September 30, 2022 12:18 am
September 30, 2022 12:18 am

My DIY Blinds Adventure

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This weekend I cracked open a well-deserved Lagunitas and sat back to enjoy the NFC Championship game. I had just finished a two-week project to mount all the blinds in our new house and that beer really hit the spot. Unfortunately, the niners were unable to cap off the night with a W. Bummer.

This article will cover my experience installing my own blinds including an overview the costs, time taken, and lessons learned

Flashback to a couple weeks ago

A couple weeks ago my partner and I completed the final walkthrough to our house. We were both thrilled to close the sale successfully given how low our winning bid from two months ago was relative to current sales. One of our cost saving measures was to install blinds after the sale rather than contracting through the builder as part of the sale.

Our plan had been to work with a hardware or home improvement store like Home Depot. We intended to measure the dimension of each of our windows, purchase our blinds of choice based on current availability and price, then use the store’s installation services to mount the blinds. This was a simple plan, so as soon as we received the keys, I started measuring.

How do you even measure bro?

Measuring seems easy, but there are actually plenty of ways to screw it up. First of all, you need to know whether you intend to do an inside or outside mount for your blinds. The inside/outside designation refers to whether the blind is mounted within the window well or whether the blind is mounted directly above the window well. Here’s an example of my blinds which use an inside mount.

White faux wood blinds mounted in a mostly empty nursery. The room is mostly barren due to a recent move but has a lamp lit on the floor and a crib

I chose the inside mount because it is a style I’m used to and is more forgiving to mounting errors. For example, the height will remain consistent since I’m placing the brackets into the top of the window well. Also, any misplaced holes will be invisible to observers since they’ll be at the top of the window well and covered by the blind itself. While I didn’t come across any guidance as to how deep into the window well to mount the blinds, a depth of 1 inch seemed to work well.

Time taken: 2 hours – Measure twice, cut once

Procurement

After taking all the measurements, I went to my local home improvement store. I began looking for dual purpose cellular shades that could be used as blackout blinds or as more sheer blinds. Unfortunately, these blinds were not in stock at the first location, so I drove to a second. As luck would have it, they were out at the second location as well. Talk about supply chain issues!

After striking out at two different stores I opted to outfit the entire house with “premium” faux wood blinds. It took me a while to figure out what made these blinds premium as opposed to the regular faux wood blinds. However, I found that the difference is the greater distance between slats which allows for more light to come through the blinds when they are in an open position. Since we have so much natural light as an end unit townhouse, I am glad we went with the premium version to let in as much light as possible.

Once I chose to go with the faux wood blinds, I still needed to pick appropriately sized blinds of that type. This involved matching the measurements I took with the sizes standardly available. While the length does not need to be precise (up to 18in too long generally looks ok) the width must be precise. To assist with this precision, Home Depot has associates who will cut the blinds to your desired width free of charge.

None of this is rocket science, but it does take time. Especially for someone who is not aware of what sizes are standardly available, it will take a considerable amount of time to locate appropriately sized blinds for 19 windows. Then it will take time for an associate to cut the blinds. The cutting step itself might take longer if you need to travel to another store to have the blinds cut as I did. Once cut, you’ll still need to load and unload the blinds. It’s friggin’ tedious.

Time taken: 4-5 hours

The Installation

Installation is surprisingly easy. The common cordless blinds I purchased require practically zero assembly. The only steps I had to complete as the customer was to pop in the plastic end caps and the swivel wand, the latter of which is used to rotate the blinds to let in more or less light. Therefore, the majority of the time installing the blinds is spent drilling brackets into the window well.

Drilling the brackets in is simple, the difficulty will largely depend on the tools you use. I used a simple Ryobi cordless drill which sufficed. However, if I were to do this again, I would use a better drill to make my life easier. As an amateur with middling tools, I spent about three to three and a half hours on the first seven windows in our bedrooms. This lines up with estimates from other sites such as Bobvila that estimate about four hours of installation for every eight windows.

Time taken: 6-7 hours

Considerations and Lessons Learned

This wasn’t a project I intended to do, but I’ve learned quite a bit as a first-time in DIY blinds. I’ve frequently found that the most important observations about a task appear obvious to a newcomer even as experienced individuals remain unaware: the curse of knowledge. As a newcomer, here are a few observations I made:

  • There was a significant time difference between the first two blinds I mounted and the last two. There were specific quirks to the blinds that I picked up on during multiple iterations. For example, I learned how to fix the wand insertion point on some of the models where the mechanism was loose or out of place. The first time this took me at least 10 minutes but on subsequent occasions took less than a minute. By the end of 19 windows, I was significantly quicker!
  • Don’t underestimate the value of your time when considering a tool to use. I used a basic consumer focused Ryobi drill and did not use a stud finder. As a result, I spent far too much time drilling and re-drilling holes. Knowing now how much time I’d spend using the drill, I would have considered spending more for a better tool. I spoke with a close friend who works in construction who recommended Makita, Milwaukee, or DeWalt as those are the drills that he and others work with every day.
  • If I weren’t so young, I would have seriously considered hiring a handyman for the installation. While the measuring itself is easy and doesn’t take much specialized knowledge, the mounting is more tedious. Kneeling on my countertop to install the kitchen sink blinds was uncomfortable without knee pads at 31 so I can imagine I might want no part of that at 50.
  • If you’re young and make less than the median wage in your city, then installation could be a good way to save money.
  • The total cost varies much more on the choice of blinds than on labor costs. The cost of blinds can vary considerably. The project can cost as much or as little as you need/want

Cost Summary

15 labor hours @$55/hr*$825
19 Blind Sets Total $1000$1175
Grand Total$2000
*Wage level chosen taking U.S. Census Bureau, 2019 American Community Survey and dividing the household income by a 40-hour work week

There’s nothing wrong with paying for service and depending on your specific situation it could make sense. Consider your budget, how valuable your time is, and other factors I’ve discussed when weighing your options. If you opt to pay for installation, then make sure to take advantage of the time you paid good money to save!

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