Six Questions To Ask Yourself Before You DIY

Six Questions to Ask Yourself Before You DIY

Some DIY projects can seem daunting, but there can also be a payoff both in knowledge and cost. Here are some issues to consider when deciding whether doing it yourself or hiring someone else is the right approach for you.

Image remixed from Titov Dmitriy (Shutterstock) and OpenClips

When it comes to DIY, understanding, comfort and desire to attempt any given project is a personal choice. I'll never be the person that tells you that you should hire a pro if you want to try something yourself, but I also think you should make sure you're well informed about the scope of a project — costs, skills needed, potential dangers — before you make a decision. For me, it's usually pretty simple: I just ask myself the following questions.

  • What's the cost difference? All things being equal, I like to save money on labour costs (and reinvest that savings back into bigger and better tools to play with, obviously.) I may even be willing to take on a "break even" project if I feel I'll get a better result in the end by doing it myself. But, for the most part, the decision often comes down to what it will cost in a number of different ways — money, time, experience — and what the trade-off is for me.
  • Is it a stretch project? I consider stretch projects something that builds on my existing skills, but is a step up in difficulty and complexity, or pushes the limits of my comfort zone. While in the past my initial reaction might have been to leave these projects to someone else, I found that I gain the most knowledge and confidence from a project that stretches me, so I try to take them on whenever I can.
  • Is it time sensitive? DIY often means working with fewer resources and learning as you go, and these things take time. While there are a lot of projects where time isn't a big factor, when it is — re-roofing my house during a rainy season, for example — I'll often choose to farm the job out to someone who has more dedicated manpower.
  • Do I have (or want to buy) the right tools for the job? I'll admit that sometimes a new project is just an excuse to buy a new tool I've been wanting to try out, but I've also learned that it's torture to take on a project if I don't have the right tool for the job. For some projects I may also consider renting a specialised tool, which factors into overall cost as well but is less expensive than a full purchase.
  • What does it impact? Houses are very much a system, so one project you do now could impact several areas of that system down the road. If the project ends up being a "learning experience" (read: disaster), how much of that system will be impacted? While I take on fairly large and complex projects now, when I was just starting out I felt more comfortable testing my skills on low-impact projects.
  • How awesome is it going to feel to say I did it myself? This really is the magic question for me. Nothing beats the feeling of accomplishment I get when I complete a challenging project, particularly one I thought I couldn't do.

These are just a few of the questions I ask myself, but there is no one-size-fits all answer to whether you should DIY or hire out. What are some of the factors you take into consideration when deciding whether or not to do it yourself?

Lifehacker's weekly Workshop column covers DIY tips, techniques and projects.


    Surely it would be pretty important to consider if you are confident you can do it safely?

    Is there power or water where I am drilling or cutting? Is it load bearing? Do I understand all the variables and implications.
    Am I legally allowed to do this. Will I require permits, permission, or an inspection or signoff by someone qualified?
    Do I have the required experience, can it be researched?

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