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DIY or Hire?

Taking on a major remodel can be an expensive project. But you can keep costs down by doing the job yourself. Find out if you're up to the task or if you should hire a professional.

Man installing tile floor in a kitchen

Determine the Scope of Your Project

Many factors play into deciding if you're going to tackle a project head-on or call in the experts to handle it for you. A major kitchen overhaul can disrupt your daily life much more than a guest bedroom. Before you start tearing walls down and making major renovations, ask yourself these questions:

1. How large is this remodel?
Will you endure months without an oven or access to a bathroom? Are you replacing a couple cabinets over a weekend? How much will this interrupt your daily life?
2. Are you remodeling or refreshing?
A full remodel of a kitchen or bathroom is usually more time-consuming and expensive. A remodel could include replacing main features like cabinets, countertops, toilets and showers, floors and appliances; breaking down or adding walls; or reconfiguring the space completely. A refresh typically requires less time and money and could include painting walls, refacing cabinets and countertops, replacing a bathroom vanity or changing out hardware and faucets.
3. Are permits required?
For large kitchen remodels, permits are often needed. It's also important to determine that the plumbing and electrical is up to code. Be especially mindful if you have an older home. Antiquated wiring and plumbing systems can be dangerous for an inexperienced DIYer. Contact your county's building inspection office if you have questions about permits or code inspections.

Caution

Older homes tend to present more obstacles, such as asbestos, polybutylene piping, mildew, mold or lead paint (typically found in homes built before 1978.) You may not know until you start the demolition process. Don't attempt to handle these issues. Consult an experienced contractor for treatment and removal. 

Decide If You're Prepared for the Job

When it comes to remodeling, it's important to assess your ability and comfort with completing the job. Ask yourself the following:

 

1. Are you a DIY novice or a renovation expert?
If you're a novice who would like to save on costs and get involved, tackle some projects such as the demolition process, painting, or refacing cabinets. But it's probably a good idea to hire a pro to handle complicated plumbing and electrical work. If not, your mistakes could end up being quite expensive.
2. Are you patient?
Patience is essential when handling a complicated remodel. Do you get frustrated easily or do you actually take the time to read the instructions? If you're throwing away the manual three pages in, you might want to save yourself the time and headaches by hiring a pro. However, if you like the idea of a challenge and enjoy doing it yourself, then this could be a rewarding experience for you.
3. Are you ready if something goes awry?
There's no telling what you'll find once you start demolition. The floor could be rotted or the plumbing could be bad. Would you know how to handle it? Even if you're doing it yourself, it's best to have a couple of experts you can call in the event that you need a second opinion or a helping hand.
4. Do you have the necessary tools?
Depending on the type of project you're working on, expensive tools can be required to complete the work. Before you start, determine which tools you'll need and if you don't have them, how much they'll cost. You might find that hiring a contractor will be more cost-effective than buying expensive tools.
5. Do you have a way to transport and store tools and materials?
Remodeling projects often require large tools and heavy materials. Do you have the transportation and time needed to make trips to the store to pick up supplies? Do you have a safe and dry place to store them? If not, you may want to consider using a contractor who can pick up supplies as needed and take their tools with them at the end of the day. If transportation is your only issue, use Lowe's delivery services.

How Much Time Will It Take?

Now that you've determined the size of your refresh or remodel and assessed your skill level, you'll need to figure out how long it's going to take:


1. How much time will it really take?
Have you decided to tackle this job yourself? Be honest about the time you can devote to it. Can you miss work to knock it out quickly or will this be handled in your free time over various weekends? Also, add in additional time for unexpected events such as waiting for materials or handling potential issues that come up once you start remodeling. If you've decided to hire a professional, be prepared up front. Have all of the materials already at the job site before they start. Ask your contractor if he or she will be working on any other client's projects simultaneously.
2. Do you have a deadline that you're working towards?
Do you want your new kitchen done before Thanksgiving? Does that guest bedroom need to be complete when in-laws arrive for the holidays? Set a realistic timeline to determine if you can meet this goal. Hiring a pro? Make sure you discuss your deadline at the first meeting to see if it's feasible.
3. Are you ready to make some sacrifices?
Are you opposed to working nights and weekends? If you do it yourself, you may have to miss social events or use vacation time to finish your project. Determine if your time or money is worth more before jumping into a remodel.

How Much Will It Cost?

When hiring a contractor, you must factor in the cost of labor for your total project. This can cost roughly an additional 40% over doing the project yourself. If the idea of taking on the remodel yourself feels daunting, why not try completing some of the project before and after calling in the pros?

A hybrid approach
To cut down on costs, consider doing some of the work yourself. Then leave the rest to the pros. For example, if you're doing a bathroom remodel you could do the following:

  • Demo the old bathroom
  • Replace the medicine cabinet
  • Replace the existing faucets and showerhead
  • Replace the tile, grout work
  • Paint the walls, ceilings, and baseboards
  • Install the accessories (robe hook, toilet roll holder, towel racks)

Then have the contractor complete the complicated plumbing and electrical work.

Ask a Contractor

If you've made the decision to bring in a contractor, rely on friends, family, and neighbors to see who they recommend. Here are some helpful questions to ask when interviewing a contractor:

1. How long will this project take?
2. Can you work with my budget?
3. How does your fee structure work? (Is everything paid up front? Are the payments split up along the way?)
4. Are you licensed and insured? How long have you been in business?
5. Can you provide referrals from homeowners who have had similar work done?
6. Will permits be needed for my particular project? Who handles the permit process and how long will it take?

Most states that require licenses for contractors have websites to verify that the contractor's license is up-to-date and not suspended or invalid.

Tackling a Landscaping DIY

In addition to remodeling opportunities in your home, there are plenty of landscape DIY options for your yard.

Many landscaping projects like building a patio or deck can range in complexity depending on your end goal. Enlisting a few helping hands can make the DIY project successful without having to hire a pro.

Adding a retaining wall is a common landscaping option that might appear more complex than it is. Check out our guide to see if you're up to the task: How to Build a Retaining Wall. Beyond creating a beautiful landscape, you might want to plant trees or install a fence to add privacy to your yard.

Whatever you hope to accomplish with your landscape, the DIY vs. contractor decision comes down to time, money, and skill. Lowe's offers a guide for you to plan out how you want to design your landscape before making the decision if you'll do it yourself. Applying some basic concepts can help you to spruce up your landscape to create the yard of your dreams.

Caution

One of the biggest things to research with a major project in the yard is compliance to codes, permits, and identifying buried utility lines by calling 811. 

Use the Pros from Lowe's

Unsure about tackling a kitchen or bathroom remodel yourself? Lowe's specialists can help you design the room of your dreams and our installation experts can handle the remodel for you. For more information, visit your local Lowe’s or Lowe's Installation Services.