Wednesday, June 19, 2013

DIY or Hire a Pro?

Ahh! Lemonade, water sports and plenty of daylight hours to tackle that honey-do list. Summer is the perfect time to attempt those home improvement projects you’ve been dying to sink your teeth into, but before you pick up the hammer and nails, think about it for a moment. Is this really something you can do on your own, or would you be better off hiring a professional contractor?

Do you have a burning desire to remodel that outdated bathroom, or are you looking for a low-cost way to make your blushing bride happy? Remodeling projects require perseverance and patience, so before you begin, be sure it is something you really want to take on.

A little up-front research will help you determine if you have the skills and experience necessary to complete your home improvement project. Talk to friends who have done a similar project. Talk to the staff at home improvement stores, and read any books and resource materials you can find on subject. This will give you an idea for the scope of the project. How much lumber will it take? How much wire? Do I have the knowledge to pull it off? If not, is it something I can learn relatively quickly?
Some projects require little expertise, such as interior painting or installing a light fixture. Others, such as in-depth plumbing projects and electrical wiring require skills that take years to develop.
Check with local state, city and county agencies to see if permits and inspections will be required for your project. Building codes vary widely from location to location. If you plan to tackle the project yourself, be honest about your willingness to deal with the red tape. If you hire a professional contractor, they should already be aware of these building codes and will have the experience to navigate the bureaucracy.
After a sense of accomplishment, the biggest motivator to home improvement DIYers is the money saving opportunities. Labor costs can be 25 to 50 percent of a project, so doing it yourself can save big bucks. If you do it right, that is. Do-overs require professionals and can be costly. Some professionals won’t even touch a do-it-yourselfers mistakes, so be sure you can handle the project before taking it on.
Though labor costs are high with contractors, they already have the required tools and can usually get the materials more cheaply than an individual can.
If you decide you need to hire a professional, you can help defray costs by doing the unskilled labor, such as demolition, digging and cleanup, yourself. Just let the contractor know up front you’re willing to help with some of the work in order to cut costs.

If you already have a full-time job, familial obligations and some pretty interesting hobbies, do you really have time to tackle a home improvement project?
Certainly, that depends on how extensive the project is, but consider this, if you can only devote 6 hours a weeks to a 48-hour project, it will take 8 weeks to complete. During this time, you and your family will be living in a construction zone.

Professional contractors can devote 100 percent of their time to your project and have an army of sub-contractors at their disposal to be sure your project is completed in a reasonable amount of time.
The reality is, there are some projects that just require a professional. For instance, the cost of an interior paint job is 30 percent labor and lends itself easily to a personal home improvement project. Exterior painting, however, requires ladders and complex prep work, so you may want to leave it to the professionals.

Hopefully, this gives you some guidance to help you decide if you have the expertise and time to attempt that home improvement project on your own. Still in doubt? Check out Lee Wallender’s decision chart on Here he lists 27 home improvement projects and identifies those that you can do yourself and those that require professional expertise.

Sources: Peggy J. Noonan, Should You DIY or Hire a Pro for Home Improvements?, National Education Association— Finance, March 29, 2013; Melissa Ezarik, DIY Dilemma: Hire or Play the Pro?,; National Association of Remodeling Industry, To Do It Yourself or Hire a Contractor?;, DIY or Hire a Contractor for Your Spring Home Improvement Projects?; Lee Wallender, Home Renovation – Do it Yourself or Hire a Pro?

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