To D, or not to D – Deciding Whether to DIY or Hire a Contractor

Do-It-Yourself projects can save money but cause problems if you don't know exactly what you're doing or if you are working with wiring and/or plumbing.

By Luke D Hall


The decision to tackle home improvement projects personally or pony up for a contractor has plagued homeowners for decades. While some ambitious homeowners may feel up to the challenge when it comes to do-it-yourself projects, many others opt for hiring a professional to undertake more involved jobs. In some cases, doing it yourself is not as tough as one might think. Learning a few steps and setting aside a little time to read about your project can turn an intimidating project into a new exciting challenge.

 

However, there are large projects that are best left to the pros. There are benefits to choosing both sides, but weighing the gains and losses on a project-to-project basis is the best way to make a decision that will benefit your wallet, your home, and also your sanity. When deciding the best course of action to take, there are several key components to consider before making a decision.

 

You’ve heard of risk vs. reward; but we’re going to just focus on the risk side of things right now. Depressing, I know. But in terms of home projects, risk is a major factor in determining if your project is worth taking on alone or best left for the pros.

 

Do it yourself written on a blackboard
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To make this succinct; think of your project and answer these 3 questions:
 

Could this project:

  1. Cause severe injury (or worse) to you?
  2. Result in extreme damage to your home?
  3. Result in you facing legal action?

 

Now I know this sounds bleak- but this is serious stuff. Some new roof tiles or a rewired office space isn’t worth you breaking your legs or burning down half of your house.


 

Contractor
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Home Project Peril

1. If the project you need to complete is something that has the potential to leave you severely injured or worse- that’s a sign that hiring a professional is pretty much non-negotiable. These types of projects would include advanced jobs like electrical work, heavy-duty roofing jobs, replacing windows, or replacing water heaters. While performing some DIY projects can be rewarding and even fun at times, don’t be a hero, get professional help for the potentially dangerous jobs.

 

2. The next thing to consider is, should things go horribly awry, how badly damaged is your house? Projects involving plumbing, demolition of walls, dealing with gas lines, etc. can quickly become a major headache to fix if things go sideways. Plumbing incidents, for example, can start with a small leak but lead to massive structural damage over time if left unchecked. Mistakes made during a DIY project become doubly expensive when you need a professional to come in and clean up the mess you’ve made.

 

3. If the project you’ve got in mind requires building permits, it may be an indication for a contractor to take over. Depending on your state, there are different rules regarding permits, their pricing, and how to acquire them. Again, this is a subject that a professional more commonly deals with and typically is more knowledgeable of.

 

Working with a home builder inspecting the blueprints
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One final thing to consider is that not all home projects are feasible without some technical know-how or skill. Certain projects may require costly or hard to come by equipment, while others may require more manpower than you have access to. A lot of factors hinge on your handiness as well as the skill level of the project you seek to accomplish. Use your judgement to see if the DIY task you have in mind is possible for you to do.

DIY Pro or Amateur?

If you decide that it is a task you can realistically complete, it’s also important to ask yourself if your finished product will be up to snuff with the rest of your home- or at least good enough for you to stomach looking at it every day. You really don’t want to botch a job and then be forced to see your less than stellar handy work every time you walk to the kitchen.

 

Even if you’re not the most confident in your DIY abilities, this shouldn’t close a door on the idea entirely. There are tons of resources available to you! These resources could be blogs, YouTube videos, TV shows, handy-friends, home improvement store staff, etc. So long as you take the time to learn a bit and utilize the right resources, you can feel more confident in your abilities and start off on the right foot.

Time or Money?

The biggest draw to handling a project on your own is obviously the money saving aspect. While almost all projects that are handled in-house (by you and your family) will be cheaper, there’s a lot of situations where a professional’s touch will be much better. Could you replace a few troublesome, broken bathroom tiles with a little caulk? Probably. Could you re-tile the entirety of your bathroom as well as a professional? Probably not. It’s important to pick your battles when dealing with home improvement; especially if you’re not overly-confident in your skills.

 

While you save money by not paying for a contractor, you in turn, pay with your free time. Many homeowners have had projects that they’ve wanted to start for a long time and never seem to get around to, or have projects that began and eventually stopped, sitting unfinished for potentially years on end. With a busy schedule and working full time, any DIY time is relegated to strictly after work or on weekends. It may seem like a lot of money to pay a contractor to handle a job, but it’s better they take their time and do it right in a shorter time than you squeezing in hours here and there in your free time during nights and weekends.

Construction tools in the form of house on wooden background. construction tools: pliers, hammer, pruner, screws, putty knife and ruler
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Note that none of this is here to scare you away from DIY projects - but it is incredibly important to make sure that your safety is paramount. If a big project is out of your league - do the right thing and hire a professional to do it for you. If you feel that you can handle the job and you’re willing to spend some time researching and learning, and you are ready to set a chunk of your time aside, then do it!


Images used with permission, courtesy of www.unsplash.com.

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