Do it yourself or hire a professional? The best for your home renovation

There are countless reasons homeowners try to tackle home renovations and remodeling themselves – but probably the most common reason is cost. Professional contractors are expensive.

According to contractor search service Thumbtack, general contractors charge an average of $50 an hour. For large projects, you could end up paying close to $30,000 for contract services, on top of the bill for basic labor and building materials. And then there are the subcontractors, the specialists who do specific jobs: plumbers, for example, charge $45 to $200 an hour.

Do-it-yourself is undoubtedly cheaper. But it can also be impractical, dangerous, or even illegal.

Deciding whether to DIY or hire a professional doesn’t have to be complicated or stressful. It can be as simple as going through a checklist of questions—weighing factors like safety, expertise, and time commitment—to see what makes sense. Here’s how to determine the best plan for your renovation project.

Is DIY safe?

Whether it’s balancing on a roof, installing a fuse box, or tampering with a 250-pound garage door, certain home renovations carry the risk of physical harm. Before undertaking any DIY project, always ask yourself: can I get hurt or killed in the process? If the answer is yes – or even maybe – then hiring a professional is not only the better option, it’s the only option.

Think not only of yourself but also of others: do you have safe places to store tools and hazardous materials away from children and pets? Is there a danger in leaving supplies lying around, especially if you only work part-time?

For such safety reasons, people need to be trained and licensed for specific work. If you have a homeowners association, you may not even be allowed to proceed without a bonded professional.

Do you have the DIY skills?

Building a fence, tearing down a wall, or painting a table are small home improvement projects that homeowners often undertake themselves, learning a new skill in the process and later feeling accomplished. However, other projects don’t lend themselves well to the “learn as you go” approach. Re-piping bathrooms, replacing a fireplace, or installing a new furnace are complex projects that require special skills and knowledge. In general, any major renovation or replacement involving electricity/gas, heat or water will normally require the services of a licensed professional and should not be attempted yourself.

Keep in mind that making a mistake in your home improvement project will not only damage your home and ruin its appearance, but you will likely need to call in a contractor to fix the mess. And that can cost even more than renting one at all.

Do you have time for DIY?

DIY projects can save you money, but time is money—and home renovation projects can take several weeks or months, especially for amateurs. Does your schedule allow you to carry a long-term burden? More specifically, how time sensitive are the mechanics of a project: do you have to let something dry for two days? Do you need to move fast while the materials are warm? Can you work on it intermittently, or does it require consecutive hours of uninterrupted work?

Another element of time to consider: do you have the leisure to obtain work permits if your location dictates it – assuming they are even granted to laypeople? (Tip: If a project requires a work permit and only contractors can get that permit, it’s probably a sign that you can’t legally do the job yourself.)

In short, before planning on doing a home renovation yourself, it’s helpful to track your time and figure out if your schedule allows for the leisure of a home improvement project.

Can you afford DIY?

Ironically, DIY isn’t always that much cheaper. In fact, you could end up spending more on buying the tools and materials than on a contractor.

Many remodeling projects require—or at least are much easier with—special, expensive equipment. For example, a high-quality manual tile cutter, which is often needed for kitchen or bathroom remodeling projects, can cost upwards of $3,000. Motorized models can have up to five digits. When a project is unique, do you really want to invest thousands of dollars in tools?

As for the materials: although you would pay for these anyway, they might be difficult to obtain yourself; Some suppliers may not even want to deal with non-professionals, or they may charge more for a relatively small retail order. In contrast, contractors can often receive quotes for supplies and materials. And they usually provide their own equipment. In the long run, it may be cheaper to hire a professional.

How to fund DIY projects

Even if you make them yourself, DIY jobs can be expensive. Many people turn to finance to fund their home improvement expenses.

Personal Loans

Personal loans are a preferred financing option for renovation projects because the approval time is usually short. They have higher limits and lower interest rates than credit cards and can usually be repaid over a period of 12 to 60 months. You need good credit and a stable source of income to qualify for a personal loan.

home loan

Also known as a second mortgage, a home equity loan uses the home as collateral for borrowing against its equity. This is best for homeowners who need access to larger amounts of money for major renovations and know they can pay it back. Home equity interest rates vary based on your credit history, overall financial health, and other requirements set by your lender.

Home equity line of credit (HELOC)

HELOCs are similar to home equity loans, but with one key difference: They offer a revolving line of credit instead of a lump sum loan. You can withdraw from the HELOC multiple times and only have to pay the interest during the withdrawal period. HELOCs are best for homeowners who are unsure of the size of the project or the final amount of financing they need.

The bottom line: do-it-yourself vs. hire a professional

Labor costs are always a big part of the price tag of any home remodeling project—sometimes the biggest part. You can save a lot of money by doing your own renovation projects, and you also get the sense of accomplishment that comes with it. On the other hand, DIY can sometimes be dangerous – for you and your home – or get you in trouble with the local authorities. Or simply not an affordable investment in terms of time or money.

If you already have the tools, skills, and leisure, and can source materials at a reasonable price, it might be worth doing a remodeling project yourself. Otherwise, it’s best to hire a contractor who has connections in all the right places.

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