Thanks to home improvements shows like This Old House, the HGTV network and YouTube how to videos, an entire generation of homeowners have grown up believing that they might be able to to DIY many home projects. And in fact they may be able to. But even if you have the skill to pull off a home project that may work, is it worth it? Here are some reasons why you may want to embrace DDIY—Don’t Do it Yourself!—if not all the time, at least for some of your projects.
Your Time is Valuable
The number one reason why folks choose to DIY is the cost of labor. And, I get it, hiring licensed professionals can be expensive. But your time is also worth something. If you aren’t loving spending your nights and weekends building that fence that would have taken a contractor a day and a half to knock out, perhaps you should evaluate what your time is worth to you and calculate it at an hourly rate. Also, think about the time you would be enjoying the finished product if a professional had completed it in a timely manner. Particularly, when you take on a large renovation like a kitchen or bath remodel, a crew is often at your house all day during the work hours. Ask yourself, if you really want to perform someone else’s full time job (or several people’s) in your free time before you dive in. Additionally, do you want to live in a construction zone for much longer than you have to? I’ve heard countless stories of DIY-ers who have lived without a kitchen, cooking on a hot plate for two years while they painstakingly learned how to tile a backsplash. If the idea of that sends shivers up your spine, think twice about taking on a major remodel without hiring a pro.
You are Paying for Experience
When you hire a landscape designer or a kitchen contractor or a plumber, you are paying for much more for than their time and labor—you are paying for their experience. Think about it: how good were you the first time you did something challenging at your job? What about the 30th time? or the 300th? Hiring a professional who can anticipate the pitfalls of a project and navigate any potential headaches is worth a lot. When I decided to completely overhaul my backyard with a big landscaping project, I could have probably come up with a lot of the ideas myself and even executed a lot of the planting. I could have hired the concrete sub contractors on my own and cut out the designer. But, I wanted someone to advise me on how to direct drainage water off of the new pergola so that my foundation isn’t impacted by rain, someone who would anticipate where the light was falling on various parts of the yard, someone who would know exactly which plants will thrive in this climate in a particular space in my yard. All of that guidance and know-how is invaluable. But that also means that when you hire a licensed professional to do a home project or repair for you, you need to spend some time vetting them. Ask for professional referrals, speak with past clients, ask how they might anticipate problems and if they see any unknowns right now that could be planned for.
Mistakes are not cheap
While we are on the subject of experience, if you are motivated by the possible savings that a DIY project may offer, consider the cost of mistakes. General contractors and designers are also often serving as project manager on your renovation—they know the order in which to execute each step, when to order certain parts and materials (something that has become even more important during our current reality of material shortages and inflation), and how to pivot when things don’t go well. When I remodeled my kitchen, my general contractor anticipated that after unearthing the original Doug Fir wood floors from the orange marmoleum that lay on top, they may not be salvageable. He had a plan B to keep me within budget, should this be the case. And when, as he suspected, the original floors were ruined by decades old tar, he proposed two options: one that would keep me within budget and one that would accomplish the look I really desired. But, most importantly, he had sub contractors in place to complete that work. And there were countless other steps along the way, that had they been done incorrectly, could have cost me big time: what if the counter top space had been measured incorrectly and then the slab was cut to the wrong measurements? Would I have eventually chosen the intricately patterned and hard to install mosaic tile floor if I had had to learn a highly skilled trade on the fly in order to install it? Experienced contractors and design professionals anticipate the WHAT IFs because they know that there will be many and that they need to have a solution or back up plan in place. Don’t underestimate the financial value in that.
Buyers like to see receipts and permits
I can’t tell you how many times I hear a home inspector say “This looks like a homeowner repair” and they don’t mean it in a good way. Womp womp. If you intend to sell any time in the reasonably near future, think about how beneficial it may be to be able to show buyers, all of the work you have had done professionally by licensed contractors along with the permit records. Buyers are also often impressed by the dollar amount that you may have spent. Save the receipts. Track the permits and city records. Especially for the unsexy things: plumbing, electrical, sewer line, foundation work, roof, siding, windows. A lot of buyers do not appreciate these system upgrades until the inspector comes back saying that they are not in great condition. If you are selling and you can show that the home has a brand new electrical panel that is permitted with the city or all new plumbing lines done by a reputable company, that can show the buyer up front that there is a lot of “hidden” value in your home. It also can communicate that you took great care of the home and did not cut corners. It may also influence a buyer who is choosing between your home and another that weekend: Imagine if you had a receipt for the $45,000 of new windows that you installed a few years ago but the competition still has aluminum single paned. Maybe the buyers would not have even recognized the cost of that potential replacement until seeing your records. Save the receipts. I like to advise clients to do so in a Google Drive folder.
Have I convinced you to join me and become at least a partial DDIYer? If you are swayed a bit but still feel the pangs of guilt created by those Home Depot “Doer” commercials, I’ll leave you with one final point: When you hire local tradespeople, contractors, and designers, you are also creating a job and pumping money directly back into your local economy. Maybe that will help you rest well during all the naps you’ll be taking instead of putting that darn fence up.
Inspired to hire a professional and need a referral? I have a whole list of diverse folks who are good at what they do and am happy to connect you. Please contact me and I’ll put you in touch. Coming soon: a more complete directory of my favorite, vetted contractors, designers, and more!