DIY - Don't Illude Yourself

Who doesn't want to save money on home repairs?

Each year the list of projects that need to get done to maintain a house seems to get longer and the cost of hiring professionals and purchasing materials, more daunting. Isn't there a way homeowners can save themselves some money by “Doing it Yourself?” Yes, and No.

If you are thinking about trying your hand at a renovation project you saw demonstrated on TV or illustrated in a home magazine, take the time to ask yourself these 3 questions before you get seduced by the illusion of fast, easy and cheap solutions.

Am I Handy?

This question seems obvious, but often the headline to the article that got your attention was “No Experience Necessary”. Now, remind yourself of the houses you visited when looking for your first home and you will agree, “handy is, as handy does!” An unprofessional or unfinished project is not a “home improvement!”

Being handy requires you have mechanical skills that power the solutions required for repairs that never go as planned. If you have experience putting things together or have mastered a craft, your skill set can shorten the learning curve required to do the job right. If not, get your experience practicing on a less expensive investment first.

How much does the learning curve really cost?

Interior painting projects with minimal expenses for materials and tools (and easy to follow instructions on the can), pay dividends almost immediately - you've saved money on labor, learned a craft, exercised your creativity - all while taking control of your home's maintenance. The added benefit is the enormous satisfaction you get from completing a home improvement project which can be done in short intervals of time and outlay of money. This is a good place to start if you truly want to be in the renovation game.

So, how about tackling more complex repairs in the kitchen or bath? If the materials are costly like a counter surface, or require expensive tools to make the install, think twice. The risk of making a mistake cutting out countertops or tiling like a beginner can set you back more than the savings. Unsatisfying results mean you will be doing it again or living with it's offensiveness. In the end, do you really want to own a garage full of tools specific to repairs after the projects are done?

Hidden expenses for doing it yourself can add up. You may not put a value your own time, but consider your labor is essentially the same as taking on a part time job. Do you really need one? Building professionals, who do the work everyday are fast, efficient and have great ideas you may not have considered. The novice, will most likely take much longer, tie up their living space, waste materials, and the outcome may not meet their standards or the value of their property.

Recently, I suited up with safety goggles, protective clothing and boots to wield a sledge hammer to a granite wall that the previous owner had installed in my landscape. I learned the hard way about the pain of repetitive motion from using muscles I seldom employ as a designer. I was not injured, but the 4 massages needed to mitigate the strain cost more than the labor I saved deconstructing it myself. And, I would not have found the granite curbing so distasteful had the previous owner used a professional stone mason to do the job well!

What is the value of quality?

Here's something to remember - spending a lot of money on a home repair does not necessarily equate to quality. Most often, the best improvement outcomes are simply well designed! Unfortunately, the DIY programs you have been watching encourage homeowner's to rely on their own good taste to shop for finished project ideas and products from the show, online or in design magazines. “Good Taste” is not design! Your home has it's own idiosyncrasies which must be addressed. Renovations that work visually and function superbly are the result of planning that considers how materials work in your situation, their longevity, the particulars of your home's architecture, energy efficiency, it's site and the cohesiveness of all of these elements put together. And don't believe that the latest and most expensive products will update your home and increase its value. Installing the trending products, one room at a time, without a design plan creates the “hodgepodge.”

Well designed home improvement plans are the single most important factor for quality results. Have a whole house design created when you begin ownership of your home. It will guide you as a do-it-yourselfer and also communicate your needs to the professionals you hire for the best and most cost effective solutions.

If you wouldn't manage your financial investments without professional planning advice, why would you risk your biggest financial asset to the whims of manufacturer's marketing and contractor's off the cuff advice? Don't rely on your painter to share the paint company trends to make your color decisions for you – unless, of course, you know this professional can evaluate light conditions and produce a strategic design that will give you the look that you want. You will have to live with a color that is the result of shooting from the hip and suffer it's inappropriateness for years to come.

Only you can decide what quality is worth. There are many expenses in our lives competing for our money. Hiring a designer may seem like an added cost, but the savings in materials, time and labor and the value that you add to your investment with a beautiful result will more than pay the fee. Your home has a current “street” value”. Complete projects at your address that are of the highest value you can afford and will meet the market's expectations for top dollar when you decide to sell.

If you have a good design plan, are handy and willing to put your precious time into the project to take it to completion – Do It Yourself! Home ownership that includes both DIY and professional help can save you money, maintain the quality of your investment and give you a comfortable life where you live.