When to DIY vs. When to Call The Pros

I’m a big DIY guy, but there are some projects best left to the pros. I’m going to list some projects that are typical in residential remodels, and provide some insight on which aspects you may or may not want to take on, and why. I hope you’re able to gain some insights that will help you save significant money and headaches!

Let’s start with talking about the projects that you can easily tackle yourself to save thousands, and I’ll give a few helpful tips along the way!

Indoor Painting- This one may seem obvious. The materials are not so expensive and it’s pretty easy to do a good job yourself. For a 2,000 sq. ft. home, you may be quoted something like $4,000-$5,000 by a painting company. The materials for this may only cost you about $400-$500. Tip: Something that I really enjoy about painting is that I can do a good job while being completely focused on the audiobook or podcast that I’m listening to. If you’re taking on a painting job, you better be smarter when you’re done!

Laminate Flooring- I know there are some ride-or-die hardwood floor people out there that will never be converted. With that being said, the technology in laminate flooring has come a long way. In general, in price ranges below $500,000 here in the Denver area I always go laminate, and advise the same. Even with the choice of re-finishing hardwood (about the same price). Luxury vinyl will typically be in the $2.70-$3.00 / sq. foot range. I have used and liked both Pergo XP and Lifeproof. Tip: Don’t try to re-use your baseboards, just pull ’em off and toss em. New baseboards make a big difference in looks and are easy and cheap to put in. Line them all out and paint them at once, bring ’em out to the chop saw, and go to town!

Windows- This one may come as a surprise, but you can save multiple thousands on installing windows yourself. Make sure that you measure properly, and head to Home Depot and order your windows yourself. Whether you need to, or choose to pull a permit for this or not, you will still save thousands. You just need an extra hand and a few hours. For an 1800 sq. foot home that I recently flipped, I spent $950 on new windows throughout. Add a couple hundred in paying my handyman to help me install and caulk them, and there you have it. A window & door company might charge you $6,000+ for this same project! Tip: Order your windows without the flanges, and make sure to err on the small side with your measurements- you can always shim!

Now, let’s talk about a few projects that you should leave to the pros.

Drywall- Looking for a good way to piss off your significant other? Work on some drywall in the house! (Yes this comes from experience, ha ha.) Now I’m not advocating that you hire someone for tiny spot repairs, these can be done quite easily yourself. Anything beyond that though, I would suggest you happily pay a professional. Drywall is messy, texturing is tough to get right and consistent, and it all requires a careful process to be done correctly. Guys who drywall every day have this process down, and watching them do their thing is impressive. A good drywall guy is worth every penny in my mind. 

Outdoor Painting- This is a job that is typically best done with paint sprayers, many ladders / scaffolding, and professionals! Don’t be the guy that falls off of the ladder because you’d rather spend 2 weeks painting the outside of your home than paying someone to do it in a couple days. Given the different sidings and textures on the exteriors of homes, this job is almost always best suited for a pro-grade paint sprayer as opposed to rollers. Once again, these guys have an efficient process and tools that allow them to get the job done far quicker and better than the homeowner. Tip: Don’t just hire ’em and walk away. Make sure that they are attending to details such as painting all exposed sides of trim as opposed to only the outside edge.

Plumbing- Replacing sink drains, faucets, and toilets I recommend that you take care of yourself, as long as they are staying in the same place. For everything else, call up your plumber. There is a reason that these guys make a good living, their job isn’t so easy and we all need it. Moving plumbing around behind walls, switching from one material to another, dealing with gas lines, these are all things you want done the right way and you want the repairs to last. Tip: Don’t just hire the first plumber you find on Google. Check around your network and find someone with references that you might be able to pay on an hourly basis.

I have found that many homeowners and investors become frustrated with contractor pricing and performance because they are looking in the wrong places. Networking is key here and if you can find these guys and refer a few people to them before your project comes up, you will have plenty of leverage to ask them for their most competitive pricing.

A great thing about doing renovations yourself is that you will learn how to talk to contractors and property managers when you want them to take care of the same projects for you in the future. You will know when you are being ripped off and when you are being dealt with honestly, and you will be able to control the conversation.

So go get your hands dirty, and when you’re stuck, consult YouTube University or give me a call!

Stay safe out there.

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