Home Improvement: DIY or Hire a Professional?

Posted by Justin Havre on Tuesday, November 13th, 2018 at 9:34am.

How to Choose Whether to DIY a Project or Hire a ProfessionalWondering how to improve home value and thinking about DIY projects? Do-it-yourself home improvement manuals and stores would have you believe that it's easy to complete all sorts of home repairs.

It can be tempting to take on do-it-yourself projects when you see the amount of money that you can save. Some renovations, however, need to be left to the experts. Things like plumbing, electrical and structural changes should be managed by a professional only. By skimping on these types of things, you may end up with a bigger problem as a result.

Should You DIY or Hire a Professional?

Although there is little doubt that many homes for sale could benefit from a bit of DIY remodels and stylish decor changes, there are some tasks that are best saved for an East Calgary professional who can safely and/or quickly get the job done.

Just where do you draw the line on what you can fix yourself and what requires professional intervention?

Be Aware of Your Home Improvement Skill Level

While some home improvement projects can be completed successfully by almost anyone, they're not all easy. There is as much variation between amateur and pro status in "home work" as there is in sports. Even if all you want to do is repaint a room or replace a lock, you have to decide if you'll settle for "acceptable" or you want exceptional.

Only you can determine your level of expertise and set the standard that you want. In general, however, most homeowners can handle simple projects and replace light fixtures, hardware and even faucets and toilets. Anyone who can use a level, basic power tools or is detail oriented can probably install simple stock cabinets and shelving units, replace worn or outdated vinyl floor tile, weatherstrip doors and windows, and install doorknobs. Not all home improvement projects have to be massive. Some seasonal summer DIY projects can be completed in as little as two hours with minimal tools.

Tasks like hanging a new door, adding batt insulation to your attic, installing ceramic tile and even repainting an entire room don't require a great deal of expertise, but they usually mean you'll need a helper unless you're okay with the process taking a while. The materials may be difficult to deal with, and the final results can reflect your status as a do-it-yourselfer, but it really comes down to how much time, effort, and research you are willing to put into a project.

Understand What You’re Trying to Accomplish

If you're preparing your home for sale, or if you're a perfectionist at heart, take stock of your abilities and practice on a small project before you begin a major task. Paint a piece of furniture, tile a tabletop to use on your patio, hang a storage cabinet in a closet or paint the laundry room. If you feel like you can easily get the small projects finished, you may want to try your hand at some of the more complicated fixes as you work your way up.

For semi-specialized renovation like hanging a chandelier or replacing a faucet, you can always seek advice from a handy neighbour or sit in on a workshop at your local home improvement store. There are many helpful guides in the form of articles or videos on the internet as well.

That said, professional services exist for a reason. Some projects require a lot of know-how, or are simply very time consuming for an individual to complete - if safety is ever a concern, you may want to hire a professional. Sometimes you will get an estimate that is well within your home improvement budget.

Home Improvement Projects You Can Do On Your Own

Sometimes things break in the house and you need to make repairs. This could mean spending money to hire a handyman, contractor, plumber, electrician or another specialist to make the repairs. However, some repairs you can handle without any help. Here are five home repairs you can do yourself.

Home Painting

If you cannot afford a professional painter, you can handle all the paining throughout the house. Most of the time, hiring someone means they are more worried about getting the job done fast, rather than right. By doing the painting yourself, you won't have to worry about door hinges being painted over, splatter on the carpet or any other messes the painters might leave behind.

Clogged Toilets

With all the YouTube videos and free how-to tips/guides on the internet, it's pretty easy to fix a toilet yourself. Whether it's clogged and just needs a little plunging or you need to replace one of the pieces in the tank, these repairs are very simple to make. Just do a quick Google search and you will find the instructions you need.

Home Door Repairs

Squeaky hinges can be fixed with the spray of oil and keyholes that are loose can also be fixed pretty easy. Even if you need to replace a hinge or door lock, these are very easy repairs to make. Again, YouTube provides plenty of great videos for these repairs.

Fixing a Leaky Faucet

Sometimes a faucet that drips is easier to fix than you might think. It could just be a washer needing replaced, which isn't hard to find a free guide with instructions on how to fix it. Even replacing a faucet isn't that hard considering most faucet come with instructions on how to replace them.

Finding A Stud In The Wall

In order to hang a picture or your favorite work of art, you'll need to be able to locate the wall studs. The same holds true if you'rer putting up a shelf. An easy way to find a stud is to start at a corner since there's usually one there. The next stud should be located approximately 16 inches away from that one.

Some people are able to find studs by knocking on the walls. An area that has a stud can sound deeper and less hollow than an area without one. You can also measure the distance from an electrical outlet cover plate since the plug will be mounted to a stud.

Home Caulking Repairs

One of the easiest DIY home repairs is replacing caulk. The hardest part of this job is removing the old caulk, which can be done with the right product easily. Any hardware store can recommend the right product to help you remove the caulk and from there, it's an easy fix.

One thing to think about when you're considering a do-it-yourself project is the commitment level involved. If you are redoing your kitchen, for example, and it is a 3-month job, do you really have the endurance and stamina to see the job through to the end? It's easy to get excited about a project at the beginning but once you start moving forward with it things can get overwhelming. Almost all renovation jobs come with a set back or two that you'll have to deal with. Be prepared to make the full commitment by taking a look at the timeline involved and the physical energy you'll have to put into the renos.

There are many small jobs around the house that you can do on your own that don't require a high skill level or expertise. Painting, laying floor tiles, installing a light fixture and other light projects around the house are a good starting ground for anyone that wants to save some money by doing things on their own. It's the larger and more complicated projects that may be better left to the professionals.

How to Find the Right Handyman for Your Next Calgary Home Renovation Project

When it comes to handymen, they are certainly not all the same. Since there are not a lot of regulations for this trade, anyone can slap on a hat, put up an ad in the classifieds and announce themselves as a handyman. This is not to say, however, that there aren't a lot of fantastic handymen around Calgary, it's just that you have to tread cautiously when you are dealing with this trade.

How To Find The Best Contractor

Ask your neighbours. Look for word-of-mouth advertising. Your neighbours, friends or family will definitely let you know if they have worked with someone in the past that was professional and efficient. This will also show you that the person you're about to call does have some experience in the field.

If you can't find someone that can give you a name the second best thing you can do is call up a few of them and ask for references. Then you'll need to call these references and ask some specific questions. You'll want to get references that have had a job done that is similar to what you need done. For example, if you're looking for new flooring in your kitchen and the references all talk about the handyman doing a great job on drain pipes, you really don't know whether this handyman will be able to handle your project. Ask for flooring references from your handyman and then give them a call.

Pricing For a Home Contractor

This is where things can get complicated. One handyman may charge by the hour while another may have a pricing structure that charges by the job. In one case you may have to pay for the materials separately and in another case they may be built into the price of the job. You'll have to have a pen and paper handy along with a calculator when you are getting quotes. You'll want to be comparing apples to apples and may have to make a few conversions in order to perform a true comparison.

You'll also need to ask for a time estimate. Be prepared for a wide variety of answers to this question! One handyman may tell you that it will take 2 to 3 days to lay your flooring properly while another might quote a week. Once you've worked with a few handymen you'll realize that the quote for 2 to 3 days can easily stretch out for a week and you'll have to end up paying extra for it.

These are two of the most important things to focus on when looking for a handyman. Of course, you'll want to find one that you can trust as well, but these two points will get you started. Fair pricing and quality workmanship will help lead you to an honest handyman that is committed to excellent customer service.

Consult With a Licensed Real Estate Agent

When in doubt, ask your real estate agent what they think! They will have experience working with all kinds of sellers, and will be able to point you in the direction of a reputable contractor if you decide to go that direction.

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