You’ve finally decided to check that home improvement project off your “honey-do” list. The question now is, should you hire a contractor, or go the do-it-yourself route? It’s a big decision, and making the wrong one can cost a lot of money, time and heart ache. There are some important questions to ask before deciding whether to go it alone on a home improvement project.
First, what is the size and scope of the project? Have you considered all the ramifications of the job you’d be taking on? Will replacing a kitchen sink, for example, also mean new countertops, new tiles and a new backsplash? What about the pipes? Will the fittings come off easily, or will you end up replacing whole sections of pipe? Often a project is more complicated than it seemed at first glance. Plumbing is sometimes called a “three trip job” by hardware store owners, because homeowners make an average of three trips to the store as they discover that their old fittings need replacing. Keep in mind, too, that major renovations may require a permit from the City. Contact the City of Alameda Planning and Building Department for information on what types of work requires a permit.
Secondly, it’s important for homeowners to honestly assess their own skill. If you’ve never so much as driven in a nail before, taking on a large project might let you in for more than you bargained for. In addition, projects that might affect the structural integrity of the home, like removing walls, should be assessed, and probably completed, by an experienced professional.
Finally, consider the time you’ll need to put into a large home improvement project. A “nights and weekends” job can turn into a nightmarishly long, drawn out process that will leave you wishing you had never begun. Do you have the time it will take to do the work yourself? And, do you really want to invest your time off in working on a large scale project?
As a rule of thumb, the smaller the job, the more likely it will be a reasonable project for the average homeowner to take on. The satisfaction of doing it yourself is often as important as the money you save in labor costs. In general, plumbing, electrical and heating/AC work should be left to the professionals, as should major structural changes like replacing a roof or taking down or altering existing walls. Smaller carpentry jobs like putting up new trim, painting and even installing cabinetry are good “starter” projects for the average do-it-yourselfer.
Taking the time to think a project through from the beginning, careful planning and considering your available budget, time and talent can make the difference between a DIY nightmare and a successfully completed project you can be proud of.