One evening I was flipping through the channels on the television when I stumbled across a show filming homeowners experiencing a do it yourself home improvement disaster. Kitchen cabinets were literally falling off the walls because of improper installation and countertops were getting demolished after falling out of their vehicle while transporting them home. I was thinking to myself, this is a true reality show.
Many homeowners find themselves in similar situations. We are surrounded by media telling us, “you can do it”, giving homeowners, in some cases, a false sense of confidence. Careful thought should be given before taking on projects that looked really simple on a home improvement program. The project they completed in 30 minutes on the show may have really taken 30 hours. It is best to think through all the steps that may be involved in the project and be prepared for a few more you did not anticipate.
Yes, it can be rewarding. I use to tell my beginner students, one of the best things about being a carpenter is the sense of pride and accomplishment you feel after completing projects and how important it was to take pride in their work. As a homeowner, it’s nice to save some money and be able to show off your work to family and friends. But, as I mentioned earlier, give careful thought to the scope of the project before jumping in with both feet.
Everyone wants to save money and your time is worth something. You may be surprised how time consuming it can be doing all the shopping and product selections required for your remodel. That in itself may be the maximum involvement you want. Depending on your desire, skill level, and contractor preference, your participation in a home improvement project may vary. More on that later.
Before you attempt to tackle that home improvement project, you should examine all the pros and cons of DIY (doing it yourself). Start off with a wish list of all the work you want done in your home. Prioritize the list according to urgency and importance. Look at potential problems and safety issues. For example, you may have a window that leaks when it rains or you may have stairs that contain loose or rotting boards. At a glance, the window may not be a priority to you, but a close examination may reveal the potential for structural damage due to rotting. In this case, a simple window replacement could turn into a major structural repair if not addressed. As for the stairs, it’s never a good idea to compromise safety. Share any concerns you may have about potential problems with a qualified contractor.
Using the printable worksheet available on my web site, categorize your wish list projects under the columns, DIY (do it yourself), Contractor or Joint Project. Let’s say you want to paint the master bedroom, but you also want crown molding installed. In this case, place this project under the “Joint Project” column. Your plan is to paint the room yourself, but hire a carpenter to install the crown molding. Before starting projects in your “Joint Project” column, I recommend you contact the contractor to discuss and coordinate the order of work to be done.
In order to help you categorize your wish list, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I have the time and energy to see the project through to completion? Consider most projects take 2-4 times longer then estimated.
- Can I physically do the lifting and carrying that will be required?
- Do I own or have access to the tools and equipment required to do the work?
- Do I have the skill to safely use the tools?
- Do I have enough experience or knowledge to complete the project?
- Do I have someone to call if I run into unexpected problems?
- Can I produce the quality of work that will increase the value of my property? Sub par work can actually decrease the value of your home.
- Will my savings be worth the time and effort?
Also consider the time and gas spent picking up materials and the cost of materials you probably forgot to include in your initial budget.
THE POSITIVES OF DIY
- The reward of self satisfaction and pride.
- The savings on labor costs.
- You don’t have to go through the task and uncertainty of finding a reliable and competent contractor.
- You don’t have to deal with the disruption of tradespersons working in your home.
- The learning experience.
After careful evaluation, you may decide to do some of the work yourself to reduce costs and hire professionals for the phases that require their expertise. If this is the case, initiate a discussion with your contractor. Some contractors will discourage homeowner involvement while others are more willing to work with you. In either case, the agreement should clearly outline the responsibility of all parties.
I hope you found this article helpful in organizing your remodeling ideas and provided the guidance in answering that important question, “Should I do it myself or hire a professional”?