DIY versus Contractors

(Article by Lisa H)

If you’re looking to do up your home, either to add value or because you’re getting ready to put it on the market, you might be weighing up the pros and cons of doing it yourself versus getting a contractor in.

The choice can simply be a case of matching the project’s difficulty levels with your own level of skills and making a decision, right? Well, that line of thinking is a good starting point but you will need to consider other factors before you decide whether to pick up the telephone or pick up the hammer. 

Let’s take a look at a few guidelines that can help you to figure out when it pays to do it yourself and when your good intentions may just do damage to your property, your wallet or yourself!

Hiring a Contractor

  • What happens if you decide to tackle the task yourself and you make the problem worse? Carefully consider your project and identify the worst-case scenario. Failed DIY attempts all too often end up costing a lot of extra cash and the risk of doing it yourself may be just too high.
  • Sure, you could Google how to do it or look it up in a book and that looks easy. Too many people convince themselves that DIY projects are within their skillset based on a tutorial. Yes, tutorials are rather textbook-like in their approach but what happens when you face a real-life hurdle? Your knowledge may just not be sufficient enough.
  • Just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean you should. A high-quality contractor comes with experience, thoroughness and precision and this means that a professional can create home improvements that last much longer than an average DIY result.

DIY Trouble

There are some common projects that are sure you get DIYers into trouble. Take a look at these:

  • Fence installations. All too often people are focused on the labor necessary to dig and set the fence posts and they end up neglecting the more subtle, but rather critical, components of fence installation. Things like making assumptions about property lines; not sinking the fence posts deep enough and using the wrong fasteners can dramatically shorten the lifespan of a fence. You could even land up facing lawsuits from the neighbors.
  • Drywall repairs. This repair is often thought of as easy to do but that’s not the case. You need a surprising amount of finesse to spread joint compound! And most people tend to overlook just how much drywall dust can infiltrate the house. Additionally, water-related drywall damage can result in DIYers neglecting larger, underlying problems.
  • Re-grouting tiles. Sure, the manuals make it sound simple enough, but re-grouting tiles takes a great deal of precision and patience. For example, you need to completely remove existing grout, mix the new grout correctly without getting too little or too much moisture into the mixture and then apply the grout. You then need to very carefully squeegee the tiles clean so there is no “grout haze” and reapply in places where the grout inevitably shrank during the drying process. Phew! 

If these steps have you questioning your confidence with re-grouting, this may not be the right DIY job for you and it’s probably time to call in the contractor.

The Easy DIY 

And then there are those who call in the contractor for simple tasks a DIYer could definitely do. 

  • Door installation. This is an easy one and you can save money doing it yourself. Ensure that your doorframe isn’t warped and out of square – as long as it’s in a decent condition, you can purchase a pre-finished and pre-assembled door that only necessitates the most basic carpentry skills to install.
  • Caulking. It’s really easy to learn the basics of caulking and doing so can pay off in a number of areas around the house. You could seal your windows to get rid of drafts and save energy. You could protect your toilet, sink and bathtub from water infiltration. But do be careful of trapping water behind a caulked seal.
  • Hot water tank insulation. You can reduce your water heating bill in other ways as opposed to just turning down the geyser. Water tank insulation kits make installing your own geyser insulation blanket a couple of hour’s project. This is can also reduce water heating costs by a decent 10%.

And Finally

If you need to call in a contractor but you’re worried about shoddy workmanship or being ripped off, the answer isn’t necessarily DIY! It might be about taking the time to interview a couple of prospective contractors for the job. Find the ones willing to go the extra mile. 

If you think your project is DIY’able, research is thoroughly before starting!

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