With my first big project completed a few weeks ago, I took some time to reflect on what I learned along the way. I thought you might be interested to hear some of the things that might help you with projects you’re working on.

This particular project started with six barn doors, an accent wall, and three cocktail tables. The client added a built-in vanity and built-in shelves after finishing Phase I.

Here are some lessons I’ll pass on to you:

ACE truly is the place: ACE Hardware is where I found the black lag bolts I needed to attach angle iron to the tops of the vanity, cocktail tables, and accent wall. Driving two minutes to the local store and seeing the pieces in person outweighed the convenience and a slightly lower price on Amazon. I also liked that I was doing business locally, even though I know ACE is a national company, they are franchised.

Where to buy fasteners: I got most of my screws from Amazon. This made things much cheaper, and I also found the black screws that I needed, which I didn’t find locally. I probably used more than 300 screws between all the pieces.

Black piping fixtures: I got my black piping at Lowe’s. I had it cut for length and also had threads cut on a machine during a slow evening. It was fun talking with the guy helping me about his past in the construction industry because it took quite a while to cut and thread them. I tried to get this done at The Home Depot first, but unfortunately, I couldn’t find a store nearby where the pipe cutting machine was working. This taught me to call ahead to make sure they had what I needed.

Cleaning repurposed wood: If you’re using repurposed wood that needs to be cleaned, take it to a self-serve car wash. I had been cleaning the wood by hand in my backyard, which took a ton of time. The powerful water hose at the car wash was convenient and clean up was a breeze. I did it in January in Colorado, so my hands froze while doing this even with gloves on.

Check for warpage: Make sure the wood isn’t warped. Gluing and doweling will not overcome even slight warpage. This caused some problems when I had two doors that covered an opening and didn’t fit right. We solved this with a good latch.

Measure twice, cut once: Check, double-check, and write down dimensions, so you don’t have to re-do pieces. It will save you from having to buy new wood and from making an extra trip to the lumberyard. It’s also wise to buy extra wood that you can either return or use for future projects.

Comprehensive quotes: One of the best things I did was write out a comprehensive quote concerning what the client wanted. After he agreed on everything, I gave him a price.

Working document: I used the comprehensive quote as a springboard for developing a working document that I followed throughout the process. I kept adding information because sometimes the client changed his mind, or I came up with a better solution. Plus, I can use this working document as a guide when building future projects. I always kept it near me and referred to it often.

Take responsibility: This was my first solo big project. Even though I had done bigger projects with another company I’d worked with, this was all my responsibility. I knew at the end of the day, I needed to be proud of the work I had done, which kept me striving for perfection.

Get good help: Find good people to help you out and seek their advice. I had a couple of friends help with the installations at different times. Not only did they have tools I could borrow, but they helped come up with solutions I hadn’t thought of.

Make your returns: Return unneeded parts and pieces to stores as soon as possible. Sometimes it’s too late, and you’re stuck with the pieces, which cuts into your profit.

Get Amazon Prime: Pay the small fee for Amazon Prime, so you can get free, quick shipping. Plus, you can watch Amazon Videos.

Help from clients: Allow clients to help if they want. This will let them put their fingerprints on the project. It’s okay if they don’t want to, but my client was different. He was handy with tools and liked doing it. He just didn’t have the time or space to build the original pieces.

I’m sure there are other lessons I learned along the way that I haven’t thought of or were too boring to write down here. Each projects allows me to learn new things and help me create pieces I love and the client loves.

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