DIY vs. contractors: which home improvements should you do yourself?

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Adding improvements to a property, whether to increase its resale value or just to change it up a little, can be costly businesses, so it’s pretty normal for homeowners to dwell on the DIY alternative. Depending on how good you are with the nails and hammer and how much free time you have on your hands, the do-it-yourself method can be more convenient than hiring a contractor. However, not all home improvements are the same: some can be done in a long weekend with just a drill and a bucket of paint, while others can seriously test your skills and patience. It’s better to realize that contractors would do a better job before starting the DIY project than when you’re right in the middle of it, so here are some questions you should ask yourself first:

Do I have the time?

Home improvements are expensive, we know. Why pay a contractor to do something when you can do it yourself and keep the money for something else? Well, it all comes down to how much free time you have and how much that time matters to you. If you’re in your retirement years and for you a DIY home improvement project is a way to relax and create, then there’s no reason for you call a contractor unless it’s strictly necessary. But if you already work for 50 hours a day and you don’t remember the last time you had dinner with your family, sacrificing an entire weekend to turn the house upside down is not really worth it. Some projects are reasonable and you can complete them within a larger period of time without them affecting your daily life, such as upgrading your lights, landscaping or painting a room. Others require days of continuous work and it’s simply best to leave the experts do it. Estimate how much your project would last and if it’s too much, it’s not worth it to waste your precious time just for the sake of savings.

Do I have the tools?

Being a homeowner requires you to occasionally fix things and in time you inevitably build a collection of essential tools such as a hammer, nails, snips, ladder, paint brushes and adhesives. If the home improvement project you have in mind involves the use of tools you already have, or the purchasing of tools for which could find a use afterward, then it’s a good idea to start it. However, if you’d have to buy expensive tools and equipment that will not serve you later, calling a contractor is wiser. Think of how much space you have as well. In apartments, it is very difficult to store large pieces of equipment, and it’s much more practical to rely on a firm to do the job.

Is it safe?

One thing is clear about the Internet: you can find a DIY tutorial for absolutely anything. No matter how large the project might be, someone, somewhere, wrote an oversimplified guide on how to do it. But make no mistake, just because you found a guide on how to insulate your home, replace the entire piping system or fix the roof, doesn’t mean it’s safe to do so. Most tutorials are not written by experts and without realizing it, you could risk your health and the integrity of your property. If the job you’re about to do involves handling specialized equipment, coming in contact toxic chemicals or working with wires, leave it to a pro. You will pay a price, but if you harmed yourself during your DIY venture, the cost would be much higher.

The exception, of course, are homeowners who have experience in some contracting work. For example, if you’re a plumber, builder, electrician or landscape artist, working on improving your own home can be a fun side project to work on in your spare time. But it’s important to know your own skills and limitations and do only the things you were professionally trained to do. The last thing you want is to turn a short weekend project into a DIY disaster and then have to call a contractor to fix things.

DIY projects you can’t go wrong with

If you love building things and adding a personal touch to home improvement, there are many safe and easy projects you can try. For example:

  •          Do you want to have a relaxation spot at home but building a pool is too expensive? No problem. You can find DIY sauna kits and have your very own home sauna in as little as 14 hours.
  •          Is the pain on your walls starting to look a bit grey and cracked? Because most wall paints are now quick drying, you can paint the walls yourself in one weekend and they will dry in record time. Instead of the classic off-white wall color, which can be quite uninspiring, try these cool color schemes instead!
  •          Put up some shelves. Most furniture stores sell wall shelves in creative shapes and putting them up only requires some nails and a hammer. You can save some space and give your living room a new look with just a few minutes of work.
  •          Add a ceiling fan – this is a two-person project, but you don’t need any experience and you can complete this small project in an hour or less if you follow the instructions.

DIY projects to avoid

Unless you are a qualified professional and know what you’re doing, avoid large scale DIY home improvement projects because they can be dangerous: tree removal, fixing the roof, electrical work, wall demolition, installing HVAC appliances or driveway paving are just some examples of jobs that are better off left to the pros.


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Robert Sole
REM Inspections LLC - Winter Springs, FL

To add to the  "Avoid" category, electrical work.  I see so many unsafe electrical installations during inspections that you have to wonder, how do some of these people even figure out how to get up in the morning?

Mar 24, 2018 06:54 AM #1
Golden1 Agents
San Mateo, CA

Thank you for sharing this.

Mar 25, 2018 05:35 AM #2
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