Should I Do Renovation Work Myself?


Difficult question. If you listen to all the DIY shows you should definitely do it yourself! If you listen to my version of the DDIY show entitled don’t do it yourself, you definitely should not.

The best way to determine if you should actually perform the work yourself, is to ask yourself a number of questions;

1.) Do I need to perform the work myself for personal pride? What are the issues that instill you to perform the work yourself? Is there a personal reason why, such as emotion, the need to prove that you are capable, or is it the need within yourself to prove your worth?

2.) Do I need to perform the work due to a money issue, and there is no money in the budget to hire an outsider to accomplish the task? In some instances, money can actually be saved, by performing the work yourself. However, there is the possibility that if the work is not performed adequately, as a do it yourself project, you will have to have a professional contractor perform the work, a second time. In addition, does the amount of money saved, equal the aggravation and anxiety of performing the work yourself.

3.) Are you socially forced into performing the work yourself? Does your family expect you to be the handyman, like your brother in law, or is there an ego issue within the family, regarding projects performed by the individual. There are even social expectations at work that cause individuals to perform the work themselves. Fellow workers come into the office on a Monday morning, showing off the blisters that developed over the weekend due to the do it yourself project they are performing. Does the comparison of blister sizes influence the your need to perform the work yourself?

4.) Are you embarrassed to allow an outsider to perform the work? Maybe your home is an embarrassment to you. Is there a reason, other than the need to perform the work yourself, that makes you more comfortable if you perform the work without the prying eyes of a stranger? Do you something to hide in the home, are you afraid of someone stealing your jewels or noticing the marijuana plants growing in the back yard?

5.) Are you politically forced to perform the work yourself? Is there pressure from a work situation, such as, if you work for a painting company and you feel that you have to perform the painting yourself. Is there a reason, due to your position in the community or your personal comments at social gatherings, that would sway you toward performing the work yourself.

6.) Do you simply enjoy working, and taking pride of ownership in the work? It may be as simple as ” I like to work ” . There is nothing wrong with performing the work simply because you enjoy it.

Once you have asked yourself the six questions just summarized, you must make a decision financially whether you should perform this work. The following analytical steps should be taken;

1.) Analyze the amount of material that will be required. This should be done by checking the big box stores pricing and identifying how they sell the products. Once the measurement unit is established, such as board feet, linear feet, square feet, weight, etc. then the measuring of the material required should be done. Remember,that in most cases, another 10% of the total material should be added to the material order to ensure enough material is purchased for waste or pattern matching.

2.) Try to analyze the time that the project will require. This is difficult for the lay person to perform. To analyze the time, you must have some gage of how many hours the work will require. Unfortunately, this is difficult if you have never perform the work. The best way to analyze the time, is to clearly think about each separate item and how long each separate item will require. For example, if the room requires painting, visualize painting one wall of the room. Literally, think about mobilizing the paint, ladders, etc. How long will it take to tape the trim, and remove the wall plates, etc. Once you have analyzed the preparation, think of yourself as painting the wall.   If the wall is 12 feet long and 8 feet high assume that this is 100 square feet of wall. It is actually 96 square feet, but to round off is fine. Once the time period to paint the wall is identified, then measure the remaining walls. Take the square footage calculation you performed on the sample wall, and use this rate of painting for the entire room. for example if it took you 30 minutes to paint the 100 square feet of wall, simply calculate the remaining time required to finish the remaining square footage. This will help you analyze the time it will take to paint the room. Don’t forget the cleanup time as well as the time to re-install the switch plates, etc.

3.) Establish a rate of pay that you feel you are worth. This is not the rate of pay that you think a painter would charge. This is the rate of pay that you are actually loosing, due to the fact that you are painting a room and not performing your own business skill. In many cases, the do it yourselfer is performing the work on days off or the weekend, however, just to get an approximation of the labor value, this is an excellent way to identify the cost.

4.) Finally add the material and the labor cost together, to anticipate what the project is worth to you, as a do it yourselfer.

5.) If the time allows, try to obtain some quotes for the work that you are considering performing yourself. This will allow you to judge the value of the work, if performed by yourself and the value of the work as performed by others. Do not obtain one quote, this will be of no value because one quote does not qualify to identify the cost of the project.

Once you have answered, honestly, the first set of questions, and then analytically identified the total value of the project, there are a few other questions that you should consider.

1.) Is the physical time available, to perform the work yourself? Although it appears easy and efficient when watching on your favorite DIY network, it will not be. You will be involved with a long learning curve, as well as additional time to fix your errors. The time required to perform the do it yourself work will be the longest, the first time. The time involved will decrease as your experience and knowledge increase. This is the reason that the professionals, as well as the DIY actors, can accomplish the task in a practical amount of time. If you are just learning, triple the time. You will not have the same number of takes that the DIY actors have to perform the task.

2.) Do you have the personality to accomplish the task, without the need to visit a psychiatrist? The effort, coupled with the frustration of learning a new skill and performing it, requires the proper personality. If you are used to success, and efficient use of your time, it might be time to reconsider. A first time do it yourself project will probably not be 100% successful and it will not be performed efficiently.

3.) Will the people around you accept the fact that you are practicing and learning? The individuals that will be effected by your mess, your work attempts, and the overall result of your do it yourself project, will they accept all the issues? If not, it simply is not worth the effort. A do it yourself project is not worth any negative results with love ones, friends or neighbors.

4.) Will you accept the final outcome? If you are installing a sink and it continues to leak, will you be able to accept that situation? If the floor tile starts to buckle or move, will you accept the result and fix it yourself? If the kitchen cabinets don’t perfectly line up and install perfectly, without spacers, etc., are you ok with that? The outcome of a do it yourself project in most cases will not be the same result as hiring a professional contractor. Is this OK?

The romantic notion of the do it yourself movement, is in many cases a fantasy notion. The skill of a kitchen contractor who has installed hundreds of kitchens, will not be matched by the do it yourselfer. The abilities associated with flooring, masonry, etc., due to experience and knowledge, will not be equaled by the do it yourselfer.

Yes, there are activities that can be accomplished by the do it yourselfer that can complement the work of skilled contractors. For example, the demolition of the existing kitchen can be done by yourself. The cleanup on a masonry project, or the daily cleanup on a major construction project are elements that the do it yourselfer can accomplish, with basically the same ability as the professionals. Listed below are a number of activities that can complement the professional contractor, and be accomplished by the do it yourselfer.

1.) Preparation, such as removal of curtains, removal of furniture, covering adjacent spaces, etc.

2.) Demolition, such as the removal of old kitchen cabinets, the removal of old flooring, ceilings, etc. The walls I would hesitate due to the structural knowledge required to properly demo these types of structural components.

3.) Clean up, daily or final. Every construction job requires cleanup. This can be a necessary element, that you can perform yourself, whether it is on a daily basis or as a final cleanup.

4.) Bull work, meaning the movement of materials into the project, the removal of extra building materials out of the project, etc.

Should I do the work myself, or not, is a question that will have a long standing outcome. Once you have decided to perform the work yourself, the door has been opened. If you fail to complete the work, or if the final result is not what you expected, the fix can be quite costly. No professional contractor is happy accepting a project, after a non professional has attempted to perform the work themselves. The fix is in many cases, more expensive than the original project.

Although this discussion does appear to be negative, in regard to the do it yourselfers, I am a professional contractor. Therefore, I am sure that I am bias regarding that issue.

If you make the decision to perform the work yourself, good luck and stay calm!!

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