2021 was my first year. I bought an 1885-year-old shack of a house sight unseen with the intention of restoring its former glory. I have completed three rooms restorations and several smaller projects in less than two years.
DIY home improvements can be very cost-effective, but it’s not the only reason to get involved. According to NerdWallet’s Home Improvement Report, one in four homeowners have taken on DIY home improvements over the past two year because they enjoy doing this type of work. I am one of them. My dad, an ex-teacher of industrial arts (shop class), school administrator and hobbyist carpenter, instilled this passion in me early on. I joke that I am the only child I know who built her Barbie house. It was a one-bedroom blue ranch.
My current house is about 100 years older than the one I lived in before it. The only jobs I paid for professional were the most urgent and major: a new roof, demolition and installation of heating and cooling systems, as well as the time my oak floor outside my bedroom cracked and opened into the dirt crawl space. There are many DIY projects that I have undertaken, including removing wallpaper, popcorn ceiling, and skimm coating walls and ceilings, restoring and replacing trim work, rewiring push button light switches and old light fixtures, and stripping and restoring an existing mantle.
Most of the time, I spend as much time planning these projects as I do executing them. The first step in deciding if it makes sense to do it yourself is to decide if I can afford to. Every time, I tend to say “yes, it does,” It can be costly to hire a professional when you would have been better off hiring one.
Note: You might be tempted to compare the costs of a DIY kitchen remodel with those of a professional renovation using an online tool. These tools can be used to give you a rough idea of what to expect, but they are not intended to provide an exact estimate of how much you will spend or save. Surveys from the U.S. Census Bureau and others have shown that typical project costs don’t include project specifications. While DIYers may be saving money, it is possible that they are choosing less expensive materials and completing smaller projects. These estimates don’t always reflect a specific location and can vary across the country.
Before you put on your safety glasses and get to work, be sure to consider these three factors.
It all depends on what I know and what I can learn. You can learn almost anything online these days, but you really want to learn how well it can be done, and with little chance of making mistakes.
Talk to someone who has done this type of work before. You don’t need a friend who has a DIY resume to help you. Instead, ask a few contractors to come out and give estimates. These visits can be used as an opportunity for information gathering. Ask them about the process, permits, risks, and who will be involved. The visit can be used for multiple purposes: it will help you to understand the level of skill required, what permits might be needed, what could go wrong and how much they would charge.
If you don’t have any other options, don’t rely on strangers or polished websites for this information. If that is the case, you should gather multiple sources to reach a consensus. Even though a website may convey a level of difficulty of 3 out of 4, the step-by-step instructions with well-edited photographs won’t show the extent of the mess and cursing that could go into the final product.
Although it may take longer for contractors to start a project, there is no doubt that you will be taking longer to complete the actual work. It can be hard to predict how long it will take. To avoid disappointment, set a goal date instead of setting a deadline. It is common for home improvement projects to take longer than expected. It can lead to sloppy work if you rush.
You can break down the project into manageable pieces and estimate the time it will take to complete them all.
It is a good idea to consider how the time will impact your daily life. For example, the inconvenience caused by a four-to six-week-long project in your bathroom is justifiable to hire a professional to speed up the process.
My life is simple and I live alone in a big house. The time it took to restore an additional bedroom didn’t significantly impact my daily life. My schedule would not be affected if my nephew was playing in a baseball tournament. When I was tasked with the restoration of my home office I did not have the same flexibility. I wanted to be back at work as soon as possible and not at the table for Zoom meetings.
I plan to renovate my kitchen in the next few years. I will be using professionals because time is a constraint. To limit the time I cook dinner in my laundry room microwave, I will pay a premium.
According to the Home Improvement Report survey, 15% of homeowners who have taken on DIY projects in the past two years claimed they did so because it was cheaper than hiring a professional. However, if you don’t weigh these two factors properly — time and ability — your DIY project could end up costing more than hiring skilled labor. It could be difficult to do it yourself because it is cheaper.
Calculate the base project cost
This is about tools and materials. Make a list, and get prices. Your tools can be as basic as a few rollers and paintbrushes depending on the scope of the project. However, if you are tackling more complex projects, equipment costs can quickly rise. (And paint isn’t cheap these days.
Consider borrowing a tool if you have a need for it. Even though I have quite a large collection, I still need to have the right tool at times. If I use the tool repeatedly, I might buy it. If it’s a very special tool, I will borrow it from my family or rent it from the hardware store. You can rent any type of power tool from a large-box hardware store.
Knowing that I would have to do a lot of work, I spent quite a bit of money on power tools in my first year of living here. I also purchased them as I needed. Now that I have the tools, my project costs are mostly materials. I can see significant savings over hiring professionals.
Add a buffer to your budget
You can bet your costs will rise. Prices go up, you forget things, or you accidentally cut a hole in the wall while aggressively demolishing. You should have a buffer of 20 %.
Sketch your funding plans
You can probably pay cash for a small project if it is not too costly. According to NerdWallet’s survey, 42% of homeowners who had taken on home improvement and repair projects in the past two years were able to easily pay for them without having to tap savings or go into debt. If your project is more expensive, you should carefully evaluate your options for financing home improvements and the costs.
Use to determine the project cost and how long it will take you to pay it off.
If you require the full amount upfront, it may be worth using an existing credit card. To save interest and protect your credit rating from the negative effects of high utilization, it’s a good idea to quickly pay off the balance.
A new credit card that offers an introductory interest-free period may give you more time to pay.
Personal loans can be fast and provide extended repayment terms.
Although you may be able to tap your home equity to get credit, it will take longer to fund and have lower interest rates. It’s best to use your home equity for larger projects or balances that you will need time to repay.
Create an ‘oh crud’ plan
You can make a decision based on your capabilities and have a plan in place. However, it is possible to need to hire someone to fix your mistakes. If the worst happens, having a plan will help you move quickly. You should know who to contact and what you will do if the worst happens.
My main floor bathroom is currently being remodeled. I am adding new fixtures, paint and ceiling upgrades. I discovered some problems when I removed the 1980s-style light fixture to make room for a newer one. I also knew that it would be necessary to cut into the drywall and update the wiring. These tasks could increase the risk factor for a high-stakes project with holiday guests right around the corner. You could watch enough YouTube to find out. Probably. However, I would rather have a few hours of skilled labor from someone else for this task.