When a Little DIY is a Big NO

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Many homeowners pride themselves on their abilities to take care of their own home. And there is no shame in this! Nothing is more satisfying than finishing a project that you have done yourself, accomplished with your own two hands, worked through by the sweat of your brow. You now have the bragging rights of having done that yourself. And... if it looks good, you get to brag all the more!

Doing a project on your own is the right of any homeowner. Many individuals learned "fix-it" skills from their grandparents or parents and are quite handy with a hammer and drill. In fact, if it weren't for the demands of the "nine-to-five" a lot of people would rather be pounding a nail than a computer keyboard. So, yes... here's to the Weekend Warriors who accomplish many great things with their homes!

Save Your Money... Right?

If you're thinking what I'm thinking, then you're probably saying, "Why would I ever hire someone to do a job that I'm perfectly capable of doing myself?" A very fair question indeed. And, if we were to be truly honest, do we really trust someone to do as good of a job as we would do ourselves?

Maybe you think that hiring a professional means shady contractors, shotty work, and overpriced labor. In some instances, you'd be correct. We've all heard the horror stories of contracting jobs gone bad, and no one wants that to happen to them. Couple the risk of a bad contractor with the fact that you're capable of doing the work, and you've got the perfect reason to just Do-It-Yourself!

But, before you jump on the DIY bandwagon, you need to assess a couple factors.

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Be Reasonable About Your Time

How big is the project in relation to your spare time? How urgent is the need for completion? Is your timeline the same as your partner's timeline? Perhaps you don't mind taking eighteen weekends to finish your basement, but have you considered that your better half wants it done yesterday? And, what will it do to family relations that you will be spending every weekend for the next umpteen weekends working on that basement?

Honestly think about it. You will have to take weekends off for family functions and other obligations. You will need to spend time with your immediate family on occasion - just so they remember what you look like. Trust me when I say this - other members of the household will NOT appreciate the never-ending project. Is it worth the tension and discord? Is it worth your absence?

Be Reasonable About Your Skills

Did I really just say that? Am I questioning your skills? Never! Okay... maybe a little. You have to be honest about what you're working with. Are you comfortable with the electrical that this job will require? What about the extent of plumbing? What's your drywall look like? A little lumpy? Do you measure twice and cut once? Or are you cutting so many pieces the lumberman loves to see you coming?

Let's not forget the tools. Some tasks really need specialized tools. Of course, many serious "collectors" have a lot of these tools in their home garage, but not everyone does. Compound miter saws, pneumatic nail guns, and hammer drills are very handy but may not even be on your wish list let alone on your tool shelf. Having these items to complete certain tasks will make a difference in the finished look - the difference between professional and homemade.

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Be Reasonable About Your Contractor

So let's just say, for argument's sake, you decide to hire a contractor. You need your bathroom remodeled. You need it done in a timely manner, and you don't have the PEX tools required to upgrade all your plumbing. This is uncharted territory for you, and you don't like it. You can ask friends and family for referrals, and you can check sites like Angie's List and Home Advisor for contractors with reviews.

Because you're going to be picky, you're going to have to do some legwork. Only call the contractors who come highly recommended (either online or by someone you know). It may be a pain, but schedule several contractors to look at your project. Compare estimates, but don't necessarily go with the cheapest. Consider the contractors themselves. Who presented themselves the best? Who seemed the most knowledgeable? Who was the most professional and made you feel the most at ease? You'll have to work closely with this individual, so choosing based on the low-ball isn't wise.

Once you've hired the professional, let him do his job. Please, I beg you, don't be that micromanaging client who questions and criticizes every detail. You have every right to monitor the progress and look for anything that may not be in line with your expectations. Always communicate openly with your contractor if you have concerns. Give him an opportunity to fix mistakes. Ask for quality and high standards. Don't demand perfection - that's just not feasible.

Finally, when the job is well done, give credit where credit is due. Nothing can boost a business more than a positive review on a website. Take time to leave feedback on Angie's List. If they have a Home Advisor profile, leave a review there, too. When friends ask, remember your contractor and drop their name.

Reap the Benefits

Although the DIY game has its appeal, it is not without its headaches. Some of us would be lost if we didn't have a DIY project going, but some of us need to shorten that list. You deserve to enjoy a home with completed projects, and you don't need those to-do's hanging over your head for years. Hiring the right contractor and achieving great results is very doable. Don't dread the thought of working with someone else, welcome it. Communicate openly with whomever you hire - they will appreciate you for it. In the end, you can enjoy your new space without breaking your back to get there. A very wise decision indeed.

Wendy Harris

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