The DIY vs. Contractor Dilemma – Making the Right Choice for Your Home Remodel

The prospect of remodeling your home can be a significant source of stress. There’s always a seemingly limitless list of tough decisions to make, with one of the toughest being whether to hire a contractor or break out the power tools and DIY. Each option comes with its pitfalls and advantages, yet it’s challenging to predict how each will play out. 

The primary concerns in any remodeling project are typically safety, satisfaction, cost, and durability. 

In an ideal world, your thoughts on these issues would align with those of your contractor. However, this isn’t always the case. Everyone has heard (or had!) at least one horror story involving unscrupulous and unqualified contractors turning remodeling dreams into nightmares. For this reason, you need to think carefully about what works for you.

While finding a trustworthy contractor can take time and effort, the DIY route comes with its problems as well. Unless you have professional experience in home renovation, large-scale DIY projects seldom go entirely according to plan. Whether you run into issues with safety codes, zoning laws, budgeting, or overestimating your abilities, the stress of a DIY remodel may not be worth it. 

Here at GreatBuildz, a free service that connects homeowners in Los Angeles, Ventura, and Orange Counties with reliable general contractors, we help homeowners navigate their home remodeling projects every day. Below, we delve into some of the common issues homeowners encounter when choosing how best to remodel, and how to avoid making common mistakes.

The Challenge of Staying On Budget

Cost is one of the main reasons cited by homeowners for going the DIY route. By avoiding contractor’s fees, they hope to save significant sums of money by using their own labor. While this seems wise at first, a lack of construction experience can lead to costly mistakes down the road. 

Firstly, aspiring DIY remodelers frequently underestimate the cost of building materials and the purchase or rental of tools. Contractors have established working relationships with suppliers so they can secure better prices, and they generally have all the necessary equipment on hand. 

Secondly, inexperienced homeowners don’t have the foresight to predict the full scope of the project. It’s common to encounter obstacles and bottlenecks that a more experienced professional would have foreseen and planned for. These can introduce lengthy delays and entail sizable out-of-budget expenses

Thirdly, lack of experience often leads to avoidable mistakes. If you don’t have experience, you’re more likely to waste expensive materials by approaching a task the wrong way. Misusing and rebuying materials is an easy mistake to make, putting you even further out of pocket. 

While reliable and experienced contractors don’t come cheap, especially for large remodeling projects, they’re more qualified to budget accurately. It’s easy to underestimate how much a lack of expertise can end up costing you in the long run. 

Additionally, amateur work is also likely to need more maintenance than professional work. While you may save money initially, the need for frequent repairs may cost you more in the long run. Before sacrificing quality for savings, carefully consider the long-term financial implications of your decision. 

That said, DIY has its benefits if you’re honest about your limitations. If you truly can’t afford to outsource every job to a professional, you can take on less complex installations and less skill-intensive tasks like painting.

Should you hire a contractor remodel

The Importance of Prioritizing Safety

When it comes to construction safety, experience, and technical expertise is key. DIY jobs can go disastrously wrong if you fail to observe basic safety protocols. 

Working with power tools, heavy objects, electrical wiring, and other hazardous materials carries serious risks. The need for proper training and personal protective equipment shouldn’t be taken lightly. 

If you do choose to undertake a dangerous task yourself, be sure to seek advice from experienced individuals before attempting anything risky. Equip yourself with the correct safety gear and research safe methods for working with hazardous equipment. Practice with power tools under supervision before using them in any serious effort. 

The physical risk also extends beyond the project’s completion. Improperly installed wiring is an electrical and fire hazard, and even a small oversight or error could lead to a major loss. If you’re not sure of what you’re doing, you’re better off hiring a reputable contractor. Professionals know the dangers of their trade and are legally bound to adhere to regional safety codes. 

Adding Value to Your Home

Although short-term savings may seem appealing, it’s always wise to consider how they’ll impact the future value of your home. Professional contractors stake their reputations on building to last, and the good ones offer a warranty on their work for a reasonable period. As we’ve established, not all contractors are born equal. Some are less ethical or less knowledgeable than others. However, taking the time to find a contractor with years of experience and positive testimonials will serve you better in the long term. 

If you want to pull up roots and move elsewhere, you’ll want to get the highest possible price for your property. When this time comes, the quality of any remodeling you’ve undertaken will affect your property value. Inspectors are quick to spot the signs of amateur construction work, which will be reflected in their property evaluations. Hiring a skilled contractor for serious remodeling work will increase your property value, whereas poorly executed DIY renovations will do the opposite. 

Not only that, if you keep track of your home improvement expenses, you can use them to maximize your tax return when you sell your house. Just remember that you cannot deduct contractor and other home improvement costs in the year you spend the money, only in the years following. Regardless, this is a major advantage in the long run.

Construction site in progress

Avoiding Disruptions in Your Daily Life

One advantage of DIY remodels is the ability to finish projects in the least disruptive way possible. Having work done in your home is always a disturbance to some degree. The noise, the reduction in usable living space, and the frustration of construction materials lying around are all stressful parts of remodeling. If you plan your project carefully and seek advice where necessary, it’s possible to minimize the disturbance to your daily life. This may be particularly important if you or your family work from home or if you have children or pets running around. 

However, DIY projects tend to take longer than professional jobs due to split focus and a lack of coordinated labor. It may be necessary to weigh up the pros and cons of each approach. Sometimes, completing a job quickly is more important than controlling the chaos. You may be better off finding alternative accommodation for a few weeks while contractors get the job done.  

Zoning and Permit Headaches If you DIY

Conflicts with zoning regulations and the need for the right permits are a common source of frustration in home improvement projects. If you go the DIY route, you must research which permits you’ll need. You’ll also need to get accurate plans drawn up and get them approved by your local city planner’s office. This may take some patience, but it’s worth the effort to avoid being forced to change or scrap your plans halfway through the project. 

When it comes to legal matters, hiring a contractor is probably your best option. Their familiarity with due process will save you time jumping through bureaucratic hoops. They will also be able to tell you from the beginning whether your plans are feasible or if they need some adjustments to comply with regulations.

Hire a pro instead of DIY

The Final Say: To DIY or Hire a Pro?

For the most part, the choice between DIY and hiring a contractor comes down to your capabilities. Too often, overly ambitious homeowners end up spending the cost of a contractor’s fee, making up for their own lack of expertise and then falling short of their remodeling goals anyway. 

While it’s important to thoroughly vet contractors before hiring them, your money, safety, and peace of mind are better trusted to reputable professionals. If you do opt for DIY, avoid undertaking tasks beyond your expertise and ensure that you don’t put yourself or your home at risk in any way. 

Finding a contractor on your own can be an involved, long process. Don’t have the time? Let GreatBuildz do all of the hard work for you. Just reach out to us to be matched with one of our trusted, pre-vetted general contractors in the Los Angeles and Southern California area. Contact GreatBuildz today at 818.317.3567 or visit our website for more information.

Hi, we're Paul and Jon - Co-Founders of GreatBuildz. We believe everyone deserves to find a great contractor, have a stress-free renovation, and enjoy their beautiful new space. There are so many contractors out there and it's often hard to tell the good from the bad... until it's too late. We started our company to help simplify your contractor search and help you have a stress-free renovation experience. We're always available to help, no matter where you are in the process. Click here to learn more about our story.
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