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Do-It-Yourself Or Find A Contractor?

Although this website is devoted to the DIY home handyman and those individuals who want to do it themselves, there are times when hiring a contractor is the wisest choice.

nailing shingles

Many home improvements and remodeling projects are notorious for requiring a lot more effort and time than originally planned. If the project that you are contemplating undertaking is time sensitive, you should consider the pros and cons of hiring a contractor.

Projects such as bathroom remodeling, when there is only one toilet in the home, roofing when one can never count on having a number of days in a row without rain, major changes to electrical wiring or plumbing where in both cases it is necessary to turn-off one or both of those services throughout the home in order to complete the project, fall into time sensitive projects.

Projects such as landscape, gardening, painting, building an outdoor shed or finishing a basement are generally not time sensitive and if not finished when one would have liked to have them finished it is not a major disaster.

What appears to be a simple project such as creating a kitchen pass-through can turn into a major exercise if plumbing pipes and/or electrical wires are found running in the area planned for the opening.

Attempting to correct a sagging flooring can end up requiring the replacement of support columns, foundation walls and even footings.

Do-it-yourself can save thousands of dollars in labor costs and most home handymen appreciate the financial benefits that sweat equity may bring when selling a home. But, doing it yourself can turn into a nightmare in the effort required, the expense and even structural damage.

Roofing and the flashing that must be installed with it, that is not installed properly, can lead to thousands of dollars in water damage, which if not performed by a licensed contractor, may be grounds for an insurance company denying the claim.

Health hazards should also be taken into account before undertaking a project. Working with chemicals, and other contaminants can be hazardous while the project is in the working stages. As well, certain renovations can create long-term health risks. The incorrect installation of plumbing vents and flues can cause carbon monoxide and other gases to enter rather than exhaust from the home.

Another consideration is the overall safety of the project. Working on a steep roof on a two story home requires the installer, home handyman or professional, to use adequate safety harnesses and mechanized equipment to get the shingles from the ground to the roof.

Replacing a window may require three or more individuals, depending on the size and weight of the window. Other projects may require setting up scaffolding. Working with the homes electrical service, can have dire consequences for those not familiar with the basics of electricity.

Man power is another consideration. Pouring a concrete slab is not a difficult project, but there is a time element when working with concrete. One individual can not offload a concrete truck, vibrate the concrete into place and finish the concrete all at the same time, so additional individuals, with strong backs are needed in order to ensure that the project is properly executed.

Does the project being contemplated require a building permit? This will generally require drawings of the proposed renovation and time at the building department. Inspections are generally done during normal office hours and you will need to be at home to meet and discuss the work with the building inspectors.

Performing a renovation that requires a building permit without one can lead to heavy fines and in some cases you can be ordered to remove the work already done.

When should you hire a contractor and when is it okay to undertake the project yourself?

There are no hard and fast rules. It depends on the individuals abilities, knowledge, stamina and time constraints as it relates to the proposed project.

If you determine that you are going to tackle the project, think it out before you start. Identify the tools you will need, determine if you will rent them or buy them. Determine the material you will need and do your shopping in advance of the project date.

Plan the project! As an example, do not remove the shingles that are currently on your roof until the new roofing material arrives. As silly as this sounds I am aware of a few projects that were started based on the fact that items would be delivered at a certain time and they subsequently didn't appear.

If you are going to hire a contractor, shop around, get three estimates and check out references. You might also wish to use one of the Find A Contractor services.