DIY or Contractor: Three Questions to Ask Before You Decide

Share Share this post
DIY or Contractor: Three Questions to Ask Before You Decide

Want to install a two-tone bamboo floor in the living room? Lay a sound-proofing floor in the game room? Create a hideaway spot in the hallway? There are many home improvement projects that people want to tackle, but the biggest hang up to beginning a project is the cost, with the biggest expense being labor costs. According to the website,  HouseLogic, labor is typically the most expensive in 9 of the 10. In fact, in some cases it vastly outstrips the cost of materials.”

This is why there has been such a big increase the number of people taking on projects on their own and it is a fast growing market.  HGTV provides inspiration and big box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot make it easy and affordable to buy tools and supplies.

According to the results of HomeAdvisor’s 2017 True Cost Survey, the average homeowner has spent nearly 60 percent more on home projects over the past 12 months than in the 12 months prior. And, we’ve seen a 7 percent¹ increase in total nationwide expenditures on home improvement — with homeowners tackling bigger-ticket projects like kitchen and bath remodels and exterior renovations.


But, just because you can doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Complicated jobs, such as plumbing, electrical work, and tile setting, should be left to skilled professional to ensure that the job is carried out correctly, up to code, and most importantly – safely.

When does it make sense to do it yourself versus hire a contractor? What are some of the considerations and determining factors? If you are thinking of diving in with both hands, you might want to give some thought to the following three points

1.How Much Will the Project Cost?

Home remodeling projects take many forms, from something like painting room, installing new flooring or flooring to installing a brand new kitchen or upgrading your electrical or plumbing.  Project costs are often underestimated and as homeowners, we may do this subconsciously trying to justify the work, and money savings – we may also underestimate the extra work, time and materials that go into a project, when you really might not know what you are doing.  If you are not accustomed to the particular projects you are doing, you may not be familiar with all the costs that go into the project.

When it comes to out of pocket expense, it is a good idea to get a detailed cost estimate for all the products you are considering and estimate about 10-20% increase from there, just to be safe.  For products like tile, flooring (of almost any kind – leather flooring, cork flooring, vinyl flooring) you always want to order at least 10% more.

There are also hidden costs beyond the materials alone – adhesives, subfloors, sanding machines, nails, tools, paint brushes, paint supplies, or simple things like clean up and recycling, once the project is complete.  As a DIYer you may not be familiar with all of the nuances of this kind of project, so it I important to do your homework and have realistic expectations.

2.  What Kind of Expertise is Required?

Before you embark on a home improvement project understanding the expertise required to complete the desired task.  Likewise, some of the simplest projects may be associated with special building codes, construction requirements and permits.  This can add to the cost:

“Homeowners spend anywhere from $100 to $3,000 in permit fees, with most homeowners spending $398 to $1,456. Homeowners who skip this step run the risk of having to pay hefty fines. “


Failure to comply with these requirements can lead to a lot of lost time, money and aggravation.  For example:

“One problem is that people often don’t follow the building code,” says Mary Ann Moran, kitchen and bath designer, contractor, and owner of The Kitchen Coach in New Haven, CT. “For example, if you install an island in your kitchen but don’t put in an electrical outlet, then it’s against code. If you want to sell your house later, you’ll have to redo the entire island.”


Your local town clerk, and building authority, could be an initial resource for information, but also check out the National Association of Home Builders or National Kitchen & Bath Association for further information for your particular state, or your particular project.

When it comes to evaluating your expertise, you should also consider the tools required for the job and if you don’t have the tools, it will add to the cost.  There is something very convenient of hiring a contractor, who you know has the expertise and tools to get the job done.

If you are very interested in tackling a project yourself, you can also intentionally choose products that are easier to install.  For example, there are varieties of paint that don’t require a primer coat – this can cut down on time.  When it comes to floors, there are products like Torlys Smart Floors, that require no subfloor, mails, no glue, which is make it so easy for DIYers.

3. Do You Have the Time?

The last, and perhaps, most important question to ask yourself is if you have the time to tackle, and complete the project, and if you that is how you want to spend your time.  Similar to estimating the expenses for your project, you may be underestimating the time expenditure required for said project.

It is very common for homeowners to tackle home renovation and remodeling on weekends, vacations or summer breaks, only to quickly realize painting, hanging sheetrock or installing flooring is the last thing they want to do.

Wondering how long a project might take to complete…check our for an estimate of professional time required to complete certain project. If you are a novice to that kind of project, you should plan on a buffer to give yourself even more time.

Depending on the nature of the project, you should also consider the secondary time and costs associated with your task, this is especially important with older homes that may have hidden “gems” of rotten floor joists, lead paint, and other components that are well aged.

“If your house was built before 1970, you could encounter asbestos or lead. “Many people make the mistake of scraping off or painting over lead paint, but that can have serious consequences,” says Moran, who worked with a client whose child suffered brain damage after chewing on a windowsill where an old coat of lead paint had simply been painted over.

If you are a s0-called “Weekend Warrior” or natural Do-It-Yourselfer, there are many projects that will come naturally to you, just be sure to do your homework to make sure you can do it safely, legally and to get the best results.

Share Share this post