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.

Over the last several years, DIY home improvement has gained a lot of traction and popularity. There have been lots of contributing factors, such as a recession, a proliferation of internet how-to articles and the popularization of DIY programs on TV. 

After all, elbow grease seems to be an enduring component in the fabric of the world, and there’s nothing like finishing a tough or skilled task with immaculate results and knowing that you did it.


Do it yourself written on a blackboard


Of course, there are many benefits to hiring a contractor as well, and sometimes it’s downright necessary. Most people think that it all comes down to money, but it’s not quite that simple. Here are a few of the things you’ll want to consider to make the right call. Take an honest moment to reflect on some of these issues before taking the DIY plunge.




Do I Have the Skill?

This should be an obvious “yes” or “no,” but the latter doesn’t necessarily rule out DIY altogether. As mentioned above, there is a wealth of resources available through blogs, TV shows, YouTube channels and magazines to help walk you through the ins and outs of a DIY project. The question isn’t really “Can I already do it?” so much as “Am I willing to commit to learning the necessary skills?” Just make sure you consult a resource that you know you can trust before proceeding.


The lack of specific skills, however, should more likely deter you from undertaking a project on your own. For instance, if you’re not familiar with the structural makeup of your house, knocking down the wrong wall could cause extremely costly or dangerous damage. If you’re not familiar with the most up-to-date codes and regulations, you may end up paying a fine or having to re-do your project later on. In cases like this, it’s necessary to consult the blueprints to your home or hire an electrician or contractor with electrical experience to locate potential wires, pipes, and load-bearing beams. If you have no experience with electrical, plumbing or gas work, a misstep could result in serious injury or death. It’s certainly not worth the risk of trying to do it solo.


Working with a home builder inspecting the blueprints


Do I Have the Time?

One of the benefits of hiring a contractor is that your project will actually get done – not “someday,” not in inconvenient increments with long stretches in between, but as quickly as an experienced professional can effectively complete it. It will be on the calendar, and your contractor’s livelihood depends on keeping a schedule and making you happy.


If there’s even the slightest chance that you’ll start a complicated project and leave it unfinished for weeks on end, hire a contractor. If you’ve been staring at a project that you plan on doing eventually, but it never seems to make the calendar, hire a contractor. The job will get done, and you’ll be able to focus all of your energy on things that are a higher priority.


Man in blue overalls talking on the phone and writing on a board


Will It Actually Save Me Money?

First, you need to take stock of your resources. Do you already own all of the tools that you need to do the job on your own? If not, can they be borrowed or rented at a reasonable cost?


Construction tools in the form of house on wooden background. construction tools: pliers, hammer, pruner, screws, putty knife and ruler


Moreover, you should only be taking on a DIY project that’s minimal risk if you’re truly concerned about your budget. Inexperience can result in costly mistakes that have to be professionally repaired, and suddenly the optional project that you decided to save money on becomes an unavoidable professional repair. One of the reasons that contractors cost more is that they’ve built up years of experience and a network of industry professionals that they can trust. When this professional experience results in getting the job right the first time, you will save money in the long run.


These are just a few of the initial considerations involved in deciding whether DIY is the right choice for you. If you’re passionate about learning the skill and you can afford to make mistakes, go for it! If not, hire a contractor and savor your Saturday. Do you have a DIY experience you want to share? Additional advice? Comment below to let us know!

DISCLAIMER: Readers should keep in mind that any accounts of renovation presented in this article are written accounts of events taking place at individual homes, and are not necessarily endorsements of do-it-yourself home improvement. You proceed at your own risk if you attempt to replicate any activities described here. 

Snippet: Doing it yourself is actually much easier, in many cases, than one might think. Simply learning a few steps can change an intimidating project into a joy to do. However, large projects or demolitions would most certainly warrant a contractor’s help. Read on to learn about when DIY is a good idea and when it’s not.

Images used with permission, courtesy of and

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