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September 07, 2011


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I factor in time and usually exertion level. I never worry about starting something and making it worse, the only way that will happen is if you force something and break it. Take your time and take it easy, and this won't be a problem. The biggest problem I have with an old house, is you never really know what you are getting into, the problem that you see is usually the tip of a very large iceberg.

I want to learn how to do lots of home improvement/construction tasks on my own. Things I'd like to have the experience of doing myself - put in a sprinkler system, cut a door into a wall, tile my kitchen floor, put up crown molding, finish my garage, build a fence, wire up a sensor to tell me my garage door is open or closed. (You've just read my to-do list). Realistically, I'm probably not going to do all these things in the near future, especially since none of them are pressing. But I would and will try doing all of these things myself before I hire them out unless I determined that the amount of work involved was so great that I'd rather pay someone with experience.

We've had remodeling jobs done to our kitchen, main bath and basement in consecutive years, and I had a high frustration factor with each one. I have some degree of "handyness" and did some of the simpler tasks on these projects (e.g., patching and painting) to save money. Dealing with contractors almost always stresses me out because having done some light construction in another life I have somewhat of an idea how some things should be done. All of these projects took longer than originally estimated, which caused us a lot of frustration. I wish it were as easy as paying $x to get something how I want it when I want it, but it's not. We had a guy bilk us for a down payment on a remodel and recovered very little of the money even after winning in court. I've found it very difficult to find good people to do projects; finding good people to do discreet tasks is not nearly as difficult.

I'm with Jonathan, the experience of doing it yourself is worth more than the time and energy, not to mention the cost of paying someone else to do it. Painting a bathroom shouldn't take more than a day at most and that includes patching, priming and painting. Now maybe my bathrooms are smaller than yours, but 20-30 hours to paint one small area?!?!? If it's taking you that long, then geez man, learn to paint and save yourself some cash ;) Powerwashing a deck for $50 doesn't sound too bad, but I bought a power washer with my brother who lives nearby and we use it several times a year each.

One thing that I thought I would save some money on is cleaning my gutters. So I bought a 26ft ladder with the intention of doing it myself. Turns out, I'm really, really scared of heights! So that's one job I'll have to farm out.

BenC --

It took the professional painter about 20-30 hours over four ot five days to do the job. Perhaps you missed the "removing the wallpaper" part.)

The stuff that frustrates me is projects that require "drying time" and "multiple coats" - I installed recessed lighting in my kitchen, which was awesome; patching the holes from the old fluorescents? A nightmare! It required multiple stages of applying drywall mud (a full day to dry thoroughly) with sanding in between each (a dust nightmare!) and then utter frustration trying to use knockdown texture spray to match the existing texture on the ceiling (and that made more terrible messes, plus requiring drying time and sanding). But pure construction-type jobs are great fun, and very satisfying!

FMF, you're right, I did miss the wallpaper part. Still what kind of wallpaper did you guys have? Did the previous owners use superglue rather than wallpaper glue? I just did our living room and removed a wallpaper border using some spray-on remover stuff and a wallpaper cutter and did the whole thing in a day and a half. Most of that was waiting on the wallpaper remover spray to soak-in.

BenC --

Not sure, but it was approx. 15-20 years old and wasn't excited to come off the walls.

Life is too short...we hire for just about everything! Not only does it help keep our life stress free and give us more time to do the things we enjoy, we also give business to people who want the work. Win--win!

Just gutted and redid my entire kitchen. Took all summer. It is a small kitchen. I might be out $5,000, and that included appliances. It's not perfect, but 10x better than what was there previously.

I wouldn't do it again in the future, but I'm kinda glad I did it this time. I learned a TON. And saved a TON.

We bought an old house with good bones. However the previous owners were filthy, and it just seemed easier to gut the house than try to clean all the mess. We've painted the entire house, laid flooring, gutted and remodeled a bathroom and a kitchen, changed light name it, we've done it. The city just made us re-do some concrete on the sidewalk in front of our house, and as part of that, we extended our sprinkler system to include the park strip (actually, extending the sprinklers was really easy). I can't even imagine how much money we've saved, it's been an activity my husband and I have done together (and roped friends in too), and it's really taught us not to be afraid to try. It's really not been that hard!

I consider myself pretty handy and have carried out many projects over the years since 1963 when I first became a homeowner. One project that I have never undertaken and never will is painting the whole exterior of our home. I just had it done a few weeks ago. I paid $4,800 and it was money well spent. It took two, and occasionally three, guys the best part of two weeks and I calculated that after subtracting out the cost of the materials they earned about $25/hour. Never underestimate the skill that even a housepainter possesses. It's a skill developed over many years and it's a skill that I don't have. They did a perfect job and came up with a few suggestions that we hadn't even thought of that were an improvement over what we had asked for. Apart from that you have to consider, especially at the age of 76, that there's always a risk of an accident when the majority of the work is performed from a ladder. It's also important not to make a mess that involves a lot of cleanup after the work is finished. As it was it took me the best part of 3 weeks trimming all the shrubbery so that the painters had excellent access to everything. You also don't want to end up with paint splashed on the beautiful plants that you have cared for over many years.

Another job, years ago, that I had done was adding crown and baseboard moldings. Some of the more elaborate moldings require a lot of skill to obtain a really nice fit at the outside and inside mitred corners. Hanging doors is also a job that might sound easy but it does involve experience if you don't want to end up with a botched up job. It goes without saying that bricklaying and concrete work are also jobs for the pros if you want them to look nice.

If you DIY, don't forget to do it RIGHT. And follow code and get a permit if needed.

I bought my house 15 years ago from a DIYer and while it looked pretty it was also a disaster--I guess he was too "smart" to read up on how to do anything! Even basic stuff was done wrong--The guy had run wiring around studs (instead of through) creating fire hazards all over the place. He'd also installed wood and tile floors that weren't even level. And he installed a wood deck that wasn't made with treated wood and didn't even have any footings (4x4's were just set on top of a concrete patio).

I manage 7 single family home rentals and 3 other houses including my own. I hire out HVAC and roof repairs and tile work - these are specialized, dangerous and physically hard work respectively.
I do everything else, partly for the satisfaction of doing it right and for the cost savings.
I treat is as my part time job which helps me save for retirement.

Sometimes its just fun to learn how to do something new and add it to your 'tool belt' but somethings are money well spent, I think it just depends on the person.

I have painted summers in college so painting is something I am not scared to do and has saved me a lot of money. Putting in a new paver porch and walkway is not something I wanted to attempt and was money well spent paying someone else to do.

There is no feeling like tackling a project yourself and seeing great results, never half A$$ it.

I love doing home repairs. I got a healthy dose of handy-man genes from my grandpa. I'm handy enough with dry wall, plumbing, cement, electric, painting and more.

There are several scenarios where I hire out though:

1) If it involves a gas line

2) If it really requires a permit, like changing a breaker box.

Technically installing new light fixtures and outlets requires a permit, but it's so simple that I don't bother.

3) If it's so big that I won't be able to get it done in a reasonable time. I need to install new gutters and soffits next year. I *could* do it myself but it would take several months or taking time off work.

Absolutely though there are a couple of the things you mentioned that I have done myself. Namely, I power washed the deck myself. Which really wasn't too bad. I got a power washer for free from a family member who moved, so it's just the time to do it, though $50 is pretty cheap from what I've seen. Most places I've seen would probably want $200 for our deck. I've also re-painted our bathroom. Three times practically. Once when we moved in. A second time though it wasn't a full paint, when I had some wall damage and re-painted the ceiling due to some necessary patching, and a third time when we both agreed we hated the color. It isn't easy but I've gotten so good at it that there's no reason to outsource it now (though hopefully I'm done in there for at least 5-10 years!)

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