Home Renovations and Projects: Go DIY or Hire a Contractor?

Turning a house into a home can be a rewarding part of being a homeowner…or it can be a nightmare. Get tips on how to figure out if going DIY or getting a contractor is the way to go!

Should We Hire a Contractor or DIY This Home Project?

If you had to rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 on how handy you are, what would it be?

First off congrats if it’s a seven or higher.  However, even if you’re more in the one to three range, chances are you had those moments and conversations about how cool it would be to tackle some projects. 

It could be as simple as a splash of paint, switching up the decor, okay sprucing up a room, or even tackling a renovation. 

Maybe it’s because you’re stuck at home and you’re thinking, ‘yeah, we need to change this up. 

Or it could be the not so subtle influence of that HGTV binge of 

But then you hit this wall. Let’s call this wall reality.

And the reality is telling you that updating your kitchen is going to cost you a whole lot of money because you’re going to need a contractor and a team to execute your dream. 

Or you hope to save some money and do the work yourself, but you’re the person who just gave themselves a two. 

What do you do? 

First, take a step back and relax. There’s no rush or deadline. 

Second, enjoy this episode because we’re digging into figuring out how to tackle your home projects, big or small! 

In this episode we’ll get into: 

  • How to decide whether or not to DIY
  • How to find the best contractor for you and your budget
  • Expanding your DIY skills

Ready? Let’s get started! 

Resources to Make Your Home Renovation Project More Affordable

If you’re planning on doing a home renovation project and you want to keep it stylish and affordable, here are some resources to check out! 

Thank You to Our Partner Coastal

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union!

If you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and you’re at the stage where you’re planning and saving up for your home project, you really want to check out Coastal.  

Besides having competitive rates with savings, they also have loan options for home improvements, including a home equity line of credit (HELOC)!  

How to Decide if You Want to Get a Contractor or Go DIY with Your Home Renovation? 

Before you decide to go DIY or hire a contractor, there’s some homework you should do that will make your decision much easier and make the process go smoother.  

You can really do a deep dive into this and if you’re tackling a big project, like renovating your kitchen, you want to do this. 

You need to look at: 

  • Scope of the job: May seem obvious, but you need to break down the job. When we were looking at updating our kitchen, we analyzed what had to be done.  What’s the timeframe for it (both DIY and with a contractor)? And what are the costs? Is this structural or cosmetic? 
  • Level of the skill/expertise needed: Try and get a sense of the skill needed for the project. There’s a difference between changing a light fixture or ceiling fan compared to rewiring your house, right? Our take is to go with a licensed professional when it comes to major gas, plumbing, or electric work.
  • Safety: Last and certainly not least, I don’t care how much money you can save, safety is the priority. Never try to do a project without having the proper equipment. 

You should also look up whether or not a permit is required, but that in itself doesn’t mean you need to go with a contractor. 

There are some projects like putting in a fence that requires it, but you can still do it yourself. 

Now, this might seem like a lot of legwork up front, but it can really pay off whichever route you choose. 

If you go DIY on it, obviously you’ll be better prepared. 

If you hire a contractor to tackle the project, this knowledge can make communication easier which hopefully will mean you’re more likely to get what you want and it’ll minimize the chances that you’ll be overcharged for unnecessary or unwanted work. 

I hope these tips make deciding which route to take on your home projects. And if you have any suggestions, please join us in the Thriving Families facebook group. 

We love to swap ideas, share tips and stories and support one another in our goals. I’ll have a link in the show notes or you can head over to simplifyandenjoy.com/fb. 

We’d love to see you there! 

Finding the Best Contractor for You and Your Budget

Alright, you two have decided that you want some professional help.  The problem is you don’t know any contractors in the area. What do you do? 

Depending on your project, there are a few different routes you can go with contractors

Having the right contractor can well worth their fee because they’ll not only be able to perform the actual work, but they can creatively solve problems that will usually pop up in the middle of a project. 

The really great ones can find ways to save you money in certain areas and perhaps redirect it to those details that matter most to you. 

But where do you find that almost mythical talented and affordable contractor? Time to do some leg work again my friend.  

  • Ask family and friends for recommendations
  • Check reviews from other clients. 
  • Sites like Angie’s List and HomeAdvisor

We’ve done this and so far have been happy with whom we’ve worked with.

You may think you save hunting for your contractor for when you’re thinking of starting your project, but it’s actually good for you to do this sooner.

Most contractors are happy to do this as long as you’re upfront.  

Earlier this year, we had our kitchen updated and shared the process on an episode so I won’t rehash everything, but whether you’re financing or saving up ahead like we did, it’s important to get estimates.  

The obvious is to make sure that this stays affordable and to be honest, it’s your first time doing a renovation, it’s hard to get an idea of what’s realistic. 

You’ll also discover that estimates can vary greatly between contractors.  

And yes, we want to get a good deal, but this is not the time to go cheap. Sometimes the cheapest quote isn’t the best. 

We’ve gone with ones who not only offered a reasonable price, but could walk us through. I think that’s a big reason why we’ve been able to keep these typically expensive projects within budget. 

Look for a knowledgeable contractor, not simply the cheapest. 

And as you’re getting this estimate, take the chance to talk and get a feel about how well you and the contractor can work. 

Having had big projects done, like finishing the basement so it can become usable office space and redoing the kitchen, we absolutely see how communication is important. 

Sure, you have an idea of what you want, but there are things like code, your house’s particular issue that maybe you’re not aware of and don’t know how to work it out. 

That’s where having  the right contractor is essential. 

You may decide that you want your contractor to take care of everything from A to Z, but in most cases, you’ll want someone who can take your input and ideas. 

And just because you’re getting a  contractor, doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to save. 

You can still keep your budget by taking care of things like shopping for your own materials. Be an assistant on certain tasks, haul some of the debris out. 

But make sure you talk this over with your contractor ahead of time. 

Between the projects with the basement and the kitchen, we’ve been thrilled with the work done with contractors. 

Having gained a bit  more confidence,  I have to say I enjoyed learning how to install tile while we were doing the kitchen backsplash. 

So you may want to see if there’s an opportunity to not only have a professional take the lead on the project, but for you to pick up a skill that you can use for another project down the line. 

Getting the right contractor can take some work, but it can be a fantastic partnership in the years to come as you make your house into a home! 

Expanding Your DIY Skills

Okay, maybe you’ve decided you want to do something around the house yourself. Kudos my friend! 

Surprisingly even if you’re not the most handy person, there are plenty of ways you can fix up your place without having to be a licensed expert. 

For those looking for a starter project, let me offer a few suggestions and then we go over some resources to help you knock out your design. 

  1. Transform old furniture
  2. Organize your space
  3. Beautify your yard
  4. Update a room
  5. Build something

Transform Old Furniture

  • Sand/Stain/Paint
  • Change Hardware
  • Upcycle It

Organize Your Space

  • Build a Custom Closet (kits)
  • Shelving 
  • Cubbies for your mudroom

Beautify Your Yard

  • Build a Fire Pit
  • Grow a Garden
  • Compost Bin

Update a Room

  • Paint 
  • Tile/Wallpaper
  • Rearrange the Layout 
  • Add Details like crown molding, wall paneling

Build Something

  • Shelves
  • Sofa Sleeve
  • Table

Now if you have a friend who can walk you through the process (well, virtually now), that’s fantastic. 

If not, here are some resources we use.

  • Pinterest – not only get ideas for projects, but get tutorials
  • YouTube
  • Libraries (books and sometimes classes)
  • Communities 
  • Magazine (yes, they are still available!) 

You can use apps like Houzz to organize your ideas and hone in on what you need to get and learn for your project. 

Support the Podcast!

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast! If you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, here are some ways to support it.

  • Spread the word! If you enjoyed this episode and think it can help a buddy get on the path to dumping debt and become financially free, please share.
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Music and Audio Credit

Like the music in this episode? Music is by Staircases, Joshua Luke Smith, and Arms and Sleepers from Audiio. Additional audio comes from FreeSound.org: EnjoyPA and balloonhead.

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