Is DIY Home Renovating for You?


The DIY movement has really taken off in the last couple of years, and the average homeowner can easily access Internet tutorials on pretty much anything from crafting your own DIY art to installing new can lights to completely gutting and overhauling the plumbing in your master bathroom. But are you cut out for DIY?

Not everyone may have the temperament or skills to effectively renovate their home on their own, and a botched DIY job can end up costing you thousands of dollars in labor and materials. Before you start swinging that sledgehammer, consider whether DIY renovating is for you. (See also: Save on Car Maintenance With These 5 DIY Tips)

1. Are You a Meticulous and Patient Person?

DIY home renovation shows make complex tasks such as installing a lighting fixture or mitering corners for crown molding seem like simple, fast, and easy jobs. However, if you're a beginner to DIY, figuring out these tasks can take a long time and require careful study of tutorials, plans, and measurements. In some cases, a slapdash, haphazard approach can be dangerous and cause major problems down the line (especially with electrical and plumbing). Even if we're not talking about dangerous jobs, you can end up wasting a lot of material and time if you're not careful.

Are you the sort of person to measure twice, and cut once? Will you carefully study directions on how to install things correctly, or do you prefer to fly by the seat of your pants? Will you get frustrated quickly when things don't seem to fit together perfectly? Will your project sit half-done for the next six months (or years)? Consider your own personality before tackling a major DIY job. Although if you aren't a meticulous and patient person, this might be a good challenge to help you grow in that aspect.

2. Is It Worth Your Time?

Yes, providing your own labor can save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on a renovation project. But consider how much your time is worth. After over a year of renovating our home, my husband and I have adopted the motto, "Everything takes longer than you think." If you're planning to DIY after a long day of work, consider that you may only have a couple of daylight hours every evening. Also, spending your time doing DIY jobs can take you away from spending valuable time with your family.

On the other hand, working on DIY projects together can be a bonding experience for your family, especially if everyone enjoys working with their hands. And if you don't mind having a construction zone in your house for several months, the extra time needed to complete the project may not be an issue for you.

3. Do You Have the Tools?

Doing your own home renovation requires a lot of tools. Do you own, or can you rent or borrow the tools you need? If not, factor in the cost of buying the requisite tools into the cost of the project. Even rentals can cost quite a pretty penny, especially over several days while you learn how to use the tool in the first place. It might be worthwhile to hire in a contractor who brings in his own tools and can knock out the project in a couple of hours.

4. Do You Have the Skills?

Sure, those TV shows make DIY seem like a breeze, but believe it or not, many home renovations take skill. If you're a very handy person, you may be able to acquire those skills in the process and produce something that at first glance approaches professional quality. In many cases, however, your project may end up looking a little "too DIY." If you don't have an intuition for how things work, an eye for symmetry, and decent hand-eye coordination, DIY might not be for you.

Consider whether you can handle skilled jobs such as cutting and installing tile, leveling concrete, and drywalling. For example, my husband and I put up new drywall in our master bedroom. We completed it, but smoothing on drywall mud was a much more laborious and difficult job than we expected (and to this day there are still minor imperfections in the drywall seams). When it came time to tackle the drywall for the family room, we hired a contractor. For a few hundred dollars, he did a beautiful, professional job, and only took one day (it would have taken us a week or two).

5. What's the Worst That Could Happen?

If you're new to DIY, ask yourself what the worst-case scenario could be before you tackle a new project. If it's something with relatively low stakes, why not try it out?

Painting your front door or building a coffee table from scrap lumber are fun projects, and if they don't turn out perfectly, it won't really affect your home that badly. However, trying to install your own marble countertops could turn out very badly if you end up breaking a thousand dollars worth of stone. Roofing your own house could turn out extremely badly if you fell and broke your neck. So start small.

6. Do You Understand Workplace Safety?

Every year, thousands of DIYers are blinded, lose fingers, inhale noxious chemicals, fall off ladders, or are otherwise hurt or injured while working on a project for their home. Be informed on the necessary safety precautions to take. Invest in good safety glasses, filtering masks, gloves, and clothing.

The considerations above aren't to discourage you from attempting a DIY project. However, it may be wise to start small and work up to a larger project. Doing your own DIY can also be a great opportunity to grow as a person — to become more patient, more detail-oriented, and to see a task through to completion. And while some jobs may be best left to the pros, others can be successfully tackled by amateurs like us!

Have your home DIY efforts been successful? Have they been failures? Tell us about them in comments!

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Guest's picture

I've been having this conversation with my husband for two weeks now, as we're scrambling to finish some of the to-do projects before baby #2 arrives in a couple of months. It's not just price you have to be aware of (that's the only factor he's considering), it's all of the above you mentioned. Great article, thanks!

Camilla Cheung's picture

I know how you feel! I was painting our master bedroom the night before my baby arrived, and my father-in-law was installing the flooring while we were in the hospital! Sometimes it's just a little too much stress!

Guest's picture

This could also be titled, "Do you hate yourself?" Just kidding! :) It does sometimes feel that way when I'm neck-deep in a project, though.

Guest's picture

I don't think DIY is for me during home renovation. I don't think I have enough skills for DIY and I'd rather get some professionals or experts.