4 Things to Consider when Determining to DIY or Hire Out

If you are thinking about undertaking some home improvement projects, you have probably already debated whether to hire out the work to a contractor or simply Do It Yourself (DIY).
This question has been a dilemma for homeowners for as long as we can remember. Should you hit the hardware store, roll up your sleeves and transform your home on the cheap, or should you pull out your pocketbook and get some professionals in?
Of course, there are many people out there who feel very confident in their DIY abilities, but there are also others who are less ambitious yet still want to save money.
In truth, there are many cases where DIY may be easier than you first expect. There are, however, other occasions when getting a licensed contractor in will not only save you time and trouble but could also save you and your property from serious damage.
In this article, we take a look at 4 things you should consider when determining whether to DIY or hire out for your next project.

1. Budget

The biggest benefit of undertaking your home improvement project by yourself is how much money you will save. Handy work that you complete yourself will usually be much cheaper than hiring in a professional to do it for you. This is because you will be paying for someone else’s labor time when you could be doing it yourself for free.

When considering whether to hire out or go DIY, though, you should consider whether saving some extra dollars in your budget is ultimately worth it. Complex jobs may end up costing you more if you choose to DIY without considering all the potentially expensive pitfalls along the way. A contractor will be able to tell you exactly what can be achieved within your budget and will be experienced enough to know how to avoid any expensive problems.

The scope of the project will determine what equipment and tools will be required. When going it alone, it is worth bearing in mind the additional cost of buying or hiring the tools needed to do the job right. If you need to purchase or rent expensive heavy-duty tools for a long period, you may find you aren’t really saving much money in the long term by choosing to DIY.

That said, if you have a smaller budget and want to use a contractor, there are still ways you can save money. One of the best ways is to do some of the unskilled work yourself. For example, instead of paying your contractor their hourly rate to buy materials at the hardware store, you can pick up the supplies yourself. Minor items such as screws, paint and adhesives can be easily sourced. By doing this part yourself you save paying them to do it for you as well as any potential mark up on the materials that the contractor may apply.

With regard to more substantial materials like bricks, cement and wood, however, you should get a materials quote from the contractor first. This is because contractors often have their own industry contacts and trade accounts that can offer a better price than you will be able to source.

You can also cut corners on the cost by collecting and disposing of waste yourself. All projects, no matter how big or small, will create waste. Instead of having the contractor charge you waste removal fees, you can simply collect the waste and transport it to the garbage center in your own time.

2. Safety

Safety should be one of your top considerations when deciding whether to hire out or DIY. You need to be honest with yourself about your skills and expertise for the project you wish to work on: are you truly confident you can do it without hurting yourself or anyone else?

Minor projects like painting, varnishing, replacing cracked tiles or changing a faucet are unlikely to be outside of your abilities. But if the project is bigger and more complex than this, you should think about whether or not it is something you can really handle by yourself.

Projects that will include electrical and gas work, window replacement, structural and roofing work or HVAC installation and repairs, should definitely be performed by a professional. This is so you can avoid any risk of death, serious injury, illness or significant damage to your home if this work is done incorrectly.

The clearest sign that a project is out of your depth and requires a contractor is if the work needs a building permit. This permit shows that the work has been completed to the standards required to ensure safety. The city in which you live will have its own rules and regulations regarding which projects need permits, the permit price and how straightforward it is to attain one.

In some areas, you will simply not be allowed to have a permit unless you are working with a licensed contractor, while others will allow you to have a permit even though you will be doing it DIY. Regardless, our advice would be that if any project requires a permit, it would certainly be wise to leave the work to the professionals.

3. Timeline

With some projects, especially those you’re doing for fun, the timeline may not be so important. This is great if you’re DIYing, as going it alone almost always means the project will take much longer to complete. If there’s no looming deadline, you can truly take your time and enjoy the transformation process.

On the other hand, if you need to get your project completed within a certain timeframe, say, before a baby arrives, you may be better off considering going with a contractor.

Contractors run to a pretty tight schedule. They have to get the job done by the time expected and move onto their next client. Contractors also have all the working hours in the day to focus upon your project (it is their job, after all).

In contrast, DIY’ers often find that life simply gets in the way. Another important family or work task rears its head and before you know it, you haven’t made any progress for yet another day. Days roll into weeks, weeks into months, and sometimes even months into years, and still your project is half-completed.
Also, if you’re DIY’ing, you may be less prepared for unexpected obstacles that can pop up during the project and demand further time, work and expense before it can be completed. Contractors will generally be familiar with these potential obstacles and should have planned for them to avoid any hiccups reaching the deadline.
You need to consider the urgency of the project you are proposing. If you have time to complete the project at your leisure, and feel no urgency to get it done, DIY could work for you. If, though, you have a hard deadline by which to get your project completed, it may be best to get professional help onboard.

4. Opportunity Cost

Similar to timeline considerations, opportunity cost regards the value of time. More specifically – your time.

Of course, when you decide to go and DIY your project, you will save money by avoiding the fees for a contractor. But what about the value of the time you will be spending on the project? How much do you think your time is really worth?

For the greater majority of people, DIY is an activity that can only take place outside of day job hours. This usually means spending your evenings, weekends and holidays breaking a sweat trying to get things done. It may seem like a great idea at first, but if it is a big project, you may find yourself soon getting tired of missing out on quality time with your kids or loved ones. When working on a project is relegated to evenings and weekends, many people find their enthusiasm wanes quickly. This is how people end up with a half-finished project that remains that way for years to come.

If you don’t have much else to be spending your free time on, and you find the result of your hours spent on DIY just as rewarding as saving money, then go for it. If you have a family to think about or a busy work schedule, however, it may be best for you to ‘buy their time’ to save yours.
One trick that may help you decide is to divide the money you will save, by the number of hours you think it will take you to complete the project by yourself. The resulting figure is essentially your ‘hourly rate’.
For example, if a contractor will cost $480, and you think the project will take you about 36 hours to complete: $480/36 = $13.33 per hour.
You then need to work out whether that is a rate you would be happy to work for, or if you would rather enjoy your free time and hire a contractor in to do it for you.

Final Thoughts

As this article has shown, there is much to think about before deciding whether to tackle your home improvement projects by yourself.
Ultimately, unless the project involves electricals, gas or other dangerous systems, it is up to you to gauge your skill, budget and free time to decide if it is something you can accomplish alone.
Of course, many projects can be feasibly accomplished as DIY, and it can be a very rewarding and satisfying experience for homeowners. On the other hand, life has a real habit of getting in the way, and if you don’t know what you’re doing, your dream renovation can turn into a real nightmare.
Overall, considering whether to DIY or hire out all depends on your unique situation and expertise. Having read our guide, we hope you now feel better advised as to which route to take.