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DIY or Call a Contractor? Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Start

The home improvement industry is thriving again, despite the sluggish economy of the past few years.  But with a greater focus on saving money, many homeowners are moving more in the direction of do-it-yourself projects rather than hiring a remodeling contractor.  That’s on reason why the big-box stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s are popular (contractors often shop at wholesale suppliers who don’t deal with the general public).  While a DIY project can be a satisfying and economical way to take care of some maintenance and renovation needs on your list, before you tackle any project, here are some questions you should ask yourself first:

1.  Have I ever done this before?  What’s the worst that could happen?  Lack of experience does not always mean you should shy away from attempting something new, but first consider the scope of the project and evaluate what the worst thing that could happen would be.  If you’re unfamiliar with a particular aspect of home remodeling, you may overlook some necessary but critical steps.  On the other hand, if it’s a fairly simple task and there are very little consequences other than some lost time and materials if you mess it up, maybe you’re just fine proceeding.  If you have no experience in electricity, adding an outlet might not be something you should take on.  Personal safety plus fire hazards plus code violations all might come into play.  But if all you’re doing is putting in a tile backsplash over your kitchen sink, not much is lost except time and materials if it doesn’t come out right.   If you’re not a plumber, installing a new toilet might be above your head, but replacing a kitchen faucet might be something you could handle.

2.  Did I ask an expert?  This is especially important if your answer to question #1 is “No,” but it also applies even if it’s an area you’ve handled before but you’re taking on greater scope than you have previously.  Often if you stop by the help desk in the appropriate department at a home improvement store like Menard’s or your favorite hardware store, an associate can review your project with you and give you recommendations as to whether you might be able to take it on yourself.

3.  Are building codes applicable to what I’m taking on, and do I know what they are?  If you’re making anything other than cosmetic changes or replacing something existing with an equivalent product, chances are that a building code requirement comes into play.  If you aren’t sure, it’s a good idea to find out ahead of time, because if you make alterations to your home which aren’t up to code, it could present a difficulty when it comes time to sell.  If you’re converting a basement space to provide for an extra bedroom, there are egress window issues involved.

4.  Will I really save money in the long run? Consider much more than the cost of the materials.  Also take into consideration the value of your time.  Here’s a good rule of thumb – take a look at what you earn and estimate what your per-hour pay is, then translate that to approximately how long you think it’s going to take you to do the project (and then add about another 25% because you’re bound to underestimate).  Then determine whether you need to purchase or rent expensive tools you might rarely use again.  Those costs need to be factored in as well.   And buying materials at retail is probably going to cost you more than it will a contractor, who usually gets wholesale pricing.  Finally, if you have to call a contractor to fix your job, it could end up costing a lot more to undo it and then do it right.

If you’re really unsure about whether you should take a DIY project on after asking yourself these questions, it might be a good idea to get an estimate from a contractor for comparison.  It might cost less than you think to have a professional do it, and most contractors don’t charge for estimates.  At least you’ll have a ballpark idea of what it will cost you as opposed to hiring a pro.  Window Outfitters offers free, no-obligation estimates for exterior remodeling such as siding and replacement windows. 

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Window Outfitters is a premier Window Replacement, doors, siding contractor and installer. As Contractor in the St Paul, Minneapolis, (Twin Cities) Minnesota (MN) metro, we proudly serve, but are not limited to, the following areas: Minneapolis Energy Efficient Vinyl Windows, Replacement Window Contractors Minnesota, Burnsville, Apple Valley, Lakeville, Savage, Bloomington, Edina, Richfield, Eagan, St Paul, Hastings, Minnetonka, Plymouth, Maple Grove, Eden Prairie, Farmington MN, Chaska, Shakopee, Chanhassen, Victoria, Mendota Heights Anderson Windows Minneapolis, Marvin Windows Minneapolis.

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