Why That D-I-Y is a b-a-d Idea

ProSource | 2/28/2017 | Expert Advice

TV’s home improvement shows are so inspiring. Viewers watch eagerly as, over the course of just one hour, an outdated space is transformed into a breathtaking room. We watch with envy as the professional enlists the help of the homeowners themselves to demolish the old and create the new. And that leaves us wanting a shot at our own do-it-yourself project. How hard could it be?

In a word: very.

One Homeowner’s Story

Melanie Holmes and her husband made the wise choice to hire a contractor for their bathroom remodel. Their mistake, she says, was telling the contractor that they would do certain tasks themselves in an effort to save money. “We were in a state of sheer exhaustion for a three-week period,” says Holmes, who took on the responsibility of sanding and staining doors and painting the ceiling, walls, and trim.

“We would find out at the last minute that we needed to sand an entire door and its frame in one evening,” she says. “Other evenings found us painting, shopping, and performing jobs that we should have delegated completely to the experts. I would never, ever take on these tasks again.”

Saving Money, But At What Cost?

“While DIY projects can be a good cost-savings move, it’s important to remember that some tasks are best tackled by professionals,” says money expert Michelle Hutchison of Finder.com. “For home renovations especially, if you undertake a DIY duty and are not competent, you may have to spend more money to fix your faulty work.”

Reagan Toal of Federal Brace agrees. “DIY-ing can be an awesome way to save money on smaller home improvements, but there are a multitude of reasons why homeowners should consider professional assistance when tackling a big project.” Or any project, for that matter, which could ultimately turn dangerous or costly.

“When the project is something that is structurally integral to your home, turn to someone who is more skilled and knows the tricks of the trade,” says Toal. Taking down a wall or beam to create a more open floor plan is a great idea (home improvement shows are famous for doing this) but only if that wall or beam is not a support piece that’s holding up the house.

A trade pro can tell you whether or not you’re dealing with a structural support and, if so, how to achieve your design goal without compromising the stability and safety of your home. Place your trust with the experts.

Not Just Any “Pro” Will Do

“Doing research and making certain your professional of choice is reputable is essential to successful home improvement,” says Toal. “Do a little digging beforehand and make sure the team you’re hiring is worth your money.”

ProSource trade pro members are just that: pros. We can help you connect with qualified contractors and experts in your local area, and give you a glimpse into the amazing work they do. Start your project online and you’ll have one place in which to gather design inspiration, find high-quality products at wholesale prices, create a budget, and get real-time updates from your professional.

DIY Can Save Money… If  You Don’t Mess Up

Eliminating labor costs by doing it yourself can save you big bucks. But that 25 to 50 percent savings is worthless if you mess up. “Mistakes can require do-overs and cause wallets to empty,” says interior designer Dani Newport-Baker of Lars Remodeling and Design.

“When doing the math, keep in mind that contractors can often purchase materials at a much lower cost than individual homeowners, plus they already own the required tools,” she says. “Warranty is also another thing to consider. When something breaks, who will you call? If you hired a professional to do the work for you, he or she should stand behind his or her work.”

Consider the following, which compares the installation for 100 square feet of various materials by a contractor versus installing it on your own. The DIY estimates take into consideration the purchase or rental of equipment at an home improvement retailer, such as a chalk line, wet saw, or drill.

  • Wood flooring: Contractor installation $350 vs. DIY installation $1,050
  • Laminate flooring: Contractor installation $300 vs. DIY installation $750
  • Luxury Vinyl Tile flooring: Contractor installation $140 vs. DIY installation $500
  • Ceramic Tile flooring: Contractor installation $500 vs. DIY installation $900

Not only will you spend more to install it yourself, you’ll also be without a warranty through your contractor. And we won’t even mention how much of the time you invested in the project could have been spent doing something else. (Okay, we mentioned it…)

Time Is Money, Too

Money isn’t the only factor to consider when deciding whether or not to DIY. “The research, shopping, and physical labor involved in a home improvement project adds up,” says Newport-Baker. “If you can commit six hours a week to a 48-hour project, then you should prepare to spend up to eight weeks living in a construction zone.”

Trade professionals, on the other hand, have the time and the connections. “A hired contractor can work on your project all day and have access to subcontractors who can help them achieve a faster completion.”
 
Home Improvement Projects Come In Both Big And Small Sizes

Not every DIY involves a major renovation. Many smaller projects – updating electrical or plumbing fixtures, for example – are tempting to do on your own but still have the potential to be disastrous. You could get hurt or put your family in danger.

“You don’t know what you don’t know,” warns Stephan Sardone, owner of Sardone Construction in Dallas. It’s possible that you’ll encounter problems that you are unable to fix or adjust on your own, like a water valve that won’t completely shut off, ancient electrical wiring, or dangerous mold or asbestos.

Electrical outlets can prove especially challenging for the average homeowner. “Replacing electrical outlets should never be DIY,” says Toms. “When you notice that old and worn outlets no longer hold prongs, you may be tempted to replace them on your own,” says Nathanael Toms, owner of Mr. Electric of Southwest Missouri. “But any outlets that do not work properly can be very dangerous and should be handled by an electrician.”

It’s the context, not the size, of the project that matters. “In the end, you will find yourself having to hire a pro to fix the damage you uncovered (or caused),” cautions Sardone, “and that means you will not have saved any money but rather spent more than what you budgeted.”

When You Just Have To Scratch That DIY Itch

If you just have to get the DIY bug out of your system, consider low-risk projects that won’t create havoc on critical parts of your home. Explain to your contractor that you’re willing to do some painting, demolition, or cleanup to help defray costs.

And leave the dangerous jobs to the professionals!

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