“If I do it myself, I can save money, get it done quicker and get it done right! Furthermore, I don’t have to deal with ‘those’ contractors who are never on time and always over budget.”
This is the Holy Grail of the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) project. How much is real and how much is myth? Let’s take a look.
In our experience with San Antonio property management, not many more than one out of ten DIYers really have the skills needed to do the job. You should be honest with yourself, take the time to think about the various tasks involved in the project you are considering an ask yourself if you really have the skills to accomplish those tasks. If you don’t, do you have access to someone who does? If you don’t, the successful outcome of your project is already at risk. Unless you have an unlimited supply of time and patience, you should not use a DIY project as an opportunity to learn a new skill.
Also, one day (or shorter) workshops, such as those provided by many of the building materials retailers, are not enough to adequately learn the skills you need. DIY books are not much help either. There is just no substitute for thorough training and experience.
Do you have enough spare time to get the project done? DIY projects always take more time than you expect, usually at least two or three times more. If you have a deadline to finish your project, be very liberal with how much time you set aside to get it done. Otherwise; one, you won’t get it done on time; two, you will compromise the quality of the results to get it done; three, you will suffer the emotional stress of facing a challenging deadline or; four, all of the above!
Do you know how to handle power tools and construction equipment safely? Today there are many, many types of tools available, many of which can be quite dangerous if not used by a trained technician. We know of injuries resulting from misused power nailers (one person nailed his foot to the floor, another “shot” a co-worker when he missed the stud he was aiming for) and careless use of power saws (the examples here are easy to imagine).
Also, do you understand and have available the appropriate safety equipment such as eye protection, hearing protection, breathing filters, gloves, etc.? Are you willing to use this safety equipment? Unfortunately, the DIY urge often goes hand in hand with the macho self-image and reasonable safety standards are ignored. Even the most well-intended DIY project is not important enough to risk your personal safety.
Do you know what building codes apply to the project you are about to undertake? A simple repair project probably won’t require a building permit but most other projects will. Have you talked to your local municipal building inspector or code enforcement officer about the requirements of your project?
Does your project include any excavation? If so, most states now require that a check be done first to determine if there is anything underground that might be affected by your excavation. Without proper authorization, excavation may be illegal.
Do you understand how the structure works in your home? One well-intended DIYer removed a wall to enlarge a room only to discover that the floor above was supported by that wall and it began to collapse!
It is important to be sure that your work is in compliance with local regulations. Otherwise, the value of your home may be seriously diminished when you decide to sell and non-compliant activities are discovered.
Things will go wrong. Unexpected things will come up. The caution that comes with experience helps guide many projects to successful completion. Are you willing to assume that things will go wrong and prepare for them? To assume that nothing will go wrong is taking a big risk. Here are just a few examples:
- A “simple” painting project discovered some rot in the wall of an older house. The result, an extensive reconstruction project.
- A “simple” plumbing project discovered some deteriorating copper pipe. The result, a major re-plumbing project.
- Improper use of some rented excavating equipment resulted in damage to the neighbor’s house and car. The result, expensive repairs, and damaged neighborhood relations.
- …and on, and on.
So, Where Does That Leave You?
If you do it yourself, will you get it done cheaper? Maybe, but to do so typically assumes that you do not assign any value to your own time. That is a choice you can make. But the wisdom of your choice depends on the relative importance of the other ways you might spend your time.
If you do it yourself, will you get it done better? Maybe, but unless you are both skilled and experienced, it is unlikely. If you do it yourself, will you get it done quicker? Maybe, but don’t forget to allow for the unexpected when you set your schedule.
From your extensive experience with building contractors, we realize that many building contractors are not always reliable and easy to work with. We also realize that when even working with the best contractors, budgets, and schedules can be a problem. However, most of the time, the contractor who has been in business for at least five years or more understands how to get projects done and the regulations that apply. He or she is also accountable for his or her work.
If you are among the talented few who truly do have the skill to complete a satisfactory project and you have the time, by all means do it. A well-done project can be very satisfying. However, if you have any doubts, you should consult a professional.