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DIY vs. hired help: Choosing the right path

Elaina is a Phoenix-based freelance writer, blogger and co-founder of the Kidlee baby book app. Check out her blog, Fun Finds For Mom, for product reviews, recipes and fun activities for moms and kids.

Do it yourself or hire out?

You're ready to tackle a home improvement project – but how do you know if you should do it yourself or hire a professional? It depends on the project. Even the most zealous DIYers deserve a break every now and then. Likewise, even if you've never laid a tile in your life, that doesn't mean you can't learn how. Ask yourself these questions, then make the decision that's right for you.

home contractorDo you have the skills?

Before beginning any DIY project, ask yourself if you have the required skills to complete the task. This is particularly important for safety reasons. If you do not have electrical experience, hire an electrician to complete the work. If you're not completely confident in your skills, err on the side of hiring a professional.

Do you have the tools?

If you have the skills and you already own the tools you'll need, DIY just might be the way to go. If you don't have the tools, however, don't count yourself out yet. You may be able to rent the necessary tools and tackle the job yourself.

Is time away from the family a big deal?

One thing that isn't always considered before embarking on a DIY project is how it affects the entire family. If mom or dad has to pour all of their free time into a home project, it can be hard on everyone — especially if family time is limited in the first place. Talk it over as a family and decide if it's worth the time and effort.

What's your timing?

It's one thing to be an optimist, but for your own sanity, be realistic about how long it will take you to complete a project yourself. Experienced DIYers know that things don't always go exactly as planned. Be conservative and estimate that it will probably take two to three times as long as you'd expect.

How well do you handle stressful situations?

Taking on big home improvement projects involves massive amounts of time, effort, mess and inconvenience. If you and your partner or family don't do well living in stressful situations, you may want to skip the DIY and hire an experienced professional.

Do you mind people in your home?

There are a lot of reasons to hire a professional, but if you have a problem with workers tromping around your home, that might be reason enough to take on a project yourself.

What's your budget?

If your budget is tight, DIY is usually a more inexpensive way to go. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) advises would-be do-it-yourselfers to consider all costs — including materials, time and tools. NARI also advises new DIYers to consider the possibility that additional costs will be incurred if corrections to mistakes or damage are needed.

Go with your gut

Sometimes it just boils down to listening to your gut. Experienced DIYers Sherry and John of the popular blog Young House Love recently wrote a blog post titled When To DIY vs. When To Hire It Out. After a good deal of analysis of a French door installation project, they decided they lacked the excitement they typically have for most renovation projects. In their words, “… you just know in your gut what you want to tackle and what’s worth it to you. And that answer is different for everyone.”

Quick Tip

Before starting a project yourself, check local building codes and permit requirements to find out if a licensed and bonded professional is required to meet code.

More DIY tips and advice

Renovation tools: When to rent and when to buy
Easy home updates that improve energy efficiency
Deciding which home projects to tackle first

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