and we actually finished framing it. I guess a deck with an octagonal raised dining platform is an ambitious first-deck project. Who knew? A month later I finally finished it.
And then there was the six month finish-the-basement project. That was a massive undertaking, and I ended up subbing out the drywall and the drop ceiling. That's not included in the six months. That's just the time it took me to frame it.
For the crown molding project, I used both the Internet and a book for guidance. This is my method of take-no-prisoners planning. The consensus was "4 hours to install crown molding in a room." The consensus was wrong.
After six hours I had successfully nailed up four relatively crooked pieces of crown molding. The next evening I nailed up the molding on the other half of the room.
I surveyed my handiwork. Looked like shit, I must say; but that didn't worry me. I had spackle, caulk, and wood filler on my side. Turns out wood filler can be pretty messy and difficult to work with. It also does amazing things to the top two layers of skin on your hands and fingers (NOTE: "does amazing things to" in this context can also be read as "dissolves").
When I was done with the spackle, caulk, and woodfiller (which I sanded down to a not-quite-imperceptible smoothness), it still looked like shit. But I wasn't worried, I knew the paint would cover most if it.
"What kind of paint do you want, semi-gloss or satin?" the guy at Home Depot asked me. This was my fourth trip there that week. He was well aware of my endeavors.
"Which kind will hide imperfections in carpentry?" I asked.
"I'll take it."
I taped off and painted. I was amazed at how well the paint and caulk created straight lines above and below the crooked pieces of molding. The satin paint did an admirable job of covering the less severe blemishes. As for the more severe blemishes...you can hardly see them in the dark.
Which brings me to my next project: install a dimmer switch in the dining room.