Home Renovation


Do-It-Yourself Renovation

Decisions, Decisions

You have your list of priorities. You’ve accumulated articles and images from the Internet. You’ve talked to friends, realtors, neighbors. You know what’s possible, what your budget is, what you need, and what you want.

Now how do you get it done?

If you’re handy, you may be willing to undertake a certain amount of the work yourself. You may be good at spackle, mudding, and paint. You may even have the gadgets, and watched This Old House in college. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ready for fine woodworking, or wiring.

If your renovation is significant or complex, even with the availability of DIY (Do-It-Yourself) books, television, and other sources, think twice before rolling up your sleeves and plunging in. To see if you’re really ready to take it on, check out this Do-It-Yourself Quick Quiz. If it makes your pulse quicken and your mouth go dry, you’ve already got the answer.

Do-It-Yourself Quick Quiz:

Answer These Questions to See if You're Ready to Do-It-Yourself:
1. Do you have the skills to do the work?
2. Do you have the time to do the work?
3. If you are ill or unavailable, will you have backup?
4. If there’s a learning curve, are you willing to risk quality, delays, and additional cost as a result?
5. Will your learning curve, or your work schedule, cause delays that impact other parts of the project?
6. Will you enjoy the work?
7. Do you have the tools necessary for the work?
8. Do you have the knowledge to get proper permitting?
9. What is your propensity for risk?
10. Do you have access to the materials you need, the means to transport them, and the knowledge to execute according to local code?
11. (Is your therapist on speed dial?)


Contractors and Other Qualified Resources

If you are like most of us, you can't Do-It-Yourself (if you're thinking about DIY, check our DIY page to assess your ability). Options other than doing the work yourself are more common and more practical, particularly when dealing with specialized, time-consuming, expensive, or large renovation projects. These options include going with

  • A general residential contractor
  • An architect
  • A designer
  • Specialized subcontractors and laborers
  • Full service design/build firm
  • Some combination of these

There are advantages and disadvantages to each option. Choose the one that suits your style, budget, and project complexity.

Resource Advantages Disadvantages
Do-It-Yourself - Lower cost if no major mistakes
- Satisfaction
- Learning curve
- Permits/code/risk
- No contingency plan
- Delays more likely
- Potential for costly mistakes
- Lack of tools, connections, specialized skills
Do-It-Yourself + Professional Help - Lower cost for parts you do
- Satisfaction
- Specialized tasks and knowledge provided by specialized resources
- Coordination with subcontractors
- No contingency for your part
General Contractor + Specific Subs - Skills, experience, knowledge
- Permitting and ordinance expertise
- Network of ancillary contacts / services likely available (e.g. landscaping, deck building, etc.)
- Higher cost
- Completely dependent upon quality of contractor and subs
Full service design/build - One stop shopping
- Contingencies and other bumps in the road are accommodated
- Higher likelihood of professional, experienced subcontractors
- Permitting and ordinance expertise
- Fixed price possible
- Change requests are more stable
- Higher likelihood of being on time, on spec, and on budget
- Highest price
- Overhead means less ability to negotiate price

Now check out the included worksheet to help you budget your home renovations.

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