How To Decide When To DIY And When To Hire A Professional

How To Decide When To DIY And When To Hire A Professional

Last Autumn, my husband and I had a new fence installed in the backyard. It’s white cedar and the wood has dried out enough since it was installed that it’s time for us to stain and seal it before the weather starts to take its toll. The thing is, we really don’t want to do it.

Every time we discuss it, we both get whiny and groany about it; our weekends are so busy already and the rain is a constant factor. Mostly, though, our hesitation is the fact that one large portion of the fence sits six inches from our neighbours’ tall white vinyl fence/wall (twin-home-living for the win). We can’t figure out how to effectively stain the back side of that portion of the fence, and we’re really sick of debating the best possible method.

We just want to hire someone, but it seems so silly to do that. It’s not that big of a job. It’s pretty low in the “skills necessary” department. And, as one acquaintance helpfully pointed out, we can probably just uninstall that portion of the fence, stain it and reinstall (hahahaha that’s not happening).

There are some home improvement projects you could do. But just because you could, does it mean you should? And how do you know the difference?

Consider the equipment and materials you’ll need

Lots of home improvement projects require just a few basic supplies. If you want to repaint a bedroom, you know you’ll need the paint, some brushes and rollers, a tray, maybe some blue painter’s tape and a few drop cloths. You probably already have some of those items from previous projects, so purchasing a few updated supplies isn’t a big deal.

Installing a backsplash in your kitchen, though, might require tools (such as a trowel and a tile saw) that you don’t already have and that you may never use again. If you don’t have a lot of storage area for tools, the amount of money and space you devote to rarely used items might factor in.

Also, if it’s a project for which you need to borrow and operate a large piece of equipment for the first time, identify your comfort level. Borrowing your neighbour’s power-washer to clear off your deck in the spring is one thing; renting an excavator to move some earth is another. If you’re naturally handy and good at manoeuvring heavy equipment, then have at it. If you’re not… proceed with caution.

Consider the complexity

I have a general rule about DIY projects: if I watch a YouTube tutorial or two and find myself more confused or overwhelmed than when I started out, it’s time to place a phone call to a professional. If something is pretty easy or straightforward, a good tutorial will make you feel confident about the task ahead. If it doesn’t look easy, chances are it’s not.

Consider the consequences

Before you pick up that sledgehammer or shut off the water line to begin whatever you’re about to do, ask yourself this: How bad could it be? If I do this wrong, if I screw this up, what’s the worst that could happen?

My home has one bathroom, so you better believe if we ever have a major issue with our toilet (*knocks on wood*), I’m calling in help immediately. I can’t afford to mess around with that situation. Also, anything dealing with electricity is a hard no for me because I’ve never been shocked and don’t intend to start now. But maybe you don’t mind a little jolt now and then; to each their own.

Consider the manpower required

When freelance journalist Tove Danovich was trying to decide whether to jack-hammer up a portion of her driveway herself, she got a lot of advice from folks who said they’d never pay someone to do such an “easy” job. She writes for Curbed that in the end, she did choose to hand this cakewalk over to the professionals, which proved to be a good decision:

There were five men in safety-orange vests. They held jackhammers and pickaxes. They wielded a contraption roughly the size of my lab-mutt that looked like a chainsaw attached to a row of knives. Another machine was so big it came with an enclosed seat for its driver. It took them three hours to finish this “small” job.

If I think a project is going to require a “crew” of construction workers, I’m hiring it out.

Consider your budget

It usually comes down to this in the end, doesn’t it? You might not have the right equipment or knowledge or time or desire to retile your shower, but if you don’t have the money to hire someone, you might not have a choice. You do it or it doesn’t get done. In that case, watch extra tutorials and be ready for multiple trips to the hardware store.

If you do have the money, though, and you just don’t wanna mess with it, it’s ok to hire someone. You don’t need to feel guilty about “wasting” money on something you technically could do yourself. Sometimes your time and energy is worth more than it would cost to pay someone and they’re almost always going to do a better job than you could have anyway.

With all of this in mind, I don’t care how lazy the neighbours think I am; I’m hiring someone to stain my fence.

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