DIY Home Renovation Realities: Why It Could Pay to Hire a Professional

Thursday, January 17, 2013 10:50:00 AM

I hate to admit this, but I spend an inordinate amount of time watching shows like This Old House and Renovation Realities, which in turn inflates my renovation ego so much that I believe I can strap on a tool belt, gut my kitchen and build a new one in two days.

DIY Home Renovation RealitiesIn the real word, I’ve never used a power saw and my measuring skills are about as strong as a cup of watered down diner coffee. Thus, a renovation expert I’m not. I know this deep down; but still, for some reason, I want to gut and build.

If you’re like me, a home reno wannabe with sub-par skills but lofty renovation dreams,  you might want to give some serious thought as to whether you can afford to renovate without help or if you should toss in the hammer and hire a pro. Renovating on your own when you aren’t an expert in the field could lead to more expenses than you would encounter if you hired a contractor in the first place.

Don’t believe me? Below, I’ve found several real life examples that show just how wrong a DIY home renovation project can go. (And they aren’t pretty!) While some people are skilled enough to tackle a kitchen demo and rebuild, others might want to leave the work to the pros.

An Illinois man takes too long to finish renovations; his neighbors, fed-up with the long term renovations, sue.

Problem: How long will it really take you to get the job done?


Complete kitchen renovationIf there is one thing I’ve learned from watching Renovation Realities, it’s that many homeowners underestimate the amount of time they’ll need to complete a renovation project. They take off a week and need four. Several estimates I’ve read state project completion time is underestimated by about twenty five percent! While that may not sound excessive if a bedroom overhaul should take four days and takes six, consider a kitchen redo that takes four weeks instead of three. The extra days, weeks and months (and years in the case of the Illinois man) require added mess around the home and yard, extra banging and buzzing, and potentially more days off from work. In the meantime, your neighbors will be required to listen and watch the renovation unfold; and you will be required to continue to work to see the project to completion. Before tackling your project solo, do this: Estimate how long it will take you to finish the job and then add twenty-five percent. Do you have that kind of time to spend on the job? Will this mean a loss of time with family, friends or work? Will you infuriate the neighbors with the mess around your property? And can you afford a longer than anticipated project?

Speaking of affording that project, let’s look at a renovation in terms of lost wages from work. Here’s a financial example: You make $25 per hour at your forty-hour a week job. You tackle the renovations, run into problems you aren’t certain how to fix and are forced to take an additional week off to complete the job, sans pay. You’re also required to then pay someone to fix the problems you couldn’t. This equates to $1,000 and up of lost wages and the professional’s fee. (Problem: The cost of the project goes well beyond what you anticipated and what it would have run had you hired a pro). Since your paycheck is likely footing the renovation bill, can you afford to miss additional work if you need more time? What happens if you tear down a wall only to find additional problems you aren’t sure how to handle, such as plumbing in need of updating? When I consider ‘doing it myself’, I try to look at it this way: How much is the time I’m going to need to invest in the project worth in terms of an hourly rate. Would it be cheaper in the long run to hire and pay a professional, who can probably work two or three times faster than I, than to do it myself? If you lose $1,000 in wages due to missed work, would it have cost about that much to hire a professional, get it done more quickly and not have to deal with the aggravation in the process? If so, you’d be better doing the small jobs you can handle on your own and leaving the heavy work to the pros.

You attempt to frame a pocket door and end up with a three inch nail in your wrist. (True story, see the video below!)  Or you ‘forget’ to turn off the electricity during renovations and set the house on fire or, worse, wind up among the 200 people on average each year that die from home electrocutions. (Problem: You set off to fix up your place and end up in bed with a mound of medical bills by your side.) I’m not an alarmist, but I do know this: Tragic accidents happen to good people every day, and they happen quickly. If you really don’t know what you are doing when using power tools, ripping up walls, or putting up new ones, you could get hurt; and we all know how expensive medical bills can be. Take a look at Avoid Dying While DIY-ing, which features which features a homeowner who wound up with a three-inch nail in his wrist and a trip to the emergency room after an injury while framing a pocket door.

The video goes on to discuss what you should ask yourself prior to tackling a do it yourself job. For instance, what is your real skill level? Are you like me, a renovation junkie without any true life experience? Or do you have experience in the area you plan to tackle? If your expertise rests in hanging cabinets, can you also deal with a surprise electrical outlet you find while ripping down the old cabinets? If not, are you willing to hire a pro? And if you are great at hanging drywall, can you also deal with bad plumbing problems you encounter when ripping out the bathroom wall? Understanding your skill level is critical when it comes to home renovation, and knowing when to call a professional can save your house – and your life!

Of course, not all home renovation projects end up as tragic as these examples. Some homeowners are blessed with the skills a renovation project requires. But if that isn’t you, consider hiring a pro. After all, you don’t want your most expensive investment to come crashing down around you in the process.

When you are ready to admit that your project may be too lofty for you to handle yourself, schedule a design consultation with one of our experts and save yourself from a lot of headaches.