Key takeaways:

  • Learning how to determine when to call in a professional and when DIY makes sense will help you maintain and enhance your home’s value.
  • Completing home improvement projects yourself can be cost-effective if you have the right skills and enough time.
  • A hybrid approach to DIY projects can save money and time.

Taking care of your home, inside and out, is important for every homeowner. Doing so maintains and enhances the home’s value, keeps things in working order and makes the house more livable. Yet it can also be expensive, tempting many homeowners to consider tackling some projects on their own.

Before diving into a do-it-yourself (DIY) project, take a step back and think carefully about whether it makes sense to go that route or to hire a professional. Every project – and homeowner – is different, so here are some factors to consider.

  • Size of the project. In general, DIY makes the most sense for smaller projects. However, homeowners frequently underestimate the time and skills involved. Make sure to realistically map out every step and every material you’ll need, no matter how small the project, and factor in a generous contingency in both time and cost.
  • Ability to outline the process: If considering a DIY effort, start by writing down every step in the process. For example, a project may start with demolition and removal of existing material, then continue with obtaining permits, installing new framing, completing plumbing and electrical work, preparing surfaces, finishing, fitting trim and painting. Be sure to research municipal codes, regulations and permitting processes – which can be cumbersome and confusing at best.  
  • Skill and knowledge. If you have acquired skill and confidence in a designated task and have the time and materials to complete the project, DIY can make sense. 
  • Time. Home repair projects almost always take more time than anticipated when doing them yourself. Many homeowners don’t want a room torn up for countless weekends, so prefer to hire out the project regardless of their own abilities. For DIY projects, make a detailed time assessment based on your list of steps. Make sure to include time for trips to home improvement and other stores. Then you can see if you have the time in your schedule to do the project.  If, for instance, you can devote six hours a week to the project, and your project will take a total of 48 hours, it will be in process (likely involving a torn-up room) for eight weeks. Can you and your family live with that?
  • Cost. Depending on the project, the DIY cost can often be about half that of a contractor’s cost. This accounts for labor cost, and for the reality that the homeowner will likely make some mistakes along the way which will entail additional time and/or materials. Homeowners must make the call on whether it is worth their time to do a given project.  Bear in mind that project cost includes equipment costs. If considering a DIY effort, you must determine exactly what equipment you’ll need, where you’ll get it, and whether you’ll purchase or rent it. Home improvement stores can be helpful to a degree in assessing your needs. You’ll find some employees who are knowledgeable and helpful, but it’s not always the case.
  • Type of project. Projects requiring electrical and plumbing work typically require a high level of skill and are not advisable for most homeowners to undertake themselves. Also, stick to a professional for any work that requires a structural improvement (e.g., altering or removing a supporting wall, beam, or column).
  • Requirement for multiple subcontractors. In a larger project, a homeowner may want to handle much of the work, and then bring in subcontractors for specialized work. This can be effective, but only if the homeowner has the knowledge and experience to know when a subcontractor is needed and who to hire. In addition, a professional contractor may also be able to obtain some materials at a lower price, is aware of alternative stores from which to buy for better quality, and how to create certain volume orders for discounts.

Many homeowners ultimately decide on a hybrid approach to DIY, in which they hire a contractor for key portions of a project, and then complete the surface work (e.g., painting, tiling, adding trim, landscaping work) themselves.
Another option is to hire a DIY consultant. This way, the homeowner can do the work, paying only for a limited amount of assistance to help outline the process and timeline. A homeowner who spends $500-1,000 on a DIY consultant can easily avoid mistakes in the tens (sometimes hundreds) of thousands of dollars.

DIY can be fun, rewarding and cost-saving…if you have the time and skills to complete a given project. Take time up-front to determine what will make the most sense for your home, your family and you.

The blog articles published by Unlock Technologies are available for informational purposes only and not considered legal or financial advice on any subject matter. The blogs should not be used as a substitute for legal or financial advice from a licensed attorney or financial professional. Links in our blog posts to third-party websites are provided as a convenience and are for informational purposes only; they do not constitute an endorsement of any products, services or opinions of the corporation, organization or individual. Unlock Technologies bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality, or content of external sites or that of subsequent links.