How a data expert handles do-it-yourself home improvement projects

You started 2021 by buying a massive 1885 home, unseen, with a vision of restoring it to its former glory. In about two years I’ve renovated three of as many rooms and done several small projects on my own.

Do-it-yourself jobs can save a lot of money, but that’s not the only reason to get involved. One in four homeowners have participated in home improvement projects in the past two years because they enjoy doing this type of work themselves, according to else NerdWallet home improvement report. I count myself among them. The joy of this work was instilled in me at a young age by my father, a former industrial arts (craft class) teacher who is now a school principal and hobby carpenter. He joked that I was the only kid I know who built his own Barbie house. It was a one bedroom blue farmhouse.

Between my current home and the home I lived in (also about 100 years old), the only jobs I paid professionals to do were urgent and monumental chores: a new roof, demolishing outbuildings, a new heating and cooling system, and the time the oak floor gave way to My bedroom had enough space to open up to a dingy crawl space (a virtual nightmare). On the other hand, the list of DIY projects is extensive and includes jobs such as removing wallpaper, carpeting, and popcorn ceilings; Surface coating for walls and ceilings. refinishing floors; restoring and replacing trim work; Rewiring the original push-button light switches and lights; Stripping and restoring the original coat.

In most cases, I take as much time planning these projects as I do them, and the first step is deciding if it makes sense to do it yourself. I tend to say, “Yeah, of course it is” every time. But deciding to do it yourself when a professional would be wiser can cost you peace of mind, a lot of time, and a lot more money than you would have saved in the labor.

Note: It’s tempting to compare the estimated cost of a DIY kitchen renovation versus the cost of a professional using an online tool. It’s okay to use these tools for a general overview, but not as a guide to how much you’ll actually spend or save. Typical project costs, as defined by many surveys, including the US Census Bureau, are not a benchmark for project specifications. Yes, do-it-yourselfers save money, but it’s also possible for them to choose cheaper materials and do less extensive projects in general. Also, these estimates are rarely specific to a geographic location, and costs vary widely across the country.

Consider these three variables carefully before you put on your glasses and get to work.


Having the ability or skills to undertake a project has as much to do with what I already know as with what I can learn. This may interest you: Homeowners in these states get the highest rate for home improvement loans. Yes, you can learn almost anything on YouTube these days, but what you’re really looking for is something you can learn well with minimal chances of failure.

Talk to someone who has done this type of work before. If you don’t have a friend with a home improvement resume, get a contractor or two to provide estimates and use those visits as an opportunity to gather information. Ask them how the project will turn out, what permits might be required, what could go wrong, and how many people would be involved. This visit can serve multiple purposes – it will help you understand the skill level of the project and determine how long a professional will take and how much it will cost.

Unless you have an alternative, don’t rely solely on strangers on the Internet and sophisticated websites for this information. And if so, gather several sources to reach a consensus. Even if the site gives a 3 out of 4 hammer difficulty rating, these step-by-step instructions and well-edited photos don’t convey how much swearing and mess can go into the final product, not to mention the cost of fixing any mistakes.

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It may take a contractor longer to start work on a project, but it will undoubtedly take longer than him to get the actual work done. It can be difficult to estimate exactly how long it will take. Instead of setting a deadline, set a target date range to avoid disappointment. On the same topic: There is no limit to the number of cannabis dispensaries in Ontario. Home improvement projects often—well, usually—take longer than you’d like. Trying to rush can lead to a sloppy job.

Break the project into manageable steps and be generous when estimating the time to complete each step.

Now is also a good time to reflect on how this time affects daily life. The inconvenience of a four- to six-week project in your only bathroom, for example, may be justified in paying a professional on an accelerated schedule.

I live alone in a large house, so the time I spent renovating an extra bedroom doesn’t affect my daily life much. If my nephew is in a baseball tournament, I can take the weekend off without it squeezing into my schedule. However, when I started transforming my home office, I wasn’t flexible: I wanted to get back to my office as soon as possible and not at the dining table for Zoom meetings.

In a few years I am planning a complete kitchen renovation – I will hire specialists for this, precisely because of the lack of time. I pay a premium to limit how long I microwave dinner in the laundry room.

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The potential for savings in labor costs can entice home improvement folks—15% of homeowners who have tackled home improvement projects in the past two years said they did so because they couldn’t afford it, according to the Home Improvement Report’s Able to Hire a Professional survey. But if you don’t properly balance the two former factors—skill and time—your home improvement project could end up being more expensive than hiring the skilled labor in the first place. Read also: Curbio Expands Richmond, VA With Fix Now, Pay Later Home Improvement Solution. And doing it yourself just because it’s cheaper can make it unsightly.

Know the basic costs of the project

Here we are talking about materials and tools. Make a list and collect trophies. Depending on the scope of the project, your tools can be as simple as a couple of brushes and rollers, but when you get into more than just paint, equipment costs can add up quickly. (And even paint doesn’t come cheap these days.)

If you need a tool you don’t already own, consider borrowing it. Even though I have a fairly large collection, there are still times when I need something that I don’t have. If it’s a tool that I use over and over again, I can buy it outright. However, if it’s something really special, I borrow it from a family member or rent it at a hardware store. Yes, you can rent almost any power tool you need at a hardware store.

Knowing that I had a house full of work ahead of me, I spent a good portion of the money on power tools during my first year in that house, purchasing them as needed. But now that I have the tools, most of the cost of the project is materials only and I see a huge saving compared to hiring a professional.

Add a temporary budget

There’s a good chance your cost will exceed that initial estimate – you forget something, prices go up, or you accidentally punch a hole in the wall behind you while swinging a sledgehammer during a violent explosion. Give yourself a strength I suggest 20%.

Determine your financing plans

If your project is small, you can probably pay for it with cash. According to a NerdWallet survey, 42% of homeowners who undertook home repair and improvement projects in the past two years were able to easily afford them without relying on savings, debt, or making other sacrifices. However, if your project is more expensive, you should carefully consider your home improvement financing options and costs.

Allow for the estimated total for the project and the time it will take you to pay it off:

Using an existing credit card can be a good option if you need all of the financing up front. It’s a good idea to pay off the balance quickly to save interest and protect your credit score from the negative effects of high occupancy.

Opening a new credit card with an interest-free introductory period can give you extra time to pay at a small additional cost.

A personal loan often offers quick financing and extended repayment terms.

When you use your home equity to borrow in the form of a loan or HELOC, interest rates can be lower but financing takes longer. So, for larger projects and balances, it’s best if you want to set aside some time to make use of it.

Come up with a “guys” plan.

If you choose your project carefully, based in part on your skills, the chances of you paying someone to fix your mistakes are slim to none, but it can happen. If you have a plan, you can act quickly when dirt hits the fan. Have an idea of ​​who to contact and how to pay if things go wrong.

I am currently doing a small renovation of my basement bathroom including paint, new fixtures, and a ceiling upgrade. When I took out the 1980’s lamp to replace it with something more suitable, I discovered some issues that I knew would require cutting into the drywall and possibly some wiring updates. These tasks will increase the overall risk factor in a somewhat risky venture at a time when the Vacationers are just around the corner. Can I watch enough YouTube to find out? Likely. But I’d rather pay for a few hours of someone else’s skillful work here.

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