Knowing whether or not tackle a DIY (Do it yourself for the uninitiated) project yourself can seem simple: Match the degree of difficulty to your level of skill. Piece of cake! Well, you need to consider other factors first. What follows are some tips to determine if you really can DIY or will your ambition do damage to your property, your pocketbook, or (Yikes!) your person.
Top 3 Reasons to Hire a Contractor
• You could make the problem worse. Research your specific project and try to identify the worst-case scenario. Write down a project plan and a materials list at each step. Failed DIY endeavors due to not having the right tools or the right skills can end up costing several thousand extra dollars.
• It looks easy in a book (or video). It looks easy when you see a video or written out step-by-step (with pictures) in a book. Throw in the inevitable my place is ‘special’ circumstance, and your knowledge and skill set may be out the window.
• Just because you can doesn't mean you should. The precision and thoroughness of a high-quality contractor can create home improvements that a lot longer than the average DIY result.
Projects Most Likely to Get DIYers Into Trouble
• Tile re-grouting: this takes a lot of patience and precision and is not for the novice. For instance, you have to completely remove the existing grout, mix the new grout properly (without too much or too little moisture), apply the grout and carefully squeegee the tiles clean of "grout haze," then reapply in places where grout shrank during the drying process. Sounds like too much?
• Drywall repair: Spreading joint compound requires a surprising amount of finesse. It’s also a very dusty and dirty job. Plus, water-related drywall damage can lead DIYers to neglect larger, underlying problems, like plumbing leaks or the resultant black mold.
• The subtle and critical parts of Fence installation: Not sinking the posts deep enough, making assumptions about property lines, and using the wrong or inadequate fasteners can shorten the life of the fence and even lead to lawsuits from your neighbors.
Commonly Missed DIY Opportunities
• Door installation: Is the doorframe warped and out of square? As long as your doorframe is in decent condition, you can buy a pre-hung and even prefinished door that requires elementary carpentry skills to install.
• Caulking: You can seal your windows, and protect your bathtub, toilet, and sink from water infiltration. Learning the basics isn’t hard. Be careful; you don't want to trap water behind a caulked seal.
• Hot water tank insulation: Water tank insulation kits can make installing an insulating blanket a one- or two-hour project that can reduce your water heating costs by about 10%.
Sometimes the answer isn’t to DIY. Are price gouging or shoddy workmanship your biggest worries, then taking the time to interview several contractors for the job will be time well spent. Many contractors are honest, skilled, and willing to go the extra mile. Others are actively trying to scam homeowners or simply have no idea what they're doing. With a little research, you should be able to identify one from the other and discover your own home improvement limits.