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Should You DIY or Bring in the Professionals?

Whether it’s a small job like installing a dishwasher or a larger job like updating your bathroom, when considering a project, you’ll probably wonder if you should outsource the job to a professional or if you should take it on yourself. There are pros and cons to either option, and before you decide, you should research both options. You want to be sure you know how to choose the right professional if you go that route. Likewise, you should know what to expect if you choose to do it yourself.

Bringing in the Professionals

For projects that are larger or complex, you may want to bring in a professional. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides an excellent source of guidelines for outsourcing projects. You can hire a general contractor, a specialty contractor, an architect, or a design/build contractor.

Begin by asking your friends and family who have used a contractor or architect. You can also check websites like Angie’s List for ratings and reviews. “Look for an established company whose record and reputation you can check out,” says the FTC, adding that you should also check for qualifications and licensing.

When you have a list of potential contractors, ask for written estimates from several places. The FTC warns not to automatically choose the lowest bidder and to ask for explanations for all charges and costs. Also, prepare a list of questions, like the ones on the FTC’s website, to ask all of the potential hires.

Finally, limit your down payment and never pay cash for work. Getting a written contract and keeping all paperwork related to your project in one place is imperative. The FTC recommends keeping a log or journal of all phone calls, conversations, and activities. Also, snap photos before, during, and after the project.

Deciding to DIY

First, assess your skills. As Bankrate points out, if you don’t enjoy physical labor, DIY isn’t for you. Visit a home improvement store and ask for advice. You can also ask friends who may have tackled similar projects, check out books, and look online. From demo to permits to purchasing materials, you need to know what exactly you’re getting into before you decide to DIY any project; you want to be competent and confident!

DIY is it’s typically less expensive than hiring a contractor, which is a major benefit. You’re only purchasing materials and tools, so there are no labor costs. Be sure to shop around when purchasing materials and tools. Consider that if you make mistakes, it will raise the overall cost of your project, which is why it’s imperative that you’re competent before you start.

However, a DIY project usually takes longer to complete than if it were done by a professional. Professionals are working full time and don’t have a learning curve slowing them down. Bankrate estimates that if you have a project requiring a total of 48 hours to complete, a contractor would need about a week. However, if you can only work six hours every Saturday on the project, you’ll spend up to eight weeks on it.

Before jumping into a complex project, start small and work your way up. For example, if you want to refinish all the hardwood floors in your house, try staining some unfinished furniture first. Likewise, if you want to rewire your house, first change a wall outlet.

Meeting in the Middle

If you want to hire professionals but save some money, act as your own general contractor by managing subcontractors. Similarly, you can cut costs if you hire a contractor and assist in demo, cleanup, or other approved tasks. Before you decide which path to take, compare all the factors that go into both DIY and bringing in a professional, ensuring you fully understand all facets of your decision.

About the Author:

Jim Vogel, co-founder of ElderAction, is passionate about promoting senior health and safety. He enjoys sharing valuable information with seniors and their caregivers.

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