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When to Roll Up Your Sleeves and DIY

Before I bought my first house, I didn’t fancy myself very “handy”. And I guess I still don’t, but I’m a lot better than I used to be. After a year and a half of living in a fixer upper, my wife and I have learned a lot of new skills, and our house equity has been increased significantly by work we didn’t know how to do just a couple of years ago. But there are some jobs even I won’t tackle. It’s important to know when to get some industrial supplies from Gotstock and when to leave it to the pros. Here’s how I make the decision.

  1. How much can I save? I have done enough work on my house at this point to know there are a lot of things I can learn to do. I can even do them pretty well if I get the right tools, spend enough time, and do a bunch of research. But sometimes it takes me a lot of time to get the job done right, and I’d prefer the speed that a licensed contractor brings to the job. But then I need to think about cost. When weighing cost and convenience, I use the following rule of thumb: “If I can save 50% on having a contractor do the same job, I’ll try to learn how to do it myself.” This philosophy has led me into some jobs I never thought I’d tackle in my life, but I have generally been satisfied with the results.

  1. Can I do it well? Even if I can save a lot of money doing it myself, I can’t always do an amazing job. I don’t plan to own this house forever, and I’d like to be able to sell it for top dollar, or to rent it for as much as possible when we move. I have been satisfied with my mortar work, my cabinetry painting, my built-in furniture additions. But I am less satisfied with my plumbing, a job that you want done right and then to forget about. One long weekend, my brother and law set out to re-do all the plumbing leading up to our second floor bathroom. And we technically accomplished that goal, but it’s going to need to be redone before we sell the house. In this case, it would’ve been better to hire the professional plumber in the first place, rather than trying to save a few hundred dollars.

  1. Can I do it safely? This is a very similar thought process to the one on quality. There are some jobs where I can’t trust my knowledge to make my home safe and secure. I’m thinking specifically of upgrading our aluminum electrical system and reinforcing a rotting joist in my kitchen. As much as it pains me, I’ve begun getting quotes from contractors who can do this job right the first time. Sure, I’ll pay a little more, but I’ll always know that these issues are totally resolved, and that future residents won’t be in any danger of electrical fire or structural collapse.

For everything else, I get online and research until I know how to do it myself. And I’ve found that most jobs really aren’t that hard. Sure, it takes a long time to get it right the first time, but now that I know, I’m much more prepared to do work on any future houses I own. I hope this is a good walkthrough for you, and that you make the best choices when renovating and repairing your home. 

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