Do it yourself or hire a pro?

We love do-it-yourselfers! The can-do spirit, the chance to show off their work, and all the rescues we get to do when their projects go wrong.

Seriously, it’s great to dive in on making your home exactly what you envision. And more and more people are doing it – 30 percent of homeowners now plan to do their own remodeling, and 65 percent plan to do at least some portion of the project themselves.

Here’s six tips on how to decide whether to take a project on or give a pro a call.


1. Do you have the right reason?

Are you doing this for an ego boost? To impress others? To save money? To have fun?

Whatever your reason, find out if that’s really enough reason by doing a reality check.

– Conduct a visual walkthrough, imagining every step of the project from preparation to clean-up. Go through it once with everything going right, and a second time with everything going wrong. Would the outcome still meet your reasons for doing it?

– Take on some small projects and see how they go.


2. Do you have the time?

If the idea of coming home after work and diving into a dusty mass of tools and busted drywall every day for six weeks sounds great, you’re a true do-it-yourselfer.

– Take your best estimate of how long the project will take, then triple it.

– Remember your visual walkthrough? Now visualize doing the project around all the rest of your activities.


3. Do you have the relationships?

Unless you live alone, any home repair project will affect those around you.

– Before diving in, check in with any family and friends who’ll be involved.

– Make sure you run both the best-case and worst-case scenarios by them, and talk about how each person would handle them.


4. Do you have the skills?

If not, can you learn quickly enough to complete the project and not damage your house?

– Find tutorials and video guides online and at your local library.

– Connect with a home improvement store or contractor friends for workshops, advice – and backup!

– Test with smaller, related projects. Try helping out a friend before using your home as your guinea pig.


5. Do you have the money?

Sure, hiring a professional can give you sticker shock. But a careful cost comparison might surprise you.

– Add up the cost of materials to what your time is worth. (Remember, triple the estimates!)

– Labor usually gives a professional job a 25-50 percent markup. But do-it-yourself mistakes can cancel your savings, or even cost more than you would have paid a pro.

– Remember that contractors usually get discounts on materials and don’t have to buy or rent equipment and tools.

– Get multiple quotes, and ask the contractor about ways to reduce the price. In some cases, you might be able to do the demolition or cleanup, or even handle some of the labor.


6. When to stay away

Some projects are just not something to tackle unless you have professional training and experience.

These include anything to do with electrical lines, natural gas pipes, major plumbing, and garage doors – the tension in their springs is enough to shatter limbs and smash through garage walls.

Not only are these seriously dangerous areas to deal with, but it’s easy to violate local building codes and regulations that can lead to fines and problems with selling the home.

Less dangerous to life and limb but still a risk for wallets are skill-heavy jobs like custom cabinets, flooring and bathroom installations.


So dive in to do-it-yourself – just be informed before you do. We’re always happy to stop by for an estimate, to share advice, and to lend a hand if things go awry.


How to Pay For Your Project

We know that when it comes to a remodel, every penny counts. Start with a solid estimate, and always build in a cushion (10 percent for a contractor, 20-30 percent for do-it-yourself), before committing yourself to a project.

But once you do, where do those pennies come from?

1. Pay cash.

Make sure you have a contract and are working with a reputable, reliable company before writing any checks.

2. Mortgage loans.

The most common source of funding does have drawbacks – mostly in the risk of not making your money back by the time you’re ready to sell.

Decide whether to take out a second, home improvement mortgage or refinance by averaging the rates for the first and second mortgages. If the rate is lower than what you’re being offered for a refinance, a second mortgage makes sense.

3. Home equity loans.

Like mortgage loans, these are paid off over 15 to 30 years, but come at a higher cost.

4. Home equity lines of credit.

Financial institutions love these. Clients can borrow up to a certain amount, making multiple withdrawals as needed, but must pay off the credit in a shorter period of time and be exposed to fluctuating interest rates and fees.

5. Credit cards.

Even 0% interest cards come at a high risk. Only use these if you’re certain to be able to pay them off before interest or fees kick in.